Pricing your work……if only it were easier

Richard Charpentier Photography, Prints, RLC Design 4 Comments

Every day I get one simple question from artists.  “What do you think I should resell my pieces for?”

Mind you, they’re not just asking me about the reproductions I make for them.  They’re asking what I think their originals should go for as well.  Man, that’s a tough one.

As a photographer I have a few points of reference for certain types of pricing, but not all.  One favorite?  The Stock Price Calculator offered over at Photographer’s Index.  If you’re doing stock it’s a great reference point.  And I’ve used it a few times now in my career to get appropriate pricing for clients who wanted year to multi-year licenses of my work.  Bert Gildart pointed me to that one!  Big thanks Bert.

Now, selling photography in galleries?  Yeah, it runs the gamut!  So how does one price?  The answer is not definitive.  Price where you can sell.  Advice that I’ve been given by other photographers?

  • Sell canvases at $1 per square inch:  That’s what several photographers I know do with their canvases at galleries nation wide.
  • Sell prints at $.35 per square inch.  Paper prints that is.  Another photographer I know well sticks to that for unframed prints.  It works for him too.  Of course, all of his prints are limited edition, so don’t forget that one.
  • For painters I’ve been advised by one very famous artist that pieces usually run at least $5 per square inch minimum (on originals).  That’s their own rule of thumb.  The same guy charges $1 per square inch for their reproductions.  I know another famous artist who has pieces that sell for way more than the $5 per square inch due to collectors.  It’s all over the place.

So, how do I personally price?  Well, I don’t do $1 per square inch on my canvases (I’m well under that).  And I don’t charge $.35 per square inch on my prints (I’m cheaper there too).  I’ve got my own formula, but you have to remember, I’m also the printer.  My costs are a little different than most folks who come to me.  Prints are at cost to me (ink, paper, labor).

What’s my final suggestion?  Simple.  Get what you can for your pieces.  You’ve got a lot to consider reselling in galleries.  What goes into your decision making process?

  • What’s the gallery’s commission?  Most galleries run 40-50% commission.  Now before you get all huffy about those percentages take a few things into consideration.  Wall space, rent, lighting, gallery employees.  All those things cost money.  The gallery has to cover a ton of expenses.  If they’re hanging you, they need to cover the cost of the walls, and all the rest of the overhead.  Good gallery space usually isn’t cheap.
  • On reproductions, what did you pay?  Print costs come out of your bottom line.  If it cost you $30 to get it printed, what should you mark it up to?
  • Framing?  Yeah, frames cost a few dollars.  And really good framing work is art in itself.
  • Your time?  Economists call this opportunity cost.  If you’re out taking photos, getting them printed, delivering to a gallery, etc., it all takes time.  What’s the value of your time at another activity?  If you’re a good engineer, you could be making $135 – $250 per hour easily.  How many hours did it take to get “that photo”, have it printed, framed, etc?
  • Capital Expenses:  Let’s see… bought that expensive camera.  $3,000 maybe?  Then there’s those lenses.  Maybe you’ve got $20,000 in glass alone.  Other peripheral equipment too I bet.  That stuff wears out over time and you’ve got to factor in purchasing new equipment to replace it.  What’s the cost per shutter click?
  • Miscellaneous Expenses:  When I take a 4 day trip to the Vermillion Cliffs, Borrego, The Grand Staircase, or anywhere else I’m working.  Gas costs to get to the location.  Lodging.  Wear and tear on the vehicle.  Meals.  It all factors in.  That’s part of your print price as well.

Bottom line, there are a ton of factors that go into your price.  My quickie rule of thumb for clients is that the product cost (print + framing) times 3.  That’s the minimum.  Let’s say you print with me and you’re just going to sell unframed prints in a shop that charges 40% commission.  You’ve decided to make 16×24’s.  Those cost $38.40 if you print with me.  If you take my 3 times advice you’ll be selling the prints for $115.00.  The gallery, at 40%, is going to take $46.00 on that.  Let’s see, in the end you paid $38.40+$46.00= $84.40.  You make $30.60 in the end.  Gee, the printer and gallery did better than you, the photographer.  Should you bump the price?  Remember, price point plays in big time with the purchasing public.

Well, I’m sure I didn’t get you pointed to an exact price, and sorry about that.  A lot plays into your pricing, and I think I covered that well for readers.  It’s up to you in the final analysis.  Personally, my canvas prices are going up for my pieces due to the inflationary factors I’ve been dealing with.  The canvas that’s currently hanging will sell for the currently listed prices (what a bargain), and new canvases of my images are going up.  So, if there’s something of mine you like on the wall currently get it now.  Next time I run one the price will be higher!  😉

The last part was a not so subtle hint, come in and grab some of my canvases now before it’ll cost you more.  🙂

Comments 4

  1. Thanks for the post, Rich. As you said, you didn’t offer specific pricing structures, but your post does more than that for me: its helping me think about all the cost factors involved and the thought process behind pricing. I’m bookmarking the permalink on this one…

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