Fine art photographers cost of doing business – defining your costs

Pricing artwork is a daunting task to many new (and even experienced) artists. Don’t price your work with your emotions is a clear piece of advice. Once we make it past that hurdle its easy to implement a logical “left brained” mathematical formula to work with pricing. .. But before we even begin to take a look at the formula we first need to look at the costs of doing business in the first place.

The obvious costs that weigh into pricing fine art pieces are the cost to print and the commission you give to a gallery when a piece is sold. But what about the other costs – the ones we must consider in order to run a successful fine art business. If all we do is make a profit on a few print sales it is still possible to sink the ship when it comes to the business.

Why? Because costs are not only in what went into gallery commission or production of a single print. Let’s explore.

Though the costs aren’t always all that obvious, its necessary to define them in order to ensure that you are not losing money in your fine art print business. That said, I am often surprised at some of the low cost prints I see on the web. Though my work is quality produced and its expensive to do so, even if I were to cheaply mass produce I couldn’t do it for some of the retail prices out there! Let’s take a look at some of the costs you and I have as artists.

Because I am a photographer artist I am going to gear most of this article towards photographers but artists of all mediums can plug their own situations into the logic. While doing a little research into the costs of doing business for photographers I came across a helpful resource calculator that can help you to think about and define expenses (the ones that measure deeper than the cost to print).

Not only is it good to know your costs when it comes right down to the common sense part of pricing your artwork, but its also good to know these numbers when it comes to tax time. For tax purposes I use an iphone app called iXpensIt. It allows me to enter all of the expenses (like the ones in the calculator) . Before March 15 when my business taxes need to be done I simply print out a PDF with my gross profits and expenses to hand to my accountant.

Let’s get back to business here. If you utilize part of your home as an office or studio you might consider leasing that space to your business. That would be your office expense. Remember to include your phone and internet for business use. What’s in your camera bag? All your camera equipment, computers, hard drives, etc is a cost to your business. Web hosting of your website, any subscriptions or dues that you have to organizations are all business expenses.

While you can enter the numbers on your own into that calculator to find your true and over all costs of doing business, lets meander back for a moment to the first “obvious” area of cost : the sold print.

After jarring the brain with some of the expense topics on the calculator page I think you’d agree that there is a lot more that goes into the cost of running a photography print business than the obvious. My thoughts are to encourage you to take a look at these legitimate costs of doing business and know them before you enter into the task of pricing your prints. By simply knowing the bottom expense tally you will be less daunted when you begin the task of assigning a price tag to your work.


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