The Price of Prints: Part 4: Advice From Expert Printers

To get a different perspective for this, the final installment in the 4-part series about “The Price of Prints,” I went to the experts — some of the most trusted printers in the business today.


Just before we announced the launch of the PhotoShelter Print Vendor Network, I was able to interview several members of the network about their services, their philosophy, and the lessons they’ve learned throughout the years.

These highly-skilled printers have been working directly with photographers for many years, and they’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to sales and marketing of high quality prints.

The Experts:

Richard Jackson of Arizona-based Hance Partners started working in the darkroom at the tender age of thirteen, and soon found himself making proof prints of baby portraits for a local photo studio. As a kid addicted to photography, his original plan was to become a photographer, but the attraction to the print making process proved to be more powerful.

Jerry Weiner is the CEO of PWD Labs, which opened in early 2007 providing high-quality post-production printing services for professional digital photographers.

Mark J. Lukes and a friend were looking for a color photo printer who understood the needs of nature photographers. When none could be found, they decided to do it themselves by starting Fine Print Imaging in 1975.

Nadish Naoroji of Australia-based Pixel Perfect Prolab believes they were the first digital lab in the world to offer guaranteed-accuracy to ICC standards, as product has been color managed from day one – ten years ago.

1) Photographers are always trying to increase print sales. In your experience, what tactics have been successful for other photographers?

Richard Jackson

I can say it best this way — The more people that see the work, the higher the sales. In addition, the more that those viewers know the photographer, his or her philosophy, passions and stories about the work, the more the viewer will value that work.

So the photographer needs to find ways to get as many viewers in front their work as possible. Tell stories through blogs and do it often.

Jerry Weiner

A lot has been written on this subject – some of which is based on real data, some on supposition. What we do know is that getting technically-correct images online quickly (while people are still excited about the event), spreading the word through the use of event cards and social networking, and then delivering quality prints on a timely basis will produce sales. Other things that seem to help are setting deadlines and running specials on certain products from time-to-time.

There is no magic to getting online sales, just as there isn’t any in any other part of the business. Successfully marketing images online requires development of a set of steps that are consistently applied over time and fine-tuned for what does and doesn’t work.

Mark J. Lukes

Exposure, exposure, exposure (and I don’t mean camera settings!) The more a photographer can get his or her work in front of the public, the more chances for success. With the advent of social networking, particularly Facebook, a photographer can, at no cost, reach hundreds, even thousands of potential buyers. Other tried and true avenues include gift shops, co-op galleries, outdoor art festivals, holiday shows, partnering with non-profit organizations. Even hanging your work at the local coffee shop can lead to chance encounters.

Other tactics include basic marketing – communication with potential buyers through postcard mailings, e-mail newsletters, blogging, and of course, having a professional looking website where buyers can easily search for and view the work. It also can be helpful to join a group website, such as ArtforConservation where buyers, such as designers and art consultants, go to purchase artwork for projects.

Nadish Naoroji

The top photographers ooze QUALITY in everything they do. They purse excellence relentlessly.

2) Many photographers are interested in selling fine art prints, but aren’t sure how to find a market for them. Do you have any suggestions?

Richard Jackson

Again, it comes down to exposure to the right audience. If photographers get viewership of their website, something needs to pull the viewer back more than once. If that happens, it is usually because the viewer finds some connection to the photographer’s work. Photographers, I believe, should be true to their passion about their work and communicate that vision and passion to the viewer. Never think along the lines of “I wonder what kind of image I can make that will sell”.

Photographers should communicate what they are passionate about in their images and their words. If enough people see the work, sales will occur.

Jerry Weiner

The economy over the past two years has made the fine art market a more difficult one in which to be successful. Nonetheless, some things still work. Having a gallery that serves as an outlet will produce results if the work is very good and the gallery knows how to market it.

Outside a gallery, wedding photographers can offer a fine art print as an end-piece for the wedding itself or as a first anniversary gift. Portrait (family, seniors, children, pets) photographers can offer fine art prints as a part of or an add-on to a particular session package.

