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Thread: What Makes a sellable photograph?

  1. #1
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
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    What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Acknowledging the wealth of knowledge that reside here at this site, I would like to pose the question of “what makes a photograph sellable?” Before responding please state your area of interest such as portraits, landscapes, urbanscapes, and anything else that I have missed. This will help us better understand your responses.

    Clearly there will be attributes of the composition that will have a lot to do with salability, but there can be other factors as well like color, shape of photographs, size of photographs, marketing considerations, whether its a man or women who is buying the photograph, and so on. Or we can look at some famous photographers most sellable images such as Ansel Adams Moon Rise and why it was so popular.

    Please feel free to post some of your most sellable images to support your thoughts. If you have not sold any photographs, you can argue what types of photographs you find most appealing and would love to purchase.

    This string is not about whether creating sellable photographs is art or is an act that compromise the artistic endeavor. So please do not diverge to this type of discussion. Also it can be said becoming famous will make even your very worst photographs sellable. Obviously, most of us will never be famous so this will have little value for us little guys.

    I look forward to your thoughts and debates.

  2. #2

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Well, beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder. No one can say why a person likes this or that.

    Generally speaking, generic photos are near worthless.

    https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/...less-nowadays/

    Some photogs are lucky enough to get half a million for a photo of a tricycle. The art world need such excesses to keep the carrot dangling in front of the rest of the struggling artists to give them hope.

    https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/...ing-an-artist/

  3. #3

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    You will get as many opinions as there are replies. Some people buy photographs to hang up as decoration, in which case the predominant colors must match their decor, and the subject matter is typically traditional, i.e. landscape, waterscape, still life. Some people buy photographs to remember a place they visited on vacation, so the photograph should be "typical of the location."

    Of course, as a member of this forum, I am not the "typical customer." I buy photographs which inspire me to be better, but which are also relevant to my own photography, i.e. black and white prints made in a darkroom from large format negatives. But to prove my point, about a year ago I purchased an 11x14 B&W large-format silver print at a craft fair (which hangs with many other prints, both my own and purchased, in our family room), and my wife bought two small color seascapes (largely shades of blue) from the same photographer to hang in our blue downstairs bathroom. Definitely different criteria!

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    This I know personally. When I am in the field and I make a photograph that I think will sell, it rarely does. When I am in the moment and making images that personally really move me-those sell.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5

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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    I'm mostly a landscape photographer, at least partially because I can take my time and also get exercise while shooting. Of my shots, the few that have sold have been ones that I think the buyer just resonated with. To me, those prints were ones with a certain richness to them and they're also favorites of mine. Though others that I really LOVE, no one else seems to. I've also had two people ask for certain flower shots handcolored with specific colors to match a room (yes, they were friends, so I did them, even suggested it to one).
    Ones I buy tend to be of places I doubt I'll ever get to or things that don't happen predictably, like certain weather conditions. Unique-ness, too, I think makes them sellable, as long as they're technically very good.

    I also suspect that photographers have different criteria when shopping for prints compared to non-photographers.
    Bethe King
    www.ewfisher.com

  6. #6
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Location, location, location. For decades I have sold photographs at a small-town annual arts & crafts fair and occasionally in other venues. Some area landmarks, present and past, sell well. So do photos of the rare steam locomotive visits. One popular print (below) is an exaggerated look at a familiar subject. Low prices are important to customers this far removed from gallery experiences. The opportunity to buy either framed or matted prints is an advantage to buyers with strong ideas on how a photograph is best presented in their homes or offices. For my convenience, most photographs are 10x14 inches in 16x20 mats or frames. Bulk purchases of custom mats in this size saves time and money. This may appeal to repeat customers. The current price for prints in 16x20 aluminum frames is $50. This seems reasonable in an area where cooperation with friends and neighbors is valued higher than competition with anyone. Also popular are very inexpensive unmounted and unmatted 8.5x11 prints. The selection of photographs is most often made by women, unsurprising in an area where perhaps 80% of artwork is created by women.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    This I know personally. When I am in the field and I make a photograph that I think will sell, it rarely does. When I am in the moment and making images that personally really move me-those sell.
    Absolutely true. Many, but not all, of the images I thought would sell well did not. And those that moved me turned out to be great sellers. You never know what will happen once we enter the darkroom or post production mode if you do digital.

  8. #8
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Quote Originally Posted by Iluvmyviewcam View Post
    Well, beauty and art is in the eye of the beholder. No one can say why a person likes this or that.

    Generally speaking, generic photos are near worthless.

    https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/...less-nowadays/

    Some photogs are lucky enough to get half a million for a photo of a tricycle. The art world need such excesses to keep the carrot dangling in front of the rest of the struggling artists to give them hope.

    https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/...ing-an-artist/
    I agree that portrait and social documentary would be very difficult to sell as decorative art unless you were famous. That said, these types of images fall into a category that I call informative. Informative images can sell well as a book provided there is a good narrative to accompany them. A great example of this is John Fielder's work. He produce images of nature that were very informative and he made a lot of money selling them through books and calendars. However, he was not successful at selling them as decorative art for the home because they were plain and did not inspire profound emotions.

  9. #9
    Stephen Willard's Avatar
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    Quote Originally Posted by Winger View Post
    I'm mostly a landscape photographer, at least partially because I can take my time and also get exercise while shooting. Of my shots, the few that have sold have been ones that I think the buyer just resonated with. To me, those prints were ones with a certain richness to them and they're also favorites of mine. Though others that I really LOVE, no one else seems to. I've also had two people ask for certain flower shots handcolored with specific colors to match a room (yes, they were friends, so I did them, even suggested it to one).
    Ones I buy tend to be of places I doubt I'll ever get to or things that don't happen predictably, like certain weather conditions. Unique-ness, too, I think makes them sellable, as long as they're technically very good.

    I also suspect that photographers have different criteria when shopping for prints compared to non-photographers.
    I have never sold a photograph to a photographer before. People who buy my work are upper middle class or wealthier, and most of them have never purchased a photograph before as art to hang on their walls. I would say 60% are women and 40% are men.

    Yes, this is true that people purchases are driven buy personal experiences and their emotional reactions they have with a photograph. However, I also believe that there are some common attributes of a composition and other things that can make a photograph highly sellable.

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: What Makes a sellable photograph?

    I want a minimum of $250 to $500 just for the frame; a lot more for a big print. Any local frame shop would want way more. All that stuff is overhead. Just look
    at the price of a stack of Museum board. Drymounting takes time; mounting color prints is a lot more fussy. So I don't know how you do it, Jim. Any street fair
    around here would probably cost you a couple grand a day just for the booth space. But that is a lovely image you posted.

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