Print Pricing Redux
Thanks to all for the interesting comments on my Print Pricing post. There’s a lot of food for thought there.
Ed Richards writes:
Are you coming around to Brooks Jenson’s views on this?
One rationale for pricing big prints (>16×20 image size) is that the folks who room to hang a print that big probably have money as well, unless they are thumb tacking it up in the barn.
I’ve agreed with Brooks Jensen on printing pricing for a long time, actually – namely, I’ve thought for years that the reason people don’t sell more prints is that print prices are too high.
And I certainly understand pricing larger prints higher under the ‘all the market will bear’ principle. I suspect, though, that the motivation for charging extreme prices for large prints is more a effect of a near universal ‘eat the rich’ attitude than any reasoned argument from sound economic principles. There’s an price point that produces optimum profit, and I’m pretty confident (as is Jensen) that the optimum prices are well below current ‘art’ prices for all sizes of prints.
Rosie Perera writes:
Finally one year I decided to take a risk and raise my price to something which said “this is good art, and it’s worth paying for” and charged $250. I sold my first photo ever. Makes you wonder.
and Dave Beckerman writes:
As time went on, I experimented with different prices, and was surprised to find that I sold more prints when the prices were higher (to a certain point).
I’ve heard this mentioned several times. To a large degree, such stories suggest that art in general (and photographic prints specifically) are, in the vernacular of economists, Veblen goods. One difficulty is that the geographic region where I’d most like to have a lot of sales is not a community where conspicuous consumption is the primary activity of the populace. Art selling in a hoity-toity gallery in New York City may well be Veblen goods. Art selling in the rural Snoqualmie Valley is not. And since I’m not really concerned with sales of my prints in hoity-toity art galleries on the other side of the continent, and I am concerned that the people who actually live where I photograph might buy my prints, that suggests that the Veblen effect might be something I should (for now) ignore.
And finally, Andy Frazer sums up the thoughts of several writers by suggesting
Offer something for $20 (low margin, high volume), and also offer something else for the high end (low volume, high margin). Maybe sell 8×10’s or 4×6’s (matted) for $20, and also sell 12×18’s for $200.
I’ve considered this: have one line of prints which sells at a low price, and have another line (‘Collector’s edition’ or some such blather) which hits the high price market.
But here’s the thing. The cheapest I can crank out a print (on cheap non-archival paper, smaller size, etc.) is only a very small increment away from the cost to crank out a more expensive print (printed at a size where it can actually be appreciated, on first rate paper, etc.). So what’s the justification for having two lines of prints? It’s just an artificial distinction that I’ve imposed in an attempt to jack up my profit margin, and it complicates my life needlessly. And it means that the people I am most interested in selling to must buy the inferior product, and the people I care about the least end up buying the nicer one.
Simpler, I think, to find ways to generate the prints I want to sell at an extremely affordable price, and then sell them at a price everyone can afford.
One of the things that has me pondering this is that I’m thinking hard about doing a book. And I know about where I’d like to price such a book. Now, this book would be a collection of prints. And it’s hard (as Brooks Jensen has pointed out) to charge a lot for an inkjet print and then charge very little (on a per print basis) for print that comes off a press, when the cheaper one is actually nicer.