Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I need your help.

 

I am a wildlife photographer who has been trying, with little success, to sell my photographs through my website and more recently at art/craft fairs.

 

During our last three art/craft shows, I have sold only one 20x30 canvas photograph and less than half-dozen matted images. That’s not all. I have sold absolutely nothing off my website, which has been up for approximately three years.

  

One friend-of-mine sells very large canvas photographs in the $700 to $900 category and advises not to fool with matted prints. Another friend’s success comes from smaller matted prints. He sells very few larger ones and practically none of his large plaq-mounted photographs. Yet, another friend successfully sells his 20x30 images on floating plaqs in the $500 range.

 

One person says to do this, while another recommends something entirely different. One individual suggested raising my prices. Another says to have items in the lower price range, thus my reason for offering matted prints. Every time I turn around, it seems as though someone is saying something different.

 

My 20x30 framed, canvass photographs are priced at $395, yet I have sold only one . . . and I reduced it to $300. Prices for other framing options on my website are priced even lower.

 

I’ve spent untold hours learning about and perfecting SEO for my website, to say nothing of the days spent adding shopping carts to make it easy for clients to purchase one of my photographs. Yet in spite of this, I’ve been averaging only 10 hits per day for several years and sold absolutely nothing as a result of my efforts. Did I say that it comes up number ‘four’ on page ‘one’ in a Google search for Wildlife Photographs for Sale.

 

If I received a dollar for every ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ when someone looked at my images, I could retire as a very rich person.

 

I need you imput. First, go to my website ( www.weldonlee.com) and check out my images and let me know if I’m missing something. Perhaps, they’re not really that good. Next, send post your ideas, comments, and suggestions below. And for this, I will be indebted to you forever.

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Hi I just went to your website and looked everything over and must say your work is stunning and your website is very professional and easy to navigate.  I am not computer savvy enough to know how to drive more traffic to your site, I will leave that to others here to suggest.  On the issue of having few sales, maybe it's the shows you are doing?  Could it be that you aren't doing shows with enough of your target patrons?  Like I said before your work is stunning and very worth the prices you have listed, although this may not be affordable to most people.  Maybe you should look to shows with a following of more affleunt people that would be able to spend $1000 or more on a piece.  Overall, I think you are a very talented artist, have stunning work and a great website, so I don't think it has anything to do with your work, maybe its a matter of a change in venues.  Best of luck to you!  Elle

 

Try better and bigger shows. I do my research on shows in each city I want to sell in. I find out their top 2-4 shows; I research their average sales, attendance and read reviews. I try to get into the best shows I can and rarely show in the same city twice a year.

Learn to sell better, turn those Oohs and ahhs into sales. Everyone can get better at this. I read about 5-6 books a year on selling and business and I try to read a lot of articles/blogs. My favorite that I have read in the past year: Brian Tracy's The Art of Closing the Sale. I also enjoyed Jim Collin's Great By Choice.

Presentation is Key/Keep it Simple. Whatever you sell and however you package it, make it neat, clean and easy to figure out. I sell pastels and I separate my work into 3 categories; framed tropical gardens and florals in traditional sizes, framed seascapes that are tall and skinny, and unframed limited edition prints. Each of these 3 things comes in a small, medium and large. All the matts are white, I carry only 2 frame choices and they show together well. I occasionally break from this and make an oversized piece.

Wendel,

Wow, I love your opening photograph, I am not into wildlife photos, but that one just wow's me. I really like the triplets (bear cubs) I am agreeing with Elle, that possibly it could be the shows, maybe the wrong area, sometimes you just have to follow your gut!  I read any book about selling, Not pushy selling, just about people and what makes them feel good.  I think that your work would make people feel good.  and that's got to be half the battle right there,  And your fight for your brothers and sisters is wonderful, just watch as some people may not like that kind of talk, (kind of like politics) not that it isn't a great cause, just some run when they hear a soap box being warmed up, (no matter what the cause) OK enough from me, another good book is (Hey, I'm the customer) by Ron Willingham.

Keep smiling, your work is great!  Jacque 

It is definitely not your work.   Your website is easy to navigate but I got kind of lost on all the descriptions of ways I could buy your work.  Buyers paralysis sometimes sets in when faced with too many choices.  

It does sound as if you need to find the right shows for your work.  Not knowing what your booth looks like, if it was predominantly animals, I would keep on walking but if I saw the birds, I would come in and look around.  

Good luck to you.

I love your work.  There are a couple things that I found confusing on your website that might impact sales.  You have a "galleries" link with a picture and then a smaller "gallery" link.  I clicked on "galleries" first thinking I was going to find your pictures.  Then I was very confused about your various framing options.  I would get rid of the fancy names and also the extra link that describes them which I didn't see right away. You need pictures right beside the options of what the various options look like.  I did find that on your site but I had to look for it.  Any art is an impulse buy - you need to make it easy for people.  

While others are discussing your website, let's discuss the shows.

Where are you currently doing shows? How much are you paying for a space? What type of customers are there?

And lastly, are you talking to the people who come into your booth?

That's the important one. When someone comes in and looks at your bear cubs, do you tell them about it? Do you tell them where it was taken? How long you waited for "just the right moment"? Do you give part of yourself with that image? Customers today like knowing the background from the person who actually did the work. What they do not want is a National Geographic lesson about bears. Or a discussion about pollution with a beautiful autumn image. And that's what I, as a customer see on your site.

I do a number of shows with a wildlife photographer who travels to Alaska regularly. He has moose, bears, wildlife, etc, but his Bald Eagles are by far the most popular.

He tells the story behind each shot, and sells them.

Ya'll are wonderful. First, let me say that I am truly honored by everyone's wonderful comments regarding my photography. Thank you very much.

