The Importance of Marketing your Photographs

Other essays in this series

1 - Introduction
I make a living selling fine art photographs.  I started selling my work full time in 1997.  Since then, in just ten years, I made millions of dollars through the sales of photographic prints.

I do not sell stock images and do not submit images to magazines for a living.  On occasion, when asked, I will sell an image for stock use or for publication.  However, I do not actively market my work to the publication market. 

As we will see in this essay, marketing your work is the key to selling it. Unlike the commonly held belief that marketing helps sell your work, the point that I will make in this series is that without marketing your work will simply not sell regularly.   If this seems like a harsh statement, let me say that it is not.  It is only a realistic statement based on years of experience.

2 - Market, market and market again
The saying goes like this:

If you do not market your work
one thing will happen: nothing

The saying is true.  I verified it myself when I started selling my work.  Let me explain.

When I started I thought that having beautiful, high-quality work was the secret to selling it.  I thought that the beauty and the quality of my work would speak for themselves and, in turn, would guarantee sales.  My efforts were therefore focused on constantly improving the quality of my work by acquiring better cameras, better equipment and learning how to create better photographs. 

The way I “marketed” my work, if you can call it that, was by displaying my work in galleries.  In effect, I relied on galleries to market my work.  Fact is, they marketed their galleries by promoteing the name of their gallery, and when doing so included all the artists they represented.  They did not market my work in particular.    Certainly, I was included, but so were all the other artists represented by each gallery.  At the end of the day the name of the gallery stood out.  The name of each individual artist was lost in the shuffle, so to speak.

This did not work very well.  While I did make a few sales I did not make enough to generate a regular or a significant income.    In other words my sales were low and irregular.  I could not rely on this income to make a living from photography.

Since I believed that the beauty and the quality of my work was what was making people buy it, when I saw that my work did not sell well I concluded that my work was not good enough and that I had to learn how to make it better.

I spent a lot of time and money doing so.  Unfortunately, while the quality of my work did improve, my sales did not go up in any significant way.

My sales did not go up NOT because my work wasn’t good. It was good. The quality was very high, the presentation was excellent, and the artistic content was superlative.  Sales did not go up because I was wrong in my assessment of why my work wasn’t selling.  I thought it wasn’t selling because it wasn’t good enough.  Fact was, my work wasn’t selling because it wasn’t marketed properly.  What I needed to do to sell more was improve my marketing, not improve the quality of my work.

Since I had no idea how to market my work I decided to place ads in magazines.  Since I did not know which magazines to advertise in I chose magazines that had a national distribution to maximize my chances.  These ads were very costly because I was advertising in large circulation magazines.  

I also did not know how to design an effective ad and could not afford the added cost of hiring a professional ad designer.  So my ads were not very effective and I made beginner's mistakes that today jump at me like sensor dust on a cloudless sky.  My ads generated only marginal results.  At the end of the day I was I barely covered my costs. Forget about making a profit.  Understandably, I did not repeat the experience.

3 - What is going on here?
What is going on is this:

A bad photograph well marketed
will always outsell
a good photograph poorly marketed

Why is that?  That is because most people have a very difficult time deciding what is good art and what is bad art.  Of course there are exceptions, but they are relatively rare.

This being the case, people rely on information made available to them to make a decision in regards to the artwork presented to them.  In other words, they need to know more about the work in front of them.  They need to know who the artist is.  Without this information they will only rarely buy, and if they do they will mostly purchase low-price pieces.

How is this information provided to them?  Essentially, by the artist and by those who represent the artist.  If no one is representing you then you must provide your audience with this information yourself.

You may say “But I have had articles written about me, interviews, features, a web site, etc, etc. etc. Why can’t they read these and learn about me that way?"  They certainly will learn about your good self that way, provided that they find these interviews and articles.  The problem is, how do you know that they will find these interviews and articles?  And how do you know that the right people –those that are looking at your work right now- have found and read these articles?  Fact is, you don’t.  And fact is, most likely, they won’t.

This being the case it is your job, as an artist who is marketing his work, to provide them with copies of these articles if they exist, or with comparable materials that you have designed yourself if they do not exists.

For example, one of the best marketing pieces you will ever have in your hands is your Artist Statement.  The artist statement is a crucial piece of information about yourself which, if designed and used properly, and I mean exactly that, will help you generate more sales than you ever thought possible

I will explore the value of your artist statement in an upcoming essay.

Alain Briot
Spring 2009

About my Marketing Tutorials
Marketing your work is serious business and is best done in the context of a complete marketing program.  I introduce you to such a program in my Marketing and Advanced Marketing Mastery Workshops on DVD by giving you the exact knowledge and documents I use to market my photographs.  I also offer a Marketing Mastery Seminar as well as a limited number of opportunities to study with me one on one.  Help is available if you want to learn how to sell your work and you are willing to invest money to do so, to put your money where your mouth is in other words. 

My guarantee?  I will save you years of trial and errors by providing you today with knowledge that took me 20 years to acquire.  I also guarantee that if you precisely follow the marketing approach I teach, you will recoup the cost of the material I sell through the extra sales that you will be making. Just one print sale will recoup the cost of this DVD if you follow my advice.

You also receive a $100 discount, as a Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD owner, when you attend my Marketing Mastery Seminar. The seminar teaches you the latest information on my marketing approach, including discoveries and new approaches I discovered and found to work better during the year preceding the seminar. The seminar will always feature the latest information, information not available in any of my other materials.

The materials provided on the Marketing Mastery Workshop on DVD, as well as in my Marketing Mastery Seminar and my One on One Consulting Program, are not redundant with the materials provided in this essay.  The marketing materials provided in my Seminar and through one on one consulting are guaranteed to not be offered for free.  This guarantee insures that your marketing edge, which is having access to knowledge not widely disseminated, is maximized. If every photograher knew about these techniques they would no longer be effective. My approach, and my premium prices, guarantee that you are getting quality information that you can use and that your competition is not willing to spend their money on.

Essay and photographs Copyright © Alain Briot 2009
All rights reserved worldwide