Archive for the “Marketing Conversations for Photographers” Category

An interview with Jessica Burko

By Cindy A Stephens

Did you think that if you hung out your online shingle (i.e., built your website) buyers would find it and you’d be successful selling your art online?  Artist and arts marketing consultant Jessica Burko told me that the biggest mistake artists make about selling online is thinking “if you build it they will come.”

The truth is that selling art online through a personal website isn’t right for every artist.  It involves confidence, marketing skill, and perseverance.  And, even if you have all the “right stuff” to be successful selling online the time you devote to creating your artist presence is time you might prefer to spend creating new art.

See my related blog is selling your art online right for you?

If you’ve decided that selling art through your website is right for you then you’ll want a few pointers to jump-start your activities.  After all, retailers like Amazon.com have made an art (pun intended!) of selling online.  The best approach is to think like a buyer and his/her shopping experience.

Below are five tips that Jessica shared with me to help artists be successful selling online:

  1. Mirror common online shopping practices
  2. Let buyers know they can purchase through your site
  3. Have great photographs of your art
  4. Tell your personal story
  5. Figure out how to pack and ship your art before you make that first sale

Tip #1: Mirror common online shopping practices

“People that are regular internet users are also ecommerce consumers,” says Jessica,   “They are very accustomed to shopping online on clean, user friendly, beautiful websites with very easy to use payment systems.”  Artist websites should be similar.  For instance, she says there should be a smooth transition to whatever ecommerce tool or portal the artist has chosen to accept payments.  Visitors expect it.

While it is important your website is well designed you don’t need to do something out of the box.  According to Jessica, “Do what is expected by internet shoppers for the ecommerce portion of your site.”  For example, she advocates that shopping carts should look like the familiar shopping carts you see on other sites.

If you re-invent something entirely unfamiliar you risk confusing your buyer.

Tip #2: Let buyers know they can purchase through your site

I asked Jessica to tell me the one thing that artists can do to make it easier for buyers to purchase art through their websites.  Her answer may surprise you (it surprised me): “What makes it easier for buyers to purchase art, is to tell them they can!”

“When someone goes to a show or your studio they might not immediately realize that they can buy the work online,” Jessica says.  She adds that “You have to tell them that they can buy the work online and have marketing to point them towards an online shop with easy to use shopping cart features.”  Having an online shop can lead to post-event sales.  “It is a great tool for after an event,” she adds.

As a professional marketer I can tell you that any traditional wall between online shopping and offline shopping (those activities that do not take place on a website) has been torn down.  Consider a TV commercial or program you saw recently that provided a hashtag or website address to visit.

Increasingly buyers move back-and-forth between offline and online experiences and our role as small business owners (i.e., artists) is to recognize that and make the most of it.

Tip #3: Have great photographs of your art

It’s easy for photographers who use digital capture to incorporate great images of their work on their sites.  It is more difficult for painters, sculptures and other artists to have great photographs of their art.  They may need to learn the best lighting to feature their art and how to take a high quality photo of it.

According to Jessica artists need to “Learn how to photograph their work in a good way, and have multiple views of the work.”  This applies to photographers too.  She says photographers may want to have one image that shows only the work, and another that shows what it looks like framed and hanging on a wall.  “Showing your art in a different environment helps potential buyers imagine it in their homes.”

Tip #4: Tell your personal story

Last year around this time I interviewed Aline Smithson about describing yourself and your work.  It is my most popular blog post.  Jessica echoed Aline’s sentiment about the importance of telling your story.  She says that “Your inspiration, what your process is, can be a make or break moment between buying or not.”

If you are interested in learning more about how to tell your personal story I recently recorded a 30-minute webinar on writing an effective artist statement that you might find useful.  I give tips for using written descriptions of work as one element of an artistic brand; the do’s and don’ts of writing artist statements; and the difference between an artist statement and a bio.

List to a 2-minute podcast preview of my 30-minute webinar:  writing an effective artist statement [webinar preview]

Tip #5: Figure out how to pack and ship your art

The fifth tip that Jessica provided about selling your art online may also surprise you: “Before you sell online figure out how you will pack and ship it.”  She said consider offering only matted work and not framed work or smaller prints versus larger ones.

