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How to Start a Fine Art Photography Business By: Roy Barker

The definition of fine art, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “art concerned primarily with the creation of beautiful objects”. With such a “wide” definition of “beautiful objects”, the beauty is in the eyes of the photographer. Virtually anything can be fine art, a simple household item such as a fork, a nude body, travel, landscape, wildlife, a landscape. Not everyone will agree on what constitutes fine art, many years ago I was awed by the sight of the Sydney Opera House, and thought it was the most beautiful building In Australia. However I remember thinking that it perfectly complemented Australia, it would look pretty silly in the centre of Madrid. However if you don’t like the Sydney Opera House, then it does not matter how great the photo you are not going to like it. So whatever constitutes Fine Art photography is a pretty subjective decision.
School of Photography give you a good idea of what will constitute in their view Fine Art photography.

For many photographers this is an ideal line of work, because it allows you to represent a part of your personality, through your work. It is possible to make a political statement by being a fine arts photographer. A clear analogy here would be the emergence of the acceptance of the gay male in photography, over the last thirty years. In it’s wide ranging definition it is possible to be more creative, and in this creativity be more personal.

There are a lot of resources on the Web regarding fine art. One of the better ones concerning resources and links is http://art-support.com/links.htm There are excellent links to photographers’ web sites, as well as grants available to the photographer. Because the definition of Fine Art photography is so wide, it has perhaps a more specific marketing need. Fortunately there are more ways to market them than just stock photographic galleries It may be advantageous for you to think about engaging the services of a full time sales representative. A sales representative will work with clients in the advertisement industry, the travel industry, and also graphic design firms. The advantage of employing a sales rep is that it leaves you free to create without the hassle of “cold selling”. If you are not a natural salesperson, it may be better for you to consider someone else doing the selling. That person should also be able to evaluate the true value of your work, be experienced enough to know where to get the prices, as well as having a proven track record in negotiating the best prices.

There are other advantages as well. Companies using a wide and diverse range of photographs, such as advertisement agencies, will have more time for a sales rep, who has a large portfolio of work, from different clients, than from one single photographer. By the nature of their work sales reps are normally found in larger cities and towns, they will have a large client base of their own, and will probably promote your work in specialised areas, such as food photographer, or portrait photographer. So how does the relationship work? Normally the sales rep will already have their own business, and they will work for you on a commission only basis. You will pay them approximately 30 percent of the assignment fee, that is the net fee, not the final figure with expenses added on.

How to work out if this relationship will be advantageous to you, balances many factors. If you have developed a highly personalised style as a photographer, then you need to target specific areas to sell the photographs. Perhaps you do not live in a large city and have the right contacts. You have already made a portfolio of work that you would like to specialise in. It may not be cheaper for you to hire a rep, because you may still have to advertise locally to maintain your own business that you have developed, but you are paying a rep on extra sales that you did not have before. It will certainly increase the profitability of your business if you have no time to devote to increasing the number of your clients.
You have decided that this path is for you, - how do you go about it.
One idea is to investigate the names of the best advertisement agencies nearest to you, your local reference library can be of assistance here, as can yellow pages. You can phone them direct and ask them the names and the contact numbers of their reps. The Writer’s Digest publish an annual “Photographer’s Market Book”, this book now lists photographic reps, and it will also help you market your work with lists of fine art reps, as well as galleries and stock agencies.
However you choose to market your business, the essence of what you need to do is to widen your client base. There is certainly more work in the marketing of certain photographs. However in today’s market place communication is as much as an art as creating the photographs. Not only is it important that you keep abreast with market trends, but you have to be in constant communication with your clients. Certain photographers’ enjoy the “Cut and Thrust” of aggressive marketing. If you don’t, then consider paying someone else to do it for you. Never underestimate the power of marketing, it is a very potent tool to help get your work shown to the people who are most likely to purchase it.
Do you really know as a photographer what you have to sell and it’s value. As a freelancer you can learn a great deal from advertising clients, They determine a niche for the product and then work on it’s development to promote it. A product is always promoted with a very specific client in mind. You must know your strengths as well as your weaknesses. For instance if you have a passion for taking seascapes, then it is pointless to advertise yourself as a portrait photographer. You need to find a way of getting your unique photographs to where they are going to maximise your profit.

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