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Book Review: Marketing Fine Art Photography by Alain Briot

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If you have ever considered selling your photographic work, you probably know that there is a lot that goes into trying to make a sale. The first thing you have to decide is: are you wanting to sell your work as a wholesale commodity such as you would to retail stores, or as stock images? This is where you make less per item, so you have to sell a lot of them. Or do you want to create works of art and sell very few, but you make much more per individual sale?

The goal of Marketing Fine Art Photography is to analyze these questions and put you on a firm foundation to make the right decisions about the sale of your art work. While the author does present an unbiased look both methods of selling, the goal for this book is really for selling based on quality and not quantity.

Marketing Fine Art Photography is 320 pages in length, contains 21 chapters and is divided into six parts. I will break it down by part.

Part 1, “Selling Fine Art Photography,” begins by looking at taking control of your destiny. In this part you will systematically learn what it means to market your photographs. You will begin by defining what fine art photography means to you as far as styles and what kind of work you want to create.

Then you will get down to how you want to sell your work – wholesale, consignment, or retail. Here you will begin to understand the pluses and minuses of all three styles of sale and how they will influence how you set up your business. Finally you will look at the differences between quantity and quality of work and how it will affect your marketing strategies.

Part 2, “What to Sell and Where to Sell It,” now pretty much assumes that you are going the quality route with your marketing approach, so you begin to look at what you will be selling. Obviously matted prints are one item, but there are many other things that can be packaged and sold. Here the author steps through these things and gives the pros and cons of each one.

Next you will look at where you can sell your fine art work and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each kind of market. You will also see how to price your work. This takes a lot into consideration, including what you feel comfortable charging, how much it costs to create the product, and how much you plan on making from your business. This part finishes up by looking at what it means to have a best seller and two different methods to creating them.

Part 3, “The Fundamental Aspects of Marketing, Salesmanship, and Business,” examines the various aspects of marketing, what it means to be a sales person, and how to run your business. These techniques do not change with technology; they work because they have worked for as long as people have been trying to sell products.

First you start off with the 26 fundamental principles of successful marketing. These include having a plan, generating demand, how much time you must spend marketing, knowing the 80/20 rule and how it affects your business, and how to put emotion into your art. Next you will see the 26 fundamental principles of salesmanship, which includes showing respect, creating trust, showing what you sell, and the translation principle. Finally you will see the seven fundamental principles of a successful business.

Part 4, “Selling Your Work at Shows,” is in some ways like selling any product – you have to find an audience who wants to buy. But unlike most other products, the audience also has to connect with the artist – they have to like you as well as the art that they are purchasing.

Here you will see everything that you need to do to start showing at and selling at art shows – from transporting, lighting, to taking payments. Next you will see show booth examples and layouts. Finally you will see how to pack and ship your photographs.

Part 5, “Personal Skills,” looks at all of the different skills that you need to sell your photography. These include technical skills, artistic skills, marketing skills, as well as personal skills. The first two are addressed in the author’s first two books Mastering Landscape Photography and Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style and since marketing is what this book is about, the focus of this part is about personal skills.

The first part is all about the skills and attitudes that you need to market effectively. Next you will look at the 25 most common marketing errors, such as not charging for your time, not counting your time as a cost, and offering too many choices.

Part 6, “Business and Marketing Tools,” examines what you need to conduct business. This includes things like licensing, trade names, insurance, and copyright protection. Next it moves on to marketing tools like special offers, testimonials, certificates of authenticity, business cards, and more.

There is a chapter on marketing venues that looks at where to advertise your business such as direct mail, telephone directories, magazines, through press releases, as well as other areas that you can get the work out to potential customers. By presenting yourself professionally, you will be much more effective in selling your work. To do this it helps to have a biography as well as an artist statement and here you will see what you need to write one. Finally, you also need to be able to have a warranty. This is an asset that you provide with your photography benefits the customer, and you will learn how to set one up.

Marketing Fine Art Photography is systematically developed, concise in its presentation, and very well written. It is very evident that the author is a teacher as he is able to convey his points completely and without confusion. Each chapter ends with a “Skills Enhancement Exercises” that is meant to draw out the information that was addressed in the chapter.

I also liked the author’s approach at the start of the book by addressing the mass market aspect of selling photography and the unbiased tact he took with it. While it is clear the path he has gone down and the overall aim of this book is for high quality, low volume sales, this may not be for everyone. Both types take a lot of work, and I like how he presents the differences. As an added bonus, all of the forms that he presents in the book are available for download from the author’s website.

If you are looking to get into the sale of your own fine art photography – actually this book will work for a lot of different mediums with some tweaking, and want a book on the business aspects of marketing your work then I very highly recommend Marketing Fine Art Photography.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Fine Art Photography

    I have to agree that this is a fantastic book. Reading it gave me the confidence to start selling my black and white fine art photography. This year (2011) I have had my first exhibition for nearly ten years, and sold about 8 pieces of work. This gave me the confidence to create my website and I have just sold my first piece of work via the site. Can’t recommend this book enough.

  • Michael

    This is such a great book. I highly recommend it. Props to the above comment for the accomplishment of selling first prints! And getting a gallery going. Buy this book if you need to learn what it takes to sell your photographs.