Does anyone here sell prints at Art shows/Festivals?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Wisertime, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Does anyone here sell prints at art shows/festivals? If you have any experiences or advice I'd like to hear your thoughts.

    My local area has a few art shows with very good attendance (at least 10-15k+ I'd guess) several times a year and so do the neighboring communities within 20 miles or so in any direction. I've been attending some of these for 4 years now and always check out the photography there. There are usually about 7-10 booths devoted to photography, and of those maybe 2-3 really stand out to me as very good quality. One of which is just there to promote portraiture, not sell prints. The others range from so so kitchy to decent, but not mind blowing. I see some of the same ones year to year and I've been encouraged by some friends to set up my own booth. I take that advice with a grain of salt, but I do think I have some images that might sell in the local market, but how much, I have no clue. I think my work might (by my own judging) be ranked in the upper half somewhere...but of course that is subjective.

    Just wondering if anyone else here has experience selling at these outdoor festivals? I looked into it a little this week to see what it would cost. I'd guess, probably a minimum of $2000 just to get set up and print/mount some inventory, get display boards, frames etc. Our local show is $165 minimum to get a booth (tent provided I think)...and it is juried, so like many, I guess you pay about $35 to apply and hope you get selected 4-6mos in advance. If I thought I could at least sell enough to recoup my costs, I'd probably give it a go, but obviously I'd like to maximize income and perhaps further fund my hobby. I could try some of the smaller shows to see if I get any interest at all first.

    The bonus is we have 2 big shows and a few smaller markets that are literally a block from my house. However, I have a smallish car (and my GF has an even smaller TT), so going to other markets might be an issue if I can't fit everything in my car.
     
  2. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi,

    I'm kind of surprised no one else has responded...

    My friend's father was retired and would take close-up pictures of old American hand-made quilts and the like; then he'd go to art/craft shows with a few prints and his printer and sell prints on-demand.

    I don't know how profitable it was for him, and I don't see much advantage of using a printer on-site as you'd still have to carry the frames.

    I've been tempted to go to some of the local shows myself; the asking prices are quite high at the Laguna Sawdust festival (for example), but as you say the costs to get started aren't trivial.

    The larger swap meets around here have people selling oil paintings (some of them have huge booths), but not a lot of photos.

    Barry
     
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  3. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Better luck peddling to local merchants and restaurants, etc to hang prints in their place of business and generate sales and/or referrals. All the local art/craft or other festivals seemed to danged expensive to get a spot.

    The crowds may be enticing but the events don't happen everyday but folks generally fill restaurants everyday. There is always a crowd at the local grocery store. Even the hardware store gets plenty of daily practice - been my best source. Spork art is very niche ...

    I've had many folk tell me it is too simple to take their own photos and print big at Costco, etc so they would never buy a print from me. I seriously doubt many of them actually do but that attitude is a barrier in any case.

    Strangely enough (to me anyway) I've sold more smaller prints than large ones.

    My best seller
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. shotslot

    shotslot New to Mu-43

    3
    Apr 18, 2013
    UK
    Saul Molloy
    Hi!

    Finally a discussion that isn't about the latest light-bending oojamaflip!

    I spend quite a lot of time at various shows, often shooting the events but also on ocassion selling my work. My observations are that:

    1. Generally, people don't value a good photograph as much as a good painting, collage or whatever. As Sporkboy says, a lot of people just feel that for the money they could just go shoot the same thing on their smartphone and print it somewhere cheap. You need therefore to educate people while you're selling.