I am totally new to the art/craft fair circuit, having done only five shows and only three of them recently. So, I know that I have much to learn. I am also aware that there will be shows where I will completely "bomb."

However, my wife and I just returned from Monte Vista, Colorado, where we participated in a show in connection with the Monte Vista Crane Festival this past weekend.

I was there two years ago as a keynote speaker and also conducted a photography workshop for the festival. A photographer who is a good friend of mine has been doing this show for a number of years. That same year, he sold a number of 20x30 images in the $500+ category to the tune of $5000, and his sales were down. As a result, I was expecting to do alright this year. It was not to be. That's not all. Another friend did alright last weekend and it was only his second year at the show. 

We sold only one matted 13x19 print, one bird book, and only 4 or 5 of my wife's 5x7 mated prints. Total sales - $129. The weather wasn't the greatest, plus I completely understand the effects the economy is having on the arts.

I know there are better shows, but I didn't expect to do so badly.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Will I give up? The word is not even in my vocabulary. However, I'm just trying to figure out the reason for such dismal results. I'm a people person. I love engaging with others. I have a story to share about every one of my images. I do this whenever the opportunity arrises. I have a belief that there is no such thing as a stranger, only friends I've yet to meet.

I added a photo of our booth. It is not meant as a publicity image. My dog's bed and the blue chair were removed by the time the show opened. Any and all suggestions are welcome. We're still not where we want to be with the way it looks. We badly want a set of dark-colored Pro Panels (dark green, or black). We also plan to purchase a nice rug. All it takes is money . . . and the sale of a few photographs. As you can tell, this was an indoor show, so we used our EZ Up. Fortunately, we found a great bargain on a Craft Hut that we'll use for outdoor shows . . . weighted down with 70lbs on each corner. FYI - Our next scheduled show is Art Market in Estes Park over the Memorial Day weekend.

Based on much of the feedback I've received, not only from Art Fair Insiders, but from an email I sent out, I am actually considering to increase my prices. Here's what one respondent had to say . . .

"Your prices should be 4 times what they are. People either have money to buy, or they don't. We need to respect our art and sell the work as such. $300 for a 20x30 is horrible. I'm not being nasty here. you work hard and do quality work. When you raise your prices to "art prices", you are actually telling the art collector that there is value. Why sell and make no money? Also, it is one way to separate ourselves from the thousands of people that call themselves photographers and sell for ego."

Amen!

Geri, I do have other animals in addition to mammals. At the Monte Vista Festival, I had a couple of Bald Eagles photographs, a Trumpeter Swan image made in Yellowstone, and several Sandhill Cranes. In fact, the one image I sold featured a pair of cranes fighting.

I really appreciate everyone's ideas regarding my website and will incorporate many of them as time permits.

Hopefully, the day will come when I have to opportunity to meet all of you in person.

Hi Weldon,

I checked your website and fell in love with your work!  What I wouldn't give to have been sitting where you sat, to have been present in the moments that you captured.  I have no experience with photography, so can't comment on selling, except that I do know that people love a story.  They buy for emotion.  Tell them how it felt to be there...

As far as the booth, I can only comment as a potential buyer, filing by with the herd....  I look in and see elephants.  I like elephants, but I don't want them on my wall.  That is not my world.  I suggest hanging a huge photo of a popular subject dead center on the back wall.  Yes, birds are popular.  Also foxes and hares.  They are all "in" right now.  That would make me pause and look, perhaps come in.  The other thing I'd like to mention are the wire frames.  Functional, but to me they read "cheap".  Could you possible hang draping over them to give it all a more gallery like appearance?  Maybe in dark grey?  Just some thoughts.  Wishing you the very best of luck in the future.

I don't think the booth is the problem.  Yes it would look better with pro panels and you might look into sewing some sleeves to put over the wire but I don't think it is that.  You might need to adjust your selling technique.  I don't know if you are doing this but I hate it when people start talking to me and trying to sell the second I enter the booth.  Say hello and shut up until they say something to you.  Then you tell them the stories.  And like Chris said, be sure and leave the activism out of it.  It either makes people feel depressed or guilty and that isn't going to sell art.

Weldon,

Your work is world class.  I can't comment on your prices without knowledge of the venues where you are exhibiting.  Your prices are far too low for the venues you SHOULD be exhbiting at.

There is a great deal of good advice above--testimony to the high level of intelligence and experience of the members on this site.  But I could write all day and not top the advice David Bjurstrom has given. 

Keep at it!

Weldon,

Ok, I am not trying to be rude, but you commented that your dog has the pillow and your chair was there in front, it that is the case, then that's a huge no no.  You can't be in the front of the booth and except people to feel comfortable walking in.  even the back has it's problems.

You need to be available but not hovering.  And dogs are a plus but not always, take a look at other booths and see where artist are at.  Alot of people are uncomfortable with someone right there.  Your work is great, your personality sounds very positive, so it probably is just a mojo thing that will work itself out.  I wish I could make people just pull out their wallets but what fun would that be, it's all in the hunt.  (ya, right!)

Good luck, keep smiling and clicking away...don't forget chickadees, (I love chickadees)

otherwise patience is a vertue (whatever that means),  jacque

Hi Weldon.

Have you checked into Local Art walks in your area? Your work is great- World class as Geoff has said. I believe it's your venues. You said you have done a few Arts & Crafts Fairs.  I think you need to be attending ART Shows not Crafts fairs....look to your local Arts leagues. We have several communities here that do an Artwalk once a month...I have been doing one for three years now. They are very popular venues.. and the whole community gets involved. Most Artists can do very well at these events. 

I also noticed that your chair is at the front of the booth. Sitting in the front makes people feel like they are walking into the lion's den.....if you could change that it might help.

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