For nearly seven years I published work in books and magazines, and quite unsuccessfully. Then, somewhat recently I had the opportunity to study marketing with one of the top three best marketers in the world. When I revisited my mostly failed approaches to marketing of my own photography I came upon a number realizations, or breakthroughs (some pretty obvious) that moved me in the right direction:
• An amateur photographer who markets his work professionally will always outsell the professional photographer who markets his work like an amateur
• Selling physical prints is not as scalable as we think
• Photographers struggle with finding a price point that works. As it turns out, humans are bad at determining value on both ends of the sale
• Knowing what to do and what not to do when marketing photographs is a very unintuitive thing for 95% of people
I think most of us can agree that photographers (and artists generally speaking) don't have a natural inclination towards the business of selling work. And yet marketing is key to successfully selling photography. If you don’t learn marketing, and if you don't learn the fundamental principles of attracting and influencing people to buy, your photography business and career does not have a very good chance of survival.
I wanted to share with you a few tactics that I've used to successfully sell photographs in galleries. These tactics can be used separately but they're meant to be integrated into one overall strategy.
Gallery Tactic #1
FIND THE OPTIMAL PRICE POINT
I often times show alongside artists in galleries and I'm always curious to see what sells and what doesn't and why. Usually the stuff that isn't priced right doesn't sell. Makes sense right?
As it turns out humans are horrible at determining value, among other things. In fact, we unconsciously look to other things that are related to determine what things should cost.
My recommendation? Look to the best living photographer that inspires you and check out his or her prices. Don't go above them. In fact, unless you're better than this person definitely stay a good margin below. I'm a landscape and travel photographer, so my point of reference is Michael Anderson. He’s a better photographer than me and I could learn quite a lot from him. Therefore my prices are lower than his. It’s that simple!
Gallery Tactic #2
BUILD HIGH PERCEIVED VALUE
If people determine value based on what's closest to them first, and then they move to other means of determining value, you can use that to your advantage in surprisingly simple ways.
When displaying work at a gallery you have two possible scenarios:
A. mixed artists gallery or B. solo show. The latter is easier for building perceived value since you don't have a massive spectrum of price stickers.
In both scenarios however you want simplify your products and at the same time build immense value into the product you'd like to sell most of. For example, I most often sell three sizes: 16x24, 24x36 and 40x60. I prefer selling the 16x24's because they're easier to produce, they have less overhead and they’re easier to carry around and hang.
Approach 1: I'm selling a verity of double-matted photographs in clear sleeves for $40 - $100 each and I'm also selling 16x24 archival plexi mounted metallic prints for $697.
The prospect compares the two and the gulf is too extreme, therefore the perceived value isn't compelling enough. The double-matted prints actually deter prospects from buying the 16x24 in two ways:
1. They wanted the 16x24 but didn’t want to spend the money because there was an option with far less monetary commitment
2. They simply don’t buy anything because the perceived value is low
Approach 2: I'm selling a 40x60 archival plexi metallic for $7500 (edition of 3), 24x36s with the same mounting method for $2200 (editions of 25) and 16x24's with the same mounting method for $697 (editions of 50) with free shipping until this Sunday.
The unintuitive aspect to this approach is the 40x60 epic image - the point is not to sell it. In fact, you don't want to because if you did you'd have to make another and it's a HUGE amount of work on your part. And try carrying that thing around to a gallery or two... exactly! So why have it? Just to build perceived value and to increase the perceived value of the high volume product you'd like to optimize for. Let’s called it an Optimizer Image.
This also has a secondary benefit of showcasing the technical quality of your work. Again, your stuff has to be of professional quality for any of this to work, but if it's of that caliber a large epic print like this on close inspection establishes huge authority and trust. If in a mixed gallery setting this exponentially increases perceived quality against the other artists. If you have that competitive edge, showcase it with an image of epic size, epic price and epic quality = epic image.
Now I just made those prices up on the fly, but that's exactly what you want to do - make the prices up but make sure it doesn't exceed your niche leader (the one you can learn a lot from). When I first show at a gallery I usually start very low on price, incredibly low, to determine the buying power of that location and move the price up based on how frequent images are being sold because, as you’ll see in the next strategy, everything is a test.
Gallery Tactic #3
SOCIAL PROOF AS LITTLE RED STICKERS
Okay, so we're clear on how to use epic images (epic in both price and size) to create high perceived value when displayed alongside an almost epic image and alongside the optimizer image?
One of the most important mental triggers all humans share is Social Proof, which is a term to describe how humans gravitate towards things that other humans express positive vibes about. It’s an incredibly powerful mental trigger.
One way to achieve immediate and powerful social proof in a gallery setting is to sell 8x8 Stryene mounted lustre photographs for $40-$50 each. Let’s say it costs you $8.13 to produce the mounted print and another $5 in custom hanger hardware for the back. The gallery takes 50% or more. And let’s say you also donate all proceeds to a well-known donation and that's made known on the price sticker. So we’ll assume you make no money and you now have empty space on the wall as a result.
The intuitive course of action might be to price it higher, but the point of the donation image is not to make money, because even if you did make a few bucks here and there these little prints aren't scalable.
Instead the point is to show the world you’re capable of helping make the world a better place (humanizing yourself), and at the same time you’ve now covered your costs and the red stickers represent social proof. With your epic image along with the donation image you’re on your way to building a strong high perceived value for the optimizer image.
So just to break this down here, we have a few different kinds of images that we sell:
EPIC IMAGE $$$$$
ALMOST EPIC IMAGE $$$$
OPTIMIZER IMAGE $$
DONATION IMAGE red stickers
Epic and Almost Epic images are designed to increase perceived value of the Optimizer, and the Donation images have the same purpose but from the other end of the spectrum (only if they’re nearly all sold out).
Below is an example of at-scale images illustrating the sizes in relation to one another. Re-stocking the Optimizer is critical for maximizing profits in the very the limited time you have to sell.
|IMAGE IS A REDIRECT OR MISSING!|
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Note: The original article can be found here.
If you have any questions, comments or anything that you have found to work for you please don't hesitate to add them in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you. And if you're a gallery owner definitely reply with things you have found to work! : )