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Review: Marketing Fine Art Photography By Alain Briot

Rocky Nook Press Press sent me a review copy of Alain Briot’s new book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, and I was delighted for two reasons. First, Rocky Nook’s volumes are beautifully bound and printed on acid-free paper and are a delight to hold and work from because they stay flat and open as you read or work from them. The second reason is that Alain Briot is a learned and articulate photographer and writer who shares his expertise in a relaxed and candid manner as though his reader is a fast friend with whom he is willing to share his most cherished knowledge. The book itself will stay bright and crisp on my bookshelf for years, and the information gives me a good look at Briot’s thinking, experience, and expertise.

Throughout the book Briot shows his own work on various pages and certainly establishes himself as a prolific and gifted photographer as well as a successful salesman. Any regular visitor to Luminous will be familiar with Alain Briot’s photographs and writings where he has produced a copious amount of material regarding aesthetics and design. His other volumes from Rocky Nook include Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style, and Mastering Landscape Photography.

Briot begins this book with the premise that it takes marketing to sell even the finest photograph. He feels that, “A poor photograph well-marketed will outsell a great photograph poorly marketed.”

He begins, “most photographers who sell their work spend far too much time and money on equipment and far too little on marketing.” Briot begins by explaining what marketing is in the Fine Arts world, the goal of marketing, and why marketing is indispensible. He asks the photographers to define themselves and feels that photography must be a full time career in order for the photographer to succeed.

In order to sell fine art photography it is necessary to define what is Fine Art photography. What makes it art and not just a photograph? It is the skill (technique) and insight (creative vision) that makes the difference in photographs and photographers. It is the ability of the photographer to find and incorporate a metaphor in the image that can be seen, felt, or understood by the viewer so that a linkage between the photograph and the viewer (purchaser) can be established.

For the beginning Fine Arts photographer, Briot discusses the problems of wholesale, consignment, or retail sales, and the decision of whether to go for quantity or quality of work. Where to find a marketplace? Where Fine Art Prints can be sold and the potential profit margins of each are discussed. In Part Three, Briot approaches the fundamentals and principles of successful marketing and introduces us to the seven fundamentals of successful businesses, and emphasizes how to sell your work at Art Shows and emphasizes how credit card and PayPal sales reach the customer and actually make impulse sales (on the part of the customer) so much easier.

Visual examples of show booth setups and displays greatly enhance Briot’s marketing advice and make it evident that he practices what he advocates. His advice to avoid the “fly trap” booth is telling and convincing as he describes the psychology of the potential client. Placement of spare inventory, desk for receipts, and the way to greet every visitor are all bits of extremely helpful information that bears careful rereading. The ability to pack and ship photographs?and the willingness to do so?are also strong selling points as so many potential clients are on vacation and are not prepared to carry the photograph (framed or rolled) away with them. Having a sheet with fixed shipping costs assure the client that you are not “winging it” on shipping and handling. All of these elements contribute to the professional appearance of the booth and the photographer.

After all the discussion about how to produce work, how to display and present it, and how to package and ship it, Briot takes 38 pages to discuss the combination of skills that it takes to make a Fine Arts photographer. Technical, artistic, marketing, and personal skills are discussed and expounded upon in such a manner that any reader should be able to follow the structure with which Briot established himself to rise from a non-native speaker newly come to the United States into a successful businessman and photographer.

As a teacher and Fine Arts photographer myself, I find that Briot has articulated and demonstrated so many of the facts that face the Fine Arts photographer that I truly wish that I could have read his book fifty years ago when I first moved into the teaching and Fine Arts fields and choose teaching rather than attempting to be a full-time Fine Arts Photographer. So much of my own experiences mirror or verify his own that I cannot help but recommend, strongly recommend, this book to any photographer who contemplates attempting to make a living in the Fine Arts photography field.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Alian Briot’s Marketing Fine Art Photography, Rocky Nook Press, ISBN-13: 978-1-933952-55-0. US $44.95 CAN $51.95, and if you have not looked at his other two excellent volumes, I recommend them as well. You might as well have the entire experience.


ArtWorks Featured

Marketing Monday: four important easy things


mm logo w sign Marketing Monday: four important easy things

Instead of a big long thing today I’m going to share a collection of small things…things I’ve learned, thought about, stumbled over, avoided and always had a kernal of an article in them. And trust me they all fit together….

No! I won’t do it…

One of my children was particularly stubborn about what she would or would not eat and frequentlyvegie2 Marketing Monday: four important easy things would pick something to call “nasty” and promptly refuse to eat it. After trying everything one particularly cranky  day I hit on an idea…. I simply said “you don’t have to eat this and I don’t want to hear anymore “nasty”. She soon realized the reverse logic I was applying and decided she would rather eat the “nasty stuff” and continue to call it nasty than not eat it and not be able to call it “nasty”.

Over the last several decades I have worked with many many small businesses around the country  and almost universally heard ” I don’t have time to market” and yet would continue to complain about having no buyers…my answer to them was the same as to my children “Fine don’t take the time to put yourself out there and don’t come complaining to me about no buyers”. See their real issue was fear about something or other around actually promoting themselves, a fear I might add that is pretty universal and one that drives small business owners into hiding out doing “real work”.

