BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

Photography of New York by Dave Beckerman

Subscribe in a reader

New Gallery Template

9 October, 2008 (10:12) | 9 comments

spent yesterday working on this new gallery template.  I wanted to come up with something cleaner, and maybe easier to navigate.  This is still in the testing section, but let me know what you think in terms of design and especially whether the navigation is better or worse than my current gallery.

* * *

OKAY — FORGET THIS POST.  I HAVE A BETTER IDEA I’M WORKING ON.

***

I’ve put the new gallery template into production, and also changed the home page to match it.

Win LE Poet’s Walk Print

1 October, 2008 (16:48) | 2 comments

Rick at ILovePhotoBlogs.com is running a contest where you can win an 11 x 14 inch print of Poet’s Walk (#70/100).  The bevel cut mat is 16 x 20 and includes all the trimmings: (Certificate of Authenticity) and my scrawl.  It costs nothing to enter.

promenade-production Win LE Poets Walk Print

Prices Go Up A Bit

6 August, 2008 (09:51) | No comments

I don’t know if anyone that reads this has been thinking of buying a print - but just a quick note that I’m really very busy with orders - and it always makes me want to try and raise the prices a little to see what happens. I’m always on the border-line of solvency - so maybe 20% or so (which if the orders stay at the same rate) would put me over the top.

Usually when I do this the orders slow down, but the net amount seems to be constant. Also, I know this is crazy but believe it or not, people start to buy prints for Christmas in September. So the whole curve lifts a lot around then.

Anyway - maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.

SHIPPING DEPARTMENT - DAVEBECKERMAN.COM

package-2636 Prices Go Up A Bit

Most of the changes I’ve made recently in term of offerings has worked out pretty well, i.e. no more 5 x 7’s, and offering everything without matting.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve just packed up the last order. It’s raining - so not real good for IR today. I think I’ll get Lightroom 2.x today and play with that.

On a non-related note: have I mentioned that I’ve printed several 24 (well 23) x 36 prints from the 40D without any artifact issues (through ProZoom). I am beginning to think that this 40D may be the last upgrade for a long while. These are from full-frame shots. Cropped, that’s another story. But right now it is hard to imagine what they’ll put in the 50D that will drive me to B&H. (Take this with a couple of grains of salt since so far my history of upgrading is a fairly straight line curve.)

Ramblin’

23 July, 2008 (19:56) | 1 comment

Yes - thank you all for continuing to vote. It’s helped me clean up the galleries. I removed about 30 images or so. Partly based on the ratings but also on what’s sold or in many cases never sold. In a few days someone will call asking about a photograph I removed.  Happens every time. But less is more.

You know how it is. You fall in love with your latest picture and eventually have to get some distance on it. The galleries are - after all - how I’m making a living so you have to ask yourself - is that a picture I’d put on the wall or not.

So the rating gizmo is synced properly to the pages now, but I’m still waiting for the thumbnails to show up.  They make an appearance for a while, then they go for a powder.

Anyway - no new infrared since 1) it’s been raining off and on and 2) I’ve got a bunch of new orders to print. One thing I did recently is offer the prints without mats.  I think I mentioned that before.  Such a little change means so much to me.

It’s great.  Several orders came in for unmatted prints.  And I love it.  No, I wasn’t actually cutting the window openings anymore.  I have that done for me (luxury).  But still, you’ve got to attach the print, and the larger anything is, the more packaging is involved.  In other words it’s a lot easier to bend a 30 inch long by 2 inch carton as opposed to a 2 inch by 2 inch carton.  You know what I mean.

I also removed all the 5 x 7 sizes. That just wasn’t worth the effort, and 5 x 7 isn’t really a natural size anyway for my shots so they were always cropped slightly which I didn’t like. It’s also one less stack of mats and packaging I need to store in the cramped apt.  If you want the print – then you’ve got to buy it in it’s natural size.

What else?  That new air-conditioner I got a few weeks ago. The company that installed it (and installing air-conditioners is all they do) didn’t put a new sleeve in (which it needed) so it had been dripping for a while into the apartment below. Didn’t know that until the landlord called me. Now there’s a tray that fills up in about an hour beneath it while I wait for the installers to get back to me about the new sleeve. I’m hoping that isn’t going to be too expensive. What I could use is a small water pump with a tube that runs from the tray (or better yet the a/c) and drops the water out the window. I think an aquarium pump would work well.  Okay, I’ll try and tilt the thing tomorrow.  It’s a through the wall unit, and so far I haven’t been able to get it to tilt towards the outside but will try again.

