Pimping my art. Advice wanted.

Now, I want to be very out front, I am not soliciting customers. I can’t swear that I will refuse offers, but what I really want is some advice on the value of digital images, reproduced and signed by the artist. I have real issues, it seems, on how much my time and effort, and equipment are really worth.

I take pictures. (Some of you have seen some of them, and itty bitty samples of one set are linked in my default sig.) I have sold some, and the fact is that the process of selling them was a drag, and the profit sucked, mostly because I really never made that much of a point of doing it for profit, merely took the profit when it offered itself. I ended up with about a hundred prints of my photos, heavily representing the least popular examples. I decided not to go that way again. Let’s not even talk about frames, hmmm?

So, anyway, the photography itself remains a very enjoyable hobby, and I do still plan on doing it. But printing them has become a different thing. I recently found a place that prints very well on canvas, and (and important part) gallery wraps and stretches them quite well. The prices are reasonable, although that stuff is always more than you think. I have a good relationship with the guy, and get a little bit of a discount, on account of having bought ten or so over the time. So, I have begun taking my own photos, and using several photo programs (Isn’t it odd that no one program ever does all the things you want?) to make them look like paintings, of various styles.

Now I have $6000 worth of equipment, not counting the computer, and I can’t even decide how to figure the time, since it really ought to include driving all over the country taking pictures, and then sitting around doing multiple iterations of editing, and then ordering, and then delivering any piece to be sold. So, I decided to try it the other way around. I examined the market.

Individual works of art, signed and numbered by the artist go for between $150, and $300 dollars, generally including such caveats as “number 321 of 1000” on them. Now, there is no way I am selling a thousand of anything, nor even likely to sell a hundred. So, instead of this, I write on each (on the back, since artistically, I don’t consider it part of the picture)

SignatureTitle” # n d/m/y sold to Buyername d/m/y

So that the buyer knows how many were printed as of the day he bought his. I don’t promise anyone that I won’t print as many as will sell, but the real facts of life are that I could never get to more than a few dozen doing it the way I do now, and have no real interest in doing a production run at mass production quality value. I like making each one a personal expression. To date I have two # 3 prints, and one # 2.

I also occasionally do the same with people pictures, (such as the one of my friends kissing at their wedding). Those are free, of course, but I sign them the same way, but without the number. (Side note: Just printing and shipping that one picture, I got asked to do three weddings. I don’t much do people. Trees never whine about how their bark looks, ya know?)

Here is an example, which I have had printed at 16" x 20" on canvas, gallery wrapped, so it doesn’t need framing. I get hanging wires put on them so they can be hung right out of the box. Anyway, I want a doper generated reality check. How much? Is it realistic to expect more than the minimum quoted above? Am I completely delusional?



I’m sorry to say that I think that you’re setting your prices too high. Several hundred dollars is a reasonable price to pay for a limited print by a semi-well-known working artist. For example, Josh Agle is pretty hot right now in certain limited circles and he’s asking $195 for a 17x17 print on his website. (It’s a limited run of 250.) You don’t have a public reputation and it’s exceedingly unlikely that your work will have any resale value. It’s your hobby, not a business. If someone wants a print, charge them the cost of having the reproduction made plus a little premium for your time. Then, if you discover the public is clamoring for more, raise your prices as you go.

FWIW, when I saw the first two inches of that pic (as it hadn’t loaded all the way yet) it just screamed “photoshop filter!”

I honestly don’t know enough about photography to critique your technique in that area, but the filter just makes it look amateurish. Now, if its selling, its selling, so obviously some people don’t care.

My advice would be to stick to straight photography, or try your hand at digital painting. Get a tablet and you can paint in photoshop like you could with real paint. You could even paint over your photos… that would give it a more natural feel than filters.

Selling art (whether painting or photography) is indeed, as you say, a drag. And the profit sucks. And art fairs or galleries take anything from 20% to 50% as well.

The problem with putting a price tag on art is that there’s no way to judge the value until you have a reputation. It’s whatever will sell. My suggestion is to figure out your direct overhead (forget the cost of the equipment, you’re stuck with that, I’m talking about the printing, labeling, framing, etc.) and figure a rough number of hours of your time at $10 - $15 an hour. That will give you a minimum price to break even. If you start selling at that price, then you can slowly raise your price over time.

Thanks everyone. I suppose I should have realized how entirely subjective the question was. I think I am going to just keep on just being willing to sell, and not really caring. The first two sales were somewhat of a surprise to me, anyway.


I agree with starting low, as a general principle. C K Dexter Haven’s method makes a lot of sense to me.

I think the price you want to charge also depends on exactly who you plan to market these to and how good a salesman you are (not how good an artist you are). Trial and error may be the best way to find out.

Some people know how to sell a Lexus, and it’s not all in the engineering.
Personally, I’ve sold original work for $10 (unframed quick portraits) to $250 (framed larger paintings), but most of them around $25 - $75 (matted or gallery wrapped). I like the low-key setting.

Try Deviant Art. Hey! Speaking of art-pimping…!