    2. It's difficult to print and frame at a low enough cost to make reasonable money, though I am willing to concede that I might just not be confident in charging enough. I have had a bit of a nightmare with this. For the past five+ years or so canvas prints have been very popular with interior designers. I'm not dead keen myself because I think they age fast but you have to sell what sells. To maximise profit I borrowed a friend's printer and did the production myself. Taking production time into consideration the amount I made in gross profit per canvas was not a great deal. Maybe 5-10%, and those you don't sell are effectively dead stock. This is especially the case with canvases because you can buy 'designer' mass-produced tat in home furnishing stores for about £/$20. The other option is framed and matted prints. I don't want to learn to be a framer, particularly, so I get stuck with either paying someone else (in which case I'd probably make a loss) or trying to fit my prints around the less expensive home-furnishing ready-made frame options. If anyone has a solution to this that works I'd be really, really pleased to hear it.

    3. It's quite difficult to get into juried shows (or art shops) sometimes because the established photogs often sit on the jury, and don't want the competition.

    4. It's very difficult to judge your own work and I have to get several someone elses to do so before I print, on the grounds that the more people who like something, the more other people might buy it.

    I do like the idea of putting images in local shops and would be interested in hearning about the cost break-down for this. A pair of photogs I know sell a lot of greeting/postcard-sized prints on stands, they seem to do ok but again, taking into acocunt the cost of ink and materials, I'm not sure how much profit they are making. I know they haven't bought a new camera in the past 3 years, but to be fair their panasonic G-whatever does what they need it to.
     
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  5. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Midlothian, VA
    Richard Elliott
    You never know until you try ;)

    Another venue to sell photos is your library. In our county every branch has a rotating display of local artists and some photogs will display for one month at this library and then one month at another and will often get some sales from those displays.

    My wife is a librarian and is in charge of the artist display at her library and this month the person who was supposed to display bailed so she pressed me into service and I have gotten a couple of orders and I was not even planning on taking any.
     
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  6. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Thank you all for sharing. I agree with most points everyone made. Printing on demand I don't see flying or being feasible. Not for me and maybe not allowed at these shows. I don't print my own stuff either, but from the little research I've done, you have to have finished work on display that meets certain criteria (ie framed, canvas etc)...at least generally speaking. I would assume most print sales would be the smaller sizes (oddly) and matted vs. framed. Framing adds significant cost and has to be marked up appropriately. Getting a stock of matted prints would be about the smallest part of the start up cost. It's the display boards ($200each X 8? or more?), canvas prints (which I prefer in many ways) and entry fees I find costly....and then there's the chance you get rejected and stuck with all this stuff.

    I found this site, which I may use if I display somewhere to start. http://www.matboardandmore.com/products/matboard-kits.aspx

    Matting packages seem decent (mat, backboard and plastic sleeve..perfect). Frames are ok priced, but can maybe be found even cheaper.

    I definitely agree painting and other arts are more highly valued and maybe rightfully so, but photography does have its place. Much of it is making an emotional or aesthetic connection...and art is subjective mostly. Yes, I think what I like or think others like, are going to differ greatly. I had been mulling the idea for a few years and what got me refreshed on the idea, was when some of my girlfriends friends came over to use our driveway to park for the show and were praising some of my 16x20 prints I had just mounted unframed (not knowing I took them at the time)....I missed this all, because I was out walking the dogs, but they all were telling me I should get in this show next year and sell them. It's encouraging, but I take the praise with caution too...it's not like you can just snap your fingers and get in a show.

    FWIW, I've attended 5 or 6 of these festivals in recent years and never bought a single thing (other than food)...then again I'm not a typical consumer. There is one watercolor artist there that does phenomenal work though and I would buy some of his work if we had wall space. His larger originals sell (list) for 5 figures. :thumbup:
     
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  7. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    771
    Nov 16, 2012
    Emily
    Go to some shows and look at the booths to see how photographers are displaying their work and what they're charging. (The PA Guild of Craftsmen show is in Rittenhouse Square this weekend, but the weather forecast is for rain.)