The cat has discovered the water tray and wants to drink from it so I’m busy emptying the tray and keeping an eye on the cat. Not easy to do while I’m asleep.

Anyway - keep voting if you have the patience. But I have to admit - there’s no paper trail and the gizmo can be fooled if you clear your cookies.  (Hmmm, that is an odd-sounding phrase).  Doctor – what happened to this patient?  It’s an unfortunate situation, nurse.  His cookies were cleared.

Okay, enough of this.  I can’t wait ‘til autumn.

Common Questions

3 July, 2008 (19:55) | 1 comment

- Is this your sole means of support?

Yes.  It has been for about 7 years.  Before that I worked as a programmer and did photography in my spare time.  The website itself has been online for about ten years.  As I remember it, in my first year on the web I sold exactly one photograph.

- Do you get model releases?

No.  Given the type of shooting I do it isn’t possible.  I might take pictures of hundreds of people before I find a shot that works for me.

If you are in the U.S. and are shooting in a public place, and not using the photographs for commercial purposes - it is perfectly fine to sell them as art.  This doesn’t mean you won’t get sued.  You can always get sued, especially if you are showing someone in a bad light.

In short, if street photographers needed model releases, there’d be no street photography (see Cartier Bressons images and ask yourself if he had model releases).

If you are able to get model releases, that’s even better as the image can be used for stock photography purposes.

- When did you begin taking pictures?

When I was 15.  My first darkroom was in the second bathroom in our apartment in the Bronx.  I was born in the middle of the last century.  I’d love to say that I’ve been shooting all that time but that wouldn’t be true.  I didn’t begin to work seriously at photography until I was in my mid-thirties.  That was a reaction to compensate for the corporate work I did.

- Who inspires you?

When I began, there were inspirations - Adams, Kertesz, Walker and many others.  Now I don’t feel that I have any inspirations.  If I do, I’m not sure what they are.

- What equipment do you use.

As of the time of this writing (June 2008) I’m using the Canon 40D with mostly prime fast lenses.  Over the years I’ve used many cameras from Leicas to View cameras.  For me, the camera is just a tool - and sometimes I switch cameras because I’m bored, or in some shooting slump.  Once you jump into the digital world that process gets speeded up.  I’m sure that the next time I write this sort of thing I’ll be using another camera, though I do always like to use good fast prime lenses.  That hasn’t changed since I was 15.

- Why do you shoot in black and white.

Actually, recently I began working in color.  But the main reason for shooting so much in b&w was that I felt I had more control over the final image.  But times change, new software comes along, and I use Lightroom now to gain control over my color images.

- Do you ask permission from people before you take their picture.

No.  If you do that before you take their picture you’ve changed whatever you were shooting.

- Do you ever talk with people while you’re shooting them?

Sometimes.

- I’m just starting out - do you have any advice for me?

I try very hard not to give advice - certainly not without knowing the person.  The only thing I would say is that when you start out, and along the way - have a camera that you can take with you wherever you go.  You may walk around for days without finding anything to shoot, but it’s good to have it around your neck and be ready for that moment that may never come again.  (This doesn’t apply to all types of photography, but to the type of shooting I do.)

- What printer / paper do you currently use?

Right now I’m printing with the Epson 7800 and the Epson 4800.  I’ve been using Silver Rag (Crane/Museo) paper since it came out; but the new Epson “F” Gloss Exhibition paper is very good and I may switch to it.

- Can you recommend any books about photography?

I started by studying most of the Ansel Adams books and the Zone System theory.  It’s a pretty good foundation and Ansel was probably the best teacher in terms of technique.

If I’ve left something out - let me know and I’ll try and add it to this page.  - Dave Beckerman, June 2008

Selling Photos on the Web

26 June, 2008 (21:06) | 2 comments

SELLING PHOTOGRAPHS ON THE WEB

11/22/2005

It’s harder than it looks.

davebeckerman.com went up in December 1999.

