The Reluctant Artist
--Part 3--

by Steve Pope
with an introductionby Alain Briot

Other essays in this series

In Part 1 and Part 2 of The Reluctant Artist, Steve described the challenges he faces in regards to the creation of his photographs. Now, in Part 3 of this narration, Steve talks about the difficulties of selling his work, from dealing with rejection to finding a propitious selling location.

Alain Briot

The Reluctant Artist--Part 3-- by Steve Pope

The Big Kahuna.

It isn't hard for me to go out, find a scene or place that catches my eye, photograph it, enhance it in the digital darkroom, and then even print it (although I struggle with that last step). The hard part is the sale.

Yes, the word that strikes fear into many an artist, more even than rejection, is marketing.  One can say that a failed sale is a form of rejection, but more often than not, we get people who admire our hard work and then just walk away.  Yesterday I set up my "booth" at the Farmer's Market in our town, which meets every Saturday from mid-May to October.  Although the environment isn't terribly fancy, our booths are horse and carriage stalls built over 150 years ago, they are light and airy and we do get a decent crowd passing through. In the three hours of the market I made one sale. That's it.  I wish I could say it was for $100, $250 or even $500, but it was only $40.00.  So, what did I net?  A whopping $37.00, as it costs all of $3.00 to participate in our town's market. Otherwise I had plenty of people who simply looked and left.


Death Valley Dunes

So, how do I go about making the "Big Sale", the Big Kahuna? I won't pretend to have all the answers, seeing how I haven't made many big sales, but I will describe what I am doing.  First, recognize that the first venue you start at probably will not be the most lucrative.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a farmer's market at a small town of 1,800 people isn't going to bring in the big bucks.  As the realtors say, "Location, location, location."  However, we all have to start somewhere.  Granted, we have probably all heard of those daring folks who take the plunge and spent the money to set up shop in the most prominent and financially attractive sales area and made it big. There are also ninety-nine other people who did the same and failed.

Starting small is not a bad idea for me.  Importantly, I get to learn to be comfortable with people.  I'm somewhat introverted, relatively quiet (although my workshop companions might question that), and have to really concentrate at meeting peoples' eyes. I'm not sure if my career as a cop predisposes me to be reluctant to be friendly or not, but I do have to work at it.  Again, having a small venue makes this more comfortable all around.

Montepuciano Facade

Secondly, what size images do I sell?  And for how much?  This is a conundrum for those of us starting out.  If I recall one thing from Alain's Marketing Mastery Workshop (which I highly recommend), it is that it's easier to make one large sale than many small sales.  I cannot say that my $40 print was a large sale (although it was priced at double of what I was charging last year), but again, you have to consider the location.  I have also sold three framed prints for $500.00 each, in a totally different venue, but I'll get to that. 

The $40 prints are last year's 8x10s matted to 11x14.  These are not what I am printing this year.  Instead, I've printed 11x14s matted to 16x20 and 12x18s matted to 20x30.

Does this sound like overkill? Not at all. I strongly advise you to do some simple and enjoyable market research. Go to a local gallery that sells fine art photography, or better yet go to a museum and examine how relatively small the image is to the mat and frame. I was amazed at the difference.  When it comes to fine art photography, bigger is often not better. So I'm printing as large as my Epson R1800 can print and matting as large as I dare. I invested in a Logan mat cutter and it is well worth the money to be able to custom cut my mats.

Smoky Vista

Okay, how did I make those "big" sales?  If someone ever asks you to show them your work, jump at the chance.  Go out and buy a very nice portfolio case, like Alain's for example, put your absolute best work in it, and bring it to the client.  When you get one-on-one with a potential buyer, your time is maximized at being able to interact over each piece.  Don't be surprised if people don't choose your favorite image, just be glad when they select what they want for whatever reason they like.

Other than personal sales, what else?  I could try to sell my work through a gallery or a boutique, but this isn't either a sure thing nor highly lucrative as both venues take around 50% of what you could get if you sold it yourself.  Any other alternatives?  Yes, and this will be one I will pursue; the twenty-first century answer to the corner store, the internet.  This is where the action is, location-wise.  A worldwide clientele knocking on your virtual door.  As of now, my knowledge of how to set up and operate a viable and lucrative web site is about zero.  It will take quite a bit of effort to attain that knowledge, but who said that success was easy?  I'll let you know how it goes.

Steve Pope

Turveren Walkers


Essay and photographs Copyright © Steve Pope 2008
Introduction © Alain Briot
All rights reserved worldwide