Wall Portraits – Why That 8×10 Is Stealing Your Career:

PinExt Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

by Gavin Seim: Updated 04/2012:

Have you ever admired classical art hanging in a museum? Maybe Sargent, Bierstadt, Rembrandt? It’s from the painters that we inherited this profession and every photographer should take time to look closer at what they did. You owe it to yourself and your clients to start placing appropriate sized pieces on walls. Photographers have missed much of the furniture quality appeal of their craft. Part of the problem is that they think of themselves as photographers. As camera operators.

We are in a saturated industry that’s in a rut of low grade commodities. But it’s time to change that. Hemingway was not a typist, he was an author. Those that have the skill to make quality wall portraits are not camera operators. They are artisans. Anyone can take pictures, but being a master of photographics is no easier than being a master painter. The mindset we have effects the product we produce. I Am Not a Photographer (see article).

Now it’s not only the fault of digital or too many people with cameras. We’ve trained ourselves and our clients to think small. It’s something that goes back to the early days of the wet plates and small contact prints that we’ve never quite escaped. People walk through our doors thinking in 8×10′s, 5×7′s and wallets. And we encourage them. It’s helping make photography a cheap commodity and it’s time to start changing all that.

Why should an 11×14 hang on the wall? It probably shouldn’t. Chances are the wall is much larger than that. But we’ve fallen into a rut of thinking small is all people want and need. Some tell me that “people won’t want these in my area”. But I’ll be blunt.. If people aren’t buying wall art, it’s because you don’t know how to make and or sell said wall portraits. I live in small town America and have discovered for myself that people love personalized wall art. You simply need to show them the quality and value of a beautiful appropriately sized piece. But first you have to understand the value yourself. Lets look.

120x72 Albert Bierstadt Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains 600x353 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

120×72 – Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Albert Bierstadt, 1866. Birstadt is one of my favorite Husdon River School pictorialist’s. Amazing work at stunning sizes. Click this one for a large version. It’s amazing.

When you walk into a furniture store are they afraid to show you the larger dining set that fits your room? Do they act like it’s a stupid to buy the Italian leather instead of the cheap import? No. The only reason clients are asking for 8×10′s is because we’ve trained them to. Try showing them a thirty inch framed canvas of their beautiful family and see how they respond. If we do it well, we’re moving towards fine furnishings.

It’s been about 5 years since I first attended Wall Portrait Conference to really learn about all this. I know it can work, because nearly every client I have purchases at least a 24 inch heirloom quality print for their wall (I charge around $600 for those). That’s my smallest wall portrait size. I’ve sold up to 70 inch pieces using these same principles. Not because I’m a hard sell, but because I’m making and showing quality pieces that myself and my clients can really be proud to show.

But rather than simply making my own case, allow history to help. Below are some classical works, listed with their original sizes. We think of these as classics now, but when made, they were often commissions meant to hang on someones wall just like our photographs. Take a few moments to really look at them, then I’ll be back. And if you want to and get inspired in print form, check out some books like Sargent’s Portraits Of The 1890′s, Frederick Church, or J.W. Waterhouse. Or for the lover of pictorials like myself, here’s a stunning book on the Hudson River School era of painting.

46x34 Rembrandt Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts 442x600 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

46×34, Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts. Rembrandt, 1631. It seems that even 300+ years ago, a wall portrait was a thing of note. Look at the quality of this work. Click for a larger version. Even the catch lights look perfect.

Waterhouse gather ye rosebud 39x32 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

38″x32″ – Gather Rosebuds While Ye May by Waterhouse 1909

Cole Thomas The Voyage of Life Manhood 52x80 600x394 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

80″x52″ The Voyage Of Life, Manhood by Thomas Cole, 1842

lady agnew 49x39 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

49″x39″ – Lady Agnew by Sergent, 1893.

Waterhouse TheLadyOfShallot 79x60 600x456 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

79″x60″ – The Lady Of Shallot by Waterhouse, 1888

Asher Durand Kindred Spirits 112x91 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

112″x91″ – Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand, 1849

Frederick Law Olmsted 100x55 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

100″x55″ – Frederick Law Olmsted by Sargent, 1895.

Church Heart of the Andes 119x66 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

119″x66″ – Heart Of The Andes by Church, 1859

morning walk 26x17 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

26″x17″ – Morning Walk by Sergent, 1888.