During my first year on the web, I sold one print. And that was paid for by check. And that check bounced. So during my first full year I lost money on my one sale since I had to pay the bank a fee for the bounced check (luckily I still had my day job as a programmer).

The web site, back then, was sort of a portfolio. Friends would use it to look at prints. I would visit them with the actual prints they were interested in and help them arrange several prints so they could see what they’d look like on their wall. That was my interior designer stage.

Next realization: people were coming to the site and looking around but still not buying. And I’d never hear from them again.

There had to be a reason for people to return, and to make the site less anonymous. There was a real human being behind these images. Enter the online journal (later called the blog)

Traffic began to increase. Not to look at pictures, but to read the journal.

By having people come back to view the journal - it helped to keep the site fresh in their minds - and some of them came back and bought prints.

IF YOU ASK THE CUSTOMER TO DO SOMETHING EXTRA you will almost always lose the sale.

They have quick fingers out there. Another site is just a click away. The sale is usually an impulse sale. The potential customer has to feel that the image they’re looking for is just a click away. Don’t show too much at once in the thumbnail gallery. Just enough so that they want to go on.

IF YOU SELL YOUR PRINTS TOO CHEAPLY THEY WILL BE SEEN AS CHEAP.

When I began, I tried to make the prints as cheap as possible. I just wanted to get them into people’s hands. That was a mistake. On the other hand:

IF YOUR PRINTS ARE TOO EXPENSIVE THEY WON’T SELL

It is a delicate balance. There is a price point that is related to the size of the photograph. A print that you could never sell for $90 you might sell if you lowered the price to $85 and charged $5 more for shipping and handling. That handling happens to be the most time-consuming part of the whole process.

This is assuming you are one of the great unknown artists of your day. If you are a known commodity - then none of this applies to you.

This price-point thing is still a mysterious subject. But the general price range that works (as of this writing) is somewhere between $25 for a small print and $90 for a larger print.

You may be able to sell prints on the web for more, but you’ll sell less of them. The main reason for this is, as I say, You are not a known commodity, and who is going to take a chance (even if you offer a full money back return) of spending a couple of hundred dollars for a print that they’ve only seen on the web? And here I can’t blame them.

WHAT SELLS

You may run into a collector of fine art once in a while but most of your customers are looking for something to hang in the living room or as a gift for a meaningful occasion. Here again - the price is important. If you are giving a gift for someone’s wedding you want to pay something substantial for it.

SO WHERE IS YOUR YOUR NICHE

Before you do anything - you must figure out where exactly you fit into the vast universe of the web. In my case, it turned out to be Black and White Photography of New York.

Nearly all of your traffic will come from search engines. This niche is the single most important decision you will make.

If you decide that your niche is Fine Art Photography - good luck.

There are ten thousand sites, many large corporate entities that compete for that phrase.

If your niche is too narrow - you may wind up at the top of the search page for that phrase - but not enough people are looking for Photographs of pencils to make it worthwhile.

As I write this, I’m aware that someone will end up at this page because they are searching for pencil photography (sorry).

GOOGLE TIPS

There are lots of books available to tell you how Google works, but here are a couple of tips:

- The Title Meta tag, i.e. what you call your page should not only be related to what’s on the page, but contain at least one of the phrases that people are searching for.

- It doesn’t do any good to just submit your link to all sorts of generalized sites. The big thing with Google is that it not only looks at the content on your site, but looks at the material on the site that links back to you. And also looks at that sites rating for that particular phrase.

If - for example - one of your keyword phrases is “Black and White Photography” you would like to be linked back to by other sites that specialize in B&W Photography and that are ranked highly themselves for that phrase.

- I’ve been told, but don’t know if this is true - that Google also values sites where the content changes often. If this is true - then just having a blog dedicated to your subject matter is important but it’s not something I can verify.

- If you just put up pictures without text descriptions - Google isn’t going to do much with them. Google can’t yet read photographs. And I’m not sure how much it makes from the “ALT” tag. I did read that they were starting to use real human beings to categorize and rank images for their image search.

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

I don’t care what they put you through - by the time you have actually gotten a paying customer you just need to do everything in your power to keep them. Take their returns gladly. If a print is damaged - send them a free print. Whatever it takes. Word will get around that you are trustworthy.

I once had a customer who was very irate about something - can’t even remember what anymore. I got a very nasty letter from him. And I took a deep breath, and told him he was completely right - and that he could have any picture he wanted as a replacement. His tone changed immediately, and a year later he was back for another picture.

