« Leave the Photographer Alone! | Main | So Here's an Idea... »

Saturday, 05 November 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I'm afraid I fall into the camp of the not-very-wealthy photography fan. I can't even afford to print and frame my own pictures, let alone buy anyone else's. For the record, I would have bought one of your prints if I had the money, in a heartbeat. I think it's simultaneously good-looking and witty. To be honest, I'd even have to think hard at $50, but $29 would be a no-brainer. I know that's only a difference of $21 between 'yeah obviously' and 'hmm, I'm not sure', but that should give you an idea of the financial straits I am in!

I see two problems with the sale:

1) There's cognitive dissonance caused by the sale being on TOP: "Why is that blogger trying to sell me a print"

It's not fair, but it was the way my subconscious worked.

2) The picture isn't something that works well on screen, which may explain why you are seeing sales from more experienced people. They can visulise what it'll look like in a print, while the rest of us find that really hard.

I like the two tier approach? A little bit of the 100 at 10 dollars vs 1 at 100 dollars?

As you say, for many it is purely discretionary spending.

Good luck Mike

I felt similarly about the picture. It feels more like paying for the experience of seeing this hybrid printing process than for buying a nice print (I'm sure the prints are awesome).

I'm also not excited about buying RC prints...

If you had 8x10 fiber prints for $100 that would be my price point, I think.

I understand both your costernation at such a low pricing (i myself do prints, and discovered that here prices are simply dropping-dropping-dropping...), and, in consequence, Chris's, when he realized it was USD290 and not 29. In consequence, because if my clients are not available to spend 290 euros on my prints, how can i afford myself to buy your delicious print at USD 290?
So, i will file order for the USD 29 prints, whenever they will be out!

In Econ 101 we learn about supply and demand curves, placing them on a single graph and the concentrating on their intersection -- the equilibrium price where supply equals demand. What is seldom mentioned is that there are people willing to pay more (or less) than the equilibrium price.

Many artists offer different versions of their products at different prices in an effort to make more than they would with a single offering.

$290.00 for a print would be a lot of money for me, too. (The cost of photographic materials alone is a lot for me, and I give careful consideration to purchasing these materials--What do I really need and what can I live without?--before placing an order.) And while I might enjoy owning photographs taken by others, I tell myself I do not need to possess these photographs to appreciate them. And it's true, I don't. I certainly enjoy seeing your photographs and the photographs of others on the monitor, in galleries, in museums, in books, and on the walls of coffee shops. As far as "possessing" photographs taken by others goes, a friend of mine and I exchange photographs, sometimes prints alone and sometimes prints displayed in mats. We've been exchanging photographs for years. Print quality varies. I have displayed some of my friend's photographs on my walls, just to the right of where I sit now at my computer, where I can see the real thing each and every day, and muse.

Mike, I like the photo and the printing process you chose for this sale.

The problem is that, although I would like to purchase it, I don't think I would at any price right now. And your price is reasonable, even cheap IMHO.

There are so many things ahead of buying art I can't even ponder the length of the list.

And I think that may be the way many are feeling.

Mike I very much like your photo and also would have considered buying it but I saw the $290 and thought to myself "maybe next time". Money's a bit tight lately. Not saying the print isn't worth every dime though.

I do agree with your dilema on pricing in general. Price high and you lose the masses, price too low and you come across as a nobody wanting to sell. :)

Brooks Jensen did an editorial on the subject a few years back. He seems to think that outrageously high print prices hurt the industry as a whole. He gave an example of approaching strangers and asking them what they would pay for this print. Brooks also offered an apple/orange comparison about how a print should cost no more than a quality music CD or a fine dinner out. Not sure I agree that applies for all prints or large prints but I get what he's saying.

I've sold a few prints for peanuts and have been approached by a business or two wanting to use an image for their website. For free of course. Add me into the nobody category.

Interesting topic. $290 is a lot for me, I live in Argentina and I can't even buy dollars these days (funny but true!). The truth is I could pay for it, I just feel so guilty I have left all I've shot unprinted I'm emotionally drained photography wise these days.
The money is always an issue. Evading the world of prices and costs is the dream of lots of us. But I think it also has to do with self esteem. If I don't get to sell something I don't think I'll ever be complete. Money paid, after all, is the only undeniable sign of value perception.
I noticed you made that comment in the post previous to presenting your print for sale, and you talked about a print by a very low artist or something like that. I instantly thought "he's talking about himself", because I can tell you wouldn't say those words about anyone else's work. You're SERIOUSLY too humble Mike. And that has consequences, for others and for yourself. And money has everything to do with it.
My father is a genius in his own field of expertise and never compared himself to anyone or told anyone talking BS to shut up, and I think he would have made a much better impression to others, but mostly to himself, if he had. It's a way of life, but it has its consequences.

Mike, it's funny that you underline the 290$ / 29$, mistake that Chris Norris made because I made the exact same one.

At first I thought: "nah, he can't be charging that much" so I went for the 29$ interpretation and thought "would be cool to have an example of digitally printed FB because I have wanted to see this process in the flesh for a while".

However, Ctein charged 150$ for his dye-transfer prints, which were larger, in my opinion better pictures, and rarer. I don't want to go into the whole digital-is/is not-harder-to-make-than-analog, but I'm afraid I just have to tell you that your picture is not as good as his.

I was so glad he put it at that point because even though his picture are not for me the most important and the most vital (and I'm glad that he doesn't care either way), they are visually interesting, and can sustain repeated viewing. Plus, the collector in me is satisfied to have examples of (now) exotic print process. Everybody wins.

In contrast, your picture is only notionally interesting: the colour/B&W/filters/PS/red/green/analogue-like-digital-on-digital-analogue shtick is cool in a way, but it has very little empathetic potential beyond one's appreciation of technique. It's not visually striking, and it doesn't bring me elsewhere (I keep comparing your apple to Caponigro's, who also merged tones....)

To be frank, it feels like an overstretched extended metaphor. Technique is the only way you extend the meaning of the subject, but you don't go into another plane of meaning, at least the way you explained it (the Szarkowski connection is equally notional; people think of Newton when they see apples!).

There, you don't have to publish this comment, but as a regular TOP reader and an appreciative customer of the print sales (I still bite my fingers from having shied away from the platinum sale!), the reason why I did not buy your photo is because I did not find it was a very good work. It was merely phototechnically interesting, but sans plus. Even pictorially, I don't find it interesting: the equal tone (I never noticed it before you mentioned its cause, then it failed to impress on me) and the dead center composition move me little.

It's a shame because I would have participated at 150-200$ with a picture that is more pictorially crafted.

I have been going through the same thing and here is my conclusion: if someone is not willing to spend $290 on a photographic print, they certainly won't spend the extra $150 to get it framed nicely to display it in their house.

Money is tight, so is wall space for many people, wives have a say over what is purchased or displayed etc., tastes are different, as Ctein just recently pointed out. So here's my question: why didn't you offer at least three different photographs for sale like you did at the other print sales?

It isn't that I don't like your photograph, it just doesn't trigger a strong emotional or intellectual response from me.

As an artist you have to decide whether you want to put out the work that inspires you, or the work that universally inspires a lot of people. Of course it is great when it does both - roof tops in Paris come to mind.

I fully understand the frustration of the pricing conundrum Mike. And it irks me as it irks you.

Something for nothing is not worth anything. 'Twas ever thus.

But in the current climate where the dollar rules it is expected by the average punter that they actually get a stake in the statement you wish to make through your work. Can you envisage someone telling Weston that his Pepper was lovely but, 'Could it be just a little less glossy?'

