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Thread: What Makes a sellable photograph?

  1. #61
    Pieter's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Look around you, in your friend's homes, in public buildings. That's what sells. One of my criteria in judging my work is, would I hang it in my house? What is in galleries is not always an indication of what sells, either. Galleries go out of business daily.

    As an aside, about ten years ago there was a humorous movie called "(Unitiled)" that was about a successful artist whose gallery never shows his work except in the back room because it is not edgy, but keeps the gallery in business by selling the art to condos and hotel decorators.

  2. #62
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    I was in a fairly nice, mid-tier hotel recently on the main drag of a mid-sized city. Nothing super-fancy, but not the bargain motel outside of town. All of the work hanging in the room was local, including a very large and prominent photograph in the foyer area of a popular river view (see my recent photo in the small format thread...). The image was selectively desaturated, leaving only the yellow color, with everything else being greyscale. Only the thing was, nothing in the photo was particularly yellow, so instead the image just had a jaundiced, post-apocalyptic look as if the town was being consumed by a sandstorm or something after years of war. Not great, I think by any stretch of the imagination, other than perhaps an image to pitch the next Mad Max movie.

    There was a gallery locally with the photographer using selective desaturation often, so I am guessing it was his image (it wasn't signed).

    I was just recently in contact with a corporate interior designer and may be licensing some images myself. I don't know how folks normally do this and sell some of the dreck I see in hotels, hospitals, banks, etc., unless they just "know" the right person...
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  3. #63
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Me? Interpretive (as a general category).
    I detest labels and literally cringe every time someone, upon hearing that I am a photographer, pipes up and asks, "So what do you photograph?... Landscapes or portraits".
    Like that's all that there is....
    Horse apples!!

    I don't have an answer to the question posed; only an observation. Beginning a couple of years ago, a local gallery offered to give me some space to offer some of my small prints, mounted and matted, in bags for sale. About the only thing I got out of it were some nice comments. One well-heeled customer in particular simply ooh'd and ahh'd over my images. And despite promptings by the gallery owner, she never ever bought even a single print. Even though the price, mounted and matted was all of $50. And to her that was pocket change. Coffee money. A trivial amount. Whereas to me at the time it was a very significant amount and would have helped nicely with some bills I was having to play the balancing act with.
    So, the answer is NOT "a well-heeled customer", which was my initial flippant thought when I read the OP. Money does not an appreciative audience make!

  4. #64

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Based on the prints I buy at arts fairs, one primary driver is that the picture should NOT generate an "Oh, I can do that on my iPhone" response. So that means for me it should either be an image from a place where I will never be, or conditions that are photogenic but rare, and more often than not, color, since I do only B&W in my darkroom. I am also most likely to purchase a print in the roughly $100 range that I can frame (and even mat if necessary) myself. I can also say what I am unlikely to buy: a silver gelatin print for $900-1000 (saw a beautiful one recently, but that is more than pocket change to me, and for that much money I would rather buy supplies andI have more fun making and printing myself), overly saturated Photoshopped color, and anything printed on metal. The iPhone comment doesn't apply to most of us, but in a world saturated with images, I think it applies to the more general public.

  5. #65
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Postscript to my earlier post - It is very curious to me that almost all of the images I have bought have been portraits. And that's because I've never considered myself drawn to portraiture. But I am, evidently. Oftentimes the photograph in question is one that shows an individual in a unique light or in some way digs deep beyond the superficial façade.
    So, what made these photographs sellable (to me)?
    I think simply that they displayed the complexity of a human being in a unique and fascinating (and sometimes dark) way.
    I can't over-analyze this. Each of those photos spoke to me on a personal level. And I was compelled to add it to my collection.

  6. #66

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    What content sells? Pretty women, pretty landscapes.
    Who buys it in bulk? I was at a hospital this year, and saw some very nice black and white landscapes by an AZ photographer. Then I went to a different Physical Therapy building, there were some very nice old historic prints of my local town. So I'd say the answer is: medical buildings.

  7. #67
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Aacck. Don't remind me of hospitals. Gotta go there in a few more days for a disgusting sort of every-5yr probe. The walls have a lot of amateur local painting and lots of repro prints of old big name photographers - Cunningham, AA, etc, well-framed but hardly expensive or truly collectable, and of little use to current photographers or even painters hoping to make a bit of money. In the case of the b&w knockoff images, they unquestionably paid more for the framing than the prints themselves. I once traded some of my own prints for clinic services. That was a win-win, better than cash, in fact. I haven't even seen the walls of the big clinic where my wife works; there are actually three of them now, in adjacent cities. But they're out in the burbs where tastes are much different than here - more decor oriented, and less "serious" about prints as a fine art acquisition capable of fetching more "serious" prices. At this point in life, I can't simply afford to be dabbling in the former category. Quite a bit of time and money can go into attractively framing big prints; and if it's just for sake of a fishing expedition in a pond with just a few little minnows potentially somewhere in it, it isn't worth the fuss.

  8. #68
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pieter View Post
    Look around you, in your friend's homes, in public buildings. That's what sells...
    Agreed, and this confirms my theory that Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" is by far the most successful work of Art in history. Also one of the most appreciated...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  9. #69
    Maris Rusis's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    After being associated with several photographic galleries over some decades my strong impression is that sales of photographs are not inherently related to the content of the photograph, the quality, the medium, the size, or the photographers name. All of these things can become selling points subject to the blunt commercial reality of:

    Galleries sell what galleries promote.
    Photography:first utterance. Sir John Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society. "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..".

  10. #70

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    People like stuff they can relate to

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