An interview with Chris St. James of Univers d'Artistes...
How are you selling your photos these days? Galleries? Community websites? Your site? Exhibitions? Publications? Other?
Most of the first inquries about my art begin online... the majority of sales inquiries come from my official website and from deviantART, although I have also had great luck in selling my art at exhibitions in the kiosks. I have also heard that many photographers have had great luck selling their images on eBay, which I haven't tried, but I am considering because I would like to find more people to expose to my art. To be honest, I haven't really pushed selling the art, I've been more interested in just sharing the art. It is still quite surreal to me that others take my art, which is a very personal expression of my imagination and fantasies, and put it in their homes.
When somebody orders a print for private use, do you dedicate it?
As a general rule, I do not dedicate my prints unless specifically asked to. I do this to avoid lowering the resale value, as I know several of my collectors like to buy multiple pieces of my art during special opportunities and then resell or share them with others.
Do you make numbered series mounted on gallery quality?
Yes, I try to provide the best product with archival quality because I want my prints to last as long as possible for people to enjoy them!
How many per Series?
This is an interesting story... when I was first approached by a collector who wanted something of mine in a Limited Edition, I had never really given thought to how it was supposed to be done, so I went to several other artists to gain a better understanding of what exactly is "Limited Edition" for a digital photograph and how it could be "limited." The answers were all the same, in that there is no standard for the number in a Limited Edition series. Many people go with a nice round number like 10, 25, 50, 100, and even up to 500, 1,000 and 5,000. In my opinion, if there are 5,000 other copies of the photograph that I just purchased, it isn't very limited, so I decided to go with something under 100. When I heard that another Streetwise Artist went with the number "33" because it was his lucky number, I decided to go with own lucky number and so my Limited Edition series always go to 27. As another side note, the number 6 (another lucky number) is reserved for myself to give to close friends and the number 27 is reserved for exchanges with other artists. Occasionally, I will do a piece that is limited to one (1) print, just to mix things up and to keep my collectors on their toes!
How do you give to your client a real high resolution print? Do you use a high quality lab? How do you ensure the prints are available on time?
I use an online provider that does top notch work, with beautiful, crisp clarity and I usually print on Kodak ENDURA Metallic Paper because it really makes the photograph pop. The online print shop has all of my prints ready to ship and delivered within 72 hours.
What about frames? Do you send the photo with and/or without?
I am hesitant to send my art out in frames, at least frames with glass because the potential for the print to be damaged is so high that I'd rather just avoid it... especially if it's a Limited Edition print, but I will do it if the investor is willing to pay for the shipping, handling and insurance associated with such a delicate ship.
Who frames? You? The lab? Who chooses?
I always frame my own art for hanging in galleries and at exhibitions... not only do I hand select the frames, but my father mattes every piece, unless there's a stunning pre-cut matte that really complements the photograph.
How much time do you need to be comfortable from the order to the delivery?
Approximately one week. If I don't already have the print on hand, my printer gets things to me in three days... that, combined with the time needed to pack and ship it, means that most of my prints will take upwards of a week to get to the collector.
Do you handle the delivery?
I will personally deliver the art if I have the time and opportunity. Last summer, I flew out to Las Vegas and personally delivered a piece to one of my collectors there... I love getting the opportunity to meet my collectors, to see their faces when they get the piece and to talk to them about why they enjoy it.
What about other products? Calendars, mugs, postal cards...?
I've had this fun debate with many of my colleagues, some of whom think that these commercial products cheapen the art. I disagree... I think if you want one of my prints on a mug or a magnet or even a mouse pad, fantastic! I also recently started shooting a fun series which was intentionally meant for post cards and they've been a huge success! My thoughts are that it doesn't matter how the art is shared and displayed, as long as the person who is purchasing it is going to enjoy it and be able to share it with others.
What is your advice to avoid the inexperienced errors?
#1 - Make sure that your computer screen is color calibrated with your print shop. This way you can be sure not to see one thing on your monitor and be disappointed when something slightly (or even majorly) different comes out. I had one piece, "The Eye of Pele" which is a digital painting in yellows, oranges and reds, but when I first had it printed several areas of the print came out green! I rectified it quickly and fortunately the collector was very understanding...
#2 - Learn your printing options (i.e. glossy, matte, lustre, canvas, metallic). Depending on the type of paper that you print your art on, your piece will look different and the paper format can really add or detract from the mood and focus of the piece. There are certain pieces that I have that I will only print on canvas or metallic, which seem to be my two personal preferences, but everyone will develop their own preferences and style.
#3 - Let your collectors dictate your inventory. Don't immediately purchase 1,000 copies of something that you're sure will be a favourite... surprisingly, the ones that were the most personal to me and I did not think others would connect with have done the best in terms of sales, while others that I thought had tremendous appeal to large populations haven't always done as well as I thought they might. It's an intriguing way of getting feedback from those who love your art.
What could help you?
Knowing what others do, too! This whole thing is a constant learning process, with new techniques, print shops and mediums available. I'd love to hear what other photographers are doing these days and share tips and tragedies! So let's hear it!