My monkey tricks that I do for paying clients are just that, monkey tricks. They hold up the flaming hoop and I jump through in a svelte and agile leap ..... and I get the biscuit. It is working to a brief, even in assignments where I supposedly have full creative control. Anything I come up with is fine ...... just as long as it fits the reader demographic.

So, I do my personal work — and I keep it very personal. I pay models to pose and I make pictures. I don't even approach galleries with my work because I do not want some merchant telling what and how to shoot in order to fit their profile. It'd be lovely to be able to turn a buck from it to recoup outlay but, failing setting up my own sales outlet and becoming a shop keep instead of a photographer, my work sits and festers and will possibly prove to be an income stream for my inheritors.


I think as an abstract number it's not really too much to ask for a print, but I too have limited funds. Otherwise to me the cost of a print would be really something that I wouldn't consider within reasonable limits. I would love to support many photographers. I see photographs on photographer's web sites every day that I would like to have as prints, but many times I feel that they are too expensive compared to other prints or books I could buy, but it's not a value judgement on what I think of the print itself. I've never been able to think of art in dollar amounts except as a purely practical matter of purchasing decisions. For example, for $250 I purchased a limited edition signed Stephen Shore book from Blind Spot, with a tipped-in print and a beautiful clamshell box. There is a local photographer here whose work I really find interesting, but he wanted $300 for his book published by Blurb. He's fresh out of photography school and the book is basically his MFA portfolio. Is that maybe a value judgment based on money? I'm not sure.

I absolutely love your current offering but could only consider a purchase using a scheme like the one Ctein runs—something like a payment plan, I guess. And perhaps those schemes can be more trouble to the artist than they're worth.

Speaking more generally, I think you'd do very well starting with lower priced prints because this blog gets such decent traffic that the prints would find their audience. You could do what Brooks Jensen does and sell tons of well made prints.

Brooks has sold some mind-boggling number of prints at low prices (something like $20) because a large number of visitors gets to see the work and a small proportion falls in love with it. That he also loves the idea of lots of people owning and enjoying his work is probably important for that idea to work.

You have serious traffic and, with regular print sales of your own work (on a separate site, with regular updates here), could build up a significant, satisfied audience over a few years. Low prices wouldn't hurt you if you stuck with it—volume would make up for it, given a regular, ongoing effort. You know all about that from blogging — it's just incredible how well you do it. Could you do the same thing with print sales? I think so.

It appears for all the complaining we photographers do about the price erosion in the market, we too aren't immune to it psychologically, which is interesting in its own right.

It may be that the ubiquity of visual consumption from images to video creates a lack of scarceness that influence even the educated buyer. And value is still somehow tied to the perception and reality of supply and demand.

When you are overloaded with images all day, even a really great print may not feel like something you need. You may want it, but you don't need it. And that influences the willingness to spend.

Mike, this is always an interesting subject.

I always look at photography like I look at lithos, etchings or serigraphies, a relatively reproduce-able display vehicle, especially today where one can 'burn and dodge' electronically, and then just press the button every time someone wants one (yeah, I know it's harder than that...but...). Sorry, but it just ain't oil painting, and as Robert Frank said: "It's the lazy mans art". Was it him? Someone said it, and I agree, especially in digital.

About six years ago, a couple I know that are photographic 'artists' were not really getting much traction on their work. It's was really stunning stuff, printed black & white conventionally, shot on large formats, and huge prints, 30X40, 40X60, big. A lot of the stuff was priced in the 3-4K range, and I'm sure worth it, in fact, it couldn't have cost all that much less to make those conventional prints and frame them. After expenses, they were probably making 3 dollars an hour for the actual physical act of making the prints, no pay for shooting them.

Well, they didn't sell many (at the time), even tho I would have bought one if I had the money. I suggested they make a run of signed prints, iris printout on quality paper, in the 11X17 paper size, going for about 50 bucks a crack; it would allow access of their work to a wider range of people that could not afford the bigger size, and they could still make a tidy profit on volume, once the specs were 'dialed in' on the printer. Nothing ever came of it, but I felt it was the way to go.

One of the reasons might have been their subject matter. Shooting landscapes and making prints that could be 'art' or decor is one thing, but having a 40X60 print of a tatoo'd disaffected alt/punk teen shooting up, hanging over your couch in the living room, is going to be an entirely different target market; and one, I'm guessing here, for which a 3 grand print price might be a little steep...

When it comes to portraiture, a field I also perform in, once you start charging for it, you have to please the sitter. No matter what you charge, you have to shoot for people that have the asthetic education to understand what you're doing, if you're trying to please both of you, otherwise you have to shoot to please them. I can tell you Mike, it ain't a-gonna happen in southeast Wisconsin, that's for sure! Much more of my stuff hanging on walls in DC and San Francisco than will ever be done here! Ever...

Ditto for my friends as described above, they also hit on a portraiture scheme years ago to shoot people in their studio on large format. I think by the time they got the pricing down to the market of people that actually liked their style, they were shooting a few sheets on 4X5 polaroid, clearing the negs, and making a few prints, so they could charge a hundred bucks. The couldn't get people with money to pay for the 'real' thousand dollar job!

If you don't mind some honest criticism, here goes . . . I think your print-sale was unrealistic on several levels:

1) It's not a very engaging image - a bruised-looking apple lying in grass. Ask yourself if it were by someone else, would you want it on your wall for the next several years or longer?
2) You have stated that the image likely has more meaning for you than for others - meaning that is not presented in the image itself. This should have rung alarm bells.
3) The "Illustrious readers" who have purchased prints may have done so out of solidarity with you, or affection for you. Many of these well-off folk will probably just have taken a $290 punt and will put the print away in a drawer, hoping that your work one day will become fashionable and valuable.
4) Notwithstanding 3), there is a serious financial situation across the whole western world, affecting many, perhaps most, people directly. In this situation $290 stops being a trivial amount of money (which is probably necessary to achieve mass sales).
5) In a fairly recent survey by ASMP, art photographers were the lowest-earning category of all those trying to make a living from their work. So it's hard to sell prints at the best of times.
6) Print-pricing IS an absolute minefield until you become a collectable, sought-after artist. It also does not respond to logic.

Photographers, being mostly insanely competitive, have always talked up their earnings including that from print-sales and especially how much they tend to receive for an individual print. Your recent (successful) sales have been by illustrious practitioners with reputations as long as your arm offering images of the highest quality and luminous tonality (even on a monitor). Yet their prints were offered a very competitive prices (not un-adjacent to $290). Unless I have seriously misunderstood your own situation you have for some years been much more of a commentator, a theorist, than a practitioner. And practice makes perfect.
Dave Paterson

And didn't Ctein just reiterate that "most people won't like an artist's work" ??? Give it a little time, Mike. The Apple grew & grew on me over the course of a couple of days. I have to think about art for awhile to see if a particular piece stays with me before investing. Now I have a spot all picked out for the Apple. "-)

Dear Mike,

I repute myself to be a very habitual reader of your blog, so I think I owe you my perspective on your present print sale. Currently, I do have some extra money that I would be willing to spend on a photo of my liking. I wish it were the case when you had the parisian photos of Peter Turnley on sale, because I liked quite a lot a few of them, but alas, it was not.
The reason I am not buying your photo, is because to me it is a "non photo", in the sense, that I regard it the same way as conceptual modern art. What is worse, is that it comes from a digital negative, and if there is a single idiosyncracy that I have, it is a visceral dislike of digital B&W.
I have bought photos of both famous and unknown photographers so far, and for your guide, the price range for a 30x45cm B&W darkroom print was between 700 and 3000 USD.