In addition, she says it is extremely important to have accurate shipping costs (don’t forget to  list shipping cost accurately in the shipping portion of your check-out process) and to work out kinks related to packing and shipping in advance.  I agree. I sell through my personal website as well as an online gallery.  Figuring out the sizes of the prints I wanted to make available online and what it would cost me to ship them took time but was very important.

As artists we often spend the most time learning our craft either from a creative or technical standpoint, or both.  The business aspects of how to make a living at our craft are often an after-thought, and one reason why selling art online isn’t right for everyone.  If you have decided to do it, take the time to learn from others.  It can save you a lot of time – time you can devote to making art.

You might also be interested in: is selling your art online right for you?

 

Trademarks or registered trademarks mentioned in this post are the property of their respective owners.

Jessica Burko has been an exhibiting artist since 1985 and has displayed work in solo and group shows throughout the United States. She holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MFA in Imaging Arts and Science from Rochester Institute of Technology.  To learn more about Jessica Burko and the Arts Marketing services she offers please visit: http://jessicaburko.com/about/

Cindy A Stephens is a marketing professional and fine art photographer.  She has more than 20 years of hands-on experience as a marketer and image maker during the digital technology revolution, and now teaches creative professionals how to create artistic presence in a changing art world.  Her series on Boston Photography Focus, Marketing Conversations for Photographers, presents constructive concepts and tips on how to improve success and visibility as a photographer working in the world of art, commerce, or both.  Regular guest contributions for Mosaic offer suggestions on building influence using mobile photography.

 

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Issue #7: Tips for how to price fine art photography

By Cindy A Stephens

Last month in this column, I reported on my conversation with photographer Scott Indermaur on how to price commercial photography.  This month I turned to D’lynne Plummer, from the Arts & Business Council, on how to set a price for fine art work.  In a time when many artists sell work in multiple channels (e.g., Etsy.com and direct to collectors from a studio), D’lynne advises them to “have different product lines”.

Create product lines for your work

D’lynne shared an example from her experience with the Artist’s Professional Toolbox program.  A recent graduate has very detailed, large and relatively expensive oil paintings.  These pieces are represented by a traditional gallery.  In addition, he sells prints on Etsy.com from different paintings, for a few hundred dollars.

D’lynne says “he would never have these less expensive prints available for purchase in his studio.  Similarly people on Etsy would not be likely to purchase one of his more expensive oil paintings, they would generally make that type of commitment in person.”

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #6: Tips for how to price commercial photography

By Cindy A Stephens

As a marketer I can tell you that knowing what to charge for a service or product is always challenging.  There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow.  Unfortunately for photographers, understanding how to price our work has become ever more challenging in the past decade.  The shift to digital imagery has heralded new considerations with regard to digital products, the length of time a digital image will be in use, multi-media work, and more.

Commercial photographer Scott Indermaur tells me that “even people with 20 years in the business, they are still sharing pricing suggestions with each other.”

This is the first of several blog posts designed to help photographers price their work.  While I can’t tell you specifically how much to charge, I can provide examples of how commercial and fine art photographers approach pricing: what are the pitfalls?  What are the best practices?  Should you negotiate, and if so, how?

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #6: Creating an Effective Photography Website

By Cindy A Stephens

You don’t have to be an expert in html to create a website that showcases your photography.  There are many easy-to-use website development tools that help even the most technically challenged build a photography website.

What does require some expertise, however, is an understanding of how to build an effective photography website.   Fortunately, the barriers to achieving this are crumbling for a photographer without the wherewithal to pay for a completely custom website.  It all starts with knowing who your customers are and what your goals are.

Get to know your audience

PhotoShelter’s co-founder Grover Sanschagrin tells me a common mistake photographers make is to “design their website for themselves.”  He says “they ask other photographers for input, but spend little or no time asking their actual customers – photo buyers and editors – for feedback.”  Grover advises photographers to get to know their audience and don’t automatically assume that you know what they want.

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #5: Building Relationships with Art Collectors

By Cindy A Stephens

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that as an artist your work has touched someone and that they have purchased a print to have in their home or collection. In fact, many collectors purchase work not because they believe it will appreciate in value but because they love it. (See: Collectors Buy Art Because They Love It  by Kathryn Tully).

