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
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.