Fighting your ego
Your ego will do one (or more) of these three things :
- Compare you to someone else ("she's so much more talented than me")
- Minimise your worth ("my prints are too expensive")
- Overestimate your value ("I should sell much more expensive")
All 3 will not only mess with your objective reasoning when it comes to pricing, but will also damage your self esteem and credibility. Below are mental exercises to overcome these. But the best solution is always to work on your curation and pricing in a group, with other members of the Phr community. Groups eliminate the subjectivity from such decisions and can provide great support.
Thy shall not compare thyself to others
There are scores of relatively well-known photographers online selling prints and pricing them very low. Often below double the production costs. Based on this, how could you ask for more?
Fame is only one element of the value creation incorporated in the pricing formula. It does matter. In fact, in high-end galleries, it is often the most important factor (outside of market trends, fashions ...). But it's not alone and your work can provide value to a client in many other ways.
Also, consider that a Youtuber who posts videos about gear, or about behind the scenes info or about post-processing doesn't claim to be an artist. The prints on offer are just one of many revenue streams for the author. When the authors place their prints at the same level as affiliate links for a revenue stream, they have very little collector value, except for their fans. And even then ... remember the story about the influencer with 2 million followers who was unable to sell 36 miserly t-shirts to her fans to start her product line?
Artists are change agents. There's a direct relationship between the actual influence of the artist and the price of his/her work. Monet fetches millions because there was a before and an after, in the art world. Gauguin told the academic art world "this is how I see a shadow and this is the colour I will use, whatever you guys think". There was a before and an after Gauguin. Gurski says (among other things) "to understand my work, you have to look at it from two very different distances". The Bechers founded a school of photographic thought which influenced many other photographers since.
Whatever you do, however hard you try, someone is always going to be better a it than you. Don't let that threaten you, but find inspiration in that person's work. Bring it into yours. Appropriation is a wonderful tool. Incorporate what you find amazing in the better work of others into yours, in a very personal way. Ultimately, in art, there is no "better" or "worse".
"Better", in art, really means "more personal".
What you should seek to achieve is to become a landmark artist. It can be a micro landmark. But your goal, to call yourself an artist and command higher print prices than vloggers, is to have an impact on a group of people, however small. "Ha, I hadn't thought of the Eiffel tower like that" or "I'd never have processed that photo in that way". As soon as you are a consistent source of inspiration to a few, or many, people, your work becomes valuable.
Which, of course, inevitably leads to ...
But I have absolutely zero influence!
Is that so?
If you have a gallery on Phr, that means I personally asked you to. I have hundreds of my own photographs which I find good enough to print and display. I have been collecting, visiting art galleries and art museums for decades. You still had an impact on me 🙂
Did you aver post anythin online? On Flickr, on DS, on another website? Any reactions? Thought so 😉 By the way, negative reactions can be great news. If you are disturbing to some people, you are bound to be interesting to others. Does that mean they'll buy? No! But that's an incremental process and, as long as some people find your photographs interesting/moving/thought provoking/shocking, not just pretty, you're fine!
If you sell too cheap, you're undermining your credibility and the community's credibility, and damaging your self-esteem. 200$ is a small price to pay for someone to spend their life with a beautifully crafted object that brings a smile to their face every morning. Don't sell that for 100$ (or 800$). It's a know fact that the more people pay for something the more they find value in it. The whole luxury sector hinges on this. The more money rich people pay for a bag, the more they like it, knowing fewer people can afford to do the same. It's a sad, sick, way of looking at life. But you can pitty those people without doing the exact opposite.
Ya big pumpkin head ya 😉
Of course, the opposite can happen. Sucess can go to anyone's head.
Just stick to the formula. And work it in groups for greater objectivity. The formula incorporates 2 factors (limited editions, scarcity factor) that account for your perceived fame. Use those and be realistic about the rest.
The more famous someone is, the greater the psychological impact of a limited run. If I did a 3 print edition of the photo above, it wouldn't attract as many punters as if Richard Misrach did a 100 print run of a photograph in the same area. The scarcity effect is compounded by the desirability of the print in the first place.
So, if you feel your fame has risen (sale numbers are a good way of evaluating this), it easy to update the values you assign to those two factors and increase your pricing accordingly, while reatining a consistent approach.
A practical example : Pricing my own photographs
Let's take a look at how I would price one of my own series: the Squarely Put. Those are square photographs in which I let the subject play a very secondary role and mostly focus on composition (using light and the square format) as the main topic of the series.
Let's take a look at all the factors one by one :
- Print process and quality: the lowest quality I sell is Piezo on Hahnemühle Baryta Rag 315. I rate the perceived quality impact as a 6.
- Image strength, message and meaning. There is a meaning to the whole series: that composition is important to our interpretation of art. It's not War and Peace, but it's not your casual selfie in front of Big Ben. To me, at least, it matters. I rate that as a 4.
- Artist statement. I hope to one day make that a 7, but am not really satisfied by it, yet. But I've analysed my favourite photographs, what is important to me in life, why I make photographs ... Again, a 4.
- Harsh curation. I've selected about 10% of my squares, shown them to several other members of Phr and listened to their advice. No one with professional experience has helped me curate my series, it's just an amateur trying to be serious about it. I'd give the effort a 5.
- Limited editions. Those are limited to 24 prints + 3 artist proofs in 11" print size. That's a faily low number. However, the series isn't one that has a planned end. For as long as I find interest in the series and continue to have new ideas to show, I'll keep at it. The series might end up having 50 photographs in a couple of decades. So no photograph from that series will end up on more than 24 walls, but the series itself isn't that small. Coupled with my fame levels, let's call that a 3.
- Scarcity. I really want this series to be affordable and to find its way into many homes because, to me, composition is too neglected in photography. So I want to keep the price low, but will used.a stepped pricing of +10% every 3 prints to ensure the most desirable ones end up fetching a good price and to rewards early movers. Also, DS gets millions of views over the years, but mostly from repeat visitors. I've sold a few photographs in the past and that's it. Pascal Jappy the artist couldn't be called famous by any stretch of the imagination. Let's call that a 3 (low scacrity). For other, more limited and expensive series, I'll not used stepped pricing. All prints will remain the same price.
- Provenance. I made the photographs and did the post processing. Picto did the printing. There's nothing fancy here. My photographs are displayed in a few corporate settings, bbut nothing fancy. All photographs come with a certificate of authenticity. Another 3 here.
So, my value multiplier is (6 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3)/7 = 4.
The piezo print sipped worlwide comes to about 50-60€, which we can round off to 50.
This give a print prce of 4 * 50 = 200€. So I'll probably ask for 160€ for most of those and up to 300€ for my favourites, as a starting price. Then, +10% for every 3 prints sold. For a print starting out at 160€, this give the following prices :
#1 to #3: 160€
#4 to #6: 180€
#7 to #9: 190€
#10 to #12: 210€
#13 to #15: 230€
#16 to #18: 260€
#19 to #21: 280€
#22 to #24: 310€
That's it! Congratulations for completing this series of posts. My sincere thanks for getting to the end. I hope you found those pages useful and interesting. Please leave your questions and comments below, then get cracking on that pricing 🙂