At the beginning of April, I announced a special offer to the readers of Epic Edits — A selection of silver-gelatin prints from my darkroom for $25 each. The results of this offer? I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I had a grand total of 4 takers.
Don’t get me wrong — I completely appreciate the 4 sales I did receive! Definitely better than none! But I can’t help but be disappointed with the relatively low number of sales compared to the amount of work I put into the offer.
THE WORK I PUT IN
Even before announcing the print offer, I had to pick out 10 of my b/w film photos based on what I thought other people might want to buy. Choosing a small selection of photos for anything is tough, especially if they’re your own photos. After a day or two of contemplating, I finally settled on a selection of images from my personal favorites and the favorites of others based on Flickr stats (comments, views, favorites, etc).
Also before offering the prints for sale, I wanted to make sure I could actually print them. I’ve encountered a small number of photos that I couldn’t print in the darkroom with my current level of experience, so I was going to be sure that I could produce a quality print for each of my selected photos. Each of the 10 photos took about 1 to 2 hours of work in the darkroom, so probably 15 hours of my time.
Then, I wanted to show the actual prints to prospective buyers, so I scanned them in and posted them on Flickr. This way, people could see the crop and tonal range on the print rather than the film scan. Between scanning, processing (to match the look of the real print), and posting, this ate up probably another 3 to 5 hours of my time.
And finally we have the blog post with all the individual PayPal purchase buttons — tack on another 2 or 3 hours.
So in total, I spent about 20 to 25 hours of prep-time just to offer the prints for sale. Add on an additional 3 hours for the 8 prints I made for the 4 buyers (they all bought in the first 3 days and got a 2nd print for free). In the end, I probably put in 25 hours of work. Fair enough? Just follow me, I’m going somewhere with all of this.
So 4 buyers paid $25 for prints. That’s $100 in my pocket. Now (for each purchase) subtract $1 for the PayPal transaction, $1 for packaging, $2 for materials (paper and chemicals), and an average of $5 for shipping. That leaves me with $16 per purchase, or $64 total.
OUTCOME ==> $64 / 25 hours = $2.50/hr
Not exactly my idea of “raking it in”. So needless to say, I probably won’t be offering up darkroom prints at this price again — it’s just not worth my time to spend so much energy for so little return. Again, let me repeat that I’m totally grateful for the 4 people who did purchase prints — it’s a great feeling to have somebody actually pay you for your efforts.
The moral of the story: Selling prints is hard work. Expect anything between disappointment and excitement. But whatever your experience, enjoy it. I’m pretty happy I did all this work, because now I’ve got 10 good-looking prints to hang on my walls.