Nightwatch by Rembrandt 143x172 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

143″x172″ – Nightwatch by Rembrandt, 1642… A print this size is on my bucket list ;)

Are you getting the picture? (pun intended). The smallest original size here was Morning Walk and it was twenty six inches. That’s not that large, yet it’s probably larger than many reading this have ever hung. It’s a portrait that’s suited to a fairly small wall. Probably like that open space in your kitchen.

Bear in mind that I did not have to search the globe for these examples. It used to be normal to hang images that fit the wall on which they hung. Now we hang 8×10′s and call them wall art. We send three by fives to Grandma and make two by three’s for our wallets. It’s not that we should “never” use these small images, they have their place. But it’s a balance that’s been thrown off. We have forgotten the beauty of fine well made wall portraiture.

Brushed paintings are still made large. What happened to the photographic field. Perhaps it was that in the early days of photography it was much harder to make a large print and the quality was far less. I don’t know for sure, but I do know there’s no excuse for image makers today. For goodness sake we can make and mount a fifty inch print for less than many spend on coffee in a month. Yes it takes a high quality image, but quality is a must if we want to make it in this business.

As portraitists, pictorialists and artisans we should be hanging wall pieces. It’s not just word verbiage. It’s raising the bar and knowing your craft. We wonder why business is being taken by amateurs and box stores. Have we considered that perhaps it’s because we’re not that much different? One thing is certain. If you start hanging heirloom quality wall sized portraits in your clients homes, nobody will be comparing you to WalMart. Being high quality doesn’t become true because your bio says so. You actually have to produce something of quality.

Making wall portrait sales happen:

So you’re probably thinking “this is all easier said than done”. True, but any professional artisan knows that being a professional is not about simply taking photos, it’s about selling quality. Selling yourself is always the hard part, whether you’re a portraitist or a plumber. It’s a learning experience, but here’s a few key elements I’m finding to selling wall portraits.

  • Quality: Good images and service give an experience worth paying for.
  • Mindset: If you don’t believe in and have the confidence to sell quality products, you won’t make or sell them.
  • Consultations: People are easily shown that wall portraits are of value, but communication is key.
  • Presentation: Good samples and a projector are essential. I use a Canon along with my Projectics LR tools so I can scale images to size on the wall.

I can’t give you a hundred word summary that will instantly make you sell fifty inch prints. It’s a mindset. Consultations, showing your client real examples, projecting proofs in studio or clients home so they can see how stunning an appropriately sized piece really is. All these things are critical. But that’s not to say it’s easy. It’s a big change in how we’re used to working.

Also making a big print means very little if you don’t really make Wall Portraits. The two are not really the same. Often the first thing I see people when this comes up whip out a big print. I did the same. But after a few years more of study I realized a big print was just one part of the equation. From concept to presentation, I make custom wall furniture. It’s far more valuable than a picture.

If you expect to only sell eight by ten prints that’s probably all you’ll sell. If you learn to sell furniture for walls, educate your clients on that process from the start, give great service and produce great results. Then you will sell wall portraits. Some people will not hire you because they only want a cheap photographer. That’s OK. It’s pointless to work for nothing just to get a paying job. Do we want to be competing with WalMart or making wall furnishings? We have to get out of the cheap mindset and Raise the Bar, because the market is already saturated with cheap and easy.

The bottom line is that wall quality portraits are not just for wealthy clients. They’re for middle America (or wherever you live). People buy cars, they buy vacations, they buy furniture and they WILL buy wall portraits. Yes you have to understand and show quality before you can sell it and then you have to learn how to sell it. But no matter what market you live in, there are people who want them. Once you begin selling wall portraits to your clients, their friends will begin to understand that it’s being done by others and is OK to do so. That may take time, but once it happens it spreads. And there’s little as gratifying as placing a piece on a wall that’s a real heirloom.

Personally, once I started I didn’t want to sell anything else. And because I have so many other photo related projects (like this site), I’ve started focusing my photographics exclusively on Wall Portraits of people and pictorials. I keep forging forward with them. Sure photography is a tough market these days. And while I am still working to grow my client base, these are selling with nearly every client I get and my average portrait sale has quadrupled. It feels great to be placing heirloom quality art on walls.

