Prices: like the limbo stick?> How low will you go?

July 20, 2012  •  10 Comments

Right then. Check this out. So recently I received an email inquiring about the purchase of an image of mine that was featured on the cover of a local newspaper, it was featured there because I sent it to them and I said something like: "hey wanna see a picture?" or something like that. I'll send them pictures every once in a while and this was the second time that they ran one- anyways, so like I said: this lady emails me to inquire about the purchasing of said picture for her enjoyment or whatever she wants to do with it, and I responded explaining that I currently have one size print available for $165 dollars on my website at 16"x24". ( the reason I have that one size and price is that I think that is the perfect print size although I think that an 11x17" or 14" is lovely as well and theres nothing wrong with an 6"x^" print if it is matted and displayed well, but like I said I like that size and I like that price point.) This is the price that I arrived at back when I originally decided on it from looking at other of my peers photography prices who live in Maine as well. There are cheaper prices and there are much more expensive prices, but I want to be modest and I want to sell some work! Here's the picture:Lupine Cottage

"Lupine cottage" 6/20/2012

Where was I... on the second email from the prospective purchaser it was clear that she thought the price too high. I explained something of what I just explained here then went on to natter on about my approach and dedication to detail and quality and the archival glicee qualities of the print etc, etc. and explained to her that her purchase helps me to make more work and put food on the table etc. So, on her third reply it gets worse. Here I'll quote directly from a section of the email not for the sake of embarrassing anybody (I'm sure the person will never see or read this anyways), but for the sake of sharing with you what it's like to try and sell prints:  

Prospective Customer: "Do you ever print on canvas?  What would the price be on canvas?  I would probably be interested in an 11x 14, not 11 x 17.  I already have a 16 x 20 inch pink frame that I’m assuming will match the print (??)  I think that I will have to wait until I get up there on Columbus Day to actually see the print in person.   How much would an 11 x 14 cost on regular paper (not canvas)?  I am all for supporting Maine artists, but I was comparing your prices to other Maine photographers and your price is higher.  But I would be willing to pay it if I'm as blown away by the picture as I think I will be once I see it in person."

Me: Jeezum.

So the first thing is- I don't like canvas photography prints, if you do: good, it's just my preference. The second thing is that I composed and presented the image as a 35 mm comp so I would need to chop off a big part of the scene to fit the ratio being requested. So I was starting to get really frustrated by the whole state of affairs here and after I saw the email I had to drive home for 30 minutes and I thought on it the whole time as to how I should respond (which was either a big waste of time or a valuable learning experience for future like situations). And here was my reply: 

Prospective seller: "Right then- (1.) I don't print on canvas, I could, but I don't like it as I feel it's distracting and a bit gimmicky and the presentation is usually done as a gallery wrap with stretchers, which is nice and fine and all, but it's not for me.

(2.) the image would need to be cropped to fit the aspect of an 11x14 which is the format of a 4x5 image, which I love and I usually make my images in that ratio, but like I said this one would need to have part of the image chopped off to fit that because it's an 35mm longer format, of course that is possible but it is not the composition that you are looking at or which I intended.
(3.) I'd be curious to see the cheaper work that you saw to compare it with the caliber of my own work. The limbo stick goes really low, but sometimes the cheapest is not the best. I'm trying my hardest to restrain my emotions through this communication and should be careful to not be offensive, because I was raised well, but what is this print worth to you? If not $85 dollars then is it really worth it to haggle off 20 dollars or whatever? I'd be willing to bet that you have a much higher standard of living then I do, and like I said earlier these funds help me to stay alive and make more work. But in the end I would be most happy for you to have this to enjoy, even if it needs to be a gift. But I don't even know you so you'd better give me a good reason for it to be a gift! 
I also am a glassblower for (redacted) and I used to do a lot of craft shows, now I just work for them, which I prefer. But I remember thinking a lot on the concept of that I wish people could just fill out an financial application to purchase the glass as I could tell that many would like it and or buy it and some would think it was too expensive and others could afford to pay a lot more. So it's too bad that we have to decide on an arbitrary price point to fit everybody. And until I decide to change my price policy, these are my prices. 
Phew! Now I feel better, but I'm afraid I may have said too much? 
That was my reply. .... Was that bad? Should I have not replied at all? Should I have agreed to her negotiations? Maybe should I have raised the price! 
It was never about the price for me in the first place anyways. The reason I ever made pictures or love cameras and imagery was never because of money ( I feel like screaming: "OBVIOUSLY!" -right now to anybody who knows me personally).  And it would take me more than a half a years total earnings to replace my investment in gear that I use to make pictures and develop and print them. And it's not just a "picture" they are buying. It's not an investment either- it's a thing. A thing of beauty if you are in agreement and shouldn't that thing have significant value that when you consider it, it is cherished instead of looking at the thing and feeling some trophy pride of bartering prowess? Well to each there own, can't help but think of how ironic "own" is here.  Bada-boom! And that's it for me for today- good luck out there kiddos! -Nate.