At one point, I had a couple of clients who were “really ready” to “jump in and do what it takes” to get their businesses to the  “next level”. Something I might ad I was pretty excited about, however, as soon as we got to the nitty gritty of things they suddenly started becoming “to busy”. Turns out being busy was a detraction because it gave them the feeling of “doing something productive” which means that they didn’t see doing things that would actually bring in more customers as being “productive”. Don’t worry I’m not going to get all Psyche 101 here…the point is they preferred to stay where they were and just complain.

So the next time you find yourself saying I don’t have time to waste on Facebook, or twitter, or blogging step back and take a long look at what you ARE spending time on and just how much it is contributing to your biz. You see, we have a strange definition of what productive actually means, for most it means “nose to the grind stone” sufferingly “hard” work, especially if that “hard work” is something we “know” how to do.

So….go ahead and keep up the “hard work” but don’t complain when those who do the
“easy stuff” start leaving you behind. The real “hard work” is stepping up and letting yourself learn and succeed.

eyes Marketing Monday: four important easy thingsDude! Don’t make my eyes hurt…

One of the things I used to do as an Urban Designer was work with communities, neighborhoods and cities on issues around aesthetics, visual decision making, and human scale. A key point of focus was always a perceptive clash between businesses “need” to advertise their presence, their need to be found and the greater need for visual continuity within the community. If you have ever driven down a strip in anywhere USA you know what I’m talking about…that is called “visual clutter” which in turn virtually eliminates the very thing it is trying to accomplish…give you a chance to see what you are looking for.

What you were experiencing was the result of the business community feeling that they had to display everything at one time in the hopes that a few moving at 40mph could discover where they were headed. In essence they were ignoring one of the cardinal rules of visual decision making…”Don’t make my eyes hurt” so because they wanted to make sure you saw everything they ended up not letting you see what you indeed wanted to see.

This same principle applies especially to folks one would least expect….artists. I visit lots of artist web sites and go to lots of art fairs and I am continually shocked, yes shocked by all the noise. If you are in the art business and have lots of blinking lights and buttons and badges running up and down your blog/website over a bright pink background, with big yellow swirlies and flowers you might want to step back and re-think about the business you are in.

If you are in the business of art as in making my eyes feel good about what you have and giving my eyes the chance to find what it is I may be looking for then please, please, please don’t make my eyes hurt. Instead, get down to the basics of what you are about and soothingly invite my eyes in to explore the beauty of your creation. This applies to all those places you have your stuff whether on the web or at an art fair be kind to my eyes so they can see what you have.

Are you for real…

Really?….are you an accidental artist, or one who has a passion for creating and wants to do everything possible to sell your work? So what are you doing to be taken seriously? And by seriously, I mean not being seen as a “flea market ” vendor but rather someone who has something of great value to offer to us. Because, in my travels on and off-line, I see very few, who actually give the impression that they will be around for the duration… as in not just dabbling.

This is not a criticism, but rather an observation, if you are going to be an artist… then be one!  Think of it this way…would you let a surgeon who was not passionately dedicated to your welfare cut you open? I thought so…now answer this: Why are you cheating your buyers out your value? And…it really doesn’t matter if you do it part time as long as you do it with heart and passion and show me the value. I could give a rip how much or hard you work, all I want is that good stuff that comes out of you.

So, how does this passion show up? Well, to start with especially you art fair artists, in the way you present your work to a jury. This goes back a little, to the not making my eyes hurt thing above, I have sat on many juries for many different creative things and I have to say no one got my votes if they made my eyes hurt or my lips curl. Jurors want to, not only see your work, they also want to see if you care about your work so much that they as jurors should to.

So please, please, don’t use that dirty old blanket as a backdrop, clean you camera lens and especially make sure those slides don’t have an goobers on them. Also, don’t show me a 1970’s Kodachrome slide that has aged well.

Showing me you care about your stuff shows me as a buyer you care about me, it shows me you will be around for a while.  If you’re going to be around for a while, I might be more inclined to buy something now and next time bring my friends. But if your booth looks like it belongs in Afghanistan or upper Kurzacstan I doubt I’ll

  • buy now and/or
  • come back to buy more since I don’t get the message that you’ll be around.

Oh and one more thing don’t give me one of those inkjet printed cards ’cause they are just so cheezy, and cheezy is not what I’m looking for in an artist.

artist2 Marketing Monday: four important easy thingsPull your head out of your art…

Ok…I get it your work is special and you want me to really know how special it is. In fact you want me to think it is so special that you don’t let me touch it or at least you make it hard for me to feel its realness. And when I ask about it you stand there all stiff and start talking about your glaze ingredients, or your mark making, or all the various things you do to or on your work to make it art. But ya know what? I don’t care! I don’t care that you stuck that little pot in the far lower corner of your reverse gas combined wood fire kiln and reductio fired it till the flame was pink then threw in some magic dust. I just don’t care.