    Instead of checking out the quality of the photography, look carefully at the way it's displayed. Look at the booth (tent) itself and see how it's being held up. You'll see that nearly everyone (everyone with any sense, that is) has some sort of weights on the tent poles to keep the whole thing from being blown over. They can be as simple and inexpensive as plastic milk jugs filled with water, but something is necessary. By the way, it's not usual for a show to supply a tent. The show may supply a table, but beyond that, you're on your own. Some shows might even require you to have a tent. If a show doesn't require it, you can always start out by selling just from a table, but a tent gives a much more professional appearance, makes it easier for shoppers to see your work (if it's a sunny day), and -- if you're thinking about doing Manayunk -- might keep you from suffering sunstroke.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "display boards." I haven't paid much attention to the mechanics of displaying photographs, but my impression is that most booths have framed & matted prints hanging (somehow). I'm not sure where boards would come into it. You'd also need a table or two to hold boxes of matted prints. (I agree that matted is the way to go. I can't remember ever seeing unmatted photographs for sale.) If your tables aren't nice-looking, you'll want fabric or something to drape over them.

    You may find that some of the vendors are willing to chat with you about what selling is like, as long as there aren't potential customers in the booth. Maybe you could talk with some non-photography vendors to get general information about the selling experience.

    By the way, I have a number of photographs that I've bought at art/craft shows, and would probably have more if I had more wall space.
     
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  8. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    I have scoped out the shows over the years. I did read about weights too. I think Chestnut Hill art shows supply the tents, because I saw big trucks/crews taking them down at night. Elkins Park and others might be another story. Abington gives you a tent and option for tables/chair.

    By display boards I mean a cloth covered 6'ish high wall to display work on. Yes I'd have boxes of prints to buy, but need to hand displays
    to draw attention.
    e895caab0399948cc1bfcc8628abe56f.
    [​IMG]
    cdln_booth.
    [​IMG]

    The cheap option
    6a00d8341c5b6153ef0120a4c43c06970b-450wi.

    I watched youtube video by B&H and she mentioned these as helping sales and possibly being a requirement...(some shows require a photo of your booth set up beforehand)

     
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  9. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Midlothian, VA
    Richard Elliott
    I think the smaller print sales are driven by the larger framed display prints - people see one they like but don't want to spend the money and then see a smaller less expensive one in a browse bin. I have picked up a few that way myself. ;)
     
  10. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi,

    a. I'm surprised printing on canvas would be worthwhile; I would have thought the ink would soak into the canvas, wasting a lot of ink. I know that Costco will print on canvas and the prices seem reasonable. I finally saw some photos printed on canvas with a wood frame border from Costco, and they looked quite good. I'm now considering some for my home.

    b. I've bought some matted frames at Ikea... the Fjallsta frame 16x20" with 12x16" mat is $20USD; they have other designs that are often cheaper, as well as smaller sizes. iirc, matted frames for 5x7" are as low as $5 at Ikea. They are wood frames; the cheap frames at Target are plastic. Also, Ikea claims the mats are acid-free.

    Some of the Ikea frame sizes have odd-shaped mats (thinner on the sides than on the top & bottom (in portrait mode)); most of their 8x10" mats seem to be that way so I would avoid them.

    Costco does 12x18" prints for $3; the one picture I've printed so far came out very well. I printed it with a 1" border on the right and left so it'd match the 12x16" mat.

    I used tape on the corners of the print to attach it to the mat, but I see there are other options: http://www.framedestination.com/picture_frame_mounting.html

    My sister is an art teacher and she used to paint acrylic on canvas. At least once she had her works hanging in a popular cafe. I believe they just charge a commission on the sales, but I will ask her.

    I go to a photo club / meetup (RCPhoto), and they have had at least 2 events this year where you have the opportunity to shoot a certain subject, and then you can (optionally) hang your prints in a library or city hall, maybe with the opportunity for sales.
    One of the events was to shoot buildings in downtown Upland, as the city wanted new pictures to exhibit in comparison with very old pictures of downtown.
    There were no fees other than your printing costs, etc., and the club's annual $25 membership.
    I was unable to participate in that event, but I do have a print hanging for sale in the RC community center right now, as part of the club.

