Does Size Matter-- In The Arts?

Well now, that title ought to result in an amusing read-to-post ratio. :slight_smile: This thread has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with size. The size of works of art.

I was selling my photographs yesterday. They are 11 inches by 14 inches. They were priced at X. One very interested person engaged me in a long discussion about sets of three, balance, etc. He wishes to see other works of mine ( yay ! ). He also asked me if I could print a photograph of mine in a four foot by four foot size. It happens to be a square medium format negative of high clarity ( read: Asa 125 B&W ), so blowing it up would yield a very sharp poster.

I hinted to this gentleman that it would be a much higher price of course. I’d have to rent a darkroom with a rotating head, etc. All very doable, the space I rent at normally has such capability. But this info doesn’t really do anything but set up my OP question.

How do I define the value of the image I am selling? I could do some simple math and figure out how many times BIGGER 4 foot square is than 11" by 14". Is that really fair to me? Should it matter one bit? The client is enamored of the image, not the size and he’s excited about having two prints, identical but for the fact that one would be done as a sepia tone, one as a standard black and white print.

Is the 4 foot square one worth SO much more simply because it covers more white wall space? Arent’ we all usually surprised to find out the true size of some of the great works of art? ( I’m not daring to equate my work with such, I mention this as a point of reference vis a vis the PERCEPTION of works of art, opposed to what the real work is. ) If I see a Van Gogh and it’s a huge poster in the museum store, I buy it or not based on love of the image, and available wall space. However, that original may be a petite finely wrought 15 inches by 25 inches. Is the larger one worth more or less, if it were rendered by Van Gogh and not a museum poster?

Since this is a photograph I’m dealing with, and it is my own work, I am faced with figuring out how to assess the price/ value of the SAME IMAGE, of original quality, based solely on size. If you walk into a gallery in SoHo in NYC and see a 4x4 photograph that you are enamored of, and see a price tag of 1,000.00 would it shock or seem reasonable? If the same image were presented to you on the same wall space in an 11 x 14 inch frame, would 1,000.00 seem outrageous? I know that having a “name” comes into play in a huge way, but I’m a nobody. So, just on the basis of size presentation alone, what do you do?

I’m really stuck here. Thoughts? What would you do? What would you pay for? Let’s leave things like ** Calder ** out of the discussion, and stick to flat wall mounted art. I mean, who the heck wants a sixteen inch high Calder? :smiley:


My thoughts? The original, whatever it is, would be worth more, simply by virtue of being the original. Beyond that, I would say that a larger copy should only be more expensive insofar as it is more expensive to produce. How much does it cost you to make a same-size print of one of your images, and how much do you usually charge for such a print? And how much would it cost you to make these large prints?

The creative work (i.e., taking the picture) is already done, so that shouldn’t be relevant.

The price you should charge depends entirely on you. There’s no “right” answer to this, except for the most obvious one: that you should charge enough to recover the cost of materials, rentals and your time.

If you were doing this as part of an ongoing business, then you would factor in the perceived value of your reputation and the perceived rarity of your artwork. You would either charge a high price to reach those who value scarcity, or low to those who value the art itself.

Since I’m cheap and have no money anyway, my reaction to a $1,000 price tag would have no relevence. I doubt any photo would encourage me to pull out my wallet and drop a thou on it.

So I guess it boils down to a character decision on your part. How greedy are you?

Nice slam.



One of the few things I learned when my husband was in business for himself is that you charge what you can get for your product. Granted, he sold machinery to manufacturers, but he used to buy machinery, so he knew what things went for and he knew what he could get for the machines he designed and built. (Whew - long sentence) It’s not greed - it’s business.

Seems to me you need to do some market research. See what other people are selling their photos for. Evaluate quality vs. “name” and decide what your work is worth. Casual buyers may well react with “I can get a copy of a picture made at WalMart for $5.00!!” People looking for an artwork know they’re buying a piece of the artist - they’re paying for the talent as well as the stuff the artist had to use to produce the artwork. What you’re trying to price is your talent. So, what are you worth?

Speaking as a photographer, here are the points to consider, IMHO, though I usually do not work at selling prints, but rather selling space rates to magazines.

Presentation is extremely important. I would never ever consider selling an RC print at a gallery. Fiber-based papers are still the way to go, and you certainly want something of archival quality. This is why I’m incredibly suspect of digital prints. You have to know exactly what you’re doing and what process you’re dealing with to ensure to your buyer that the picture isn’t going to fade within a couple years. For slides, I still think Ilfochrome (formerly Cibachrome) is the only way to go.

As for selling prints, I’d settle on a limited, signed print run. I would say that for someone like you, an edition of about 20-25 should be enough. In a New York City gallery, I wouldn’t say $1000 is unreasonable for a 4x4. I don’t think it’s particularly unreasonable for an 11x14 either. However, I think 11x14s are a bit small for gallery photographs. I’d start at 16x20 at the very least. For me, size plays a huge part in impact. Present your photographs properly matted, with a tasteful frame. I tend to present my photographs with slightly off-white matting with a simple black frame. Use your personal taste and discretion.

In general, yes, photographers do charge higher prices for larger prints. I would say a 4x4 ft matted photograph would command a 100% to 200% premium. Judging by pricing of other artists I know, there tends to be about a 50-100% jump in price from 11x14 to 16x20, so use your discretion.

