One of the most frequent questions we get from exhibitors is: what price should I set on my work? We want your work to sell just as much you do. There are many factors to consider and this list may help:
The Physical Work: Size, Print Medium and Photographic Process
- Process: How much did this piece cost you to make (time and money)? How reproducible is it? Is your work a digital print, a darkroom print or a one of a kind alternative or antique process? Reproducibility and size are a dominant factor in determining price. See this wikipedia article for a list of photographic processes. One of a kind works are at one end of the spectrum and digital ink jet or RA-4 prints on the other.
- Size: Size should generally be figured into the equation as area. For example, a 20" X 20" square print is four times the area of a 10" X 10" print and could justifiably be four times as much.
- Medium: Is your print on non archival paper, on metal, fine art watercolor paper? What is the weight or thickness? How is the image rendered: Dye, pigment, silver, platinum paladium . . .
- Time: How much time did it take to make the print (without counting the time it took to take the photograph)?
How unique is your subject? Is the image a classic shot that many photographers have made of a common subject and hence there are many prints existing? Does your image capture a subject or moment that did not exist before you made your image and or will never exist again? Also consider any risks you might have taken to get the shot, whether the shot has historical value (for example if it is an image of the World Trade Center pre-9/11). Or, did you create the subject and construct it from your imagination? Take a minute to think about your image from a marketing perspective and not just from your personal attachment standpoint.
Ah... The Limited Edition Question
Rants and excuses and rules and exceptions concerning limited edition prints are all over the place in this digital age. There isn't an official handbook about this, but here's how we see it at Darkroom Gallery: the concept of creating a limited numbered edition comes from traditional printmaking, where each print was a copy from an original, so each print following the original would be a little bit different due to wear on the printing plate. This way customers would know how many copies of any piece were being sold and thereby the value of the print that they purchased.
While printing plates are almost extinct and digital printing has replaced darkroom work for many photographers, there are still ways of legitimately numbering your prints. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you made all the prints in the edition? You should have. If you don't, What happens if you can't locate the same paper or have to use a different printer to complete your edition a year or more after you started it?
- Have you destroyed the file or the negative? This is not necessary, but you may not use it to reproduce the same print in a different edition. How will a buyer know?
- What are your reproduction rights outside of the edition?Has this image been published before, or would you allow it to be published again? What will a buyer think if they see their limited edition print in a magazine?
- Will you potentially make another run of a different size? Does that count? How will a buyer know?
- Anything that does not confirm the uniqueness of a limited edition print when made with highly reproducible methods reduces the value in the mind of a buyer. Simply writing 1/100 on your inkjet print is not sufficient to command a dramatically higher price. If you want to use this method to increase the value of your work:
- Make all the prints in the run. You may not change the total number in your edition. In other words, if your first print has the fraction 1/12 written on it you can't then print 14 prints.
- You must not duplicate numbers.
- You must close the edition and cease printing that piece once the edition has been filled (this is restrictive especially in the digital age).
- Each print in the same edition must be printed at the same size. If you decide to print a different size, you must create a new edition.
- The print must be produced directly from the artist's original work (film or file). It must be produced directly by the artist or under direct supervision. The print must be signed and numbered by the artist.
- State if you are reserving any reproduction rights
- Make it so that no more prints can be made and convince the buyer of this.
- Are you sure you don't want to reprocess this image again after this edition? Technology is always changing. You may want reprocess and reprint your image when a new printing or editing process becomes available. Will you be able to? Will you be tempted to? Will you? What would the buyer of your limited edition print expect?
Mounting for Exhibition
With a price established for your printed work, if you are selling your work in a mounted and protected fashion, make sure you add the costs and markup of framing, matting or dry-mounting to your price. Frame, mat, and glass should all be factored in. What is your mat cost? Did you cut it yourself? What is your frame cost? Did you make it? Is it is one of our frames? One of our 16x20 metal frames, with 4 ply rag mat and UV and reflection control glass cost us about $30. Doubling that cost or even tripling it is reasonable. But if you buy your framing supplies at retail prices - a 50% markup is more realistic.
What's in a Name
Have you made a name for yourself as a photographer and artist? Do you have a track record of exhibits, publications, or have you been written up or publicly noticed in the news? Two identical photographs, one by a well-known artist and one by an up-and-coming photographer might have different monetary values. This also applies to two different buyers of the same work - one that knows the photographer and one that doesn't. For some, when buying art, it's not just the object that is being purchased - it is something made by a person who the buyer knows. Making your name more well known can increase the value of your work as much as making limited edition prints. The body of work associated with your name matters too. Attending receptions is a great way to make a personal connection between your work and the market.
Sign your work
This is important! Anywhere on the work is OK but it must be the touch of your hand on the work itself - not on a mat or frame. Ask yourself how much more you would pay for a signed print versus an identical unsigned print. Price accordingly.
Location, Visitors & Timing
We are located in Vermont. We are not a big city gallery, so although we have a lot of tourists pass through, most of our visitors are local art enthusiasts who won't necessarily spend ample amounts of money on art, especially in the current economy. We do however get a number of well known photographers and art collectors to stop in, and they do have more of a budget for art. Keep in mind that unless it is a show during the holidays or your work is large, unique or your name is known, we don't sell many framed photographs over $300.
Our Pricing Suggestions
From our experience in running the gallery and seeing what sells and what doesn't, we suggest the following pricing including gallery commission. This is only a suggestion, so take it or leave it.
If you are using our printing (RA-4) and framing (metal, rag, uv antireflection glass) services (these will likely be unsigned):
- 16x20 frame, 11x14 print : $250 or less
- 11x14 frame, 8x10 print: $125 or less
- 16x16 frame, 11x11 print: $150 or less
If you are printing and framing yourself, a good way to start would be to take the general guidelines above and factor in your cost and uniqueness of your print, subject and quality of your mat and frame and glazing.