Canvas?
So there’s nothing under twenty four inches in my studio and there’s no loose prints hanging on the wall. I don’t want to sell a “picture” I want to sell a piece of furniture. That’s one reason most pieces I sell are classically canvased (a photo print bonded to a piece of real canvas). I know there’s inkjet canvas, but once you use a classically made canvas you’ll probably be hooked. Traditional canvas is much more hearty and substantial and has a timeless heirloom feel.

It’s not that we can’t make appropriate sized wall portraits on loose paper or another medium. I do mounted prints as well. But canvas often seems to shine above the rest. Many also don’t realize that Canvased photo’s were around decades before the modern trend of inkjet gallery wraps. Canvas also hearkens back to classical art that has stood the test of time. There are other choices like mounted prints, real metal prints and more, but in truth my clients choose quality canvas more often than not.

When compared, canvased photos and even well mounted prints, make loose paper prints look like cheap posters. Durability, texture and no need for glass make canvas like candy for the visual senses. People love it. Traditional canvas is a great way to set your quality apart from the ordinary prints people are used to. You can get it made from labs like H&H Color Lab and others. Ask them if they make bonded canvas prints. But do your homework because not all are crafted with equal quality.

If you want top notch you can do like I do. After I make prints on my Canon 8300, I send prints to a photo canvasing shop like Canvas Mount. A company who’s work is in a class of it’s own. If you prefer to stick with Inkjet canvas, try a place like Pixel2Canvas, or check with your favorite pro lab. Most of them offer inkjet canvas. But I would caution on this. Inkjet canvas has become a commodity you can buy at WalMart and Costco. It does not have the heirloom feel of traditional canvas in my opinion and it’s easy availability and low cost seem to have reduced it’s perceived value.

Finally… I did not come up with these ideas on my own and I don’t have nearly all of the answers. Much of the credit for these often overlooked concepts goes to renown portraitist Ken Whitmire and the teachers at the Wall Portrait Conference that happens every Spring. It’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. If you want to take your work to the next level and sell wall prints, then just go. They didn’t ask me to say that, it’s just that good. I’ve even had the honor of attending in the past few years as a teacher. I hope to see you there.. Gavin

Wall Portrait Closing Resources…

 

canvas family portrait on wall washington Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

The Chamberlain’s – Gavin’s largest portrait to date at 30×70 inches, printed on traditional canvas. It doesn’t really look that big does it? It’s all about the wall it’s going on.

 

Gavin Seim is Portraitist, Pictorialist and Author from Central Washington, where he owns a studio gallery that focuses on signature wall art. When not in the studio, Gavin frequently takes his family on the open road, working, exploring, searching for beauty and teaching photography workshops.


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  • http://www.unikphotos.com Nikonian87

    People think 8×10 because no one wants to spend $150+ for one 24×36.

    They are exceptions, and those are received with large prints for their multi-million dollar houses.

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Nikonian I think you missed the idea here. And you’re incorrect. People think 8×10 because photographers allow 8×10 to be the norm.

      The point is they will buy them if you know how to sell them. Not just multi million dollar families, but normal people. I charge far more than $150 for a 36 inch piece. I know people will buy nice portraits if you sell correctly because I’m selling them and I live in a tiny western town.

  • http://www.fireflyphotoarts.com Brian Grimm

    This is great advice. I am thinking of going this route also. I want to see my clients homes with large works in them. Thanks for the ideas.

  • http://www.RichDPhoto.com/ Rich Demanowski

    Nikonian, you’re totally missing the point.

    My smallest prints (an 8×8, since I almost always shoot square) STARTS at $125-. It’s the smallest I make. Most of my clients get a 16-inch for $500-. People pay it happily, because they see the value in working with me and having finished photographs that are produced to art-gallery- and museum-quality standards.

    I want people to have a beautiful portrait on their wall that they’ll enjoy from across the room, and not just when they’re dusting it! (Thanks to Chuck Lewis for those words … it’s a great thought-image!)

    Gavin, I’d add that we as photographers also need to drop the “standard sizes” nonsense. Why do we consider 8×10, 11×14, 16×20 etc. to be somehow sacrosanct? It’s bull! The aspect ratio for any image should be what’s right for that image. The mat or frame should be made to conform to the needs of the image, not the other way around!

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Thanks Rich. And yes, std sizes are silly. I would say getting large prints on walls in more important, but size ratio rules are not important.

      I basically crop an image to whatever I feel looks good. Sure I’ll order a std size if it works for my image, but I’m not afraid to go out of std.

