I am a photographer gearing up for my first art show and I'm trying to figure out if I'm on the right track, so please forgive my "newbieness".  I don't have unlimited funds, so I was intending to setup in this way:  The walls of my booth will be arranged with an assortment of gallery wrap canvas prints--as much to attract people to my booth as anything else.  I hope to sell canvases, but with them at a higher price point, I'm not sure how they will sell.  To have several "price points I plan to have 3 matted print sizes available in bins. Therefore if someone can't afford a canvas they have the option of purchasing that photo in a smaller size at a lower price point as a matted print.  

Two questions....  regarding the canvases--do you all have actual inventory of larger canvases for people to walk away with, or do you consider those canvases on the wall as your inventory and take on order on the spot for the canvas and ship it to them a couple of days after the show?  This is what I've been planning to try because 1.) I can't predict what might sell and 2.) the cost of an inventory of canvas prints is so cost prohibitive.  Thoughts?

Second question: regarding matted prints--does an initial inventory of two per "size" seem adequate for a two day show?

Thanks so much!

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  • I am also a photographer and new to this. Hve not done a show before.

     Thank you for asking these questions and also for the replies...the suggestion for separating vertical and horizontal was a great idea! Thanks!

    • You can't separate horizontals and verticals because you can't control how the public thinks. When they choose pictures and put them back, there are no rules. Also if you make your bin different widths for horizontals and verticals, they will turn the matted prints side wards and put them all back together.

      Just go with the flow and don't be too anal about it. Besides, at your first show you shouldn't have too many images because you haven't figured out your best sellers yet.

      Larry Berman

      • Larry, either you misunderstood my response, or I misunderstood yours.  I wasn't recommending bins built to different widths for horizontal and vertical.  I simply said, put horizontals in one bin, and verticals in another bin. 

        • Hi Geoff,

          Not referring to you. Just stating something I've seen happen over the years.

          Larry Berman
  • Geoff,

    I can't thank you enough for all the advise!  

    How do you stock your canvases then, do you have a backup for each?  Where do you keep the backup canvases in shows where your vehicle has to be far from your booth, etc?  

    I really like the tips for the matted prints.  I guess no matter how prepared  you are it will take a few shows to get a feel for what customers are buying and how much of each to stock.

    • Just have one of each for openers until you see what sells!

      Once they start moving you'll know what to do. Where to keep back stock varies from show to show, depending on distance to artist parking, the amount of space you have outside your booth, and of course the weather. 

  • Good questions!  Wish I'd thought of asking them when *I* was starting out!

    I set up my booth much as you do, but I don't "hope" to sell canvases.  They're my bread and butter, representing about 50% of my gross sales.  So don't sell them (and yourself) short.  :-)

    IMHO, 3 matted print sizes are at least one too many.  I used to carry 8x10, 11x14, and 16x20 mat sizes (nearly all of my canvases are larger than that--20x24 and up--so that I'm not competing against myself by giving the customer TOO many choices.)  I've since dumped the 8x10 mat size.  Fewer choices actually help the customer decide more quickly.  Confused customers don't buy. 

    I'm all with what Larry said on the order vs. immediate purchase issue.  People want to take them home, not order them. However, if you have the ability to order and ship to the customer who wants a different size canvas--be it larger or smaller--put a sign up saying so. 

    Be careful on your matted print inventory.  When starting out, you don't know what sizes will sell, true, but you also don't know what IMAGES will sell, either!  About 80% of my mat sales come from a mere 10 images. 

    This is a finer point--one that I'm sure not everyone follows, but: I like to arrange the firstt print on my print bins (the ones the customers see when they walk in the booth) so that the front piece in each bin is one of the canvases on the wall.  That way, they know they can purchase in different sizes and formats without me having to explain it.  It also helps me see what's more popular at a given show, canvases or prints, by where the customers go when they start looking.  

    Refer to your mat size, not your photo size, when labeling/pricing and discussing your matted inventory.  Why?  The customer needs to be thinking of the mat size when buying a frame later. 

    Final tip:  Don't mix vertical and horizontal shots in the same bin.  Makes it harder for the customer to browse.  Keep each in separate bins if you can. 

    Good luck!

  • A simple answer is that people like to take home what they purchase.

    Larry Berman
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