Johnn C. House(non-registered)
It seems to me that all of us who provide a product or service for sale must at the outset determine whether we are willing to haggle over the price or not. If you decide you are not a haggler, then situations like this are relatively simple. If you decide that you are willing to haggle, it is probably best to have some guidelines for what that will look like on the front end. How far you will go, under what conditions, etc.

It is worth noting that people do associate cost and worth, therefore it is probably inadvisable to do very much haggling for that reason alone. It also seems to create some problems when one person finds out that someone else paid less for the same thing; it makes that person feel like what he purchased was not worth what he paid for it, even if he thought it was great before that time.

I personally do not haggle. I will, however, reduce the price if someone purchases more than one photograph. So, for example, if someone purchases two photographs, I will take 10% off of each. I am willing to do this each time, so it's not something I have to make a decision about for every sale.

You certainly do not need to apologize for your work; you do good work and it holds up well when compared to other Maine, and other non-Maine, photographers. If you want to haggle, you can, but I expect that marketing is more the issue than pricing. Believe in yourself. I hope you do well.
John Bald(non-registered)
You were more than patient with her. She sees Maine photographers selling their prints for less, so what? If she wants *that print* by Nate Parker, she has to pay the price that Mr. Parker is asking.

Just keep doing great work, Nate. That's what matters.
Nate you put your energy, art and soul into creating your wonderful images and people should respect that. Your prices are very reasonable and I'm sure the quality output is excellent. The point is buyers are not buying a piece of paper they are buying a piece of art, a part of you and that has value. To compromise on your costs is to compromise yourself! The sizes/formats you offer are what they are for their artistic value and your interpretation. If they want something smaller, fine (unless it really doesn't work) but the cost is still the same. If they want something cropped, re-size it to their dimensions so the narrowest width still fits their frame but leave the full image so they can crop it however they want. To handle a difficult situation, state what the cost is - $165 for the print regardless if it is smaller plus there will be an additional archive retrieval and custom editing fee of $???. To sweeten the deal offer a second suitable image at a reduced cost or a gift voucher (with an expiry date). Take care Nate from Maine.
Well well well..... I have spent many minutes, hours, days, and nights thinking of how I should price my images. Not too long ago I was approached by a potential customer who wanted to purchase a few images, but they wanted them re-cropped to fit their frames. I completely understand the frustrations of framing todays digital 35mm crops in frame formats that have basically gone the way of the film it which they were formatted after. It seems everyone is stuck on using exact fitting frames. I too like the balance of a perfectly matted image, but I also really like some how my 16x24 prints look in a 24x30 frame. It took a day or so for my eye to come around, but now I love it. Getting back to the point, I always to explain to a customer that the image needs to stay intact, just as I composed it in the original working. I have, and will tell a customer that I am just not willing to make the adjustments, and will kindly offer up some sources for frames that will fit nicely. As for price? Well I will adjust that slightly, but the key word is slightly. If I quote $150 then I fully expect $150. Most of the time I'll end up eating it on shipping costs, but that's never more than $10. AT the end of the day, I'll let a $150 print go for $125, but I never let on to that. So.... All that said, I'll say one other thing. If you feel like you've sold your self short, no profit will take that cheated feeling away. My first couple of sales were like that. I said to myself... Some money is better than none, but I quickly realized that wasn't true.
Nathan Wirth(non-registered)
Nate, I am reminded of a story an old acquaintance once told me about. He owned a jewelry store. One day he decided to mark down the price of a 500 dollar diamond necklace to 300 dollars. It sat in the window of his shop for a year until, out of frustration, he raised the price to an arbitrary thousand dollars. It sold for that price within a few days. The lesson? There is no real lesson, but it does show that pricing is strange at best. People assign monetary value to things in the weirdest ways. So weird-- that at times, the price sets the value for some people. I think your price is very generous. I think you should stick to your price because it is your price. I also think that if you have a connection with a buyer, then you should do as you please as well.

I am also reminded of one other story. I use to manage a 24 unit apartment building, and my duties included renting the apartments out when they became vacant. I will never forget this one person who came by and gave me a very unreasonable list of many, many, many things I would need to fix, create and arrange once I rented the place to her. I smiled and said I would see what I can do. The next day when she called back ... I told her the place had been rented. There was no way I was going to deal with a person as difficult as that. Often, I think, it is much better to just be rid of a difficult person.

I guess what I am saying is: this buyer is not worth the trouble.
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