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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Newhall

What Gives a Photo Value?

What gives a photo value? I'm not going to lie to you; I'm really not sure. I'm baffled by the idea that people spend hundreds of dollars to buy a photo. Don't go tooting your horn saying photography is not a real art. I don't think the price of more traditional art makes any sense either.

So what gives a photo value then? We buy food because we need it. In fact, we buy most things because, to some extent, we need it. We don't need art. So why buy it?

I would argue that it has to do with sentiment and memory. Art, presumably, brings us joy. At the very least, it brings an emotional sentiment to it. We feel something when we look at it. That's why people hire a wedding photographer. They want to remember, and they want to feel. They want to be able to look back and say "Awwww. I remember that."

So why look at a fine art photographer's work? It's not preserving any memory of you. Well, I think this is because it provokes something in you. It makes you look at it and think "Wow, I really like that. I want to see more of that." So, you buy it. I also think, from personal experience, that photographers have a similar view when they sell it. I think, on some level, each of them thinks "Wow, I really like that photo. I want to share it!"

Photographers want to share their art. That is, in my experience, their main objective. They also want to get value for their labor and put value to their work. They are selling that photo because they feel that photo has value. Do some people put too much value behind their photos? Absolutely, but I feel most photographers actually undersell themselves.

Click on the camera for a link to my website!

I plan on writing more about photographers underselling themselves in another article, but I will mention a major part here. Most photographers aren't business people. In my experience, they tend have MFAs not MBAs. If they have any degree at all. I know plenty of amazing photographers who didn't go to art school and have no formal training. Instead, they taught themselves. I have much respect for those people.

Suffice to say, in my experience there is a bit of a miscommunication between artist and art-buyer here. One of them feels that they are not valued properly, and another feels that they are being lied to. In reality, both are simply missing the point. The point is not the sale, the point is sharing the work. That's why, I think, that's what photographers and artists should focus on doing.

People want to remember, and photographers want to share. That, personally, is why I think photography has (partly) taken off. It's a wonderful way for us to preserve our memories and, from the artistic side, share emotions that feel very real.

I run across people, surprisingly often, who say photography isn't art solely because it can be reproduced and reprinted. That's why some photographers often overprice their work, but sell it in only limited editions. Others upload and undersell their work in unlimited versions. Personally, I want to give customers the best of both worlds. I share my art on my website at a lower prices for limited periods of time. That way, there is collectable art at affordable prices! You can find it on my website here!

Now that that shameless plug is out of the way, I hope you enjoyed my article. What do you think about photography pricing? Having read this article, do you think it makes more sense?

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