Selling Photography Prints? (Dave Erauw’s Secrets to Success)
By ExploreDiscoverShoot – visit Dave’s website
Dave Erauw is a photographer who has created a career selling prints of his work. He’s based in Caledonia, Ontario which is a town of approximately 10,000, close to Hamilton and about 100 km southwest of Toronto.
Dave has been selling prints since 2009 when he sold 8 prints. His business has been growing ever since.
In 2019, the year he retired from his “day job”, he sold 213 prints (215 in 2018). Now photography has become his full-time work and he couldn’t be happier.
We interviewed Dave – see video below – to learn the secrets of his success.
You’ll see how Dave does things differently from many photographers trying to sell their prints.
This is Dave’s most popular print – it continues to sell well
His Most Successful Prints Include a Landmark
Living in Caledonia, Dave is lucky to be able to shoot a few distinctive local landmarks. The Grand River, which flows through town, is crossed by a unique 9-span 200-meter bridge and a high railway trestle.
A mill sits to the side of the river. He has shot all three subjects many times, and in fact his most popular image is one of the mill, shrouded in fog with reflections in the mill pond.
The 9-span bridge has been a feature of the town since 1927. Unfortunately, it’s about to be replaced with a newer one, and so there is an added demand for images of the existing bridge. People are sentimental about it.
Dave has images of the bridge in many seasons, at different times of day.
As to the mill, you might not know by looking at it, but it’s new – a replica of the original building which was torn down in 2019. Again, for many there is a sentimental attachment to images of the old mill.
Another popular image – don’t worry, the train crawls over this bridge
More Than Landmarks and Landscapes
Dave also has an interest in military aircraft and trains and has photographed them many times. It’s handy that there’s an airplane museum at a nearby airport and every year there’s an airshow, often featuring WW1 and WW2 vintage aircraft.
(Photographers, think of your potential customers for a moment – there are a lot of guys who have liked planes and trains since they were five years old. Great gift idea for the old man!)
His interest in trains also led to a corporate commission. On a walkabout, he came upon a crew doing maintenance work on nearby tracks. He took a few shots and showed them. They took his contact information and soon their boss from Allied Track Service contacted Dave for images for a brochure and prints for the office.
Two months later they called Dave again asking him to shoot at another location for a second brochure they were preparing.
Delivering on a commission. Happy customer, happy photographer!
A Corporate Commission from a Hamilton Insurance Company
Through word-of-mouth, Dave was contacted by a large local insurance company that wanted to give their offices a fresh look.
The plan was to celebrate the history, landmarks and architecture of Hamilton.
Working from a list which highlighted various areas of the city, Dave shot about 200 images, from which they chose 40 for printing and framing. Of those, 35 are 28 X 18, four are 36 X 24 and there’s a 72 X 35 panorama for the boardroom.
Recently, they called Dave again to say that they would like to order another 15 prints.
Like Allied Track Service, they’re a happy client, coming back for more.
Beyond Local Images, Prints from His Travels
Although his local images are the most popular, Dave has also found success selling prints from photo shoots in southwestern USA, Canada’s Rocky Mountains, Newfoundland, Labrador and Iceland.
On his website you’ll find additional categories for waterfalls, cityscapes, transportation and abandoned old houses and barns. This makes it easy for visitors to his site to browse his offerings.
Evocative and emotional subject matter connects with Dave’s audience
He Has Worked Hard to Develop His Local Market
For the past 5 years, Dave has rented an old railway station in town for the first Saturday of November to put on a one-man show and sale. This has become a very popular show with many of his prints being bought as Christmas gifts.
Dave’s marketing for this show includes paying for a flyer that’s inserted into the local newspaper. Additional advertising is on signs coming into town. He also belongs to the Chamber of Commerce to help raise his profile.
Now his prints hang in homes and medical, dental and corporate offices. This exposure leads to further word-of-mouth sales.
Through his website, Dave receives orders from afar including across Canada and USA.
Here Dave found strong lines, a dramatic landscape and a spectacular dawn
Prints Are Mounted and Framed, Ready to Hang
While many photographers sell their prints unframed, often delivered in a tube, Dave does it differently.
The vast majority of his prints are sold framed (a few smaller sizes are available unframed). For the potential customer, a framed print is much more convenient.
What they’re buying is a finished piece of fine art, not one they’ll have to bring to a framer, choose the frame, choose the matt, fret about the costs, etc. – it’s all taken care of, ready to hang. Customers appreciate that, and it’s also far easier to give as a gift.
