The GetDPI Photography Forum

Great to see you here. Join our insightful photographic forum today and start tapping into a huge wealth of photographic knowledge. Completing our simple registration process will allow you to gain access to exclusive content, add your own topics and posts, share your work and connect with other members through your own private inbox! And don’t forget to say hi!

  • Recently, there has been an increased activity from spammers, which may result in you receiving unwanted private messages. We are working hard to limit this activity.

Digital Snob

jdphoto

Well-known member
I stopped by a Fine Art gallery the other day as I always find inspiration in others work and creativity. Beautiful paintings, woodcarvings, limited editions and open ended production runs adorned this small, quaint gallery. The prices seemed to reflect the intrinsic value of Fine Art as an investment with the limited editions commanding the higher prices. However, this gallery also represents a photographer. A digital photographer whose biography cleary states that his work is all done on a computer with no limited editions. They even imply that the convenience of digital makes this so much easier. I thought of the countless hours in a darkroom loading or developing film and prints and agreed. However, when I looked at the pricing structure of these open ended runs with no limitations, it's like I was slapped in the face with a 50 foot roll of 300 gsm card stock! I was amazed that this photographer was openly admitting that their creative process was relatively easy using apps and computers while sitting at a desktop pushing a stylus around, all while commanding prices higher than the original paintings that flanked his section of the gallery. Even the smaller, unframed matte board prints were hundreds of dollars for basic landscapes with lots of editing and filters. Is this just the new normal when it comes to the arts or have i become a digital snob? I'm not saying it's not art and a creative composition is needed regardless, but it got me thinking that, holy crap, this guys a marketing genius if anything. Are people paying these prices? I don't know, but I continued to another "photography only" gallery right down the street. I walked in to this beautifully converted 1790's village home to find digital only images of every size framed in metal and canvas. Prices also reflected the inflated ego's of the owners/photographers who images were the only ones represented in this particular gallery. I even saw a photo of a location that I had shot numerous times and the photographer wanted over $1000 for an open ended, unlimited print. I felt inspired that I could compete in this market, especially since I primarily shoot film, but when I asked the owner/photographer if I could submit a portfolio for consideration he said no because they just want to display their own work only. That got me thinking that all I need to do is buy my own gallery. Now i'm an artist!
 
Last edited:

Godfrey

Well-known member
I'm not sure what your rant is about. Some questions:

  • First gallery: Did you think the work any good? Are you offended by the prices, or by the prices based on how much work was involved in implementing the photographer's vision, or by how laborious your work in film photography (and others' work in paintings etc) is compared to what you perceive this fellow to be doing? Again, did you think the work was any good, or is your sense of outrage fueled by the fact that you think the work was banal AND expensive?
  • Other gallery: Are you offended by the fact that this gallery is owned by a couple of photographers and that it is there specifically to showcase their work?
I admit to being a bit of a cheapskate in buying art and not understanding the value proposition of most gallery pricing, other than that the gallery owner has to pay the rent, has to pay the artists something, and that their hit rate is something on the order of less than 2% of the people walking in the door buy anything at all. (Consider that latter compared to your favorite cafe, where the hit rate is somewhere on the order of 99% ... that is, nearly every person walking in the door is going to spend a dollar at least.) The gallery owner needs to charge the 98% of visits from non-paying clientele to the pricing for the <2% who are buyers.

That photography is an "easily" reproducible medium separates it from many other art forms. How to price it, how to sell it, etc, have been problematic for decades. I don't think it really worth the energy to get up in a huff about how other people price and sell their work, unless you're trying to compete with them on an equal footing.

Again, I'm kinda cheap when it comes to buying art. I'm happy to buy but I have a limit as to what I'll spend on a print. When I sell prints, because I believe in photography as a reproducible medium, I sell them for what I consider to be a fair price, unmatted and unframed. Cheap ... I'd rather sell a dozen prints and make $10 on each profit than sell one print and make $120 profit on it. That way more people get to see my work and enjoy it. Other photographers and gallery owners think that's abominable...

Most of the money I made from selling photographs I made by selling licenses for publication and use of my photographs. I never made a profit on an exhibition (although I got several awards and recognitions), and only made a very limited amount of money selling anything from galleries. My license sales and shooting assignment fees supported me nearly 100% for a few years of my life.

As I'm past the point of needing to make a living from my photography, I don't take assignments any more and shoot for my own purposes. I often make prints for people on demand and don't ask a set price for them: I require that they make a donation to whatever charity to support helping children in need they prefer. What I find is that this strategy means, on average, that they pay more for the print I gave them than I would have charged. They feel good about it, I feel good about it, and the charities get to help a few children along the way from my art work. That's very rewarding to everyone.

What others do with their work is up to them, I'm happy with how it's worked out for me. And when I go to galleries and see the huge prices and such, I just marvel that some people are willing to pay them and that the galleries survive at all.

