40. Every Image Has a Story
When it comes to selling your photography and art there is one great aid. Make sure that you have a story about or involving each image. People love a story.
It is easy for those of us who are serious about making images, whether photography or art, to forget why other people buy images. We are focused on the beauty of the image, or its symbolic meaning, the process used to create it or whatever, so we often forget to see things from the buyers' perspectives.
So why do people buy art? Well there are, of course, many reasons, perhaps as many as there are buyers. But broadly we can say that some will buy purely for their own enjoyment, some from a collector's mentality and others to enhance their surroundings.
No matter the personal motivation, most people who buy art will, in some way, share it with other people in their lives. It may be a conversation with a friend over coffee, down at the gym or while picking the kids up from school or at a dinner party. Describing images is a challenge for most people. But telling a story comes naturally to many. If the artwork has a story attached to it, it makes life much easier.
At gallery openings I have a tendency to watch the artist. I guess all photographers are voyeurs, but I find it very enlightening. Many of the artists and photographers that I see doing very well from exhibition sales know how to spin a yarn. As they chat with potential buyers they have an interesting story about every image in the show, "You know, when I shot this..." or "I have to tell you this about this image, I had a proof hanging in my studio and ...". You can see the way it changes how the potential buyer views the work. Now I am sure few are directly thinking "Wow, if I buy this I will have a great story for my next dinner party", though some will. For most, I think that it draws them into a deeper engagement with the work, adds depth and interest and increases the feeling that they just must have that image, that their life will be the lesser if they have to let it go. This same idea holds in other venues than galleries: it is applicable at art fairs and markets, online and in a portrait or wedding studio (helped here by the buyer's own stories about the images). Obviously the length of the story and how much time you have to tell it needs to be different in these varying contexts, but the idea is the same.
Selling is still selling and it is easy for artists and photographers to lose sight of this about their work. Sometimes people need just one more reason to buy. Make sure you give it to them.
My image Road to Elysium took six months to produce because when I came up with the idea it was not when the wheat was growing. I had to wait to get the shots I wanted up to six months. It makes for a great story.