Money + Art = Profit?
October 22, 2009 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Best way for a hobbyist photographer to sell prints? In NYC.

Should I go hang out at Union Square with some prints? Somewhere online? Should I have a website? Should I make editions and number them?

How much of a profit should I be expecting from each piece?

Should I offer to take photographs of people? Is there any money in artsy/impressionistic photography on commission?

My apartment has a great print and two people have offered to buy a print of the same photo (for real, not out of politeness). So I'm thinking I have a decent opportunity to make a little cash from a wider audience if I hustle a little bit.

Cheers, and thanks.
posted by kathrineg to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
are you on etsy? I assume you've already thought of that, just curious
posted by Think_Long at 10:58 AM on October 22, 2009

I hadn't, thanks. I tend to take photos that are meant to be printed in large formats so I'm a little skeptical about their online appeal but I think Etsy is a good idea anyway. Better than a vague website, which is what I had in mind.
posted by kathrineg at 11:06 AM on October 22, 2009

If you decide to do portraits you may need to decide how much ownership you want for your work. Many clients prefer to have copies and co-ownership of their portraits made for them on a CD. Some photographers do this for free, and some charge extra. A good way to attract clients is (surprise) craigslist. My wife does child photography in nyc and gets most of her first-time clients this way.

Also, if you're going to advertise online at all, I'd say a website is crucial. Potential customers can view your photos online and you could allow them to order prints right there.
posted by scrutiny at 11:33 AM on October 22, 2009

Selling prints is tough. I recently had a photo show at a local coffeeshop. To begin with, I was selling the prints at about a 25% rate of profit. More accurately, I was failing to sell prints at that price.

When I started selling them at cost - hoping to cut my losses - I ended up selling 60% of them. As such, I only lost a few hundred dollars all told.

One bit of advice I would give you is this: don't assume that you will be able to sell your prints at a profit. Be prepared to lose everything you spend on printing, framing, etc. Hopefully, you will do better than that, but it is safer to go in with that assumption than with the assumption that most (or all) will sell.
posted by sindark at 11:52 AM on October 22, 2009

The diner across the street from us has a deal with two neighborhood artists who hang up (and sell) their prints. I think they do fairly well.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:56 AM on October 22, 2009

You might check out some of the print-on-demand online galleries listed in this post. I have heard good things about Redbubble but haven't tried it myself. I have had very bad luck selling photos on Etsy but good luck selling woodcarvings there. Photos are a hard sell these days -- I have had similar experiences as sindark, going overboard laying out my own money to print and frame and having trouble selling enough to break even. The best luck I have had was showing large framed work at a cafe, where someone decided they wanted to outfit their office with large prints and custom ordered several. That was many months ago -- nowadays the 2-300$ cost for a large framed print is just too much for people to spend, and if I go much lower I'm either losing money on the frame or selling unframed work (which is harder to exhibit).

I'd advise not framing anything but a few showcase pieces, but having a connection so you can quote a price for framing if a customer asks. Don't print too much ahead of time, and hustle by trying to exhibit in local cafes/stores/art shows and selling online. Make some business cards to pass out at shows that direct people to your etsy or other online store. Coordinate with other local artists in different media to share the buzz-generating load.
posted by cubby at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2009

I was at an art crawl last month where some professional photographers were telling me the prevalence of digital photography has completely changed the game. Maybe you could look into pro photography boards or talk to a local photographer about it, and see what s/he has to say about the industry, too?
posted by medea42 at 3:44 PM on October 22, 2009

The PDN Photoplus Expo is today through Saturday at the Javits Center. I'll be the highest concentration of photographers anywhere in NYC.... you might be able to pick a few brains there.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:52 PM on October 22, 2009

A great forum for you to search (and ask this question on) is the Business section of

For prints, Adorama lab is a great balance of excellent quality, low cost, and very usable website.
For excellent prices on matting packages:
posted by kalapierson at 1:30 AM on October 23, 2009

Thanks everyone...

kalapierson, can I go to Adorama in person? Their site isn't working for me.

I was also looking at Print Space. Are these prices ridiculous? I would be doing my own prep so it would be the preflighted prices on the left.
posted by kathrineg at 10:28 AM on October 24, 2009

You can go to Adorama in person; they have a nice retail store slash print-pickup place: 42 W. 18th Street, New York, NY 10011. (And 888-216-6400.)
posted by kalapierson at 6:17 PM on October 27, 2009

I ordered from Adorama's website. It's working now (I guess they had some downtime) and I am excited to pick up some test prints from them. If all works out well, I will use them to print on demand (and probably to decorate my apartment with my own stuff, because I am cheap). Their website is great, much easier to use than I expected, and I live close enough to pick-up.

Thanks everyone! I marked you all as best answer because over the last month or so I have used advice from all of you.
posted by kathrineg at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2009

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