      I price my print based only in the long edge. IE, 24″, 30″ 36″, 40″. That way I can print them whatever ratio needed for the best result.

      Gav

  • http://www.unikphotos.com Nikonian87

    Sorry Gavin but I’m not incorrect.

    People (as in families) don’t buy large prints because they are too costly and they have no use for them.

    Maybe its different where you live, but here they will buy small/medium prints for albums (souvenirs), but rarely to decorate their houses (at least not large formats).

    The large prints we do sell, go to rich families/businesses that will hang them next to art pieces (gives me a fuzzy feeling) and the decorate.

    I can say that 80% of our large prints are sold to businesses to decorate their offices, not families.

  • http://www.unikphotos.com Nikonian87

    Taken to the thread as per your request.

  • Studio.Clausen

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Going back and studying the masters can revolutionize your photography! Every photographer who’s serious about advancing should do exactly what Gavin did: go back to the source. How inspiring!

  • http://www.canvaspop.com Jenn

    I agree with your comment that 8×10′s are popular requests for your portrait sizes because they are what people have been inclined to order and what people have ordered in the past. They are average size and larger prints to some may be considered a luxury. It is about perception and people would be willing to pay for larger sized prints if they were what were seen more often in the market.

  • Will

    I would like to add a little to this topic. We need to understand Gavin who buys these large art canvas’s you have described. Secondly, look at business models for who your target client is, that would buy large photo prints and lastly how I would never compare art to furniture!!! Or at least the way your articulated this posting. Or I would never compare my photos to the fine art masters of the past.

    1. Art in the historical sense has always been an organic process to which the artist did truly not have a monetary concept of value for his/her artwork as they started. Instead was inspired to create an interpretation of many things seen and unseen. It has always been the driving force of an artist to transcend common meaning with their art.

    2. If you look at who buys large fine art prints like those of the classical or modern era, I would say , it is not you or I. But instead it has always been the wealthy, those who can afford the perceived value of such amazing art. Those with walls large enough for to fit a Durand, Waterhouse, Botticelli, Leighton etc. are the very wealthy. I have a few of those such people in my life as friends and clients and I will tell you that they rather go to an art gallery and flye all around the world and buy a fine art painted canvas or sculpture then to put a 60″ photo print on their wall. It just doesn’t happen Gavin.

    3. Now if we are talking about business models then, those are the clients I want. Someone who is willing (and has) to buy multiple Wedding albums for their house, summer house, parents etc and who is willing to pay $5,000 an album. And the largest print they ever purchase has been an 8×10. Buying big photo prints will just take to much real estate on their walls that they rather have a painted fine art canvas that will increase in value.

    4. Myself as a photographer, only have no larger then 8×10 prints in my own home and I only have two of those. I just recently did purchase my second Miguel Luciano painting for $8,000 and am not willing to share my wall space with anything else. I have my mantels and bars for my smaller photos.

    5. My art is not furniture but rather something that I study, anazlyze, find meaning in and am very proud of. I don’t abuse it like my couch or my stool. It is not a piece of furniture, maybe yours is, but not my art, photos or fine art paintings is not something I put my feet on or sleep on!

    I would encourage your listeners, to think of who their target clients are. Is it going to be the $1500 a wedding client who shop at Walgreens. Is it middle america. (FYI, I am in this category). or is it the client who is willing to pay top dollar for your service and your artistic eye as a visual artist and who will drop top dollar for the family/wedding albums. We all have to also understand that art has perceived value, it is what someone is willing your art is worth that will either pay or not pay your asking.

    Now, I am sure there are rich clients who would love to buy some major large photo prints, but in my experience that has not been the case.

    So, in closing, I would rather (and have sold) thousand dollar albums then focus on large scale photo print. That is because I am a wedding photographer. And that is what my clients want. That is what they pay for and they would never buy a large photo print if they could have a Rembrandt instead.

    Also, please stop calling our art funiture. Furniture devalues and our art shouldn’t.

    Peace,

    Will

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      I appreciate your detailed response and honesty Will, so I’ll give you my honest thoughts too. I think you are mistaken. As I have pointed out people will buy large canvas for their wall. Lots of regular everyday people. Just because you have not taken the time to learn to sell it does not mean it won’t work.

      If you merely want to sell albums that’s fine, but I am no longer content with that. A large piece on a wall will get far more eyeballs than any album and it’s simply knowing how to sell. Classical portrait painters like Sargent were similar to us in many ways. They were hired to make portraits. They just weren’t afraid to make them big.

