Different printing options for photography at art shows
Advantages and Disadvantages

When displaying photography at art shows, the artist has different printing and display options. Photographs can be framed, canvas wrapped, matted, prints on photo paper or inkjet paper and images on aluminum. There are advantages of each method and having a good selection of multiple printing options have both advantages and disadvantages for both the artist and the customer.

 

Chaco Canyon New Mexico

 

Printing smaller prints that are matted:


Advantages:

  • Having matted prints gives the customer a lower price point to collect your art.

  • Matted prints displayed in a print rack or box type container allow the artist to exhibit many prints in a much smaller area. This comes in handy in an art show situation or store/gallery location were space may be limited.

  • Having more of your images on display with the matted option allows your customers additional images to choose from. You also have the option to inform the customer that all your matted images are available in custom larger sizes with printing options such as on paper, canvas or metal.

  • Matted prints allow the artist a cost effective way to display the same image in multiple sizes for the customer to select from.

  • Matted prints can sell at a higher margin due to lower costs to produce.

  • When prints are matted to standard frame sizes, they are ready to be easily framed by the customer.

  • If a matted print does not sell, you can always take out the print and reuse the mat. Many times the matting is more expensive than the actual print cost.

  • Disadvantages:

  • If your main goal is to sell ready to hang art on your walls such as framed or on canvas, you may want to limit your matted print choices or they may take away from your sales of your more expensive art hanging on the walls.

  • Printing any sized prints matted and framed:

    Advantages:

  • Provides a ready framed piece of art for the customer to hang on their walls.

  • Framed prints make a nice presentation in your booth area and give the customer a better idea on how the final product may look before purchase.

  • Framed prints allow the artist a way to show larger works that may not be as easy with matted prints.

  • Framed prints, at a higher price point, should bring in more profit when sold.

  • Disadvantages:

  • A higher price point to the customer will reduce the number sold.

  • Sometimes the customer may not like your frame with that particular image.

  • Framed prints are traditionally displayed using your wall space. This could limit the number of framed prints you could display at an art show.

  • Frames tend to get damaged or scratched during constant transport to and from the art shows as well as hanging out in the weather. You will need to touch up the frames or replace them after a while if they do not sell.

  • Printing as a wrapped canvas:

    More detailed information on printing photography on canvas for the fine art photographer can be seen in this article.

    Advantages:

  • Provides a finished piece of art for the customer to hang on their walls.

  • Canvas prints make a nice presentation in your booth area. 

  • Many people feel that photography prints on canvas are more artsy or they like the general look of canvas prints.   

  • Canvas prints are much lighter than framed prints and you can make much larger prints that take up less room without the space needed for matting and frame in traditional framed prints.

  • Canvas prints allow the artist a way to show larger works that may not be as easy with matted or framed prints.

  • Larger wrapped canvas prints will be at a higher price point and bring in more profit when sold.  Prints on canvas can be printed at a lower DPI resolution than those printed on paper.  This can allow the artist to prints a little larger on canvas and still provide a reasonably sharp image.

  • You can always tell the customer that any image or print you see can also be printed as a wrapped canvas.  For custom ordering, have a pricing sheet ready in the back so that you know what your canvas selling prices and shipping costs are for each size offered.

  • When the customer wants a large prints such as 20x30 or a very large print such as 32x48, offering a canvas option to your customer is a good alternative since framing larger prints is very expensive and most likely cost more than the art itself.  

  • Advantage of drop shipping custom canvas prints: If your canvas supplier ships without any pricing information in the box as mine does, known as drop shipping, you can just have the canvas shipped right to the customer saving a lot on shipping costs.  I have never had a problem doing this and you have an idea when it will arrive since the canvas supplier will email you when it goes out. The Canvas printer Cg Pro Prints shown below also does not list the name of the printer on the box that the customer receives on the return address, it substitutes 'Cg Pro Prints' with 'The Print Lab', so the customer does not even know who your printer is. This is handy so they do not look up your printing costs. Drop shipping is a great option and you should see how your current canvas maker handles this if you do not create the canvases yourself.


  • Disadvantages:

  • A higher price point for larger canvas wrapped prints will reduce the number sold.  The image will not print as sharp on canvas versus paper, due to the nature of the canvas surface.  When canvas prints are viewed from a proper viewing distance, the canvas image should look sharp to the customer and this is what matters. 

  • Since you can’t recycle any of the parts of a wrapped canvas print that does not sell, you will need to consider reducing the price, continue to try to sell the print or store the print. 

