I don't get much of an opportunity to find out which of my photos are most popular among my audience. The reason is that almost all my sales are high-end prints, so I rarely sell many of each. The "best sellers" sell a handful of copies; most sell just a few. It's not a good sample set, statistically.
I have sold scores, even hundreds of prints in the four special print sales I've run over the years through Photo Technique magazine and The Online Photographer. The selection set is so constrained, though, that it still doesn't tell me anything interesting.
Recently I got to have some fun with numbers. I put up a web page with 14 photographs for my Contributors to choose their prints from.
Almost none of the Contributors had seen any of these photographs in the flesh and nobody had seen all of them, so people really were picking based on the online images. The selections include a few photographs that Contributers suggested, but there were only a very few suggestions, so it doesn't much skew the results.
Forty-five of my Contributors selected their prints, which was a large enough sample to run some numbers with. The results entertained me. I am perhaps too easily entertained, but I hope you'll also get some entertainment value out of seeing how close your tastes are to my collective audience's. I don't know what you'll find. Even more interesting, I suppose, would be if any of you who aren't especially enamored of my work wind up ranking the photographs much as my audience does. That's a particular and most rare talent beneficial to curators, gallery owners and editors—being able to anticipate the taste of the visio populi, even when it isn't to your personal taste.
Including a dye transfer ("Sealing Wax Palm") throws off the results a bit, as I gave Contributors the choice of picking either the dye transfer or two digital prints; a bit of apples vs. oranges muddles the results. Fourteen dye transfer prints were chosen in lieu of two digital prints. Amazingly, that is about the percentage I would've guessed. A fluke.
The rest selected 100 digital prints; here they are listed in order of popularity:
Columbia at Dusk—15
Apollo-Soyuz in Floods—9
Reflections in Montreal Centre—8
Grasses in Liquid Sky—8
Weathered Sulfur Vents—8
Trojan Nuclear Plant—7
Buena Vista Park—7
Moon Bow and Blue Moon—5
The two black-and-white photographs did better than I expected, seeing that's not what I'm known for. (The fact that I think they're really great photographs is, of course, irrelevant.)
Not counting the dye transfer, more than half the selections were for older photographs. I'm considering "Weathered Sulfur Vents" a "new" photograph, because it's part of the last decade, and all the other old stuff is really old. If one restricts "new" to the past year or so, barely more than a third of the selections were for new photos. I didn't particularly expect that, but seeing as the "new" work is having to compete with that culled from nearly 40 years of photography, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Were it to play out differently, it would suggest that my past taste wasn't anywhere close to as good as I thought it was, or that I had become incredibly better in just a few recent years. Anything's possible; not everything is likely. On the other hand, I'm disappointed the bottom three didn't do better. I really like them! I know, something has to be last, but still..
Make of it all what you will. As I said, for amusement value only. I hope you're appropriately amused.
CteinCtein's regular weekly column appears every Thursday morning.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.