What price? My personal prices would start at around $250 for a matted, unframed 16x20 image. I know photographers who start at $1000 at this size. Unfortunately, I live in Hungary, and there’s no way I can command this kind of price here. I think in New York, $250 would be a VERY low price for such an image. Basic rule of economics: your art is only worth how much somebody is willing to pay for it. (OK, philosophically, no, but financially, let’s stick with it.)

Also, in fine art editions, usually the earlier prints are priced cheaper than later ones. So, in a run of 100, the first 25 may be priced at $500, the next 25 at $600, the following $700, ending with $800 for the final 25.

Also, if I remember New York pricing correctly, custom printing costs a godawful amount of money, and you can easily pay several hundred dollars just for a great-quality 11x14 black and white fiber based print. But is your printing this much up to snuff that you could convince a prospective buyer that your skills as a printer can also command such high prices? Many great photographers entrust their printing to professional specialists.

Minor comment - a big thing to consider is that there is a difference between the “actual” cost of producing a larger print, and the amount you have invested to get to a point where you can produce prints of such size that others want to buy. In other words, you can’t just look at the cost of the paper, etc. - how much have you invested in yourself to become an artist? Don’t undersell the amount of effort it has taken to get you to where you are.

Do some research and get comfortable with a reasonable price that takes the Bigger Picture (pun intended) into account.

And congratulations.

As you probably know, Calder did make miniature mobiles, and I for one would like to have one. Here’s a link to an under 12" one (second image down) that sold for $154,000. A itty bitty teeny little Calder is just so cute–size does matter. Contrariwise, some of the big Calders, like the one in Chicago, fall into the big scary art category.

It seems to me that for a special-order, high-quality, 4’X4’ print of an original photograph, $1000 is quite reasonable. If you’re providing it framed, $1000 is probably noticeably on the low side. Just for comparison, around my area, 8X10 photographic prints from local artists usually sell in the $100-$250 range. Larger ones, say 24X30, sell in the $600-$800 range. I haven’t seen ones as large as 4X4, but I imagine the selling price for those would be in the $1200-$1500 range. If you’re in NYC, I imagine prices would be somewhat higher. Since you’re one-shot special-order printing it, you’d probably be justified in going higher yet.

My wife, who is a local artist, has struggled for a while with how to price her art. Material worth is easy, but what’s her time worth? Reputation? Training?

My advice, such as it is, is to price this piece based not on what you think it’s “worth,” but rather on what it will do for your career. This guy loves your stuff and wants to buy a couple pieces. Think he might buy more in the future? When he buys them, will he call up all his friends and tell them, “You guys just HAVE to come over and check out the AWESOME photographs hanging in the living room that I just bought from this Cartooniverse guy.” Would he (or his friends) buy more if you were selling them for 400? $700? $1000? $1500? Would you be willing to take more special orders if you were selling them for $400? $700? $1000? $1500?

toon I’m a photographer too and I have a lot of trouble with pricing. I work smaller, making all my prints under 5 x 7, so I also price them in a lower range. Still, the work involved in making the prints has to be reflected in the price, as do the material costs. If I matte a print or frame it I have to take those prices into consideration too, so it’s not easy.
As far as the size consideration, keep in mind that a 4’ square print equals 48" on a side which means 2304 square inches, as opposed to an 11" square print which would be 121 square inches. That’s a lot more paper, as well as the increased amount of chemicals and all the other factors you mentioned, plus the equipment required to process such an image. Add in toning, whether sepia or selenium, and you’re running into some bucks.
As for a 4’ print costing $1000, that doesn’t seem at all out of order to me, but it does depend on the print, of course.

Pulykamell, yes my printing skills are up to the task. :slight_smile: Nothing in the darkroom daunts me. In fact, I consider that part and parcel of what someone is paying for when they buy my works. Good thoughts, I thank you.

Humble Servant, your name ought to be mine right now. I’m embarassed to say I had NO idea he worked in that size, I sit corrected. Also of course, jealous as hell. My god, what an eye…

** Zut** you nailed it here. What IS it worth? Once they find out I’m a Doper of course, the prints will be in insanely high demand. :wink: I will not frame them. In fact, I shall be delighted to get them squeegeed, drum dried and into a large mailing tube in one piece. I’ve never printed this format before. Wahoooo !!!

To answer a point brought up somewhere up there, the prints at a gallery I am showing in in Sugarloaf, NY right now are 11x14, and are priced at $ 175.00. This feels low, but it isn’t New York City…

Photopat, the chemicals and such are part of the rented darkroom space ( yay !! ). The print head will be rotating, I assume, I have to go and schedule a session and go and print a few. I cannot but think that once I nail the proper blend of exposure and tray time ( the print requires zero dodging or burning, thankfully…), I will not leave with less than 4 or 5 prints in tubes. It’s all in the set-up. If this format is something worth exploring, then I shall make a few prints of this one requested image, and a few others from the 2 1/4 negative work I have gathered.

The added cost of the sepia toning is a consideration, but we’re not talking hundreds of dollars here. The more I read ( not to seem ‘greedy’ or anything…ahem…), $ 1,000.00 for a four foot print sounds in line. I’m gonna go for it, and see what happens.

It isn’t just the bucks, it’s the process. I’m highly excited about trying something like this. Who knows, maybe I’ll buy a new apron for this project !!! :smiley:

Cartooniverse, who looooves the smell of stop bath in the morning.