Climbing the ladder of fine art print pricing

These are a few of my favorite things (covered car with shrubs) -- by Joe Reifer
These are a few of my favorite things (covered car with shrubs) -- by Joe Reifer

Let's break the fine art photography print pricing down into categories. All prices are for unframed prints.

Fine Art Photography Print Pricing

A: $50-100 for a small print. You are happy that somebody likes your photographs and wants to own one. You charge a token amount to cover the cost of printing. Prints are sold directly to the buyer either in person or online.

B: $250-500 for a medium sized print. You've moved beyond the small cafe show into small galleries. You've sold a little bit of work at level A. The craftsmanship of your prints is quite good. You're now selling your prints in editions. You've been taking notes on marketing. Sales may be direct or through a small gallery that takes 40-50%.

C: $1500-2500 for a medium/large sized print. You've been discovered by someone who can help market your work. Prints are now in the 24x30" range or bigger. You may have received some hype in a medium sized gallery, and perhaps some attention from a contest or magazine. Your prints are sold in small editions. You get about 50% of the sale price minus your expenses.

D: $4000-10,000 and up for a large print. You're now in the major leagues. For some reason your work has tipped from level C to level D. Could be an influential gallery, museum, book, media attention, critical acclaim, hardcore marketing, social climbing, dumb luck, or a combination. Probably a combination. The few people I've met in this league don't necessarily make photographs that are any better than yours or mine.

I am currently at the lower end of level B and selling very few prints because I don't like hyping myself, and haven't found the right person of influence to whisper my name into collectors' ears. If you are a person of influence who has a talent for whispering, drop me a line.

To keep life simple, I produce prints of my night work in two sizes:

  • Regular size -- 12x18" print. Typically framed to 18x24"
  • Large size -- previously 20x30" but I'm upping the ante to 24x36". Twice the regular size. 2x3 feet. Go big or go home. That's as big as I'm willing to print from 35mm digital right now.

If you were to ask me last week what my pricing was for an unframed print, I would've said $150 for a regular print in an open edition, and $300 for a large print in an edition of 5.

As Walter says in the Big Lebowski (quoting Theodore Herzl), "if you will it, it is no dream." I am jumping up from level B- to level B+. All pricing is artificial. I will embrace the artifice. Here is the new pricing:

  • Regular unframed 12x18" print: $300, edition of 5.
  • Large unframed 24x36" print: $750, edition of 2 plus an artist's proof

Aspect ratios will vary for a few images shot square or on 6x7 film. This editioning may be seen as a completely artificial marketing device. Or perhaps as a realistic number of prints that can sell of one image. Or a purposefully crafted number of prints that I could care about making before my attention span runs out.

There. I just jumped up a level in the fine art photography pricing world. All I had to do was type the new pricing into my blog. Maybe one day I'll claw my way up to level C. I am not holding my breath.

Are you trying to sell prints? Where do you fall on the scale, and how are you planning to get to the next level?

Update: After finishing this brief meditation on pricing fine art photography, I read New Republic art critic Jed Perl's vitriolic polemic against Koons, Murakami, and the modern museum experience. A very highly recommended rant indeed (via Gallery Hopper).