G
 

Shashin

Well-known member
How much is a photograph worth? Is the value only in its material and labor? If someone can earn a living from their work, what is wrong with that?
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
"How much is a photograph worth? Is the value only in its material and labor?" Shashin

As an investment, then yes, for me that's a big part of perceived value, but that's not stopping digital artists from asking these prices. Investing in an original oil painting has value for me because I know there's only one copy and I own it. Digital is convenient, but it also can lead to smug satisfaction as an artist. My questions pertain to the local market, but i'm sure there's overlap in other regions. This is quite the reverse of the microeconomics of supply and demand. When there's an endless supply I don't perceive the value.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
And you as a buyer get to make those criteria. I think they are good criteria as well.

I don't feel any more "smug" with my digital work than my previous film work. Both require the same amount of craft and skill, even if they are different processes.
 

dj may

Well-known member
I price my work so that it is not so high to be out of reach but not so low that I have too many orders, which interferes with producing new work. It is a balancing act.
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
And you as a buyer get to make those criteria. I think they are good criteria as well.

I don't feel any more "smug" with my digital work than my previous film work. Both require the same amount of craft and skill, even if they are different processes.
I don't agree that the same amount of skill is involved in digital. This is the beauty of digital convenience, but my comments are not meant to deter anyone from quantifying the value of their work or marketing them as such. My comments are based on the perceived value from my perspective as a professional photographer competing in an oversaturated market of digital photographers. Vinyl records have experienced an incredible comeback with sales in 2019 up 19% year over year to an incredible $504 million dollars - The highest revenue in 32 years! Why is this so? It has everything to do with nostalgia, tactile experience, limited editions and value. I shoot digital professionally, so when a local photographer is pricing their work at such astonishing prices for open, unlimited production, it's either going to set the bar for marketing or it's going to devalue my corner of the market. Those who invest in art know the differences of limited editions or better yet, unique one of a kind for value. Others with disposable income might not think twice for spending $1000 on an unlimited digital image and that's perfectly fine too. Edward Steichen's "The Pond" is a beautiful example of the value of film photography and the skill needed to achieve results that fetch almost $3 million dollars at auction. However, digital prints are approximately $35.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I don't agree that the same amount of skill is involved in digital. ...
Be prepared to be disagreed with. Just because you have to suffer a lot more time and tedium in processing and rendering film images to print does not in any way reduce the amount of skill required to do the same job in digital. The fact that digital rendering tools are much quicker in operation than film rendering tools makes no difference whatever to the value of the print you make.

The difference, if you want to be precise, is that digital rendering tools allow for consistent and quick reproduction of a print after you've created a rendering. Chemical processes can almost never be as consistent and take more time to perform. Does that change what the print is worth? That's up to you to decide. When it comes to photographs, the amount of time spent on the production of the individual print has little to do with the value of the print, in general, because the vast majority of prints are processed by machine anyway, regardless of whether they are film or digital capture.

The "work time" factor does not make a photograph more valuable to me at all. The content, the aesthetic, and the photographer's brand or celebrity are generally what I base the value of a photographic print around. To wit: an Ansel Adams print is worth a lot because they're generally lovely and AA is a huge brand; the fact that he spent six hours making the print of "Moonrise over Hernandez" isn't really all that important. The fact that he only made a few of them and his brand is worth so much lends value due to rarity, but AA was too long ago for quality fine art prints captured and rendered digitally so a direct comparison is impossible. However, the same insight and vision that produced "Moonrise over Hernandez" would have been required to produce it with digital capture and rendering as well .. isn't that what you should be paying for?

G
 

cgastelum

Member
Tangentially related to this post. I am an architect that learned to work with pen and pencil; nowadays I work 99% on my computer. While the tools changed and made some of the tasks easier the real creative part of my work is 100% still in my brain and it is my brain who decides how I use the tools. (a lot of people believe the computer does most of the work for me. )

I feel the same way with photography, My first reaction is "Do I like the image", my second reaction is "Do I know this artist, or the story behind this image" and afterwards I appreciate the complexity of the work based on the tools the artist used ; but this is more my appreciation as someone who knows the process, not as part of my value assignment. That said when it comes to my own photography I love more my film images than my digital ones... 🤔
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
Personally, I don't think there's much value as an investment in an open ended production run for any image. I think ultimately, you get what you paid for and that's more subjective than debating the prowess of a marketing strategy. Purchasing a photo simply because it brings you joy is something that you can't nor should quantify. You simply like the photo. Nothing wrong with that. If it's a limited edition of 50 prints or less, then it gives it more value for the bragging rights and generates interest for future works. Certificates of authenticity can also be used to confirm the production and add value. My comments are personal and subjective to my interpretation of photography as an investment related to local artists and their pricing structure. Wedding photographers in my market seem to have a more ethical approach where they don't undercut the local market and respect that other photographers are also trying to make money. Crafting an image, much like an original oil painting, is part of an image's history and ultimately, evolves into the photographers brand and reputation. Perhaps it's just the digital revolution that permeates all aspects of media and entertainment that has desensitized me to all the digital illusions that armchair Ansel's proclaim is just as good as an investment with an endless supply of ones and zeros. I disagree.
 
