Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe © 2009
“For What it’s Worth”
I recently had cause to consider the issue of how to price a photograph for on-line selling and although I don’t do this myself it prompted a few thoughts that I think are worth sharing.
A few years ago I took some landscape pictures into work to show my colleagues and several of them requested prints and asked what I would charge. I think there is an ethic here about not making money out of workmates but they insisted so I obliged. As an experiment I asked what they would pay for the A4 prints and was surprised to get answers ranging from £10 to £30 for the same picture.
I was also surprised by their choices – they were not the ones that I thought were best and lesson 1 in selling is of course know what your customer wants. I charged them £5 on the basis of a rough calculation of materials plus a bit extra and we were all happy.
When I was asked to provide informal pictures of a wedding I decided to try and cost the process of providing follow up prints and worked on materials plus a daily rate. I now buy all my materials from the same online shop so I could use my account to work out a cost per A4 print (I also learned that I use twice as much Cyan as any of the other colours – am I printing that many skies?) The result of this suggested that £10 each was about right for processing & printing those pictures and the client was happy to pay that even though I gave them the digital files and they were able to print their own.
Thinking back to three exhibitions that I have seen this year there are very different approaches to pricing. One approach was quite obviously based on area – I did a few calculations and it seemed to work. A second one of ‘fine art’ prints priced the smaller pictures higher – on asking about this I was told that many customers asked for the miniatures especially and so in response to demand they increased the prices. Small is valuable seems to be the adage here.
At a third gallery of a nationally renowned photographer I struck up a conversation with the staff and they indicated that the price was set by cost of production (they were huge A0 canvases) and then by a factor based on the photographers perception of quality & uniqueness. Then came the punch line “we also know from experience what people will pay” – this surely is the most honest answer and takes me back to the response from work colleagues.
I fully understand that many professional landscape photographers spend years in some cases capturing images that are just right in their mind and they have to make a living from it, so just how do they cost the days in the field into their work – it would be interesting to find out more of their thoughts on the topic. I am reminded of one who said “I never expected to make money from landscape photography and I was right!”
So where do I stand on this topic? Well I don’t need to earn money from selling prints so I avoid it by not selling them. I thoroughly enjoy giving pictures as gifts to those who appreciate them and if asked to produce to order I use the formula I set out for the wedding. That seems to work for me.
While I was thinking about the pricing issue I heard a Buffalo Springfield song of 1967 that I really like – “For what its worth” conveniently gives me the title for this piece.
© Keith Ratcliffe
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