Don't get depressed, it's just that not everybody has to like every kind of photography.

Best regards


Hmmm. Basic capitalist theory is we trade for equal value or else the deal doesn't happen. It sounds like the "value" you set on your work isn't being met by equal "value" among your market. One question would be - are you selling for profit, recognition, personal satisfaction, client requests, etc.? Each would seem to have a different "value" and an associated market size - which are you trying to reach? I feel it's important to stand by the value you place on your work, but realize the number of people that agree with you may be less than expected.

"Current economy" and "discretionary purchase" are the key issues for me right now. I salute the readers who are stepping up to buy but really feel the number who want to and can't is a pretty big number.

Be interested in hearing how other photographers are approaching pricing in this economy, especially for discretionary sales (not weddings, not commissioned portraits).

I suspect Mike is a victim of the "Paul Caponigro problem". Caponigro is a visionary, someone with a genuinely unique eye. His wonderfully crafted prints have an enigmatic beauty all their own. However, his work has substantially less universal appeal than (say) that of Ansel Adams. Lots of people like a dramatic landscape image enough to hang it on the wall. The audience for a subtle 'zen' photograph, no matter how exquisite, will always be a lot smaller. Discriminating, visually sophisticated and with impeccable taste, surely. But a much smaller number.

"But rank and file TOP readers do not like my picture at all"

That's a bit over-the-top, isn't it? As a rank & file reader, I can tell you that I do like your picture. It's well conceived, executed, and printed.

However, Christmas is 7 weeks from tomorrow and my investment portfolio has spent much of the year behaving like a cheap kite on a windy beach. I just don't have the confidence financially to be buying anyone's art right now.

To be honest, I'm not sure your two tiered scheme will work. I'd rather pine for a print I can't afford then buy something I can afford, but feels like less than it could/should be. My advice is that you should pick a target market and serve it well. Trying to be all things to all people never works. Conceptually, it's the antithesis of art, isn't it?


Hi Mike,

You have additional photos that readers might have wanted. Perhaps a selection of your photos, as you have offered in the past, would have resulted in a bigger response rate.

Just a thought.

I think your price is eminently fair, low even, although it is about $60,000 in my money (about the monthly starting salary of a bank teller). And I would have bought it in a heartbeat, but paypal no longer works for me and I hate cheques.

In my case, it is strictly logistics. Yours is only the second print I have been strongly tempted to buy as I like both the aesthetics and the price.

While I understand that $290 is cheap for a print, especially a high quality one, I'm one of those that just can't swing it right now when I'm trying to pay off my $8000 in student loans as quick as I can. I really wanted one of the gorgeous Saturn prints from the previous sale but I just couldn't justify $300 for something beautiful but unnecessary right now.

The prices mentioned are from the 80s, but I think those days are gone. Today, pretty much anyone with a camera or smartphone "is an artist". It's the age of microstock and people shooting and selling their prints for peanuts.

OT: I was keeping my fingers crossed that you would choose an old picture that was featured in your column in B&W magazine a couple of years ago, the deserted street with a topped over trash can. 290$ would have been too much at the moment(daddy-leave for a year is a costly endeavour) but damn that was a powerful image.

Look at it this way--the fact that I haven't purchased a single TOP print offer puts you in some very good company. I just can't afford it. The most I've ever paid for an art work is $75--twice for 8x10 photos wet printed on fiber, nicely framed.

More often, I trade my work for others'. Monetize those exchanges and I'm sure I've made out like a bandit, or gotten ripped off for hundreds of dollars. Such are the risks of dealing in high art. [g]

I don't understand pricing. Here in Philadelphia (which seems to me to be glutted with art, artists and art students), I've seen medium-sized darkroom prints by amateurs sell for $25 and $500. Similar prints by professionals (not well known, but not unknown to some collectors and curators) have a much higher floor, but the ceiling seems not much higher.

"following the money"... It is not a commercial decision, a simple giving into greed, it's a slow, almost invisible decay into popular demand.
Customers or galleries don't tell you what to do, they just say: 'I like that one more'. And it is such a nice feeling of recognition when some one is willing to part with a substantial sum of money for your work.
But in the end it is the death of real art, as far as I can tell. Somehow it seems that financial success is linked to quality, but in fact it is not. It just means it is popular. Many photographers don't use the auto-everything on their camera because it tends to be the middle of the road. Same goes with popularity; it is not art, it is middle of the road...
Years ago I decided that is did not WANT to make a living from art. Just get a part time job on the side, allowing me to live. Keep my financial wishes small and simple. E Voilà, I can do what I want. Real art. It may be good or bad, but at least it is real, and it is what I want to make.

Maybe your readers know you too well. It seems like people might be willing to spend more to buy from someone they don't know well, because they have a more idealized view of that unknown person in their minds.

Mike I hate to be the one to say "I told you so"but when you first mentioned you were going to do a print offer of this photograph I suggested you not use it as in my humble opinion it would not appeal to many,well not me anyway.
I'm sorry this has not worked out for you and I'm sure you have plenty of photographs that would appeal to the less discerning of your worldwide admirers,myself included.

I like your photograph very much, Mike, and seriously considered buying it. I was stopped not by the price but by the fact that I simply no longer put things on my walls that I didn't shoot. The personal connection seems to matter to me at this point.

So, chalk me up as yet another almost-but-not-quite customer ;) The price is not a barrier, the image isn't, it's yet another dumb and arbitrary thing!

I love the image, Mike, and seriously considered the purchase. I don't know if that helps, but I hope so.

If you are a fine artist then price your work accordingly. If you sell one fine art print you have been successful as an artist. If you are not then demand sets the price. If you sell one print in a general sale then you are not a successful commercial artist.

If those in the know buy your work and others do not then you could raise your price until you can call your sale a success with the volume you can command. Choose your metric and live with the results.

I really truly would love to have a print of color picture. I have been clicking on the image multiple times each day, with my mouse pointer hovering over the "buy now" button.

I cannot believe anybody thinks $29 would be an appropriate price for this print, but at the same time I have to admit that I am suffering from sticker shock at the $290 price tag. To be honest I regret not participating in many of the past print offers, and often click through the old posts and wish I had had more discretionary money on hand when they had come up.

When it comes to discretionary spending there can be a vast difference between what something is worth compared to what one is willing to pay for it. I think your print is worth more than $290, but regretfully at this point it is more than I am willing to part with.

As to suggesting a different price, I think that was and is truly rude, and cannot believe anybody would feel comfortable posting such online.

I love your print Mike, but as a self employed photographer in the UK, the money isn't flowing freely enough to make impulse buys at the moment. I also sell prints, in galleries mostly, and the problem of pricing is familiar to me too. Some places want to charge more than others, different towns and clients etc. It's sometimes difficult making it all work fairly for the customer and for me.

I don't know if this helps with your dilemma, but I am partial to the $100 price, give or take $25. That's the price I feel most comfortable with, for a signed, open edition on a standard paper size.

At that point, I'm more likely to make an impulse purchase.

I have been thinking about this A LOT for the last two or three month. I wanted to sell some prints of my "hanamachi"-series (which I still haven't completed yet) but didn't get started because I didn't know how to price them. Luckily somebody wrote a comment on TOP referring to Books Jensen and his way of pricing prints. I looked him up on his website and was blown away. I read all his free pdf-articles and agreed an (almost) everything he wrote.
The following might not reflect Books Jensen's point of view, but it's what I took from his ideas: It all comes down to one question: What level of commitment do I expect from my buyers? If I want my buyers to be art-nerds and hardcore collectors only, I will have to take 5.000$ up for my prints. If I am ok with a lower level of commitment, I can make it cheaper and cheaper.
For me personally it's fine, if the buyer don't even looks at my print as a piece of art. If the buyer thinks "That would look cool in my living room. But I might throw it out again in 6 month" that's fine with me. Of course such a person won't spend as much money on it. So if I want this kind of people to buy, I got to make it really cheap.

