It is very hard, if not impossible, to determine the value, or even the expense, of creating a piece of art work. And yes, I am adamant in considering photography an art form. It an artist doesn't create it, it's a snapshot. So, being a very practical person, the first thing I consider is what it costs to produce the image. When I began, there was the cost of film and processing. Now that I photograph things digitally, we process the images with the computer. To expense an image, we must take into consideration ink, paper, matte board, backing material, frames, glass or photographic acrylic, bits and pieces to put the frame together (my husband handcrafts my frames), Framing an image literally doubles the cost of a matted print, but you're going to want it framed and preferably in a good wood frame. Then there is packaging. You don't want an image that hasn't been protected while it displays in a store or at an art show. These things we can reliably price and that's how we begin. If I wholesale to a gallery or shop, I need to raise the price so that I can make back my investment in materials and a little for my time. The wholesaler then usually doubles their cost (or more) to the customer. After all, they are paying for their shop, lights, displays, employees, taxes, insurance, advertising, etc. The first thing I learned about wholesaling was "If you can't afford to wholesale, you can't afford to retail." A lot of people don't like to wholesale their work but I love it. I'm paid for my work up front. And I don't have to pay all those other "shop" costs.
What makes pricing my work hard is considering all the things I can't find a cost for. There is the expense of traveling to capture the image. Whether it's down the road or hundreds of miles away, there are travel expenses...gas, wear and tear on you vehicle, perhaps overnight stays, food, tolls, and time. There are fees for doing art fairs (these cost hundreds and even thousands of dollars to do and that doesn't include the cost to produce your work.) Then there is marketing. I hate marketing but if your work just sits in your studio, it isn't going to sell! Marketing is expensive and time-consuming.
Back to time. If work were priced on time alone, no one would ever be able to buy anything. I can't charge for the time my husband and I spend traveling, delivering, working on the web site, using social media to "market", etc. That's why so many artists can't "quit their day jobs".
We haven't even touched on equipment...cameras, lenses, tripods, computers, and everything else that you must have before you even begin to produce your work.
Some times I'm asked if I'll come down on my price. I can't, and I have to price things the same for everyone. If I have a better price on my web site than the gallery down the road is asking, or vice versa, people will notice and I'll lose my credibility. I was asked to offer a special deal last Christmas at a coop I was involved with. I couldn't do it. Our response to all of this is to maintain our prices. We haven't raised them in years and I'm sure they no longer reflect our actual costs. We've all been hit by the economic downturns of late.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I love what I do and would give it all away if I could. I know I look at things and think "why do they cost so much?" and I know everyone else does, too. We never stop to consider what goes in to bringing us the opportunity to purchase something. I won't even get in to the corporate manipulations that put so much big money in other people's pockets!
Well, there you have it. This is why an artist's work costs what it does to produce. And why it's important to shop locally, support your area's small businesses, and reward folks for their insight and talent rather than buying off the assembly line. And thanks for reading my blog!
P.S. We haven't given up on the gourd project. We've just been busy with so many other things.