What I do care about is what drove you to do all that… where did it come from, why did you make it. Because that is the core of its origin, that thing came from you not your kiln, your paint mixture or whatever magic formula you mixed up. It came from some place deep inside you, a voice that told you to mix up that magic dust the way only you can. That my friend, is what I want to know because that makes your stuff the real deal, and that is something I can collect, because no one else can mix up that magic dust like you do. Kinda like Michalangelo or DaVinci despite a lack of trying nobody has been bee able to  really copy them.

Finally, like I’ve said before many times don’t make your stuff hard for me to access, tell me or better let me discover how it will give value to me and everyday life. Will it make me laugh? Make me remember? Make me cry? Help me heal or any combination there of? How will it fit in my life and make some part better than it is now? That’s it that’s all I want to know… more than anything else.

Can you guess what the common thread was? Let me know in a comment…

pixy Marketing Monday: four important easy things

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Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

Historically, the process of selling goods and services fell generally into what came to be called the Sales Funnel Model. In this model businesses offered their goods and services through advertising campaigns that were largely aimed at the constant stream of potential buyers…this was a mass sales approach. Businesses would “catch” potential buyers as they stumbled into the wide mouth of their sales funnel…it was basically a mass approach to selling. Once inside the funnel buyers were pitched on the  benefits of the businesses product using a wide range of persuasive techniques. This approach was the “law” of the sales world for decades, it was practiced by everybody from the Fullerbrush man of the ’30s to the ’50s to car and appliance sales of today. Because of the negative emotions associates with the words sales and marketing many small businesses found reasons to either not market or to camouflage their methods.

The Artists’ Funnel

Many artists  have failed to market primarily because of the stigma associated with the word. Instead, they have favored delegating that task to show or gallery venues…often with less than stellar results because the shows and galleries have been using an adaptation of the sales funnel approach. The graphic below shows how that model looks and illustrates the result which is a reliance on random sales.

funnel1 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

The top level of the graphic illustrates the flow of potential buyers in the market, some of those buyers may “fall” into the funnel either by accident or intention as a result of the venue’s marketing efforts. As these potential buyers pass through the funnel some may choose to leave causing the actual number of potential buyers “falling” out of the funnel to be less than those that entered.

From this reduced stream of “falls” through the funnel a ‘flow” of potential buyers is created. At this level are the artist funnels doing the same thing the venue funnel is doing…trying to “catch” a large number of potential buyers in hopes that a few will buy.
Some artists have larger numbers of “falls” into their funnel and some fewer, in any event the sales that do occur are mostly the result of chance. The graphic illustrates that  artists’ final sales numbers in terms of dollars don’t necessarily reflect the volume of potential buyers “falling” into the funnel mostly because the artists sales are not based on conscious action on their part.

The fundamental flaw of the funnel model is that it is not far from using a roulette wheel to make sales. There is no strategy to proactively attract or engage potential buyers by using the values, and metaphors that drove the products’ creation.

The rise of communications tools, and an unwillingness to participate in persuasion based selling consumers have changed all this, as I have mentioned in earlier articles. More engagement is now and will be more and more expected. Following the old way will pretty much guarantee failure for 21st Century businesses. Artists are positioned well for this change because most if not all of our sales are made face to face and the energy we put into our work in most cases reflects our values, style and metaphors. After sifting through all the possibilities I have come up with an artist focused strategy consisting of two models that can be used separately or in concert. The first is The Attraction Model and the second is The Network Model.

Using Attraction

The Attraction Model is illustrated below and is built around sending the “scent” of your style, values and metaphors out into the world to attract those who are attracted by them. For this model to work you as an artist must do more than set your work onto shelves or gallery pedestals, you must

  • Be clear the values you instill in your work,
  • Your style must be evident
  • You must be conscious of the metaphors and stories your work tells.

attraction3 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

Once you are clear about all of these you must now make sure that your work is displayed in a manner that enhances your “scent” and reinforces its story. You also need to make sure that the “scent” is attached to everything that touches your market. The more you do this the more you will attract dedicated buyers who naturally see the value of your work and more importantly be driven by price because the value is already evident. If your scent is strong enough you will also attract potential buyers who may be just newly aware of their resonance with your values, style and metaphors.

The Connection Factor

The second strategy, The Network Strategy, is more proactive and is built on you developing relationships with your buyers in all the venues your work shows up. This model requires you to engage your buyers in each venue by starting conversations and then inviting them to your network. On a broad level this strategy can be one way on your part, with you using your channels to stay in touch with each network. So if you are an Art Fair artist going to Cherry Creek you can start early using your blog to share what you will be bringing, and using Twitter, e-mail and Facebook to reach your Cherry Creek network. Using this approach you can not only keep your network informed you can also get feedback from them so you can more precisely predict what they might buy. You can also keep them informed as to your booth location, arrival time, special network only sales etc.

network3 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

I hope you can see that the motive behind these two strategies is to eliminate or greatly reduce the Funnel effects randomness and help you have more predictable sales.

 Marketing Monday: a 21st Century strategy for artists

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