The sad reality of the fine art photography world for me and others I know is that it’s a money loser, particularly in current markets, where money’s tight and everyone has a camera. The past couple of years have been particularly slow for many of us.
In over 7 years of shows I have one print – the landscape one featured here – that has sold out of its edition of 15. That took 5 years, and grossed about $4000 overall – $800 a year. I could rely on selling one at every show, so I was sad to see it go. Someone recently told me “You should go and shoot it again.” I might.
Since I started showing burlesque and performance images two years ago, I’ve sold 6. All except one sold at $375 or less, and apart from one additional landscape image, that was all I sold. I hadn’t sold one of my largest ones until the recent Queen West Art Crawl, but they’re eye-catching and draw people in to my tent or booth. Most of the time, they look great in my living room.
People spend a lot of time looking at the work and providing great (and very much-appreciated compliments -or ones like “I love that picture, but my wife wouldn’t let me bring it home”). For the better part, that’s about it.
The physical costs of a $375 print – paper, mat, ink, and the frame and hardware, come to a little over $100, and the shows I do can range from $250 for an outdoor show to over $2200 for the Artist Project in March. Galleries and agents can get anywhere up to 50% (the norm) on commission. That can leave me with about $100 net, before I even factor in gear and software costs, show tickets (for the ones who don’t provide comps),travel expenses, depreciation, and the cost of the time spent shooting, sorting images, and framing them. Then there’s the need to replace frames from time to time as a result of the unavoidable wear and tear that comes from moving them from one show to another. This is one reason I’ve cut back the number of outdoor shows I do, in favour of hunting down more gallery opportunities.
I’m not even coming close to covering the costs of camera gear, printers, inks, papers, software, computers, courses, etc (around 25K and counting). Having said that, the fine art work has landed me paid work shooting events, and at $100+ per hour. I’m doing better that way than with fine art work, so there’s a nice balance starting to happen.
I don’t want people to think this is a whine – I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t like the people I work with, and the work I produce. I would like people to understand, though, that those images you like don’t come cheap, in terms of effort, skill, or cost.