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On the business of Photography

After spending 25 years as an avid photographer immersed in sales and marketing, I began studying commercial photography. A decade later I became the director of The Center for Fine Art Photography whose mission is to promote the growth of creative photographers. Those six years led to a profound appreciation for the art of photography. Musings is my attempt to share some insight into achieving your goals as a photographer. 

Prequalify Buyers for Your Art

Don't Wait to be Discovered

window on photography

This article focuses on an effective method for pre qualifying prospective clients for your art and creating photographs that have greater potential for sale –- without giving up your creativity.


As fine art photographers, we frequently photograph a variety of subjects which that tickle our creative interests. Very often it is without consideration for their marketability. Consequently, we have thousands of images on disc or in slide containers that have long since been forgotten or are seldom viewed after they are created. Why? Because there was no specific purpose for creating them, except for their personal artistic significance.


I’d like to present one method for channeling some of your photography in a manner that will offer more opportunities for selling your work.


This method is based on two elements:  first, focusing a portion of your photography on subjects that are in demand. This requires you to identify where work within your area of interest is currently displayed. The second is pre qualifying prospects or buyers of the images.


A Little Research


Begin by actively seeking out businesses that use art to enhance their work environments. Check out bank buildings. Walk inside; see what they have on their walls. Law offices and other office buildings have a plethora of walls. Many times you can casually walk down hallways, peering into offices to get a sense for the business’s art preferences. Go to hospitals. They are literally cities within concrete and brick. The larger the hospital, the more departments and patient care areas: nurseries, patient rooms, hallways, administrative offices, clinic rooms, board rooms, even the cafeteria. Each area offers several opportunities for a variety of genres. The same applies to assisted-living and skilled-nursing facilities. With a little thinking thought and by being aware of opportunity work spaces, you soon will have a long list of business-types to explore.


Why survey these and similar business? Because they have the need and budget for art. Many of them are receptive to acquiring from local artists. The trick is to match your work with clients that have similar, or relatively similar, artistic interests.


Having done the research, you have begun to eliminate one of the greatest challenges to artists - – resistance to marketing and selling their work. You’ve taken the first step to pre qualifying your prospects. The next step is to get an appointment with the buyer.


Getting to the Buyer


How do you find out who is responsible for purchasing art? Usually a phone call to the marketing or public relations department will produce a name, phone number and email address.


Introduce yourself to the buyer by sending an email with your best and most appropriate image. The image should be inline so it is visible as soon as they open the email, not an attachment. All you have to say is that you have visited their hospital, bank, or office and have artwork you feel will enhance their work, patient, or customer environment. Then state you will call the prospect on a given day –- within two days after you send the email. Your email will be best received if it pops into their inbox between 10am and 2pm on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. Ideally, you will follow up the next day with a phone call. Make the call before the weekend or holiday.


On the appropriate day, call for the an appointment. Generally, if you send out your email introduction early the preceding day and call for the appointment in late afternoon the following day, the prospect will have had time to read your email and you will be fresh in their mind.  Do not email for the appointment, and don’t feel put off if an assistant handles the appointment. You’ve got the appointment, that’s what counts.


If you have to leave a voice mail, don’t use your message to sell you or your work. Just leave your name, why you called, your phone number, and that you will call back in a few hours, or the next day. Speak slowly and clearly. Formally address the person you are calling, using Mr. or Ms. Lastname.  Do not email for the appointment. A, and don’t feel put off if an assistant handles the appointment. You’ve got the appointment, that’s what counts.




Prior to introducing yourself via the email, you will have prepared a set of portfolios. The set can consist of a primary portfolio most aligned with the client’s existing work and two portfolios of alternative art that would logically fit in their establishment. Using an 8x10 tablet is ok, but 11x14 prints add impact from their larger scale. You can gain some insight in how to present your portfolio in this article.


During the Meeting


The first portfolio establishes your talent credentials by showing a genre of work with which the client is familiar. You use the two alternative portfolios to introduce the buyer to some other genres that may be suitable for their business.


During your meeting, you are looking for two things: You want to determine if whether there is an immediate need for which your existing art is appropriate. Second, you are looking for the prospect’s future needs.


Creating a Client 


Equally important, you are beginning to build a relationship with the buyer. In spite of your research, your portfolios may not score a direct contact connection with the buyer’s interests, or the budget for art is may have already been depleted. By creating a professional relationship based on your personality and the quality of your work, you will have a much easier time getting an appointment in the future.


Their future needs offer opportunities to acquire a commission or commitment to purchase your work based on specific image requirements. You can begin to collaborate with buyers by having them show you where they want to display new art and by offering your artistic suggestions. Many buyers will appreciate having an “artist’s” help assistance in the decision-making process.


The commitment may be tentative: “If I like it, I’ll buy it.” Or, it may be formal with a written agreement. Either way, the next time you photograph you are going to be a photographer with clearer focus (pun intended!), knowing there is significantly greater potential for your creative work to be purchased by a pre-qualified buyer.


Previous Musings and other articles for commercial and fine art photographers can be read found at


Copyrighted Larry Padgett 2014











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