(Hint for photographers: many of Dave’s prints are bought to be given as Christmas and birthday gifts. Think about that for your work.)
For commissioned work, Dave collaborates with clients, helping them make choices for framing and matting for each print.
This shot of the 9-span bridge is Dave’s second most popular print
A Permanent Photo Gallery in His Home
Dave has converted his basement into a permanent photo gallery with 40 – 50 framed prints on exhibit at any time.
People make appointments on his Facebook page to shop in his gallery, sometimes leaving with more than one print. Since they’re already framed, they likely get hung on the wall the same day. And then the customers’ friends admire them, and Dave’s phone rings again.
By comparison, how many prints never leave the mailing tube they were sent in? People don’t get around to framing or hanging them, and may even forget they bought them.
It’s easy to book an appointment for Dave’s gallery on his Facebook page
Selling Prints in Various Sizes and Price Points
Dave’s most popular print sizes are 24 X 16, 30 X 20, 36 X 24, 45 X 30 and 60 X 20. He’s also created panoramas up to 72 X 30.
But he also offers smaller, more affordable sizes, right down to 7 X 5. For some customers, a grouping of smaller prints is preferable and more flexible than one large print.
Price points for framed prints vary from $69 to $799, with limited edition, numbered prints at $1,100 for a 36 X 24. That makes them affordable for most people who would consider buying a fine art print, rather than a poster.
Dave’s Print Production Process
When Dave first thought of selling prints, he explored doing his own printing, but soon decided not to go that route. It’s time-consuming, it means maintaining a printer and supplies and it demands another level of expertise.
To find his current print bureau, Dave took image files to five different printers and asked for them to be output at the same size on the same paper stock. He then compared them at home to the images on his monitor.
Based on that, he established a relationship with a local printer.
Outsourcing his printing also gives him the option of choosing various papers and substrates such as canvas, metal and glass.
Today, Dave uploads his files to Dropbox and notifies the printer. When prints are ready for pick-up, he takes them home where he hand-signs them.
Attention to Detail – Every Print is Perfect
When he first started selling prints, Dave used a watermark signature. Today, he hand-signs each print. It’s more personal and creates a higher perceived value.
Then he delivers the signed prints to one of three framers he works with. Once the framing is complete, he inspects the prints again before either hanging them in his gallery, delivering them to local customers or shipping them via courier.
Dave takes full responsibility for everything – the printing, mounting and framing. It’s important to him that he inspects every part of the process.
The website is kept up to date with all images that are available for purchase
Up to Two Hours Every Day on Social Media and the Web
Dave promotes his photography on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He uploads new images and also images that have just been sold.
He makes sure his website is up-to-date with his most recent images.
The key is consistency – up to two hours EVERY day – working on promotion.
One month before his November show, he begins posting his advertising flyer on social media. On the morning of the show, he posts a live video on Facebook letting viewers know that today is the day.
While some may think that social media doesn’t drive results, Dave begs to differ. He has had numerous sales as a direct result of his social presence.
Where did Dave start in photography? Drag racing – a study in focus and shutter speed
Hard Work, Determination and Working at a Professional Level
Dave is the first to tell other photographers that building his print business didn’t happen overnight.
He’s been at it for over 11 years. Even for 10 of those years, while he had a full-time job, he took his print sales business seriously.
He knew that if he built it up to be a real business, it would drive his creativity and create the incentive to go out day after day looking for more compositions.
After retirement, this is a new phase in his life. He’s created the job he’s always wanted.
What’s Next? A Book and Another One-Man Show
For the past few years, people have been asking Dave for a book of his images. They’ll be happy to know it’s in the planning stages. He’s hoping to have it available by fall (Hint: just before Christmas).
In addition to his November show at the railway station, Dave has been invited to mount a show at the new mill building, which only seems fitting. The next few months will be busy, shooting new images to debut at the show.
Greatest Satisfaction? Customer Feedback
Quite frequently, customers will email Dave a photo of his print hanging in their home or business. They’re proud and their messages show it. Who doesn’t like compliments on their work?
Are You Selling Prints? Any Tips to Share?
There are many roads to success selling prints. If you’ve found a different path, why not share it in the comments below. We’re sure that other photographers in this community will be interested in your input.
As a photographer, Dave is inspired by his surroundings, nature and the people around him. Dave thrives on thinking outside of the box, to catch the shots that most people pass by.
ExploreDiscoverShoot is a community of landscape and travel photographers and filmmakers.
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