      Furniture? Absolutely. Fine handcrafted furniture takes every bit as much talent as a great photograph. It’s in no way degrading and it’s exactly what I want to sell. If you walked into beautiful home and they have a stunning handmade china cabinet would you put your feet on it?

      You seem to degrade photography by thinking that clients will not want to hang large pieces of it. To me hanging and 8×10 is more a degrading to a really good photo. If you only have 8×10′s in your home you must not think much of your work.I know that my work is good enough to hang large. I hope yours is too.

      I’ll won’t blather though. I made my case. If you don’t like the idea and continue selling 8×10′s that’s OK. But it will only make those selling fifty inch canvas stand out that much more.

  • J. Vogt

    Bigger isn’t always better. This is not sex were talking about. If all you are interested in is making money, and the photograph doesn’t matter, then fine. A photograph is something personal, something that you should be able to hold in your hand and admire. Not just a piece of paper on a wall.

  • Shuvo

    Hi Gavin,
    First of all, I have to say, your article is amazing! The canvasized potraits look beautiful. Infact, i was dreaming of getting myself a few while reading :D
    Its amazing how this transformation would make a vast difference to any room I place a potrait on.
    Goodluck with your work!

    Thanks,
    Shuvo

  • http://www.SouthernWeddingPhotography.com Ron Anderson

    Gavin,

    Thank you for your podcast!!!! I have been thinking of this for quite some time due to me investing in materials from Charles (Chuck) Lewis, but I havent got everything together. One thing that I think you will appreciate that I haven’t heard you mention, is that Chuck highly recommends projecting into a frame, and over a sofa. This really puts things into perspective correctly because everyone knows the size of a standard sofa, and therefore wont think the 40×60″ canvas will look too large on the wall. The frame is for a 40×60, so that when you size down to say a 16×24″ image, the frame causes the image to seem even more inadequately sized. I too had looked at ProSelect, but thought it was too pricey, and was going to try the full screen option in LR, but I like your solution for LR much better. Oh and another thing you may be interested in. Bruce Hudson gave a webinar through Marathon Press a while back on projection sales for weddings (2 part series, I think for $69) that you should still be able to get.

  • David L

    Gavin,

    Thanks for the great article. I’m looking for a projector. Would you comment on why you purchased the Canon LV7330?

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      The LV7370 is a great projector. I went with it because it has good specs and a good price at under $1k. I like also Canon products so I wanted to give it a try and I was not disappointed.

  • David L

    Gavin,

    I really enjoyed your camera dojo interview.

    How important is the Canon’s 3000 lumens for projecting in a room with moderate ambient light such as in a client’s home? Is it that much more important than a unit with 1500-2000 lumens? Any reason you didn’t opt for a 1920×1080 (2 mega pixel) unit with higher pixel resolution such as the Optoma HD20 at less than $1000 vs. the canon’s 1024×768 (0.78 mega pixel)? Was it purely price or did you have other considerations?

    I’m having a hard time deciding between higher light output vs. resolution. Any insight you could provide would be appreciated. Thanks.

  • David L

    Hey Gavin,

    I called projectorpeople.com and they gave me really good advice. They are affiliated with Ron Nichols of PPA who has tested many of them. The 7370 was one of their 2 highly recommended projectors for professional photographers. They even have discounts for PPA members so I went ahead and ordered one. Thanks for leading me down this path!

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Glad you worked it out David. I do love the 7370. As to others. There’s no rule about about how many Lumens you need. It’s kinda like the megapixel game. Resolution is important, but usually in this price range you’ll get 1024×768. The high ones are often wide-screen and you want a 4:3 projector, but a widescreen (ie 16:9). This is because the more square picture is better for showing proofs because you can show a vertical at a decent size.

      You can also get higher res 4:3 projectors. I’ve seen some of the upper end Canon units work and their amazing. Their also quite spendy and not really needed to get started.

  • http://www.jeffreytruitt.com jeff

    This was very helpful information about portrait and print sales.

  • Jenn

    I’m sorry, but it would take my family months to save up enough money to buy one large canvas print. The average family, especially in the current economic state, doesn’t want to drop $500+ for a print. It’s kind of like buying a car. The average person wants something affordable but decent then gets pressured into buying something expensive and more than they need. Large canvas portraits are a luxury for most people. But I suppose it depends on your clientele.