If you are represented by a gallery you may not know who purchased your print and will leave it up to the gallery to market future work to these same collectors (See: How to Find and Work with Galleries). For others, interacting directly with buyers is a fulfilling and enjoyable part of their artistic process.

Ask yourself, do you want to interact with your customers, personally? Some artists opt for gallery representation while other artists opt for greater engagement with customers and sell work directly to buyers. Beware that galleries might view it as a conflict of interest to do both

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #4: How to Find and Work with a Gallery

By Cindy A Stephens

Do you want to be represented by a gallery?  Many of the graduating students from the Montserrat College of Art that I met during their portfolio review had answered that question for themselves with a resounding YES.

There are many advantages to working with a gallery.  Galleries have established relationships with individual collectors, museums, and other buyers so when a gallery agrees to take on an artist they also agree to promote that artist to these important audiences. Fine art photographer, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew tells me ““Some artists are looking for a brand name gallery which can definitely help with their career but I would be cautious if that is always the best match.”

So the real question becomes: how do you find the right gallery for your career?  The gallery landscape is more diverse than a decade ago:  there are artist-run cooperative galleries (e.g., Galatea), online galleries (e.g., Saatchi Online) and traditional brick-and-mortar galleries (e.g., Howard Yezerski Gallery), making it a challenge to find the best match between artist and gallerist.

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #3: Building Your Online Presence

By Cindy A Stephens

“How do I drive more traffic to my website?” is a question that I hear frequently.  Creating a website is merely the first mile in a marathon of establishing your online presence, which is now fairly straightforward with the myriad digital tools that are available for photographers and other creative professionals.

The answer to the question is that once your site is built, you need to recognize that you have just started a marathon and then make the commitment to complete the journey.  This persistence is critical to successfully building your online presence.  And that, says online influence expert Stephanie Sammons, “cultivates business success.”

Stephanie told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”

It all starts with getting clear on what your goals are and aligning your online presence with those goals, which Stephanie says is “very, very critical to building a successful online presence.”

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

 

 

 

Issue #2: Describing Yourself and Your Work

By Cindy A Stephens

As artists we are natural visual communicators and are comfortable sharing ideas and information through images.  It is written and verbal communication, however, that is often used by artists to bridge the gap between our creative intentions and the audience of our work.  It acts as a translator to the language of photography.

Whereas artists are comfortable at storytelling using imagery, the rest of the world (including art collectors) often needs a verbal translation from these visual clues to discern the intended meaning. Reviewers and jurors sometimes need this verbal translation too when reviewing work.

Photographer and founder of Lenscratch, Aline Smithson, tells me that the way photographers share work has changed in the past 10 years.

“Prior to 10 years ago artists were bringing in portfolios of beautiful images unrelated to each other.  A lot of the focus was on the mastery of the darkroom print.  Now in the digital age, reviewers are looking for artists to have explored an idea in a deep way with at least 20 images.  Often times that work is enhanced by the written articulation of it.”

Describing yourself and your work now goes way beyond defining yourself by the photographic genre you fit into, such as landscape or nature photography.  “That’s old school,” Aline says.  “Now you are articulating ideas.  Why are you making those landscapes? What is that other layer that makes the work deeper?  How could a gallerist or curator convince a buyer or museum director that your project is meaningful?”

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

 

 

 

Issue #1: How to Build Awareness for Your Work

By Cindy A Stephens

We are witnessing the democratization of photography.  The rise and rapid adoption of digital technology has made photography accessible to the masses in a way that wasn’t possible a generation ago.

Millions of images are now shared on social media sharing sites by hobbyists as well as emerging photographers and established pros.  Some work is superb and other images are merely mediocre.

The result of this seismic shift is that it is increasingly difficult to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.  Technical know-how and creative genius is no longer sufficient to becoming an established fine art or commercial photographer.  Marketing acumen — the ability to differentiate you as an artist — is now a required skill for photographers.

Free-lance photographer David H. Wells tells me that marketing is as important a skill for a photographer as the actual photographing.

“I would argue that marketing is more important [than photographic skill], proven by the wild success of many photographically mediocre artists who have great marketing systems,” David says.

I found it startling that David spends only 10% of his time photographing.  The other 90% is spent on marketing activities.  Like many photographers, he has multiple revenue streams including stock photography, assignments, and teaching workshops and he spreads his marketing efforts across them.

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