I am still a student, studying japanese cultures. I know a lot of other students here, who are personally attached to my pictures because they know and love the places that are shown. If I would price my prints at 290$, none of them would be able to afford it. And that just doesn't sit well with me.

Of course, if I sell cheap some people won't buy BECAUSE it's cheap. But to me that's ridiculous. A person who doesn't buy my print because it's too cheap is not interested in the picture itself.

Now I decided to price my prints extremely low. I print on an Epson R3000 and use Canson baryta photographique. And I sell my prints for 22 euros for a 16x25cm and 44 euros for an 30x46cm print. I even bought an old passepartouts-cutter so I can cut my own passepartouts now. I sell the above mentioned print-sizes for 45 euros in a 24x35cm frame and for 90 euros in a 45x60cm frame. All with passepartout and a wooden frame.

A few weeks ago I sold 13 prints to an eye doctor. Now there are people sitting in the waiting room, looking at my pictures every single day.

I just wrote a blog-entry about this very topic today. Here is the link. It's in german though.


I only did a few commercial photo projects back in the 60s for clients who were referred by friends and always found them grumbling about the cost -even when it barely paid for my supplies. Killed my interest in commercial photography.
But now a substantial part of my income comes from writing and the issues are similar, but easier to price - I get paid either by the word or by royalties from sales. However I do contribute lots of single-use freebies for promo use.
I have a different tack on my photography. It's a hobby and I "loan" the use of photos for credit. You commercial guys don't need to get your hackles up - I do no assignments. I have thousands of photos that document a certain historical era and now I loan them for use in websites, articles and books, asking only for a copy of the publication in return, total of 3 books in the last couple of years and several magazine articles, plus 2 historical websites.
Only once have I taken money for use of my collection - I licensed 5 photos to a major European auction house that documented the history of an item they were auctioning. I figured a few grand for an item that sold for almost 2,500,000 euros was cheap! They did not complain!

I'm just not as fond of apples as John Szarkowski was, Mike. But he did
know more about apples and photography than I ever will.

I was hoping that your first print offer would have been a portrait
as I've always felt that you have real gift for them and I've a weakness
for great portraits. I fully appreciate everything that this shot represents
for you and the craft and skill it took to make it. But my hard earned is
hard earned and it ain't much, so I'll bide my time.

I know I'll have a Mike Johnston sooner or later.

"'But rank and file TOP readers do not like my picture at all' That's a bit over-the-top, isn't it?"

I guess you could look at it that way. Sorry.

I've changed the wording of that line.


Mike, Good luck with the sale. Speaking as a "buyer" (I did purchase one of the Turnley prints and regularly make room in the budget for art costing much more than this) I just can't get past the B&W. I can dig the concept, but I mean, you're building a darkroom, right? Still probably have some film gear too. I would be much more interested if you just went out and burned some film, printed it yourself and priced it however you want. I like that story from someone with your background.

Sometimes the print is good but the story behind it isn't right for my walls. Just offering $0.02. And I'm interested in seeing what you do with your work from earlier in your career. Good luck!


I don’t know whether I’m at all representative of any of your other readers, and I admit that I’ve bought only a few prints in my life, and only two from TOP. One was Peter Turnley’s print, perhaps the easiest buy for me because of his instant name recognition and the previously established market value of his prints. (Of course, I also loved the print itself, or I wouldn’t have bought it at all.) I also purchased Ken Tanaka’s wonderful print of “Summer Storm, Chicago”; I’m an absolute sucker for storm photography and was trying to figure out how to acquire a copy even before your print sale showed up on TOP. I wish I had bought one of Ctein’s dye transfer prints, but sadly missed the boat on those offers. Your apple print is beautiful, too, and I find that it is one of those images that grows more interesting the more I look at it. The subtle range of tones is really captivating. I would love to own it, but I fall in the group for whom $290 is beyond my threshold. If asked to pick my own price, I’d probably pick a price just under what I paid for “Summer Storm,” with a small premium on top of that as a contribution to TOP—say $175 altogether. I know that is way below what the print *should* be worth, just as I know that I underpaid for Ken’s and Peter’s prints. It just happens to be my threshold, for a variety of personal and financial reasons that may or may not apply to others.

As I think about this, I wonder if a "pick your own price" approach would increase sales/profit, or not? I would imagine that those who have already bought a print would have paid *at least* $290 and probably quite a bit more if asked to pick their own price. There might be another (much larger) tier of potential buyers, like me, for whom $290 is a bit steep, but who would gladly pay $150 or $200. Then there might be another, smaller group who would pay substantially less (hopefully nothing outright insulting). I suspect the result would be a nice Bell curve, with the peak hitting a price somewhat lower than $290; the difference in volume, though, might more than compensate for the difference in average price. The "ask your own price" approach would mean that you as the seller wouldn't be forced to guess the sweet spot/top of the curve; the buyers would do that for you. I'm no psychologist, but I think that people are likely to be more generous rather than less when (a) they are fellow enthusiasts in the field (in this case, photography); (b) they feel a personal connection to the seller, as your readers do; and (c) the buyer knows that the seller will see his offered price, with name attached (as opposed to an anonymous bid). You might get a few low-ball offers, but I think the factors I listed would keep those as a tiny minority.

Just my rambling thoughts for the day, not to be given too much weight , especially given my utter lack of business savvy, LOL. Best of luck with the sale, in any case. I don’t envy you having to deal with pricing structure; it would give me the willies if I had to be in business for myself! I was very sad to read that the print offer isn’t going as well as you had hoped; I was keeping my fingers crossed that there were a couple of hundred people for whom $290 was not beyond their limit. Perhaps people are just waiting for the weekend or until the deadline feels more pressing…

Elisabeth Spector

P.S. I also get the willies about seeing my comments in print. I’m just so used to lurking and I worry that my comments might be completely off the mark. It would be bad enough to insult you privately, but I’d hate to do it publicly, too. I’m hesitant even to send this if it might get published, but I’ll leave it to your personal and editorial judgment. Just know that it won’t bother me in the slightest if this does NOT show up in the comments. :-)

Unfortunately the average punter doesn't see photography as 'proper' art and doesn't buy it for his or her walls. Even keen amateur photographers, who may print and display their own images, rarely pay money for another photographer's work.

There are probably two types of photography buyers. Firstly the serious collector, who will pay decent money for the right print by a 'name' photographer. The second type is the ad-hoc purchaser who will, given some personal or local connection, will purchase a print if the price is low enough for them not to have to think about it.

So in this respect, your proposed pricing system - expensive collector's print along with a much more accessible option - would probably do the trick.

Also, you have a loyal and knowledgeable following on TOP who are a great deal more appreciative of photography than the general public. With this in mind, I'm confident that any sub $50 offering would be well received.

Of course, this doesn't take into account the quality and appeal of the particular print on offer. In my experience, and if you look at sites that sell photography to the general public, the photos that sell best tend to be simple and impactful - almost more graphical art that photography. In this respect, your mono print is perhaps a little too subtle. Ironically, a punchy colour version would probably be more appealing to the general public wanting 'wall art'.

