Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pricing Comments

I was reading a discussion on print pricing and thought people might be interested in my perspective and what the plan is.

There's a few factors from my perspective. The major ones are:
  1. What are my costs?
  2. How much work is it to produce? (especially if somebody buys a bunch)
From the customer's perspective they're more like:
  1. How nice does it look?
  2. Will it last?
  3. Is it collectible?
You can split hairs on some of this. As an example, a lot of people like the brushwork on the margins of a cyanotype, and the fact it's blue, as something of a conversation starter. I'm just going to lump that into "How nice does it look".

Basically those are the two halves of the supply and demand equation - if I can produce prints cheaply and easily I can sell them cheap. But then if I get in a ton of orders it becomes too much work and my prices increase until I'm sending out as many as I'm willing to send out. Over the last two years my lab prints have gone from $10 to $25 as a result.

So here's my thoughts for each kind of print.

Lab prints - These are very easy to produce, because the lab does all the work. I send them a file which is already prepared, they send me a print. If somebody orders a ton of pictures, it's OK, it just takes a bit longer to upload.

Inkjet prints - These are pretty easy to produce. I pull up a file, make some rather arcane settings that all have to be just so to get the best results, put a single sheet of paper in the special printer slot for that, and come back in 5 minutes. They then go into a drying rack for 24 hours before I can send them off. If somebody orders a few at a time it's not that big of a deal. If somebody put in a really huge order, at some point my drying rack fills up and I have prints all over the house! I also only keep so many supplies (ink, paper) on hand. They're actually more expensive to produce than a lab print since I'm using top notch ink and paper but don't have a high volume printer which keeps the per-print ink costs high.

So right there you can see why the inkjet prints cost a bit more. My costs are a bit higher, they're a bit more work, and in particular if somebody is buying a bunch of prints and they don't really care which they get, they're steered to the lab prints so it doesn't cause me any problems. But if somebody likes the inkjet look (which is a bit different) they can still get one at a reasonable price.

Alternative process prints - cyanotype, platinum, etc. - These take literally hours of work each. They're actually very inexpensive currently, because I want to be making as many as possible and perfecting my skills. Really my goal is just to pay for materials at this point - and I've done that - I have a nice stash of paper, chemicals, books, brushes, glassware, the UV unit, all paid for with basically sweat equity. If somebody were to buy a bunch off of eBay it wouldn't be any big deal, although it might take a while to replenish them. If somebody direct orders a bunch I'll get swamped very quickly and I'll start raising prices to avoid getting even more swamped. The plan is definitely to crank up the prices on the platinum prints over the next year in any case and start having it reflect my labor in a more real way, instead of just writing it off as "tuition" as I learn the ins and outs of the process.


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