I’ve been selling my fine art photography prints for a few years. The first few of which were spent experimenting, looking to see what works and what doesn’t. Lucky for you, I bring you the ins and outs of the where and how so you can get directly to work!
Before even looking to sell, ask yourself: “Is my work even marketable?” Whether you shoot landscape photography, professional nude photography, or make surreal photo manipulations, it’s always healthy to be aware of the demand. Even if your work is marketable, finding the right clientele might take some time. You could start off by making a small batch of prints. Then asking those around you if this is something they would want to put on their wall. Consider offering them at low prices, or even give a few away to those who are interested. Your mom will always love your work, now it’s time to make personal connections with experts like gallery owners and art buyers. When I say personal connections, I mean to meet them in person. These people are too busy to take cold calls from a stranger. Ask them if they know of the right platforms for your work. Remember that not all art types will have a same marketing strategy.
Selling prints online are becoming more and more common. The advantage to this is that you can sell artwork directly from your studio. One obvious element to selling more work is to get more people to visit your website. Consider getting your work on other art related websites with a link to your own website. This could increase traffic to your website.
There are websites you can upload your prints to that do most of the work for you. Customers can buy prints, and products made automatically from the uploaded artwork in the form of mugs, t-shirts, laptop and cell phone skins, clothing and so on. This can be a great source of passive income. A percentage of sales is paid to the artist automatically once products are sold. The disadvantage is that these sites typically sell open edition prints at cheaper costs, decreasing the value of your photography. The percentage the artist makes this way is much smaller than selling independently (around 10%) so even if your products sell in large quantities, you’re not making millions here. My recommendation is to create or choose work from your inventory especially for these websites in addition to your limited edition prints which you can sell using other platforms.
Unlike the stores above, these are stores that sell limited edition prints, typically at a higher price point. The sales are often handled by the artist, meaning that when an item is sold, you are is responsible for printing, framing, packing, sending, and handling client requests. You can set your own pricing, edition number, and keep a larger percentage of the sales.
You should always have the option for clients to purchase from your website. There are many website templates that allow you to build an online store, like the Squarespace E-commerce store which looks great and is easy to set up. Whether you choose to have an online store page or a contact page about prints depends on what works for you and your photography. It should be clear to your customers that the photography on your website is for sale.
One of the best ways to sell your work is through different Art Fairs. You can start locally and perhaps expand internationally if and when you see there’s a demand for your work. Art Fairs are different than gallery exhibitions because they are typically a few days long, have more traffic, and are held at a large public space like a square or a convention center. There are Art Fairs exclusively for galleries, and others dedicated to individual artists. The summer season has the largest amount of outdoor art fairs for individual artists, and the outdoor shows are typically cheaper to sign on to than indoor ones. One advantage to Art Fairs is that after paying the booth fees, 100% of the sales go to the artist. These shows could be attended by just about anyone: art buyers, gallerists, artists, and much more. This makes Art Fairs a great way to get connected to people in the art scene. You never know who is going to walk into your booth. Furthermore, longevity pays off in this situation. Showing up year after year can help legitimize your work, showing buyers that you are consistently making art and that purchasing from you is a good investment.
I strongly recommend researching Art Fairs in your city and even contacting participating artists who have similar work to yours, asking about their experience.
Commercial gallery representation is often the first thing artists think about. Finding a commercial gallery can be a long process, and there are many things to consider before signing a contract. Having a source that sells your art for you is certainly an advantage. The gallery could an increase the exposure to your work by showcasing it in auctions and Art Fairs for galleries. However, galleries take a large percentage (typically 50%) of the sales. With additional costs like printing and framing, this leaves the artists with even less at the end. This model can work if the gallery sells a large volume of work. Some galleries have exclusive contracts, meaning that clients can only purchase work from them and not from the artist directly. Non-exclusive contracts allow artists to continue selling work independently or through other galleries in addition to the work sold at the gallery.
Choosing a gallery is a completely individual process and can take some trial and error. Remember that reading the fine print, keeping control over sales, and understanding legal issues are your responsibilities when partnering with a gallery.
Aside from galleries who have a physical gallery space, there are also individual dealers who may represent your work and put you in different spaces like group shows. They may also sell to clients of their own. Sometimes they take a smaller percentage of the sales than commercial galleries do.
Auction houses and charitable auctions are a good thing to try. Some ask artists to donate a piece of art, or take a percentage of the sale. An advantage of auctions for photographers is that if your print sells, the losing bidder might come directly to you to purchase the next available print in the limited edition for that piece.
You’re not confined to the platforms above. Be innovative! think of other ways to sell your work. Is your work tied to women’s issues? Maybe you can contact a women’s hospital to see if they’re interested in buying your work for their space. Do you shoot travel photography? Maybe a travel related company is interested.