Mike - I like the image. I also have to agree with what Benjamin R. George wrote about setting expectations from previous TOP print sales (purchased one of those).
I like the idea of the 2 tier sales approach, and I also like the idea of another commentator who suggested you offer other images and let the buyer decide
Good luck and keep up the good work

I'm surprised, Mike. My first thought when I saw the photo and the price was: "Wow. Given how well those previous print sales went, this one is going to fly. Mike might drop the blog altogether and concentrate on selling prints full time."

So I was wrong. Perhaps a choice of images would have helped? Or the choice of a cheaper price for a smaller sized inkjet print?

Either way, to feel like I am rubbing shoulders with TOP's "illustrious readers" makes my purchase feel sweeter. And for what it's worth, I'm red-green colour blind, and don't fell mocked.

I am actually about to offer some prints of my own for the first time. I'm gradually working up to it: starting a blog, testing out some images on 500px, trying to build connections on twitter, stocking up on the printing and potage supplies needed. But maybe most importantly, I'm putting the final touches to my pricing policy. As far as I'm aware, it will be quite unique. I think it's fair to say it will be a bit of an experiment!

When I first saw the price I thought it was $29 also. It looked like you hit the lower case "o" rather than the numeral "0" and a quick look lead to the impression of $29.

I share your pricing problem. When I was a student, students weren't getting the sort of prices you quote (hey, I'm old) and even later I was only asking $200 tops for a large print. I rarely sold any. I dropped my prices when digital came along hoping for better sales (NOT!) but have recently raised them to cover a shift to more expensive materials and all pigment inks (200 year archival) but I'm still only getting $50 for a print matted to 11x14 and the quality is better than ever. If I asked more I'd sell nothing at all.

I wasn't surprised when I reread the price of your offering. I thought $29 was pretty cheap. OTOH Brooks Jensen sells prints for less than that and apparently sells a lot of them. I just held an open studio in which I only sold one print and 7 note cards all day. :-( It's been a lousy year for me and the trend isn't upward yet. The economy has a lot to do with it.

As for me buying a print from you, all your offerings so far have been beyond my budget. The Charles Cramer one was very very tempting and I wish I could have done it but... I am open to barter and I have closets full of work although you'd likely want six of mine for one of yours if you deigned to accept my work in a barter. What the heck. I have to clean out those closets someday anyway.

I think what your seeing here is the real world response to the idea that "no one cares how hard you worked", and in the realm of art print sales that concept is totally wrong and frankly- you should know better!

Now had you created a backstory as to how difficult this was to print and that it was going to be a contact print on Azo paper..... then you would be motoring.

People will buy into the process, any art gallery owner will tell you so.

"...when I say my sales will be "very low," that means 20 or 30".

I'd be happy if I had 20-30 sales in any of the venues I tried this year. Even at my $50/print price much less $290.

I think multi-tiered pricing schemes are great. Thinking back on all the prints I've bought over the past five years, the majority came from 20x200 and cost under $40. I spent almost $100 on a Ben Roberts print, but it was an absurdly low price for a huge, very high quality print. I only got it for cheap because it was in an auction. I think the most I've ever paid for a print was Ctein's ginger print, and I mostly bought it just to experience a dye transfer print in person. I also hadn't been recently married when I got it, so I had a bit more disposable income.

As a photographer and sometime print buyer, I must say that I lack understanding of the top tier (or top two or three tiers, depending on how you divide things up between $290 prints and Gursky prints) of photography buying. When I first had things to sell at exhibitions, I was clueless. The first time something was bought, I immediately wished I had priced it about four times higher, because they would have paid it. I understand how a serious collector would probably disregard anything under $X000, but to price something in that range suggests you know more about fine art photography marketplaces than I actually do.

Eventually, I determined that I don't care. I'm done trying to sell prints. For now. I have to work on my work for another decade (probably two) until things are at the place where I can even consider trying to offer real print sales. Until then, I'll buy prints when I like them and they're in my lowball range.

This may or may not help but if you go to this website <http://www.richardwhite.com.au/> and follow the links through so you get to read the newsletters you will see what Richard is doing every few months with his print offers. I attended several of his workshops and have a couple of his prints on my wall.

Dear Folks,

I feel kinda bad about this sale, so far, because I bugged (yes, with a "u," not an "e") Mike mercilessly to get his work out there. I was sure he'd do well with this crowd. Usually, my estimates for these err on the conservative side, and I was guessing 50 prints minimum.

I don't feel I can talk specifics about most of the TOP sales, 'cause I'd be talking about other artists' business, so pardon the vagueness; it's intentional. But here are some interesting factoids:

In the three years since my dye transfer sale on TOP, Mike has run sales a couple of times a year and they've been consistently successful. My recent inkjet sale with "only" 250+ prints sold was well towards the low side of the average. If Mike had sold "only" 50 prints, this would have been the smallest non-limited sale in many years.

Price and medium haven’t correlated at all with sales figures. My first dye transfer sale with $95 prints was not the highest grosser. Peter's sale, with $395 prints, wasn't the lowest. So far the TOP market has shown itself to be insensitive to both medium and price point, in terms of gross dollars raked in.

We've figured out the main reason why my last one came in relatively low-- through a combination of missteps on our part and real world events we couldn't control, site traffic was unusually low. That DOES correlate with sales, we've learned. Doesn't matter why people show up-- if they visit for one article, they read the others, and if they read, they buy.

Unless site traffic has been way down the past two days, I've got no good idea why this sale did poorly.

Just wondering, would a lot of you who didn't buy at $290 buy at $190? I'm gonna guess not, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

It's possible a really cheap print would have sold very well for Mike, but it might not be practical. Mike would have to sell many hundred prints at that price to make him economically happy. I can tell you that administering and fulfilling many hundred orders is a solid month's work. I'm not sure how Mike would've squeezed it in around his "day job." I know Mike would have figured out some way to do it, but something like my first dye transfer sale, with 750 prints ordered, would kill him... or seriously limit TOP content for some time.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Creating a photo book has been a continuing learning experience for me.

The book is a set of images I took on a three day visit to Brooklyn. It contains 100 images ranging over a very broad range of subjects. I've now sat and watched over 30 people leaf through the book, interacting minimally with some, quite a bit with some and in between.

What I sort of knew intellectually, but now know personally, is that everybody is affected by different images, and sometimes affected in different ways than others. Although I haven't taken notes, I believe there is no single image that engaged everyone. There are several that almost always elicit a response, visual or verbal, although not always for the same reasons.

There are several that seldom engage viewers. For some time, there was one that I thought was a complete failure, as everyone just moved past it without apparent reaction. Then one viewer was strongly moved by it, almost transfixed!

The same thing seems at work here, with mixed comments about the appeal of this image.

I also have learned that any image that doesn't engage the viewer simply on its own visual appeal without back story or explanation is likely to fail. Once 'hooked' the viewer may well enjoy the additional info.

A third factor here for me is the actual technical quality of the print. Like others, I bought one of Ctein's dye transfer prints at least in part to actually have such a thing to see and handle in person so as to have a real idea of how it differs from other color print processes.

Ctein is a well known expert photographer and printer, and I'm not sorry I bought the print, for the above reasons. Nevertheless, the actual technical quality of the image, apart from printing process, was a slight disappointment, with what seemed to me to be insufficient DOF for the primary subject.

This quality was not clear from the small web image presented. For me, the same potential pitfall obtains for any image bought from a small web version. You may go on at whatever length you wish about the genesis and quality of the original and your processing and about the qualification of the printer, but I don't believe it until I see it.

I spend a fair amount of time traveling in very scenic areas of the country and wandering about in galleries featuring images of the area. A fair amount of them are crummy, but there are also a fair number of folks out there making nice to exceptional captures of subject matter that engages me.