Fine art prints are higher priced than glossy photo prints (silver halide or inkjet) making them harder to sell, so they have to be promoted for a special occasion (first anniversary) or reason, e.g. to commemorate an event, or to a collector that understands the value.

Mark J. Lukes

Make sure your work is top notch before trying to sell fine art prints. The market always exists for exceptional work – but it has to be exceptional. Be ruthless in your editing of images. Spend the time learning your art – and building a cohesive body of work before approaching galleries.

Consider the print itself. So many photographers shoot thousands of images and look at them on their monitors, maybe play around with them in Photoshop, maybe print a couple on their Epson printer. Understand that an image that looks great on your monitor may not look great as a print. Or an image that will work to illustrate a story in a magazine is not the same as one that looks great hanging over the sofa.

In today’s very competitive print market, it is so important that you not “settle” on an ok looking print. If you are not a techie, you may consider going to a professional fine art printer who will be able to bring out the best in your images.

Nadish Naoroji

Creating a top quality product is a given. Study marketing so you can EMOTIONALLY influence people with your products, words, promotions & exhibitions to hand you their credit card. 

“The Price of Prints” Series:
The Price of Prints: Part 1: Pricing Practices & Motivating Buyers

The Price of Prints: Part 2: How To Avoid Pricing Yourself Out Of Business

The Price of Prints: Part 3: 14 Ways To Increase Print Sales

The Price of Prints: Part 4: Advice From Expert Printers

PhotoShelter recently launched the new Print Vendor Network. Now PhotoShelter photographers may sell prints and products via their websites while handling fulfillment through any participating print vendor, anywhere in the world (in addition to our 4 large fully automated print vendors.) It’s free for printers to join the network too, so photographers may invite their favorite printer anytime.       

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This article was written by

PhotoShelter co-founder and GM

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Jeff Colburn at 4:15 pm

    Good advice, thanks. One thing I would add. I sell my work through a local gallery, and people are more likely to buy a print if it shows some local scenery. Locals love it because they live there, and tourists love it as a reminder of their trip. The gallery is in Jerome, Arizona, and I regularly sell prints of Jerome, the Grand Canyon, Prescott and other local places. Have Fun, Jeff

  2. Hagai Nativ at 2:07 am

    Thanks. What is the difference, when you talk about fine art print, between inkjet epson 9900 or other high quality printer or plotter, to your print process. How can one identify fine art print vendor or product? Hagai.

  3. Joe - from Minneapolis at 1:40 am

    I agree local gets gallery sales. One thing should be noted for ‘increasing print sales’ and that is that sometimes, it might be better to NOT make the sale but retain a better relationship with the client… allowing for referrals in the future. It really depends on how you sell and where your true profit center is.

  4. Marko at 6:55 pm

    I have always used a master printer for my Fine Art prints. Just to listen to their discussions about papers, profiles, inks, the lighting that the print will be viewed under, the effects of all these things on subtle color shifts, etc. Fine Art printing is a lot more than running a sheet of paper out of a box though a prosumer printer and I can tell you it’s above my head. I just read a private forum discussion with a few master printers discussing black and white printing and the information and detail would make your head spin. Trust me, when you present to a gallery or exhibition, they will know. Also be prepared to pay between $30 for a small print to $150 or more for larger sizes or “exhibition” / museum grade prints. (That’s your cost from the printer, not what you will retail them for.)

  5. arturino at 7:12 am

    Marko, who do you use?

    We are looking for a reliable printing partner for all our fine-art prints, canvas prints, framing,
    and shipping fulfillment ( USA & International ).

    I visited your site and feel that you may be able to fill this role.

    Our Paper Requirements ( which you seem to meet )
    – sizes 8″x10″–>large format +/- 36″ x 36″
    – archival pigment prints
    – advanced digital dry& stable inks
    – natural white, matte, ultra smooth, 100% cotton rag
    – shipping of products should have our branding.
    – ideally has an API for easy ordering.

    Our Shipping Requirements
    – Same or Next Day

    please contact artur at design2dev com

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