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Two Myths about Selling Your Work
and Better, More Attainable Alternatives
Part 1 of 2

This article is applicable to commercial and fine-art photographers. It is brought to you in two parts. First we explore the two myths commonly accepted about selling your work. Next month we will explore better alternatives that may be much more lucrative in the near future and possibly for the rest of your career.

Myth Number 1: I need a gallery to represent me and sell my work.

Fine-art photographers are rightly very excited to have their work in an exhibition, either in a group show or ideally one dedicated to their work. Nothing I say here is meant to imply that you should not strive for your work to be exhibited if that is your ultimate goal.

As a career stimulus, a gallery's venue and presentation are critical elements in the equation: Great Work + Gallery Exhibition = Money, Fame and Success! All of those outcomes can be true if you can get the right gallery to represent you. What does the right gallery look like? It is located in a market where people value and buy art, it has a reputation for presenting quality work, it has loyal clientele, and actively markets their artists.

There are possibly hundreds of such high-quality galleries in the U.S. The challenge is to get them to review your work and then to agree to represent you. If this is your first venture approaching galleries, many will not even consider your portfolio regardless of the quality and originality of your work. While this may seem harsh, keep in mind that galleries are in the business to make money. It's not an easy business, so their path of least resistance is to represent someone who has established some level of recognition.

The remaining less prestigious galleries may also receive over 50 requests a week to review portfolios. Usually they are in the form of unsolicited CDs. Additionally, there are the less-than-professional galleries which may be more receptive to presenting your work but they don't promote it. Or when they make a sale, they are slow to pay you or don't tell you your work has sold and pocket the proceeds.

Myth Number 2: Getting a representative will solve all my marketing and sales requirements.

Maybe. If you are thinking of the rep who takes your portfolio around to the best galleries, then it is less likely you will find a well-connected rep than getting your portfolio reviewed by galleries through your own efforts. Why? There aren't that many good reps. Just like the galleries, they are inundated with requests by artists. Reps may only promote five or eight artists at a time. Like the galleries, they want to represent artists who have already created some reputation or have a very unique style they believe will attract gallerists' interest. As with the disclaimer regarding pursuing galleries, your work may be just the one a rep is looking for and everyone will be happy.

Daunting? You bet. If it were easy, everyone would have a gallery representing them. Should you expend your time and limited resources chasing what may be fleeting opportunities? You will have to decide that for yourself. However, if you read part two of this article next month, you may discover several alternatives more attainable and offer greater opportunities for creating the reputation and fortune you seek.

Part 2: Better and More Attainable Alternatives.
We will look at six well-established, but generally unknown channels for selling fine-art photography while building your reputation at the same time.

© Larry Padgett, October 2013