And yet, the vast majority of those are let down by failures in the technical aspects of capture, processing and/or printing. DOF is wrong, things that should be sharp are soft, color is off, important detail is lost in blown highlights, and various combinations of these and other flaws.

I assume the sheer volume of this kind of work being displayed means it sells. And indeed, it's fine as a more or less reasonably priced memento of a place visited to sit in a drawer or hang where it won't be looked at closely.

Then there are those few, my friend Bob Whitmire in Maine is one, who make beautiful, technically astonishing prints of engaging subjects the same size and larger for far less than your pricing of this print.

To be clear, I really don't care what exotic or mundane printing process and materials are used in a print I buy other than that they be reasonably archival. What I Do care about is how it looks, in content for my heart and technical quality for my eye.

My personal reaction to the print offered is that it's an apple on grass, not unappealing in the moment, but basically mundane. I could buy an apple, put it on some grass, shoot it and print it for far less than $290.

Then again, I've seen 8x10 B&Ws by Weston, Adams and other famous folks that I wouldn't buy at that price for my own enjoyment. (Resale at a profit would be another matter).


This sounds a lot like something I heard in a portfolio class when I was pursuing my photography degree. After hearing that selling work for too little cost was akin to prostitution, many students (myself included) would set quite ridiculous prices in an attempt to legitimize themselves as artists.

Since then, I've realized that it's much more complicated than we were lead to believe. Do you want to give your work away? Of course not. But it's also impossible to become self-sufficient if your work remains unsold and gathers dust somewhere in your basement between exhibitions.

I am aware that, after five years of producing work, I am still really new to this whole thing, but this whole "$290 is cheap" argument is almost insulting to some of us. At this point, I'd be happy if I could sell $100 unframed prints on a regular basis.

Don't know if this has any relation to this blog story, but in the mid 90's, I had the great fortune to meet the photographer William Claxton, one of my favs. He had a show in Chicago, at the downtown library, and I was happy to go to an open viewing and hear him speak, and then he also walked the show with us and talked about every photo, and the relationship he had with the subjects and events that happened during the shoots and all. He was the nicest of men, at least that's how it seemed to all of us.

Even tho I was making decent 'bank' at the time (as we like to say in Chicago), I could no more afford one of his photos than buy a seat for a space shot into orbit! But, I was very happy that the library store was selling very nice reproductions of his work on 11X14 paper (4 plate black & white printing no less), for reasonable money; I believe in the about 29 to 35 dollar range.

While chatting with him after the show, he was more than delighted to sign my chintzy little purchase, and he was signing books and other things as well; and he couldn't have been a more pleasant person about all of it. So now I have a dear possession of a very nicely done, inexpensive print of a great jazz photo, with his signature and a wonderful memory of the whole day...

I don't know, thirty bucks, and I wouldn't have been happier with the same experience if I would've been able to afford the expensive one!

Hey, don't be depressed Mike. I bought one and I almost never buy other photographers work - it's a splendid visual concept and (i hope - can't tell from the jpeg) beautifully executed. The price is a bit steep for me - I charge $250 for a signed unframed print which as you point out is too cheap and probably the reason why almost no one ever buys one.


I would also suggest you consider the following thought "Wow, for $140 I could have gotten an amazing color print of the Apollo-Soyuz launch tower that I could not capture myself even if it were being launched next month but he wants more than twice as much for a smaller print of a black and white photo that I could make and print myself for the cost of an apple and the printing."

Where would this thought really be incorrect and why?

"I figure if I can sell 18 prints, I can cover the cost of Lulu's operation..."

This is what you wrote when you announced the sale. Now you claim this is a 'flop' for the sale?

"Where would this thought really be incorrect and why?"

So what you're saying is that you've considered it, you've decided it's not worth it to you, ergo you will not buy it. And there's an end on it. Where would this thought really be incorrect and why?


1) That certainly is an interesting subject. I can assure you that the pricing issue is just as difficult on the buyer's side. While as a buyer I cannot decide on the price from an infinite number of possible prices, mine is a digital decision: take it (at that price) or leave it. As long as the work of the artist in question is not auctioned, represented by galleries, which criteria do I use to arrive at that decision? That would make an interesting topic of its own, I think.

2) With regard to this particular sale, if you must know, I was immediately taken aback by you selling your own stuff on your blog. That was my gut reaction. In know there are tons of blogs which only exist to promote the author's sales. But, hey, I do not read those. This here I regard as more of an editiorial thing, like a magazine. And I come from a "culture" where it is a no-no to mix editorial and sales. At least if you want to keep a reputation.

3) Beyond the "I don't have that kind of money" comments, there were several which seem to point to a problem beyond pricing. The printing being outsourced, the story behind the photo being more interesting than the art itsself, you being not the greatest artist in your own words, etc.

When you say "pricing" you mean the tag, but that is only half the story. Pricing refers to the ratio of what-I-get/ what-I-pay. So there are two variables for you to work, the tag and the product. You, I guess, are prone to say, well it's a picture. Yes, but it is also a background story, the fame of the artist (or lack thereof), packaging (not in the literal sense), the aura of the actual "thing" if you wish. Or more prosaic: marketing.

Ctein's rocket as far as I recall had a motive which was hard to "get" as he vividly pointed out, strikes a chord with national pride, he's the master printer and print it he did. And if the comment above is right, it was even cheaper. Duh.

Ouch. The first part of this post was painful to read. I loved "Color Photo", even more so since I'm currently working with B&W film. Your picture captured that sense of loss and ambivalence associated with the decline of the film medium, in a more succinct manner than I could ever hope to. It felt like a shame to not be able to afford it (I'm a student). Reading the opening paragraph of this post just brought that sense of shame to a whole new level.

As for the two-tier pricing system, I think I should be fine with anything in the neighborhood of $50 (depends more on the condition of my budget at time of sale than anything else...). I'd almost echo Chris's $29 comment, but I can not in good conscience ask that of you.

But as a parting comment, I would still say: the sighs of the disaffected regardless, if it doesn't feel okay to you, don't do it. Don't devalue your work. It must have been painful and alienating for Kertész to see his photos used as commercial fodder in elevator advertisements. Far be it from me to wish such alienation on anyone!

As I continue reading these postings, I'm surprised no one has looked at pricing as market pricing or why people buy prints at all. Or why photographers sell prints either!
A few days ago, the comment was made that some photographers are independently wealthy and not in need of income, while most are "impecunious" to use a nice term. The former probably sell photographs to enhance their image and pricing higher will enhance it. The others are looking for income and are thereby afraid of pricing too high so as to stifle sales (ever hear of a P-V curve?)
But buyers are also different. Buyers may be buying for investment purposes and therefore prefer known photographers or at least think a high price is indicative of photographer's investment potential. Some buyers simply want something to hang on their wall - they are looking for reasonable prices and something that stands out - their visitors will notice it.
Perhaps equally important is the channel of sales. Galleries provide the sales assistance and the assurance to some buyers that what they purchase is "investment quality." Online services that allow you to buy a print from thousands of photographers will give you a "nice image" to put on your wall for a reasonable price. We won't go into stock photography, too painful for most!
Mike -photographers selling prints to photographers seems a bit strange to me.
My walls have a number of my images on them - and only mine - but my bookshelves are sagging with books of others photography - not what I want to exhibit, I do like looking at my own stuff and patting myself on the back occasionally for doing something unique - I have a big print of a hollywood starlet posed in front of her giant copy of a famous photographer's portrait of her that I promised to never publish - but I also like sitting down with a Jack Daniels and looking at Weegee's "Naked Hollywood" or Jesee Alexander's racing car photos of the early days. Like many of you, I buy books, not prints.
So all you photographers looking to make a few bucks selling prints, my advice is to go find yourself a patron instead!

