Friday Tips: Reader’s Question About Photography


Flatiron Building, Edward Steichen, 1904 

Hello Paul:

Most of the books, articles, and blogs I read primarily deal with advice for painters, sculptors, potters and glass blowers.  I noticed in one of your blogs that you work with photographers.  I was wondering if you would share your thoughts/advice on trends you are seeing in the photography that is selling as art.  Color, B&W, size, etc.
Thank you so much,


Jeffrey Stoner Photography



Going back as far as the great photographers Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Ansel Adams, one thing held true: photography was bloody hard to sell.  How did these cats make a living?  For decades they didn’t.  But ultimately, as they aged, their contribution and revolutionary techniques were hailed, then their work was published in books.  And it was from the sale of those books, in quantity, that they eventually became legendary; hence the prices of their prints rose apace.  In the meantime, they sometimes did portrait work or fashion shoots on the side.

Most of my photographers find a way to get their work published in books, or publish a book themselves.  This may mean an investment from $5000 to $15,000, but if marketed well–assuming it’s a strong book–the results can be fantastic.

Where is art photography going?  Wherever you want.  Just as with art in general, there are few rules anymore.  You can be as conceptual, abstracted, or conservative as you wish; there’s a market for it all, though the biggest market remains fairly conservative (which your work at this time leans toward).  Digital is becoming more accepted now, some people still love film, and there’s a broad audience for both color and B&W.  However it’s my experience that the photography market is limited compared to that of paintings.  For some reason, collectors are less willing to pay $700 for a framed print, than $2000 for an oil the same size.

Your challenge?  To get in enough qualified shows, enough widely dispersed galleries, with enough qualified press to substantiate your career and pricing.  Then make sure you have at least two gallery shows a year.  And every now and then, challenge yourself to try a new style, even if you don’t go with it.  So yeah it’s a lot of work, but as you know, the arts always have been.

Bonne chance.

9 thoughts on “Friday Tips: Reader’s Question About Photography

  1. Paul:

    Having enjoyed your book and blog, especially the parts detailing your experiences as a gallery owner that successfully promotes your local artists nationally; I greatly appreciate your responding to my question.

    I recently relocated from Pennsylvania to Eastern Tennessee to take advantage of the photographic opportunities that abound in this area including the Virginia, North Carolina and Smokey Mountains. I have been accepted into some local galleries with the plan to expand into the larger Atlanta and Charlotte markets early in 2008. Your comment on a book is intriguing and I will into that possibility.

    Thanks again,

  2. Jeff: My pleasure. Eastern Tennessee. Hauntingly beautiful place. I once met a hippie couple who built an elegant cabin there in ’79, in the hills above Knoxville. They had a newborn and all. Very gentle people with soft accents. Always wondered how the story wound up. I met them when passing through on a bike, when I was going to NY via Key West.

    Nashville has a pretty strong art scene. Ashville has pretty good tourism, which is always important for art sales. You might consider both.

  3. What a great topic and thanks for your insight Paul – As a photographic artist, I have often thought about a book myself but wondered if it would be worth the effort or more something just to do for my own enjoyment. What do you think of the print on demand publishers found online now and do you know what market is there for such books?

    I’m working on a deal with a poster publisher – do you think that helps sell originals? I’m happy to make a living with my art in whatever form I can, but the more originals I sell the better.

    And thanks for sharing the lovely piece by Steichen -

  4. Judith: I think any manner of publishing is fine, but if you can’t get a publisher, you still have to put the book out to meet professional standards. Hence at minimum you will need:
    1) A professional editor.
    2) Professional layout, interior and exterior.
    3) Bar Code and ISBN #.
    4) Library of Congress #.

    This is only the beginning. I advise you get a book on self-publishing before diving in. You want your book to look like it came out of NY when done.

    Also, form a small company that serves as “the publisher,” so to speak. This can be done very cheaply. Why do it? No one will take the book seriously if it looks like it was published by you. If it creates the impression of having been put out by a real publisher–which you’ll become through this rigorous process–they’ll at least give it an objective look, and won’t put it in the category of amateurism that Vanity Publishing tends to fall under. Do it well and it won’t be Vanity Publishing; it will be Small Press publishing. Big difference. Just make sure tough critics put you through the ringer on the piece before you print.

    By the way, you’ll be in good company. Walt Whitman self-published in the beginning, and look what happened to him.

  5. Paul, You occassionally comment RE: market sizes in different areas. Where does this info come from other than word of mouth? Have there been any market studies done regarding art sales in areas that include size of purchases etc?

  6. The stuff on this web site is really witty and cool wise

  7. In Zeiten von massenhaft Websitenmüll im Internet eine sehr gut aufgebaute Website, nicht überdimensioniertes Design und sehr gut recher-schierte Hintergrundinformationen.

  8. just a quick hello and congratulations to your nice website ! i’ll visit you again!

Leave a Reply