Cash from your Nikon
This month, Chris Rutter talks about the income to be had when you sell your images at markets and fairs
Earn money selling prints
Even in a digital and online age, there is still a huge market for traditional prints for people to hang on their walls. Pictures give a home a personal touch, an office a human feel.
Most people don’t have the technology, or the know-how, to make great prints from digital files and will still prefer to buy pictures for their walls ready-made, with or without frames. So, this month we’ll take a look at how and where you can start selling prints of your images, what initial costs you’re likely to face, and what eventual returns you can expect.
If you’re keen to take this route, be sure to take a look at this issue’s Big Test on page 124, where we’re comparing four home printers and four professional printing labs. You’ve put in all the effort to take the pictures, so it’s worth getting prints that do them justice!
Finding a market
There are several options when it comes to finding places to sell your prints. A popular one is to approach shops and cafés, offering your prints on a consignment basis. This is an agreement where you provide the prints to hang in the shop, and then split the money when the item sells. The split of the selling price can be anywhere between 70/30 (where you keep 70 per cent and the shop takes 30 per cent) and 50/50.
When considering this approach you need to choose the right venue for your work. Look for places where there are plenty of people who are likely to buy prints. Tourist areas are a good place to start as they often have a steady flow of people passing through. Make sure that the venue has decent lighting and space to display your prints, as you don’t want them to just be stuck in a dark corner of the shop or café.
Once you have come to an agreement with the venue, it’s
vital that you have a contract written up before handing over any of your prints. Along with the commissions and percentage split of the selling price, this should include full contact details for both parties, a list of the prints and selling prices, how long the contract will last, how and when payment is due after a sale, and details of who is responsible for insuring the items while they are at the shop.
Finding a market
Along with shops and cafés, galleries can be great places to sell your prints on the high street. It’s worth doing a bit of research when looking at which galleries to approach to check whether your images and subject matter are suitable for a particular venue. But while some galleries specialise in a particular media or style, many will be on the look-out for something that complements the work they already have, rather than displaying all the same type of art.
When you approach a gallery, start by arranging a meeting with the manager or owner, and take along a selection of around 10 images. These can be on a computer or laptop, as they’re just to give them an idea of the type of images you are producing; there’s no need to get them printed at this stage. This approach will mean that you can get an idea of which images the gallery manager thinks are saleable. Many galleries will also be able to help with framing.
Along with researching the suitability of the gallery, you should check what the gallery’s terms and conditions are for displaying and selling your work. Some will require you to pay a monthly fee to ‘rent’ the wall space, although this varies with different galleries. Then you will also have to pay a commission and/or a percentage of the total selling price to the gallery. The fees and amounts charged by the gallery will vary greatly between different venues, so make sure that you will still be making a profit on each piece once they have taken their cut.
If you want to have complete control over the sales and marketing of your prints, without the cost of setting up your own shop or gallery, selling at art/craft fairs might be the perfect answer. Although this is option is cheaper than a shop you’ll still need to factor in the fee charged by the organiser of the fair and the cost of getting you and your prints to the event. You will
If you want to have complete control over the sales and marketing of your prints, without the cost of setting up your own shop, selling at art/craft fairs might be the answer
need a way of displaying your wares, too, such as a table and display stands. This option can take a lot more of your time than simply displaying your images in a shop or café, as you’ll need to be there to set up the stall, sell the prints and pack away at the end of the day.
Only the best
When picking which images you are going to print, mount and frame, make sure that you only choose your best (and most saleable) shots. Ask yourself whether you would want it on your wall, and get the opinions of friends and family (especially non-photographers) to help you choose. Often photographers can be too concerned with the technicalities or style of the image, or even whether it’s an image that they would have liked to have taken themselves, whereas someone who isn’t into photography (and this will be a large number of your potential customers) will be able to judge an image solely on its merits.
Whether you are selling a postcard on a market stall or a framed print in a gallery, you want to make sure that your work is printed and presented to the highest possible standard. So, first of all, don’t be tempted to skimp on the printing. (See page 124 for our head-to-head test of printers and online printing labs.)