Let me offer another angle - storage. I have bought some photos but mainly I buy books. I can and will spend maybe US$1500 on a good book and that means scarce, of genuine interest to me (I don't buy as an investor) and in good nick. I have bought some nice paintings (in my view) and paid up to US$5000 for one. Thats about my limit. But here's the rub. I now have very little wall space. Either our 'walls' are glass - wonderful natural light - or they are full of my favourite works already. I see no point in buying to put into storage. So even a modest size print represents a problem. Either I have to store it or rotate out something I already like. I don't know whether your target audience is buyers for pleasure or profit or both. Also with a book I know the print run. With a print I have no idea how many could be out there. I accept that most photographers would respect fully the concept of a limited edition. But I think you posed the moral dilemma question a month or two back. Not everybody is of undoubted integrity. I don't have an answer how to make photographic prints more marketable. I generally buy through galleries and I know one guy who can sell prints of work taken with an iPhone3 - he asks about HK$2000 (note HK not US dollars) but that is still a decent amount for many people. I suspect the answer is to go up market and ask more, targeting a smaller, more affluent audience (note I did not equate affluence with sophistication). I have no idea what a demographic profile of the site readership would look like but it may remove 95%, it may not. But if you can't sell at $290 then I don't think you have anything to lose by adding a nought to the end!

Oh, man, pricing. I've been thrashing non-usefully around in those waters since 1969, I think, when I was asked to do a set of portraits for my ninth-grade English teacher. Back when I was still shooting with my mother's old Bolsey 35 (but had access to a friend's darkroom with pro-grade equipment there).

One reason it's such a thrash for me is that I'm not really comfortable with what photos routinely sell for in serious galleries.

I have a rather visceral reaction against $5000 prints, paintings, and the like. It's very simple—the vast majority of people I know could never consider buying such a thing. Frankly I wouldn't consider it myself. I agonized over a $2800 camera body in 2008 (and worry about what I'll use when it wears out). I can't imagine buying at even half that price, ever, short of winning the lottery last Wednesday (which I didn't, having neglected to buy a ticket). And I'm a software engineer working for a hedge fund and getting paid really very well. (I don't get the kind of bonuses traders get, though.)

That sort of thing is a game the 1% play; nobody else can afford to.

Mike, I don't consider your print especially badly priced. I haven't jumped on it, though; that particular piece doesn't engage me enough to seriously consider buying. I enjoyed the discussion of it; I get a rather spare intellectual amusement from some aspects of it. But I don't want to look at it regularly for the foreseeable future, which is a necessary part of wanting to buy for me.

Someone commented on the print not being made by you being a disadvantage. I feel that way a little bit, maybe—but I don't think it would have held me back if I'd otherwise wanted to buy the print. And after all the Turnley prints were also printed by somebody other than the photographer, which was not seen as a disadvantage then.

Sorry the sales of your print have been disappointing for you.

Dear Dave,

While perceived value very likely enters into it, I do not think absolute dollar amounts do. About 70 people bought two of my prints in the last sale, which is about the same amount of money. Another 10 or so bought 3 or more prints.

'Course, maybe I tapped out all the people who could afford to spend circa $300... but considering it was less than 1 in 300 of the TOP readership and Mike's print ought to appeal to a different taste if anything would, I don't think it's the state of the economy or people's wallets.

pax / Ctein

My current demand is sample of black and white picture (RC and fiber) for my darkroom hobby. I have no sample and no teacher. I have to look at the picture from books.

Hence, when Ctein offer his, I get a few but really not a collector but want to know what inkjet (and curiosity the other kind).

I would like to have some black and white but I understood you sell it for other reason. But it is not strictly a darkroom print and hence not part of my collecting criteria. I think however, if you can like Ctein to offer a kind of subscription model for different class of people, some people like me would like to some now difficult to find darkroom print.

Pricing Ctein is a reference.

Mike, as I told here before, foto sales and print sales were always verry dificult in the best of times and due to the widespread use of digital photography that has gotten even worse. Therefore I would like to propose an experiment and see wether or not you are willing to participate.

Consider this Mike:

A) You shot a brilliant picture of an apple in the grass, as good a anyone can shoot a black and white of an apple in the grass.

B) You would like to be payed for your effort (of course who wouldn't).

C) What would you like to earn?

- 20.000 dollar
- 10.000 dollar
- 5.000 dollar

D) What does a print cost?

- Lightjet versus Inkjet? Size?

E) What do you need to add?

F) What did you make at 290 dollar - cost x number of sales.

Now set a target for yourself. Then set a price and lower that price day by day untill you have met that target. So readers can wait and linger untill Mike has met cost level or Mike has met his personal target and the sale ends. Now you have a good impression at what price you sell most of the pictures. That will be the price elasticity of "the Apple" by Mike Johnston. And that would be a nice future refference point for Mike Johnston sales. A and do not forget the words you posted yourself hear about a year ago considering the pricing of fotos along the lines of not limiting your sales.

Greetings, Ed

Stop complaining Johnston. I bet if you published a book of your best essays you would sell a fair number higher than 20-30. I think 30 prints as a one off is respectable and you should be thankful to those who purchased them.

Me, I didn't buy one because I am a member of the 99% working check to check. That, and I am really more of an orange man myself.

Just sayin'

(No need to post this Mike, it's mostly an FYI)

I'm late to the party, as I've been away at work and unplugged from the interwebz, with the exception of my dinky little iThingy, which is useful-ish, but bites the big one for anything serious; as a consequence, I don't keep as up-to-date with TOP as I'd like.

Consider another copy sold, as promised when you first floated the idea. Maybe the inclusion of a printed version (on quality paper, no less) of your story of the photo's meaning might be a good thing? If not, I'll copy/paste the one from here when mine arrives.


Timmy: "...he wants more than twice as much for a smaller print of a black and white photo that I could make and print myself for the cost of an apple and the printing. Where would this thought really be incorrect and why?"

I don't think photography collecting is for you, Timmy. I'd suggest looking at this photo and then deciding if you could purchase a plate and a fork and make a print for less than £7,250.

The problem is not that I do not like this image - I've done some FB prints myself and It is clear to me, that this image would look absolutely great. However, Ctein's offerings were as good (photographically) and had some added value, because (especially dye transfer ones) they were made by a printing master. Now, this extra value is something people seek in your print offerings. Remember - you are not selling prints to collectors here. And, you are not selling them to people who seek them (like your portrait customers). It is a blog, and people treat it as a ... well, blog, not a print store.

It's all relative. On the one hand, 20 sales is a nice profit and I should be grateful. On the other hand, our last two offers before this did 250 and 400 sales, respectively, so by comparison 20 sales seems relatively meager.


Chris mentioned 20x200 above, and that was actually my first thought as well when I read the post as well. A structure like that seems to be very effective for Jen Bekman and her photographers, and it's a neat idea to put real art in people's hands. Your thoughts run along similar lines, and I think they may be spot on.

Personally, I like the photo you've offered. I can't purchase it right now due to other spending priorities (nothing else to put on the wall until I actually own my own walls!) Perhaps, though, as you note above, it's worth celebrating selling a few tens of them instead of lamenting not selling a few hundreds - at least for the moment, until the next offer...

I have a Michael Johnston print hanging in the living room -- remember, Mike, when you did a careful inkjet restoration of Dorothea Lange's finest portraits starting with the Library of Congress copy shot. It's a lovely print, and I get a real kick when one of our kids says "Hey, I saw that picture in a book today." But the apple doesn't move me the same way as Ms. Thompson did.