Last edited:

Godfrey

Well-known member
Whew. That's a dense bit with a lot of confusing statements.

In sum, you value art based in large part on its rarity in the context of making "investments". That's fine as far as it goes. Of course, like exclusivity, producing a digital print in a limited series is just a marketing call on the part of the producer of the piece, since by definition a digital print is reproducible nearly infinitely. A chemically based print has more of a call to being rare because it takes more time and costs more to make them, but a chemical print can also be made in nearly infinite quantities. So what's the point?

Every photograph is a single instant in time, and not all instants in time are worth the same thing, essentially. To make a particular photograph, you have to be there at the right time and capture it well, and then you have to know how to develop and render it to a finished product. That's what I pay for when I buy a print. And if the photographer/artist has obtained a certain amount of notoriety and celebrity through the course of doing their art, well, they generally charge more for it, and it might be worth a little more in the future.

Different notions apply. I don't buy art for its investment value. I buy art because I like it and want to have some of it so I can see it when I feel like it.
Or I buy because I like the work that the artist produces and want to afford them with recognition by purchasing a piece of their work.

G
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
As Aristotle said... "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance". That's where the value is.
 

f8orbust

Active member
Outside of photographs by celebrities, of/by notorious serial killers, of/by figures from history (mostly WW2 it seems) etc., the acid test for me is generally 'is this photographer's work in an internationally renowned museum and/or art gallery ?' If it is then sky's the limit in terms of the price/value conundrum ('private collections' don't count by the way). If it isn't (which is 99.99999% of the time) then they're just charging what they can convince a gullible buyer with too much money on the hip to pay. But, as soon as that buyer walks out the door, then just like driving a new car off the dealer's forecourt, the value of the work is going to drop dramatically and almost certainly never recover. It amazes me sometimes just how much unknown artists think their art is worth (but then the business of art is the art of business). Painful truth is that 99.99999% of all 'fine art limited edition yadayadayada' photographic prints on sale right now will depreciate quicker than last year's laptop (for a bit of fun, try and find the episode of 'Pawn Stars' where the guy walks in with a Peter Lik original).
 
Last edited:

JeRuFo

Active member
I think a photographer should approach his work as a craft. You have to make a living first and have to strive to produce the highest quality possible. Of course there is always the dream of approaching it from a purely artistic perspective, but without the craft side and experience it is not possible to output any product, whether or not you are bound by making a profit or not.
As with any craft you gain more experience every year and your vision may change. With that in mind I can see a case being made for different versions of the same photograph. After a few years your skill and taste may have changed a bit and you might want to offer the same photograph in a slightly different way.
Limited runs or open runs are art dealer terms and I don't want to confuse the two professions. I understand there is a lot of speculation in the 'art world', but I like to concern myself with whatever is on the front of the piece of paper. I think a speculator should take his chances too as to help young artists along. A young photographer should not have to tie himself down by making promises to only reproduce the same image a fixed number of times. Unless your art dealer is employing you those images are your retirement fund. The more you have produced the less you have to work.
Having a good dealer or sales person in your own studio lets you focus on your craft. If they want an image they can buy it, if they just want a number, there is probably a post office nearby.
 

aksclix

Member
I was baffled too.. Couple years ago when I had walked in to a gallery in Honolulu downtown.. some big prints of a night sky was around $8K and some other even more than 20K.. I was absolutely shocked at those prices! Yes, indeed they were good to look and admire but it's just crazy how outrageous those prices were.. I guess its for millionaires who aren't photographers with throw away thousands to spare anyway.. I cannot imagine a photographer spending such kinda money to buy someone else's work.. I could be wrong but I certainly wouldn't ever! Not because I am not a millionaire but because I could definitely fill my walls with my own work rather than someone else's digital work! OTOH, I have spent some hundreds to buy exceptional hand painted art..
 

Photon42

Well-known member
The appreciation of art and, therefore, the pricing, was never related to production cost, other than in the most simple scenario. That is actually also the case for normal goods, too.

There are people here in my local area offering the identical used camera gear for completely off the market prices for years. No one buys, but they continue to offer at the same price. Why? Because they can.
 

jdphoto

Well-known member
Appreciation of Art is so subjective to its perceived value. Both digital and film require talent and skill, but part of my value equation (as mentioned before), has so much to do with the effort it takes for the final print. Debating the merits of digital vs film as an art form is futile. What is art? (read about Richard Prince). Investing in photography as an art form is just as complex with many variables where value is indeed a preconceived notion. From my experience with both digital and analog, I can say hands down, it takes a lot more effort to produce an analog print than a digital version. As an example, printing ten "lith" prints, not one will be the same even though your printing the same negative because of the complexity of this process. This could also be applied to most analog printing to a lesser extent. What it's worth, is what someone pays.
 
Top