What Prints Should I Make?


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Jun 26, 2013
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Hammondsport, New York
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Hi everyone! My first post here so excuse how much of a noob I'll be.
I graduated high school a week ago and I've been interested in photography for the past two years, over the past few months I've made a photography business, mainly aimed at selling my landscape photography, with some success I might add. However, I would really like some advice or input on what size prints to make, if I should focus on canvas, etc. What has been your personal experience? If I sell prints how do I package them? Do i just put them in sealable plastic bags (like this?) Do people prefer prints over canvas? Do I include a matte?

Thank you for any type of suggestions and help! :)

ALSO, Sorry if this is answered in another thread, I was looking but I couldn't find something like this. It's mainly the packaging i'm curious about.
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Welcome to the site Dustin. Do searches on here for business, business plan, codb, pricing, etc. There is a ton of imformation to be had. As for what sizes, I would think that would be up to the client purchasing the print. There is no one size fits all.
How & where are you selling your photos?
What works at one time, in one location may not work at a different time and/or different location. So, it's very likely that you'll have a bit of trial and error to figure out what works best for what you want to do.

And of course, I should ask whether or not you have a properly set up (legal) business, that pays taxes etc.
I do have a website, however most people have just been messaging me directly and we'll exchange it in person. I guess my main question is just how to package prints. Do people just generally sell 5x7,8x10,11x14, etc. prints alone in sealed bags? As for being properly set up, no haha. It's pretty under the table right now. I planned to do it eventually, if the money ever got serious.
It's pretty under the table right now. I planned to do it eventually, if the money ever got serious.
I'd suggest looking into that. For one thing, as a business, you have the opportunity to write off some business expenses. For another thing, you're essentially competing with professional photographers who do have actual businesses and pay taxes...and we don't like it when our competition cheats the law.

To answer your questions...it depends.

When I have prints made (at my local professional print lab) they com packaged in clear bags, in envelopes and/or with a stiff board in the bag. I will usually deliver it that way to the client. I have tried a few different packaging options, but my lab also offers a nicer packaging option, where for an additional fee, they will package the prints in a nice little box with tissue wrapping etc. They will also ship direct to the client if I want.

I know a few photographers who are good with 'branding' so their packaging (bags, boxes etc) all have their logo and color scheme. It's certainly a nice touch but it can get pricey.

But really, it comes down to what you're doing. I've sold prints/products to people I know (family, friends etc.) and I'm less likely to go all out with packaging...I'll just deliver them in-person. But if it's a wedding or portrait client, then I'm much more likely to fancy it up. I sometimes sell art prints to a corporation that uses them as gifts, but they frame them themselves...so I just deliver the prints, ready to be framed.

So if the client wants something specific, then I'll do that. But if they don't have any specific expectations, then I'll try to impress them.
FWIW, it's mat, not matte.

Matte is a low sheen photo finish.
A mat is a piece of material, usually made from paper or cotton rag, that has a window cut in it for an image to show through.

Mat materials come in different grades. The grades generally relate to how acid the material is. The inexpensive, low grade mat material is acidic and will eventually cause the print to deteriorate.
The best archival mat materials are acid free. Middle grade mat material is pH balanced, or acid neutralized.

All mat material becomes progressively acidic over time. How rapidly that occurs depends on the environment where the work is displayed.
Museum archival framing methods allow for a print's mount and mat to be periodically replaced as the materials absorb contaminants from the atmosphere and become progressively acidic.

A mat serves 2 purposes: 1. To isolate the image from it's frame and/or to set it apart from the wall where it is hung. 2. When framed, to keep the print away from glazing (glass, acrylic, etc) in front of the print. Humidity causes a print to stick to glazing if they are in contact. A framed print has to be able to 'breathe'.

As far a print size, there are gift/desktop sizes which go up to 8x12, and wall size prints that are bigger than 8x12.
Sometimes desktop size prints are grouped together on a wall to make a larger, usually related, collage of images.

Many fine art/landscape photographers sell bagged prints, mounted and bagged prints, or mounted, matted, and bagged prints.
For shipping, those need to be placed between larger cardboard flats so they are not easily bent, which is then all placed in a shallow, suitably sized box.

As Mike mentions, in-person delivery simplifies packaging, but an old business saying is "Sell the sizzle, not the steak."

So as far as size for landscape shots - Go Big, or go home - seems to be the way to make real money.
Something like 85% of all the photos that sell have people in them, and are bought by the people in the photos.
Note that few landscape photographers make enough to make landscape photography a money making proposition.
Put another way, landscape photography os a small, not very lucrative market segment.
You likely don't realize how much it costs you to make the products you sell.
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One option is to have a lab fulfill the orders. There are numerous options, including Zenfolio, Bay Photo, and dozens of others. I would recommend getting a site like Zenfolio, which incorporates the portfolio and retail fulfillment services into one package. You never have to get involved in the fulfillment process. You can simply refer people to the site. The main reason is this eliminates you wasting time making and shipping prints, unless that's your passion. It's just a suggestion. If you absolutely must do prints yourself, then that's your game. You have to find a supplier that will give you the materials you need for packing and shipping, and you usually have to invest in somewhat bulk orders. Most photographers have gotten out of that business for obvious reasons but a few still enjoy making and shipping their own prints. There's no one right way.

It's not clear how you're selling prints. Usually you have a menu of sizes and the customer chooses, which is where an automated website comes in handy. But if you're selling at craft fairs or something, then you can only sell what stock you have unless you do shipping. Wall art is typically 16x24 or larger. The limit depends on file resolution and what you or your lab can print. Any camera today can do 20x30 minimum. Nobody can tell you what type of material to use. If Uncle Sam finds out you're making money and not reporting it, he won't be happy. What you call "under the table" Uncle Sam calls tax evasion.
I totally agree, and thankfully for me I don't plan on relying on it so as long as I make some profit is okay with me. I'm going to college in the fall and I have another job so this has all just been a good learning experience and a way to do something I love. Thank you for all your information!
If part of that learning experience includes how to properly account for and report income, then you've accomplished even more that will help you in any business.
With a web site you are not bound to any one size or material for prints. Online order fulfillment is pretty much unlimited. I highly recommend that you not pre-print images unless you are sitting somewhere with them other than maybe a few examples to use as a portfolio of what you can do. Good business sense says not to spend money on things that will just sit around, if you cannot turn it over in 96 hours you are wasting money. Only print what has been ordered.

Remember,. part of the taxes you would be paying also help pay for that college you will be going to.

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