Hey Mike,

Regular reader, rank and file, number ? here.

Admittedly I rarely buy photos. From TOP I was closest with Cramers, and that may partly be due to having seen examples of his stuff in the flesh.

I have to say that I was disappointed in your choice. For me the Apple is a very mild visual/photo-nerd joke, well suited to a blog posting but not substantial enough a concept to withstand repeated viewing on the wall. Nicely executed though.

I offer my opinion simply as another data point. But I hope to see more offerings from your vaults.

Ps Hopefully I redeemed myself by buying a decent lens via your links recently.

Here's a vote in favor of a two-tier scheme as you describe. I'd like to own some well-done photographs, but I am not interested in being a "collector".

On the pricing issue, you must be aware of the position that Brooks Jensen has taken on pricing, and I'd be interested to hear your direct response to that.

I can't find a link to his essay directly, but the idea is well conveyed by the fact that he sells folios of ~10 photos for around $100. He says that he hopes an individual photo gives the owner about as much pleasure as a CD, so it should be priced accordingly.

Hello Mike,
This is my first posting to you. I'm one of your old 37th Frame subscribers.

I have been on several workshops where we have discussed print pricing and I come from the perspective of one who considers myself an "advanced amateur" and as an artist who sells a little. In the few momenents I've spent with other serious photographers like me, I'd say the 2 tier print pricing concept is a good one. I too have considered selling large and hard to make framed prints at high prices and then practically "giving away" 8 x 10's, etc.

In my local art region of Eureka, CA (Redwoods country), I've just begun to develop a reputation in the local art community for doing large (2x3', 3x4', & 3x5') nature and landscape prints, flush mounted on gatorboard and held ridgid with wooden bracing on back side (no mattes or glass, etc.). Over the last few years, I've done maybe $ 5,000 total. Just now a local camera store will have my work on their walls for an extended time and we'll see how it goes. And I've been given the opportunity to display for 6 months at our local community airport. Both big opportunities.

I have my sympathies for Jeff and his pricing of his work in Washington, D.C. I'm in no man's land by comparison. The crux of the issue to me boils down to 2 issues:

1) How big and where is the audience that knows you and/or likes you (and your work).

2) What are the current market conditions in that area of #1 above.

I consider nature and landscape photography in the west to be totally saturated and only the best/luckiest/agressive few make it. So I'm selling really nice unmounted inkjet prints on 13x19 and 17x22 size papers for $ 45 and $ 59 respectively and feel fortunate to be selling some. A big 3' x 5' mounted print goes for "just" $ 495. Again, I sell a few. Ask any more within my "zone" of being known and I feel I'd sell nothing.

That is my two tier life at the moment! The one major area of communication (to expand my name and audience) on which I've so far failed miserably, is getting my web site known to the outside world. So I am trying to find out more about this subject.

Dave Van de Mark (www.davevandemark.com)

"It's the economy, stupid."

Admittedly, the offer was not quite so compelling as (for example) getting one's hands on a Turnley/Mitrovich - but a couple of years back I probably would have pulled the trigger.
Today's economy... couple of daughters to fund through university... almost, but not quite.

$29 mini print ?


Referring back to Ctein's post on artists' rights'; sorry Mate, I just don't like it...

Perhaps the type of pricing structure should be looked at. Consider Goldilocks Pricing, which is used in many areas but most noticably in airline tickets. Having two tiers means people will naturally compare between the two. Most (if not all) will feel uncomfortable with justifying the high price of the expensive option and will only consider the lower priced option. The low price option typically won't be very profitable and if its price is still too high to justify then its likely to fail to sell.

However if you have three prices which are unevenly distributed human nature can swing things in your favour. So you want to sell a photo, offer a cheap inkjet 6x4 for say $1, a nice 10x8 for $100 and an even larger print for $1,000. The larger print will be outrageously overpriced so people will be refuse to pay. A 6x4 inkjet might be cheap but again people don't want to be seen as being too stingy (and they could take your photo off the web and print a 6x4 themselves). So the 10x8 option looks like a far better deal in comparison. (Prices and sizes are to illustrate the point, not as suggestions). The trick is to get the pricing right but the aim is to break even (or even make a loss) on the "cheapskate" option where a loss is essentially pennies, not tens or hundred of dollars. You can probably then make your middle price and raise it higher than expected and still make sales. Price the expensive option as being MUCH higher, it'll still be the largest and best quality print, but don't expect any sales (but if you do you'll be over the moon).

Buying photos I consider a luxury like a Van Gogh painting or a Ming Vase. You're either buying for the prestige (a specific photographer or an iconic photo that has been seen but almost everyone (if I say "man in front of tank" a lot of you will know what photo I mean)) or the appeal. Photography (taking and printing) is so much more accessible to everyone these days so I think getting that photo that includes the "wow" factor that will make someone consider paying for it.

After all art is in the eye of the beholder. Getting your art into the eyes of beholders becomes a bottleneck and only a small percentage are then likely to see something special and even less are then willing to pay for it. We are bombarded with all sorts of photos and (photoshopped) effects so much more than ever in the past.

We've all seen amazing photos on the internet, but how many can you remember now? How many would you react the same way over if shown them again? For me to consider buying a photo it needs to have that special something that gives me same feeling everytime I look at it and not grow boring after a few days.

I think it's a tough ask to try to sell to a society with a two second attention span...maybe a few LOL captions scrawled across the photos will help? :)

I was tempted by the print, even at $290. But the new John Blakemore limited edition monograph arrived, which at £150 ($240) includes a signed silver gelatin print. And that did make me think again. But I still like your apple.

But it leads me to an observation of human nature. A waterfall may sell better, a cheaper price may sell better, but what is going to put many 'photographers' off is the nagging doubt that they could go to the supermarket and buy an apple and find some grass and of course they already have a camera.....

You have two markets for a delicate print like the apple, the non-photographers who you are missing by a country mile, and the artistically minded (non-pixel peepers)crew who are in the minority and are willing to take a punt on purchase prices because they value the art more than the monetary value.

So if you are going to market to other photographers in all their shades of interest, the majority will still want to buy a print where the sub-text says 'I couldn't do that, I couldn't get there, I don't have the vision to see that way, he is more skillful than me, etc' Somes times the majority and the art minority will meet, but to paraphrase 'you wouldn't be the only person to get rich by pandering to the lowest common denominator'!

Mike, please don't put more salt on my wound. I would really like one to buy this, but my monthly *useless* (no offense intended) leisure budget has already been used.

$290 is a great price, truly, but one cannot always buy everything he wants in this world ;)

I would equate a small RC print with an A4 (8x12 inch) inkjet print on good commercial quality paper - £20 or $30 being a fair price, but not something I'd be prepared to sign.

Certainly, I think the ease of producing a reasonable digital print on A4 or letter size paper has hit the "perceived value" of a small print, particularly for the mass market.

I routinely do proof prints on A2 (17x22 inch) Epson Enhanced Matte paper - and usually give them away to the model after I've had a good look at them.

Now when I print the same print A2 on 308 GSM Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, I'm going to charge a fairly high price for it - partly because of the cost and the fragility of the material, and the time to get a portfolio quality print.

Much the same as producing a selenium toned darkroom print on Ilford Galerie or another fibre paper. Significantly more pain and effort involved to get something worth signing.

For the record (even though I'm posting late to the game), I really like the picture and liked it quite a bit when you first posted it. $290 is just out of my price range.

I'm still enjoying the last print of yours I bought though; the snow covered house in winter. I think it was $50 - and money very well spent.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007