    Barry
     
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  11. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Someone I know was working for a company in Chino that makes retail display setups in China; I will try to find out if they sell direct.

    Need to have a big truck to move them around though.

    Barry
     
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  12. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Personally, I love canvas prints...for home use. Some have a painterly quality that a photo wouldn't have (obviously suitable for some subjects more than others). Whether they sell is another thing (and you have to really mark them up, because they aren't cheap to do large. When I get good deals, I pay about $40-50 for a 16x20, 18x24 plus shipping....that's about half the going rate. I haven't been willing to try the cheap living social deals due to bad reviews (some are obviously idiots trying to print a phone pic w/low resolution and no PP or didn't read fine print about shipping). I've used Adoramapix and Simplycanvas with great results. I hate simply's website, but they do good work and have lots of sales. The nice thing about them is they are easy to move and hang. They look great, and you don't need a frame. You can choose to stretch the sides or make them white/black/other color..depending on preference. I'd love to get some bigger sizes done, like 20x30 and larger for some landscapes if I had the wallspace.

    Thanks for the Ikea idea. I didn't think about that. I have a gift card left there and nothing to buy that I need and that would be a good excuse to use it up! I think there are better deals in bulk online, but for now I could just do Ikea for a test run.

    I have heard costco does good work, but no experience yet.

    I read online that it's customary for galleries to take 40-60% commission...I'd guess a coffee shop/restaurant might want half that or so? Or let you just display for free w/o sales, depending on the goal.
     
  13. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Big truck for sure. I just looked at this show downtown Philly and the minimum tent fee was over $1200-1550...Yikes! That's a lot of sales to break even. Guess I won't be doing that one for a while if I take the jump. Makes $150 look cheap.
     
  14. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    I also just read about some people making their own out of conduit pipe and chicken wire covered in cloth. I guess there might be ways to get creative....I also don't have a large car, so I'd have to figure out something that is space saving....though for now, if I do this it would be within a 10 mile range max, until it's proven I could make enough continue..
     
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  15. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Might make sense to find some other local photographers and split the costs. I'm not sure if a juried show would accept that though.

    If anyone in southern California is thinking of doing any smaller shows, I'd be interested... need to figure out what to print first...

    Barry
     
  16. AndyCr

    AndyCr Mu-43 Regular

    58
    Nov 10, 2013
    Pembroke Pines, Fl
    Andy Cripps
    If I may, I'd like to add to this discussion, though from a different perspective to others who have posted.

    I work for a distributor to the picture framing industry in South Florida. The vast majority of our business is to picture framing stores plus larger businesses that do contract framing for hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants etc. Although we are strictly wholesale, not open to the public, we do have some artists and photographers that buy materials from us to frame their work for sale at the many art shows that are held in South Florida through the winter. Over time I have come to know some of these people fairly well, a shared interest in photography helps, of course.

    From what I have seen and heard, this is not an easy way to make a living. The initial outlay for stock and for some way to display that stock is not a trivial amount. Some shows are juried, others open, but all have fees associated. Then there is the cost of travel to the show, plus maybe two or even three nights in a hotel. All of this without any guarantee of a single sale.

    In addition, these shows are tiring. Most of those that I deal with are full-time artists or photographers, and can travel fairly easily. However, the odd one or two that also work for a living have to travel to the show after work Friday, or very early Saturday, to set up, spend the weekend trying to sell their work, then on Sunday pack up, drive home and be back at their work Monday.

    I do not want to sound too discouraging. There are many people that make a living through doing art shows. However, if any of you are thinking of this please think it through very carefully. We have several customers that come in almost every week to get ready for the next show but I have seen a few that have sunk a lot of money in trying to do this who have disappeared without trace.
     
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  17. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Veteran

    436
    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    Aaron
    • Like Like x 2
  18. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry