From time to time I get asked how much will I sell an image for. People who like my photos often want to buy one for their walls, but when I give them the price, there is obvious shock and I never hear from them again. The main problem seems to be that they think I should sell them for far less, but they don’t take into consideration all that has gone into the creation of it. It seemed like a good subject for Up for Discussion, or U4D.
There is a famous story about Picasso, I don’t know if it is true, but the moral to it is certainly relevant.
The story goes that Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer approached and asked if he would do a quick sketch on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, swiftly executed the work, and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather significant amount of money. The admirer was shocked: “How can you ask for so much? It took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years” (http://blog.brianbraun.net/)
When people ask for a price on your image or photos they never consider the experience and the expense that you have had that makes the work what it is worth.
You have to wonder if people think you just go out and snap the image, takes a few seconds and you are done. Maybe a little processing, but why should they pay more for than that? Of course, you could say to that person if it was that easy, then you can do your own. Though we know it isn’t always possible to do that.
I thought in this post we could take a look at some of the things that go into creating an image. They mainly concern me, but for many photographers the same would apply.
While for some it may be more instant, and they have natural abilities, it is more common to find that people have been taking photos for a number of years and learning as they go.
I’ve been taking photos for almost 25 years.
While it isn’t necessary for photographers to have any kind of education, many do. Education isn’t cheap, no matter where you are. There is the cost of the course, and then on top of that you have your living expenses as well. In Australia a degree can end up costing you anywhere from $15000 to $20000. That is for a government funded degree, if you have to pay full fees, then you could be looking at over $30000.
I spent a year a TAFE, like a technical college, then went on to do a Fine Arts Degree. My education has cost me close to $20000. Here we can pay for it later, so I still have that debt, but it will have to be paid eventually.
On top of this, I have also spent a lot of money learning Photoshop and Lightroom. I am self taught, but that just means I haven’t done any formal training, though I have purchased many online courses to teach me.
You have to have a camera, lenses, and various other things if you want to take photos. There is an expectation that if you are going to sell your work that that you gear will produce good quality images. You don’t have to have big cameras and expensive lenses, but there are expectations.
My gear has cost me a fortune. I have a lot of it, and imagine I will continue purchasing more over the years, especially as the technology evolves and things wear out. Everything does have a use by date, unfortunately.
Taking an image
When a photographer goes out to take a photo there is quite a bit of time involved. There is the travel to and from the place that was photographed. It may also be that the photographer has been there many times trying to get the best conditions for the image. They could have spent hours at that spot trying photographing many subjects, and int he end might only have one or two really outstanding images. Not to mention car expenses like fuel and other running costs.
Sometimes when I go out to take photos, it could take me two or three hours to get where I am going. I will spend 3 or 4 hours there taking photos, and then there is the trip home.
When I get home I will spend time going through the images, working out which ones I want to work on, if any. Then once I have picked one to start with, I could spend anything from one to six hours on that image all up.
How much has it cost to produce that image?
The price of that is going to be different depending on each person, where they are in the world and how much it has cost them. Each story is going to be different.
Off the top of my head I’m thinking around $40000 to $50000 to get to where I am with my photography, but that doesn’t take into any consideration the hours and hours I’ve spent doing it, learning it in the field and practicing.
So the next time people are peeved at the price an artist wants to charge for their work, it might be good for them to be reminded about what that image has cost the artist to produce. It is up to them if they want to purchase it or not, but they shouldn’t be upset with the artist.
It is never as simple as you think. It’s never just a quick click of the camera.
Here is a selection of images that if people were going to purchase I would expect them pay a bit of money for.
Bolte Bridge, Docklands. I used this image for MM, but it was monochrome.