    Also, I don’t think I’m downgrading my photography by hanging 8 x 10′s. It’s what I can afford…..but I suppose for some people, size matters.

    Just my two cents

  • http://www.enchantedlens.com Lou Ann

    Ok, I’ve read through here and I really have to give some input. First of all, I LOVE big, bold, beautiful photos on the wall! I have two 24×36 canvases on a wall in my dining room and I’ve just ordered a 30×40 of my month old grandson. Of the ones I have now, one is my youngest daughter from the waist down. I gaze at it sometimes, remembering how she was then. The detail…the iridescent sparkles dotting her flp-flops, her perfect 8 year old toes, her chubby little hand holding that piece of lilac she’d picked up, her white eyelet dress *sigh* NOT something I think I could admire nearly as much in a 5×7! I live in a VERY small town in KY and I have to be honest and that I’m ashamed to say in the two years I’ve been photographing for profit, I’ve only sold ONE 16×20, nothing any bigger, and it was a family portrait to a woman I’d say was middle class, definitely not wealthy. My studio is in my home, so yes, when clients come in for their session, there are my canvases, BOOM-right in their face! They ooh and aahh and I brag (hey, they’re my kids!) on how great canvases are, but they never buy :( WHY? First of all, I think people prioritize their money and what it’s spent on whether they are low income or wealthy, I mean, there are some “poor” folks who don’t blink an eye at $150.00 for a purse, so maybe they don’t vision a photograph like I do, it’s not a priority, a Chanel purse is higher up on the list? And second, sorry Gavin, I have to say some probably can’t really afford them, as much as I’d LOVE for them to, for the same reasons as you: a work of art, something personal to them, on their wall, something that will give them the same feelings I get when I look at my daughter’s canvas. Oh well, maybe someday….just my two cents.

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Hey Lou Ann. Thanks for the input. I can say that unless you’re competing with WalMart prices you’re probably getting middle class clients and middle class clients will pay. I know because I’m dealing with a similar market. I’ll be breif here with some thoughts. Not trying to be rude, just some straight info because I’ve been thru the doubts and I know their just excuses. I live in a town on about 6k people.

      Why? If you’re not selling them it’s because you’re not selling correctly for wall portraits. Are you projecting? Starting from the beginning consulting and showing them what you do and leaving little things out? making it clear that wall portraits are what you well? Are you going in planning on selling 8×10′s, because that’s what you’ll be selling if you are. I don’t even show 8×10 samples.

      Selling wall portraits is not an after thought. It’s not something you hope for. It’s a way of running your business. It’s a start to finish process. You can get an idea of it from here, but unless you’re at a place in your business where it really clicks you should really attend a workshop ion selling like the Wall Portrait Conference. 2010 might be the last year Ken does the conference too, so defiantly worth a look.

      Good luck… Gav

  • http://www.aelegancephotography.com Shawn Cartagena

    Wow,
    I wish I could say where do I start, but it all goes back to the bottom line,
    Do what feels right to you.

    I do everything big even my website.

    People’s mindset will not change, think small and you will be small, with digital we must move on.

    Why on earth would you not sell huge prints. I tell my client that the whole reason of hiring a professional is because your little point and shoots will not allow you to get the big prints.

    I want to see each and every detail.
    Memories are forever preserve them, dedicate a room or hallway make your own gallery.

    If I hear one more thing about this economy I think I will get sick.
    We will never move on with small, negative thinkers.

    One of the reasons people choose me is because I shoot Huge, give me a billboard. What are images for, they are “HEY LOOK AT ME”

    I could go on, but I’m with you Gavin.

  • http://www.ericleslie.com Eric Lelise

    I’ve done some sales in the past it’s a really tough thing for many people to wrap their heads around. There’s a popular moto salesmen go by, “Don’t sell from your own pocket”. It’s very important that you offer and clearly explain all the options and let the customer decide.

    Most of the nay sayers are assuming people are not willing to pay for larger prints and can cite many reasons. However, in that situation you’ve made the decision for them.

    Thanks for the good read!