If you are thinking of printing your own images you’ll need a high-quality inkjet printer. The best models use pigment-based inks for better longevity than dye-based versions, and also have a gloss optimiser option for the best results when using glossy papers. You’ll get more consistent and reliable print results by calibrating your screen using a device such as the Datacolor Spyder.
The alternative is to have prints made by a commercial laboratory. This doesn’t offer the same control as you have when printing at home, and
Not everyone is willing or able to buy a huge framed print, so as well as framed prints, try having some smaller mounted prints, postcards or even calendars on offer
you may have to wait a few days for the prints, but if you are just starting out and need a selection of prints made, it will be cheaper than buying a printer and paper.
Once you have made your prints you need to mount and frame them. Again, this area can be crucial to successful sales, so you need to think about it carefully. The choice will be a personal one, but to maximise the appeal of your images it’s generally best to avoid ornate or colourful frames, as these will only appeal to a small percentage of buyers. It’s much better to use simple, plain frames, and also to have a selection of mounted but unframed prints to offer, so that the buyer can always choose a more personal frame if they want.
Pricing your work
The first thing to consider when pricing your work is the basic cost of producing each print. This will include printing costs, mounting, framing and any postage or transport costs you need to pay. Once you have worked out your costs, you need to factor in how much profit you expect to make.
This will give you a starting point to price your work, but there are some other factors to take into consideration. If you are selling through a thirdparty such as a shop or gallery, then they will take a percentage of the selling price. Then there’s the final factor, which is how much people are willing to pay. This is the most difficult part of the equation, so it’s worth spending some time looking around at other shops, stalls or galleries to get an idea of what they are charging. The prices can vary immensely, depending on the type of people that are visiting the area, the type of work you are selling and also the overheads of the business. A business based in a high street in a popular and affluent tourist location will often have work priced much higher than one which is in a less popular part of town, just to cover the extra costs. So, take into account where your work is being sold when deciding on the final price.
Wherever you are selling your work, it’s worth looking at having a range of different sizes, prices and types of work that you’re offering. Not everyone is willing or able to buy a huge framed print (especially if they are on holiday), so as well as framed prints, try having some smaller mounted prints, postcards or even calendars on offer for these customers.
How LONG will it take?
Producing, framing and selling prints is going to take some time and incur more upfront costs than many other ways to make money from your Nikon, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea. Getting your initial prints made, mounted and framed will take a couple of weeks. Then you’ll need around six months to start recouping your casts by selling the prints through the various outlets. Art/craft fairs often result in the quickest sales, as they tend to attract large amounts of people looking to buy art or photography, while selling through cafes and shops can take longer, as a lot of their customers won’t be in the market to buy prints. But as long as you’re prepared for the long haul, by building up relationships with different outlets and customers it’s possible to make print sales through these outlets a viable money maker.
Wh at can you earn?
This will be dictated by your profit per item, and the volume of sales. The profit on a small print, postcard or calendar is often very small, so you will need to sell tens or even hundreds of them to make it viable. While the profit on a large framed print can be much greater, you are much less likely to sell large numbers of these.
If you are just starting out you will be doing well if you make a few hundred pounds’ profit in the first six months. But selling prints is a business that can be grown gradually, and in time it’s possible to make a good income from a wide range of sources.
Superb images of scenery will appeal strongly to tourists whose holiday snaps won’t be as good as the prints you’re selling
When you’re selling your photos via a café or restaurant, be sure to choose images that are likely to appeal to the sort of customers the venue attracts
People buying prints are most likely to be looking for art for their homes or workplace, so don’t be afraid to market your more creative images
Don’t crop unframed prints to odd ratios – many people will want to buy ready-made frames in standard sizes
If you’re going to be printing your pictures yourself, you need a top-notch printer – see page 124 for a selection
If your work is strongly conceptual or challenging, an art gallery might be the best venue for selling your prints
Thinking of selling your photos via a fair or even a street stall? The images you choose will need to be instantly accessible, to grab the attention of passers-by