Musings on Photography


Posted in business, print pricing, the art world by Paul Butzi on December 19, 2007

Most of what I’ve written about print pricing has been prompted by my view that new technologies are providing photographers with new opportunities to market their work in new ways, at new prices, and reach new markets. I think that this explosion of choices about how to market our work and what markets we can try to sell into is a good thing. I also think that we’ve just seen the very beginning, and that not only will we see even more fundamental changes in the market for art photography, the changes that are coming will make the changes we’re currently experiencing look relatively minor.

Some folks see that all as a big threat. Some people see it as a big opportunity.

To the extent we can successfully draw analogies between the world of record labels and musicians and the world of galleries and photographers, I think that this article by musician David Byrne is particularly interesting.

Read the whole thing. Draw your own conclusions.

(side note: my trying to figure out what my new pricing will be continues apace. I’m getting a solid grip on my costs. ALL of my costs, sunk, fixed, and variable. I want to thank those folks who have posted constructive comments or sent me constructive email. I’ve deleted several comments that were less than constructive. I encourage those folks who feel they have something to say but find their comments don’t make it past my moderation to go, start their own blogs, and post their opinions in a place where they don’t face my increasingly stringent standards for what I’ll allow here.)

4 Responses

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  1. Ed Richards said, on December 20, 2007 at 6:37 am

    I wonder how much it matters in music versus photography that folks will buy/steal hundreds/thousands of songs, and that there is technology to manage those.

    Do we have any sense of whether people will buy multiple photographs? Is there a better model for selling photographs than as something to hang on the wall?

    Perhaps build it yourself portfolios – sell them a nice box and the first print at a break even price, then offer subsequent prints.

    Some people tried print subscription plans – any info on how these worked?

  2. Erik said, on December 20, 2007 at 7:14 am


    I’ve heard of the subscription plans being very successful, but never any hard numbers. Maybe 10 subscribers is considered success. All the ones I’ve seen have been somewhat on the expensive side.

    I know people will buy multiple photographs because there are entire stores selling posters at the mall. Every kid that moves into a dorm room buys a few. They’re priced affordably (<$20) and are large enough to be seen clearly from a distance. They don’t care about fancy matting and framing.

  3. Gordon McGregor said, on December 20, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    another datapoint for your discussion

  4. Gordon said, on December 20, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    There’s also the sense that if a print is ‘expensive’ then it is sacrosanct. If I was able to buy 20×30 prints for $20 I might well treat them as something a whole lot more fungible. I might even consider buying a years subscription to a photographer, to get 6 prints in a year and effectively throw away the ones I don’t like – $200 for such a program doesn’t seem unreasonable perhaps.

    What’s the useful period of enjoyment for a $20 print ? I pay more than that for dinner if I go out.

    A DVD costs maybe $15 if I buy it new and I watch that for 2 hours. How much time do we spend with a print – really spend with it ? Is it ‘worth’ $1000 or $20 ?

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