To Dream A Dream - A Collection By Jenna Martin

Six Fine Art Photography Business Tips

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon3 Comments

Software Updates Status – Don’t Update Photoshop to 21.1.0!

Lots of issues being reported to Adobe and by some of the power users of Photoshop I associate with.  Lots of activities are crashing Photoshop, including something as simple as using the Text tool. I am pretty sure my advice will be to skip 21.1.0 and wait for at least one patch update from Adobe. 

You can’t run this most recent version of Photoshop and the prior version that I do give my Photo Taco seal of approval (21.0.3) at the same time, but the Creative Cloud app offers a really easy way to downgrade back to that more stable version if you have updated.  Just open up the Creative Cloud app, find the Photoshop tile, click on the three dots on the right hand side of the open button and choose “Other versions” then choose 21.0.3. Takes a few minutes and you will have a more stable Photoshop back.

You can check the status of software updates for information like this over at my Photo Taco Software Updates For Photographers page.

Who Is Jenna Martin?

Jenna, I am so excited to have you on the show just to get a second to talk to you.  We met at the Create Photography retreat in 2019 and I was instantly a huge fan when you talked about the DIY underwater housing you experimented with as part of learning how to take underwater photos.  We did an episode shortly after the retreat on How Photographers Can Improve Their Black and White photography.  Our audience has grown a lot since that episode so I think we need to do a little introduction again.  Take a minute here and let the listeners know a little about you.

I am Jenna Martin.  Known most for my underwater photography.  That is what I have specialized in. I am a fine art photographer and that is the topic of my Creative Chaos podcast, which is what we are going to talk about in this episode.  I am also a writer. Really just talk a lot about being creative and having a career built on creativity. I have done a lot of video work too. My work is always changing.

Fine Art Photography Business Tips 

Jenna, you are a rare breed of photographer here in 2020.  You are a successful fine art photographer! I want to have you share with our listeners some secrets to your success, but let’s start off by defining fine art photography as a genre of photography.

What is Fine Art Photography?

The basic definition here in 2020 is that if you created an image that someone who has no affiliation to it wants on their wall, it is fine art.

Today the term “fine art” is being used so widely it has kind of lost it’s meaning.  Instagram has sort of changed things. Tends to have a negative connotation to it here in 2020.  If you claim to be a “fine art” photographer then it means you weren’t good enough to make it as a wedding photographer or something that many feel are more legitimate photography professions.

There are a lot of different branches of it.  Jenna does a lot of underwater or surreal kind of work.  Landscapes can be too. Anything where you don’t have a specific client telling you what it is they want.  Though it is hard to say that for sure as well because there are definitely some destination weddings or maternity shoots I have seen where I would say the images that were created are fine art images.

If you spend a lot of time preparing for a shoot and plan to produce images out of that shoot that would appeal to clients who do not know the models in the shoot, it is likely fine art.  These are the kinds of images you can create an entire business around and we are going to tell you how.

Fine Art Photography Tip #1 – Business Structure

Your business can be made up of two parts.  There is the client-based portion of a photography business and then there CAN be an art based portion.  

Client-Based Photography

Client-based is your standard photography service where you are hired by a client to create some specific images for them.  Weddings, seniors, sports, a building. Anything where you were specifically hired by a client who has asked for specific images.

People tend to stay in this mindset.  A good way of growing your client-based business is looking for gaps in your market.  Looking for needs for senior portraits, family portraits, whatever photography services seem to be in demand in your local area and there aren’t enough good photographers meeting that demand.

Let’s compare this to writing a book.  Client-based development of that book would be looking at the market and deciding to write a book based on the hottest genre selling the most books.  If you can do a good job writing in that genre, you have market data telling you there is a broad client-base you should have interested in your book.  It will still take marketing and doing all of the normal business things to promote that book and make that client-base aware it is there, but you are really taking direction from the clients on what you are writing.

Art-Based Photography

Art-based business for a photographer are more likely personal projects where you have a creative vision in mind of something you want to produce and then you are going to find clients for the images afterwards.  Though if you become successful with this you will actually have clients heavily anticipating releases of your art-based process so the definition can get a little tricky.

Back to the book example.  You write the book you want to write because you have a killer idea for a book.  Has nothing to do with the fact that romance is dominating the best sellers list.  You are writing a crime thriller book because of the ideas swirling around in your head that just need a little development.  You don’t go on Instagram and ask your audience if they are more likely to buy your book if there are dragons in it. That is client-based photography.

You still have to do the normal business things again here with marketing and promoting your book so that clients can find it, but this is your work that came from a passionate and creative idea within you.

Fine art photography tends to result out of art-based photography than it does client-based photography.  You could end up creating an image so stunning there are a lot of people who would want it as a result of a client-based photography session, it just isn’t as likely.

Fine Art Photography Tip #2 – Build A Cohesive Collection
To Dream A Dream - A Collection By Jenna Martin

After you have done some art-based photography, what is the next step?  No mountain has ever paid a photographer to take its picture, so how are you going to make money after you have created images nobody has specifically asked for?

If you have created a great image, that is a good start, but you are going to have a hard time getting much interest with a single image – even if that image is truly stunning.  Get a few images, say ten of them, that are in the same genre or all look like they belong together and organize them into a group on your website. You don’t want to have images of mountains combined with portraits.

Your objective is to build up a “cult” like following.  Fine art clients don’t tend to buy a single image from an artist that is new to them.  They buy collections, or at least three or four from a collection. They may be decorating a room and they want all of the art in that room to go together.  They are likely to do something like buy three shots to hang over a couch and you have just made it dead simple for them to have multiple pieces to choose from.