YOUR BEST ADVERTISING IS THE PRINT ITSELF

When you do make a sale. Put everything you have into producing the best possible print you can. I can’t tell you how many times someone e-mails to say they saw such and such a print on someone’s wall and they want one as well. Every print you send is your advertisement.

What you really want is for people to return for more. I have many customers that I don’t hear from for a year - and then like clockwork - an order comes in for the holidays. Year after year.

eBAY

eBay should be thought of as a part of your marketing. Even if a print doesn’t sell - or if it sells for a small amount of money - your eBay listing should always have some reference to your own site. Their rules about this are tricky, but at the very least, if you are posting a photograph, you can put a nice-sized water mark on it: copyright your_website.com

I have had several art collectors who saw a print on eBay - and although they didn’t buy it - they arrived at my site and bought several other prints.

And if you setup a page on your own site for further information about a print listed on eBay, you are allowed to link back to that page in your description. At least you could the last time I looked.

If you begin to get good feedback - that also helps. It helps to have a place where people can read “real comments” from other purchasers. You can setup a page on your own site for testimonials as well.

The point is - that when I did a listing on eBay, I thought of it as a possible avenue for sales, but also as a form of advertising.

Speaking of advertising - I have never come across any that worked or was worth the price. There may be something out there - but I don’t know about it.

WEB IMAGE SIZE

This is another important variable. The photographers that visit your site may like to see nice big 800 pixel-wide images - but if you do this in your gallery you are going to be surprised at how many people can’t see the full image on their monitor. You are really shooting for the Lowest Common Denominator. You just can’t blow off half of your potential audience by doing large images.

At one time, I had a button that allowed people to see a much larger image if they wanted to. No one used it.

They want to get a general idea of the picture and - this is also important - anything you can tell about the photograph is helpful. I don’t mean what lens you used - but something - some words to describe what was going on. something to give the image some context.

ENOUGH TO LOOK AT

Don’t start offering prints for sale until you have at least 75 good images. Even if many of the images aren’t sellable - and you know that - if they show the quality and seriousness of your work - they give presence to your more sellable prints.

IT AIN’T GONNA BE EASY

Selling on the web is a full-time job. In most cases you are the web-designer, the marketer, the mat cutter, the packager, the customer service department, the accountant, the tech support guy - and every once in a while the photographer. And there is tons of competition.

However - nothing ventured, nothing gained. Okay - that’s trite. But you don’t need to hock the house to start a web-based business. You don’t need to rent a store. And you don’t need to give half of your sale to a gallery. What you will invest - besides talent - is tons of labor. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out - something on the web changes. A new technology is introduced and you’ll need to keep up with it.

On the other hand - there are great satisfactions to be had. One thing is that you can show much more of your work than if you were in a physical gallery. In the few gallery shows that I did - the most I could present at one time might have been 15 prints. And things happen on the web that surprise you. Almost every year - something came along: offer to do a book (now out of print); design firms that wanted to use my work in hotels, and corporate offices.

And best of all - and I don’t mean this in a corny way - the friends I’ve made through this site and the helpful information - I don’t think I could have continued without that sort of support.

Agora Gallery 2

18 May, 2001 (15:32) | No comments

Sent out portfolio and gallery agreement to the Gallery. So now another phase begins. It took almost three days to put the portfolio together. Nothing fancy, just sleeves in a loose-leaf, but flipping through them… had a good feeling to it. I’m afraid my stuff is all over the place. No definite style. What’s the relationship between Promenade and Good Careers? Once the gallery prices go into effect, the prices on the web site will have to be up there also. Maybe 25% less. Its not fair to sell at one price in a gallery and then have people be able to buy the same print off the web for half the price. Anyway, this pricing thing is all new to me… but it does seem that the same print that sells in the Gallery for $1000 could be much cheaper at an art fair. The overhead is much lower. Who knows.

Agora Gallery - 1

5 May, 2001 (15:30) | No comments

Now I’m starting to get nervous. The Agora Gallery in Soho has agreed to ‘represent me’. This means an exhibit in New York’s Soho area etc. I guess more on this when I figure out when and where etc. It does seem like a lot of stuff is happening at once.

« Older entries