  • marty schreibeer

    Yeah Gavin, it has been mindblowing to drop in on your website. The many articulate responders to your “big” mentality, and your thoughtful “big” responses was heartening. I came to your site by accident, looking for a “big” Epson to handle my “big” foto aspirations as well. I googled “who will buy big prints”….trying to develop a game plan to convince my wife to let me go “big”a nd buy a machine capable of these stunning, wall size “fine furniture” prints.
    my current machine grinds out nice pigment ink “13×19″s and this size seems to cause a major stir in my town of Santa Cruz, Ca….my dentist exclaimed that the print I made of him surfing “was a poster”!!
    It is so true, as many of the responses from other photographers bear this point out…..the “down” economy has made it much more difficult to even suggest that a struggling family or single parent spend lots of money on a huge print while their car is languishing in the drive way broken for want of money, they have been out of work for 19 months and the kids need money for school clothes. I was consulted for wedding work by a couple who knew of my sense of “small” budget, who dropped me in favor of a friend with a Canon from work…..my price of $3oo. was out of the budget….included was to be a complete unedited cd and one “large” 13×19 for each family. I would love to see a population profile of the small midwestern town where you are selling often, large prints……would it be Aspen Co. or some other well heeled Artsy Fartsey boom town?? because the demographcs of Santa Cruz Ca. would require a photographer to actively seek wealthy, egocentric folks with large wall areas. Same as the women photographer from Kentucky….difficult to sell large photos while your house is being foreclosed and you must pull your kids out of Berkeley and put them in a Community College

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Actually Marty. The area I’m in is simple farm country. The actual town my studio’s in is a tiny town (somewhat artsy, though lower income) called Soap Lake. Guessing it’s about 2000 people. I target surrounding areas obviously, though not wealthy people in particular, just that are interested in buying something really stunning. Generally middle America I’d say.

      I’m guessing by the rampant un-paragraphed response that you’re just trying to mock me. I could be wrong though as blog comments do not always convey things well. You could be trying to make a joke. Your really not being that clear I’m afraid. Either way you have me grinning. The fact that most photographers are not into the large print mindset is one of the major reason why it’s such a great market. Consumers love them, and most photographers are not understanding that and now showing them whats possible. It’s a rare product.

      Gav

  • http://www.joshuavensel.com Joshua Vensel

    Gavin,

    Great article, and great responses from you to the nay-sayers. Glad you are having success and *trying* to inspire others. You’ve at least inspired me. Keep up the great work.

  • http://www.arekphotographyblog.com Arek

    Hi Gavin, I just found your site and this article is great.
    I’m an emerging professional photographer and I recently went to a workshop that covered all aspects of running a successful photography business, including the viewing/ sale session.
    The consensus was to educate the client about the photograph, make them realize that the professional portrait is priceless- they’re not paying for a piece of colorful canvas and some wood around it- right?
    They need to envision their custom art on the wall, build the desire and attach emotions to the image we captured. Only then they will consider spending over $1000 for a piece of wall furniture that is lasting, personal, unique, irreplaceable and priceless.
    Since the workshop I’ve turned around my business plan and went from a cheap (starting out) photographer that even offered 6×4 to an emerging professional who doesn’t offer anything smaller than 8×10, all my products are finished (matted or framed) and I try to keep the production cost below 20% of the sale price.

    As for the people who apparently can’t afford custom photography, recently I had to deal with two completely different clients- one is a successful business owner with 15 employees the other a single mom on a scholarship, working two jobs- she did some fruit picking on the weekend just to book me. Guess what- the rich guy spent $70 on small prints, the mom over $400 and ordered few more products that she’ll pay for over time.

    Arek

  • Portrait Artist

    Gavin, I am so impressed with your thinking…what you say is so true. It is absolutely HOW you sell that determines WHAT you sell. If you assume that everyone in your area/market can only afford 8×10′s, you, probably arent even offering larger options.

    As an Artist who has an appreciation for the beauty of a large wall portrait, it is your job to educate and compell the client to open their 8×10 mind set up and be taken to a new, more vivid level of appreciation for the photo and to be given the thought and hope of what that portrait will become within their lives. How it will enhance their lives and the value of such a thing.

    LOVE your site….keep up the great work.

  • Rich

    Keep on Keepin Gavin!! I’m new to photography and have already sold some prints. You have made me look at this in a new light! Thank you!

