As I grow older, rather than becoming more set in my photographic ways, I seem to be developing an urge to kick over the apple cart.
I’ve already written about displaying works without overmats. The reaction to my doing that has been highly bimodal. Many people don’t notice. Of those that do, the majority find it refreshing, or at least say they do. A small majority doesn’t like it, and it doesn’t seem to matter to them how the work looks: it’s a matter of principle. If I valued the work, I’d mat it. If it were finished project, it would be matted. It’s a traditional way of looking at photography, but not one that makes sense to me anymore. I’m not saying that all photographs should be presented without overmats, but I don’t believe that one size fits all.
But this isn’t a post about matting, it’s a post about pricing (or, for you Arlo Guthrie fans, this is a song about Alice). For years, photographers universally charged more for large prints than small prints, in approximate proportionality to the area. Before there were photographers selling art, there were painters. You could argue that it takes twice as much work to paint a canvas that’s twice as big, and therefore the painter ought to get twice as much for it. But even in the silver printing days, it was only slightly more difficult to make, say, an 11x 14 as opposed to an 8×10. The materials and chemicals probably cost twice as much, but the photographer’s labor was only marginally different.
This calculation completely leaves out the artistic and aesthetic decisions, which is what you really paying for when you buy a piece of art. It’s hard for me to imagine that there are any differences there, no matter what the size of the work.
Today, for many photographers, printing an image means pressing <Control> P and getting a cup of coffee (I know, I know; but I’m exaggerating for effect). That means that the difference and the cost of a large and a small print is simply the difference in the cost of materials, which is maybe 5% of the price of the print.
I usually make prints in one of two sizes, 17×22 and 22×30. The 22×30 paper is becoming hard to get, and I will probably be switching to 24×30 or 24×36. From now on, I’ll be charging the same for both sizes. Somehow, that just feels right.
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