It tends to be a pretty easy thing to do early on, but as you continue to shoot you will probably end up needing to break things apart into multiple collections.  Organize them on your website that way so that it is easy for a client to see images that all go together.

Make sure your website very clearly guides people to the images they are interested in.  You can have client-based photography services be marketed on your site along with fine art images, but make sure it is clear on the first page.

Fine Art Photography Tip #3 – Pitch Your Collection

Once you have your collection of images that go together resulting from the art-based process, you have to make people who are likely to be interested in that collection aware they are there.  That doesn’t happen by putting them on a website and hoping google will let those people know they are there. Not even with SEO magic.

You have to actively pitch your collection.  This is a business, it has to be treated like a business.  Who are these images going to appeal to? Would interior designers be interested in them?  If so, how can you find all of the interior designers in your area? If there aren’t many in your area, is there some kind of nation list of interior designers or a website that offers interior designer services (like Houzz)?  Find those people and send them an email and call them on the phone.

It is going to take a lot of work.  You will likely have to pitch your collection hundreds of times before you find a single client who will pay for your work.  Don’t let it discourage you, it is a challenge every fine art photographer faces.  

When you figure out what clients you are going to pitch your collection to, send them a link to that collection.  Don’t make them wade through other collections or even your client-based photography. They won’t get through that.

You will likely be surprised by the type of clients that will be interested in your fine art images.  Jenna didn’t set out to sell her underwater images to massage parlors or mental health clinics, but it turns out water is very soothing to our minds and they look for art with water as a major part of the image.

Fine Art Photography Tip #4 – Galleries and On Demand Websites

Similar to pitching your collection, you can put your images in an old-school gallery.  Galleries always have rules of what it is you have to do with your image for them to present them, so print your image and frame it exactly to their rules and go show them that way.

Good galleries will go 50/50 on purchases of your images, some will go 60/40 (60 for the gallery).  A true gallery doesn’t charge you a monthly fee to present your work, don’t do those. This gives you a way to show your work to clients who are interested in fine art and it is up to the gallery to get those potential clients in the door using something like live music or a reputation for bringing in fine art they like.

You can also sell online through on demand sites.  Saatchi Art, Fine Art America, Society6, RedBubble, Zazzle are all on demand sites that fine art clients know about.  There are a lot of them. Your images get uploaded and people can buy a print or they can have it put on a pillow or coffee mug.  Very different from stock photography, the client isn’t downloading your image and using it however they like. They are buying your image as a print or on an object and getting it shipped to them through one of these on demand sites.

Fine Art Photography Tip #5 – Countdowns and Limited Edition Pricing

After doing all of these tips you should have a pretty good following of clients you know your fine art work and are anxiously waiting for your next collection.  It takes a ton of work and exceptional images, but once you get there you can do a countdown.

A countdown is where you put out information that a new collection is about to be released.  You announce it on social media (where all of these clients are following you) and in an email newsletter you want to make sure clients can sign up for so that they will know when you release a new collection.

You count down to the date it will be released, building anticipation in your cult like following of fine art clients, letting them know how many copies of your fine art images you are making available in a limited edition.  This builds scarcity with demand and makes your images significantly more valuable. This way those clients will just be waiting for the release of your new collection and jump on it!

Your limited edition for the collection can not only be limited by how many copies of the image are available, it is common to have them limited based on the size of the print.  For example, you could offer each image in a limited edition of 25 prints where 15 are available at a smaller size, 7 at a little larger size, and 3 at a very large size.

Open up that limited edition print of the collection to your dedicated email following first, give them a few days to buy from the limited edition before you open it up to the public.  This helps to make your clients feel important. Make it clear how long they have before you open it up. After that time has passed, you can make the collection available to the world and build interest by saying how many of the prints of the limited edition have already been sold.

You can keep the pricing of each collection about the same with very modest increases or you can raise it a little with each new collection as your value as a fine art photographer has grown. You can price everything in the collection using static pricing where every print of the same size is the same price.  Or you can use something called ladder pricing where the print at a size starts off at one price and as they get purchased that price increases.

Ladder pricing works really well with countdowns.  It makes those clients even more interested in making sure they buy quickly after a new collection is released so that they can get that slightly lower pricing.

Fine Art Photography Tips #6 – Free Training!

Jenna has been teaching photographers how to be successful with fine art for a while.  She used to sell courses on the topic, but decided a while ago to make most of it freely available as episodes in her Creative Chaos podcast:

Doodads

Jeff: Platypod Ultra Flat Tripod ($60).  I just got one of these handy little tripods.  It’s a flat piece of metal with some very well designed holes in there and a standard 3/8-16 screw (3/8 inches with 16 threads per inch) for mounting a ball head to it.  Provides stability for getting landscape shots without all the bulk of a full tripod. I am planning a trip with a friend of mine to go to Moab in March. We are going to do some Milky Way shooting where I will use a full tripod, but we are also going to do some slick rock canyoneering and I am excited to give this little guy a good test.  If I like it like I think I am going to then I will talk about it again in a future episode.

Jenna: Yongnuo Wireless Shutter Release ($35).  Here they are for Canon and Nikon.

Reminders

Comments

  1. Your podcasts are most helpful and interesting. Thank you.

    I appreciate you saying when it is safe to load a new version of Lightroom.

    But I am confused. You said, I believe, to stay in version 21.1.0 and NOT to download 21.0.3. My versions do not correlate to that. My LR Classic is version 9.1 and CC is version 3.1.

    Am I looking at the wrong thing? Thank you.

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