  • When you transport canvas prints a lot, such as to multiple art shows, they tend to get slighting damaged in the corners or edges after a while.  As with framed prints, you need to take special precautions when transporting wrapped canvas prints.


  • CG Pro Prints: Great every day low prices such as 20"x30" for 39.99 canvas wrapped prints. Other things I like is quick turnaround, tight corners and they place a piece of thick black board on the backside which gives the canvas a nice finished look. Also below the top canvas picture and side areas is also a hard surface which I am not aware of other printers that do this. Note: You get 10% off first order with the link below and I get a $10 credit. The shipping cost is greatly reduced if you order more than one print.




    Printing on paper:

    The artist can print small or even larger prints on paper which could be an inkjet print, photo paper and in some cases canvas. These prints could have no borders, a thin border or larger borders such as printing a 16x24 print on a 20x30 inch sheet of paper. On a larger print, I try to print a larger border for the convenience to the professional framer.


    Advantages:

  • Without the cost of matting or framing, the customer can purchase a larger print at a lower price point.  The smaller prints can be placed in a clear bag with an inexpensive backing board and the larger prints can be rolled up when sold with a simple rubber band or in a cardboard tube.  The customer can then make the decision on how to proceed on their own with framing. 

  • Printing on paper lowers the cost to the artist and the initial purchasing cost to the customer.  The artist can choose to make larger prints in advance of only their most popular prints to reduce the number that do not sell.

  • As with canvas, the artist can take a special order and print out a larger size that is not currently available at the art show. For custom ordering, have a pricing sheet ready in the back so that you know what your large print selling prices are for each size offered.  Many times customers think that all you offer is the sizes that they see in your matted prints or framed/canvas prints. Showing samples of larger prints on paper gives them ideas on how they could get the images they like in a similar size as a custom ordered print. You can mail the print to the customer in a mailing tube which reduces the shipping cost to the customer.

  • Disadvantages:

  • For the larger prints, it is sometimes difficult to display them at an art show but you could place them on an extra table or have them available if a customer is looking at a smaller print in your booth and you can show them the same image in a larger version.
     
  • You do not want to print many larger prints on spec, since they are harder to sell and you may not have much use for them once printed it they do not sell. Many of my larger prints are prints taken out of framed prints that I had done for an art exhibit and I wanted to reuse the frame and matting.

  • Printing on aluminum:

    Advantages:

  • Currently printing on aluminum is popular with customers.  It could be because the prints turn out very sharp and glossy which gives the final presentation a different look.  When aluminum prints are placed 1/2" from the wall when hanging, it gives a nice clean presentation look with shadows on the wall edges around the print not available with framed or canvas prints.

  • Aluminum prints can be prepared by the artist as a finished piece of art ready for the customer to hang on their walls without any further framing cost.

  • Aluminum prints make a nice presentation in your booth area.
     
  • Aluminum prints are generally much lighter than framed prints and as with canvas, the image area can be larger and take up less room on the wall than with traditional framed prints. Many times wall space available is very important with the customers.

  • Larger aluminum prints will be at a higher price point and bring in more profit when sold. 

  • You can always tell the customer that any image or print you see can also be printed in custom sizes on aluminum.  For custom ordering, have a pricing sheet ready in the back so that you know what your aluminum selling prices and shipping costs are for each size offered.


  • Disadvantages:

  • Printing on aluminum is in general more expensive in larger prints and you need to price at a higher cost which could reduce sales. 

  • Due to higher printing cost, the artist may be more limited to print and display very large aluminum prints such as 20" x 30" or larger. Larger aluminum prints should be reserved for images that have a proven track record for selling to reduce expensive prints that never sell.


  • Since you can not recycle any of the parts of a aluminum print that do not sell, you will need to consider reducing the price, continue to try to sell the print or store the print. 

  • When you transport aluminum prints a lot, such as to multiple art shows, they tend to get slighting damaged in the corners or edges after a while.  As with framed or canvas prints, you need to take special precautions when transporting aluminum prints.

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    Written by Bob Estrin



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    Additional articles for artist:

    1. Selling your art at an art show

    2. The artist relationship with the alternative art gallery and artist/gallery contracts

    3. The artist reception - A social event or a business opportunity

    4. Artist printing photography on canvas

    5. DIY project on mounting metal prints to the wall

    6. Printing photography on different surfaces and presentations

    7. Internet password hints for a more secure internet experience

    8. How artist can protect themselves from internet scam orders

    9. Photography career paths for photography students

    Additional articles for photographers:

    10. Cleaning your digital sensor

    11. Photographing Antelope Canyon, Utah's best slot canyon


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    Copyright 2014 Bob Estrin
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