New beginnings: Prints, how much, how well, how to, and how many?
I’ve had a web page for my photography for a very long time. It has often looked different, and has contained a variety of information and offers. The offers have always exclusively been my services, but I finally felt the time had come to take a leap and try to offer prints of my shots as well. I’ve been held back from doing this earlier because I haven’t really felt like I wanted to try to compete in the prints market. There are just so many places you can buy prints online, why would anyone go to an unknown photographer if they wanted some wall decorations? Finally, I reminded myself: Well, with that attitude; no one will. If you don’t put your prints out there, not a single soul will even know they want it, that’s for damn sure.
So, how much?
So, how have I decided to do this? There were so many things to consider, it nearly blew my mind. First of all: Pricing. I thought to myself, “perhaps some other photographer has pondered the same, and has made a blog post or a vlog about it?”. It turned out, yes. And how. There were so many schools of thought. Some proclaimed that until you had a stable business, you had to sell your prints with 0 in profits, maybe even at loss, after the cost of the print and postage had been covered. Others felt a photographer had to take into consideration how much money they’d spent on their photography, including travel, and decide if that too should be considered a cost of production that should be covered.
With so many schools of thought, I decided “there is no rule, do what you think is right”. So I decided I’d try an approach to consider some of the gear I’ve bought throughout my time as a production cost that. With the profit I earn from one sale of a single print, if I sell one print per month, I’ll have covered my expenses within about 15 years time. I don’t know if that says more about my expenses or my prices to be honest.
A question of quality
So to the production question. In what way will I produce my prints? I started out wanting to produce a single size type for a given photo. I wanted to look at a photo of mine and think “does this look like something that should be large, or small? Or somewhere in between?” I also wanted my prints to be affordable. Neither of these approaches ended up panning out for me. A friend of mine who works as a business consultant said that when starting a business, (even though my print store isn’t really a business, it’s an extension of my hobby), the clients and customers is who decides what you sell and how you sell it.
Had I been a professional artist, the matter might have been different, but I felt his point strike home. I started working on a premise where I offered two sizes. Then another friend said that he considered really large images to be the coolest thing anyone could get their wall, and even though I didn’t necessarily agreed, I realised I couldn’t decide that for people, so I decided to offer 150x100cm prints as well. In the end, I also realised that all my prints were quite large, and that if I sold as much as three sizes, then one should at least be smaller. Instead of sacrifising one of the sizes however, I decided to add a fourth and just say “ok, that’s it, no more”.
So on to the production quality. I wanted my prints at first to be as cheap as I could make them, but as I tried a couple of cheap print solutions, I realised I really hated seeing my prints on sub par print quality. I didn’t like the simple, thin, glossy paper it came on, or there was some other quality issue. I decided to give fine art print on high quality Hahnemühle paper a go to see if the drastic cost of their material was worth it. Suffice to say, I quickly reached the conclusion that it was really, really worth it. This was the kind of quality I wanted to deliver. I understood that this made the prints expensive and not something most perhaps would buy, but I decided I much rather wanted to sell a bare minimum of prints that I could be really proud of, rather than send something that my sense of professionalism felt uneasy sending out.
And a question of quantity
From what I now knew about the quality I wanted to go for, it was clear that I had to go down the line of “Fine Art Prints”, which can’t sell in any number. As is probably for the best in any case. This is just a hobby after all. The law defines Fine Art as something that doesn’t exceed 200 copies of a given work, so there’s that, but even that was more than I felt like. I wanted my prints to be at least somewhat exclusive. Somehow, the number “30” just came to me, and I kinda liked that. It felt right. There’s no magical reason behind this number. It just felt right.
When people buy fine art in high quality, they often expect something to guarantee the authenticity of the print, and so I also decided I needed a custom ink stamp to mark and authenticate my prints. I decided to make the stamp also serve as a template for where to mark down edition numbering as well as my signature. It was around this time I learned that custom ink stamps are kinda expensive! But that was that, and it was all ready.
Shipping, a surprising problem
The only thing to figure out now was the shipping. How do you ship a 150x100 print? Given that I was going to offer it, I obviously had to be able to ship it. It turned out it’s not just a simple matter of sending a package. A print that big has to be rolled up, but the paper I’m using is so dense and thick that rolling it up is a bit risky. Therefore I can’t use typical cardboard tubes, as they’re too narrow. I finally found a place that makes large diameter tubes, but they required me to buy 50 at the time. I have no store or storage room, only an appartment. I’m pretty sure my live-in girlfriend would hate every aspect of storing 50 cardboard tubes in any of our rooms, so I ended up finding a painter’s store that sell these individually, but at a bit of a higher cost. It ended up making shipping an almost uncomfortably expensive matter, but in the end, it is what it is, and I can’t really control that. I could find ways of doing it cheaper, but it’d come at a significant risk to the print, and I wasn’t willing to risk anything at this point.
So that’s that for this time! I’m excited to see where this goes!