Web sites & personal print galleries - are they effective as sales outlets?

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Hi all,

There has recently been a post by David Stein - 'New Year's Challenge' asking us to post our web site addresses for others to view and I've also just been corresponding with Paul Schilliger in Switzerland and he raised some interesting questions about web sites and galleries and their effectiveness as sales outlets.

My thoughts on web sites and galleries are this:

I've always thought of the web as a good means of marketing rather than as a sales outlet. I think it's ideal to be able to show and reach a large audience at a small cost and a perfect way to present a portfolio and for people to view a large number of images, but I've always been skeptical of it's potential as a sales outlet. I buy lots of things via the internet but when it comes to prints or pictures I think I would prefer to see them in person before paying out for them. Even buying books can be a bit of a disappointment if you can't first browse through them in person.

Now galleries are different. I believe these to be a great way to market and sell photographic prints and they seem to work well here in Australia, but I have also heard that some well-known American photographers are having difficulties selling their products through their own print galleries. Is this true or have I just been hearing about isolated cases? Perhaps it is an American problem, for I know of at least six photographers (I'm sure there's more) here in Australia who are shooting in a similar way (landscapes/nature/wildlife) and who are doing very well and commanding high prices for their product. They all have at least three galleries each, have their images selling through large "chain' stores and Post Offices throughout Australia and a couple of them have even ventured into the American market, opening galleries on the East coast, and they all have produced "tourist & coffee table" type books. My girlfriend's employer just recently bought three panorama images from one of these photographers, for their offices, for a cost of over A$5,500.00 and this is not out-of-the-ordinary for this photographer. He has also just opened another new gallery, last month.

So I'm wondering, why should they be doing better than their American cousins? Do European galleries have the success that the Australian photo galleries are enjoying or are they having the same difficulties as the American photographers?

I'd be interested (as I'm sure others venturing into this way of selling would too) in answers to these questions and also:

1) Do you know of people having success (or failure) with their web sites either as a sales outlet or as a marketing tool and why?

2) Do you know of other photographers who have been successful (or unsuccessful) with their own print/photo galleries and why?

All comments gratefully recieved, but perhaps those of you who have their own websites and/or galleries could comment on how effective you think they are or have been?

Kind regards Peter Brown

-- Peter L Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), December 26, 2001


peter - as odd as it may sound, it seems, from my experience that it is sort of hit-and-miss with using websites for promotion/sales. some photographers with no apparent merit succeed greatly, while some of great ability languish, and vice-versa. stock photo sales are all over the place these days with the easy availability of image catalogs online from all types of sources. if you do pursue this avenue, i recommend that you engage the services of a professional graphic designer to design your website and craft the user interface in the most effective manner. my own website is documentary by nature, and is not sales-oriented, yet results in many inquiries for sales and publication use-requests, so it is also important to recognize who your intended audience is, and VERY directly aim your site at them.

-- jnorman (jnorman34@attbi.com), December 26, 2001.

I've had my site on-line since 1995, using it as a venue to share my work, and a marketting platform. I use it as a selling platform, but that is secondary to the purpose of the site. My sales form the site are good; I live in a small city on the perifery of Canada, and fine art photography is not widely accepted here - my market in the US and Europe. My website can reach those markets, and sometimes leads to sales.

I am involved in a co-op gallery here, and having a gallery in Halifax, NS, has not lead to sales, just shows. I suspect it would be different in a larger city or centre, but here in the back-woods, the web is a far better venue (either for shows or sales) then a physical gallery in a small city.


-- Eric Boutilier-Brown (ericbb@evolvingbeauty.com), December 26, 2001.

In my experience, people do not wish to buy art they have not seen in person.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), December 27, 2001.

According to a survey of participants of this website, 46 percent of those with websites have sold images through thier website. I don't know how to link you back to the results, but go to the homepage and click on "Please Tell Us About Your Photography Business".

-- Paul Mongillo (pmongillo@thurston.com), December 27, 2001.

The same survey I mentioned above indicates that 7 people that participate on this website and responed to the survey sell more than 50 prints each year from their websites !! Who are you folks and what is your secret ?

-- Paul Mongillo (pmongillo@thurston.com), December 27, 2001.

Thanks for the answers so far on web site sales, but I am also interested about gallery successes or failures. Has anyone any knowledge (personal or otherwise) about a photo galleries and how useful they are as sales outlets?



-- Peter L Brown (photo_illustration@bigpond.com), December 27, 2001.


Here in Kalgoorlie, I sell many prints through 2 galleries (approx 200 prints per year) as well as about 100 per year in a monthly market stall. All of these are of images taken locally, and are often bought by people leaving town. The key is, the images are local: I've not sold one image here that wasn't taken nearby. The gallery that sells 95% of the prints is more a gift shop and framing supplier than an art gallery, so if sales are your only agenda, don't just look for a photo gallery. If you are trying to boost your profile as a photographer, a fine art gallery is probably a better option.

The market stall that I run is not there to sell prints; it is an advertisement for the wedding side of my business. The photos that I display are to make people stop at my stall, where they ask if I do weddings and portraits (the comments on the photos are also good for my ego!).

Happy New Year!

-- Graeme Hird (goldeneyephoto@hotmail.com), December 30, 2001.

My feeling is that the web is a "consumer" medium where you score by numbers rather by quality, unlike a gallery. I have sold only a couple of "fine prints" (24x30 lightjets) through my web site, but much more cheap prints (8x10 and 16x20 ofoto-printed). I don't know if my offering of the later undercuts the sales of the former. To the best of my knowledge, the photographer who is the most successful on the internet is Dan Heller. He explains his strategy on his web site at danheller.com, and it makes perfect sense to me. As much as I love LF, I rely on 35mm for the internet sales.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), January 03, 2002.

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