  • Mercedes Bergeron

    Making wall portrait sales happen:

    Can you help me? I have a high quaility, oil portrait 4ft x 8ft on full sheet of masonite with a gold frame, painted by Dottie Billiu in 1990. She was our Art Intstructor at Studio One in Gray, LA. Her life long dream was to paint a large painting like Sergents, an old master had done. Well, I had the good fortune to be selected as that model for her to achieve her dream. When she died it was given to me. We love it but now, I feel it is time for it to be placed in its rightful home. The proceeds from the sale of this portrait will be donated to World of Hope Foundation, Inc. to help children and the poor. I have a photo of the painting with Dottie standing next it taken outside under a tree when she completed it, I could email it to you if you could help me to sell this painting.

    Sincerely,

    Mercedes Bergeron

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Mercedes this sounds more like something for an art agency or a museum. Boy you’re welcome to email me. Always interested in seeing large wall pieces.

      Gav – prophotoshow@gmail.com

  • Byron Wilson

    Gavin, I have seen the Sierra Nevada Morning painting in person at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Ok. Its my favorite. Byron…

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      There’s nothing to reinforce the impact of a good wall piece like seeing them in person. Inspiring stuff…. Gav

  • Tad

    See, Gavin,this is precisely what I was talking about in the other thread. Yes, people will buy wall portraits. But not very often. Most of the time they just want some halfway decent shots of the kids they can give Grandma and other family members. They go to the cheapo competition because you’re pushing something on them that they usually don’t want. And you’re pushing it pretty aggressively, which is uncomfortable for them. Nobody likes high pressure sales tactics designed to get them to spend a lot more money than they intend to spend. Thats why they go to the lousy, cheap photographer. I’ve been to 40 different seminars in which the speaker wants to insist that if you’re not selling to wall prints to everyone who walks in the door, you’re a poor salesman. And everyone can be cajoled into spending a couple thousand bucks if you’re just persistent enough. This is horrible advice for an industry that is already complaining about low cost providers. If all you want to sell is wall portraits, that’s fair, and its good business model for the kind of quality you offer. But you can’t then complain about low cost photographers selling 8x10s. Those aren’t your customers anyway. Not everyone is a wall portrait waiting to happen. Most people, most of the time, just want to document their lives in a reasonably respectable way. They dont want to turn every photo of Suzy into great art. They don[t want their walls lined with nothing but pictures of themselves. They just want to keep track of the changes in their family, in a way that tries to maximize how good they can look within reason. They know they can’t do it themselves, so they try to find someone who can. You make it very clearly that its not you, you’re a great artist, your portraits are too good to be 8x10s, and you’re going to pressure them as hard as you can to spend way more than they can afford. So let them go somewhere else. Isnt that fair to the consumer??

  • http://Www.sheryl-long.com Sheryl long

    Finally! Someone who’s on the same page as me!
    Totally agree. If someone only chooses to afford my 10×8 then I let them go to joe blogs studio down the road. I they don’t want what I shoot and sell then they’re not my client – plenty of other options for them elsewhere!

    That said, I have matted and framed a 10×8 in a 20×16 frame before … At 20×16 price! It just suited the image.

    For me, the sales start at the pre-consult stage … Way before I’ve even got my kit out of my bag to take any images! It’s at this point you can educate, plan and build rapport and educate.

    I’m ‘not a photographer’ too :)). I work with the people that ‘get it’ they are the ones with the value system for choosing to afford what I do. The rest of them don’t matter …

  • About A Dog Photography

    I love love love large prints! 12×18′s are on most of my walls, and I consider those to be “small”. What I’ve run into is not the price of the large images (its a factor, but not seemingly huge) but more of the fact that an 8×10 is a “large” print. Or an 11×14 is. General merchandise stores (Walmart/Target etc) play into that. Walk down the aisles with frames, and the largest “prettiest” ones are matted to 11×14. Anything larger is consider a poster and is completed by plexiglass and plastic.

    We need to tell the people what a large image is and that it won’t be as ginormous as they fear. We need to get them out of the mindset that 8×10 is a go to print. Embrace the real large prints!!!

    That being said… I do offer small prints (eek!) currently for purchase. My clients are comfortable with them, because they know what an 8×10 or 5x7s are. I’m planning a revamp of my pricing/packages and I’m thinking of eliminating the 5x7s (I will use them for gift prints as in yay you spent x amount, have some desk sized prints of your dog as a gift!) and I may limit the 8x10s to the smallest teeny weeny weeny package/offer. Or I’ll just make a 12×18 the smallest print I offer!

    The challenge is worth it! I mean who doesn’t want a large picture of their dogs on the walls? (I’m a dog photographer, by the way!)