Prof. Quality Simple Framing System Question

Pat Regan

Feb 28, 2004
Victor, NY
I am applying to a couple art fairs this summer and am brand new to the framing & matting end of this business. The number of options is really confusing. Here are my requirements and maybe someone out there has some ideas.

I would like to spend a small amount of time framing and matting my prints (about 30 minutes per print). I am willing to spend more per framed print and make less when I sell. I would rather spend my time in the digital dark room rather than cutting mats and such. I want them to look professional and be archival. I am printing on an archival Epson 2200 printer. These are color prints with some Sepia prints as well.

Of course I don't want a professional framer because it would be too expensive.

I am leaning towards buying pre-cut photo-ready mats. Do I need unbuffered or buffered? Where can I get this? My biggest confusion lies in how to best mount the photo to the backing board. And then how to adhere the window mat to the backing mat? I want something that will keep the photo flat and last.

The Nielsen frames look nice and are easy to assemble. I took one apart and back together so this seems a good way to go. Any thoughts?

And finally, glass or acrylic? If I buy all materials precut like the matting, backing board, glass, and framing materials would this get me what I want? Where best to buy this?

Originally posted by Pat Regan:
Of course I don't want a professional framer because it would be too expensive.

Pat, You are asking us to give away that by which we make our livings. :rolleyes:

[ 02-28-2004, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: wpfay ]
Welcome to the grumble!

Of coarse my advice would be at least to get some quotes from some local frame shops. But to accuratly answer your question you would need to include more information. Volume, experiance, budget, sizes, and desired quaility all would be deciding factors.

I think it would be near impossible to do professional looking work, with little experiance, at a low cost, quickly. Are you wanting to buy the necessary equipment to accomplish this or are you willing to have things other than mats done for you?

Again I would explain your situation to a local framer. They may have options that you would find quite agreeable. This is a expensive craft that requires specific equipment. There are some tricks here and ideas there that we could help you with. However, if your question is "How can I do everthing a frameshop does for myself only, and cheaper/quicker than I could farm out my framing?" Just based on that I would say that you can't.
I will talk with some local frame shops and get some quotes. Maybe the framer I used in the past was just very expensive.

As for volume, I want to do between 30 - 50 framed & matted per show (framing pictures 8x10, 11x14, and 13x16). And then maybe a few hundred just matted prints in smaller sizes). I have zero experience in framing & matting other than doing it with ready made frames & mats & tape (all in one type thing).

As for low cost, I just mean less than a professional framer. I would shoot for quality close to a professional framer. The biggest difference here, I would imagine would be how I mount the photo and adhere the materials. I would use the same quality materials as a prof framer. I assume if I bought them in bulk I could get them cheaper than what I framer would charge me. And I am sure the framer's labor is not that cheap.

As far as equipment, like I said, I would buy all pre-cut (ready-made) materials and should not need fancy equipment for cutting and such...

So, my real question is this. If I use pre-cut and all ready-made materials and then just assembled everything (mounting, matting, adhering, etc.) could I do this for less than a professional framer??

So, my real question is this. If I use pre-cut and all ready-made materials and then just assembled everything (mounting, matting, adhering, etc.) could I do this for less than a professional framer??
If I take the photos at my daughter's wedding can I do it for less than a professional photogapher? Of course, I can. But will they be of the same quality? Probably not.

[ 02-28-2004, 01:25 PM: Message edited by: Maryann ]
Hi Pat-Since you are in the imaging business, perhaps you can offer your advice in knd?

We are looking to put together a slick, very professional brochure that will require a lot of imagery. And we have been blown away by some of the prices quoted by professional labs.

We want it to look very professional, but don't want to pay that much, either.

Any suggestions and since this may be a one-time deal, we don't want to purchase any equipment. But, it sure doesn't seem like it should cost as much as we have been quoted.

Any ideas?

I'm going to tear down my home and build a new one.

Does anyone have nay ideas on how to do this cheaper than using a contractor, or home builder. I want the end result to be just as good in quality and workmanship as if a professional.

I also want it to take less time than if the pro's did it. Did I mention the I wan tit to cost less money part? Because, all this contractors are just too expensive. After all, it's just some wood, and glass all slapped together. There can't be that much skill involved in it. I've got a hammer, and I have a Home Depot card, and a site. I'm half-way there already.

I have another question.

I'm getting ready to do my taxes. This CPA thing seems a bit unreasonable. Can't I just do it myself and get the same bucks back?

Why don't they charge less?

My car is acting up. Does anyone know how to fix it without going to a mechanic? (They're crooks). I went to NAPA and picke up a bunch of parts that I think will do the job best. I bought the cheapest stuff they had. On the box it said it would work for most cars if you don't mind comprimising on perfomance and looks. I like the cheapr price, but I don't want to give up on performance and looks. How can I use this stuff and make it not look like I took the cheap way out, or mess up my car even more?

Any help appreciated.
Pat, as a group, we are generally friendly and helpful.

But some of us have spent 25 years or more learning to do things the way we do them. You unintentionally insult us by suggesting that we could explain, in a few words on a computer bulletin board, how to attain a "quality close to a professional framer."

You are right in assuming that "the framer's labor is not that cheap." Nor is the experience.

I was saying exactly the same thing about 15 years ago. I began cutting mats and framing my husbands photos because I felt that having them professionally framed was out of my budget at that time.

I just threw away a huge pile of cibachromes that I framed those early years. They have not held up through time--primarily due to the corners I cut in trying to save money, and also through the lack of professional knowledge in those early years.

Serious buyers know the good stuff when they see it, so it stands to reason that you're more likely to sell a quality product.

If you are the kind of person, like I am, that you won't be satisfied with an inferior job, and you keep finding the need to upgrade your matcutter/mounting methods/glazing, you will either

a)find that you will save money in the long run by having a pro do it, or

b)end up becoming a professional framer yourself.
(Like I did!)because that's what you're going to be doing with your time.

Before you go that route ask yourself if you want that cutting into your photography business--because it takes TIME. At this point, that couple of hours everyday might pay off better for you if spent it MARKETING your extablished business than to spend it trying to save a few bucks. Time is, after all, extremely valuable.
I pretty much agree with the above statements. I'm finding more artist are trying to sell work framed and say they are making less when in reality they are selling their work and giving away a frame.

Some have figured it out and raising prices. Why not have one framed up by a professional and sell the prints?

Check on line, there are wholesale prices out there for what you are asking.

I agree with Ron, usually we are more helpful.

Welcome to the grumble, perhaps if you do some searches you will get some answers indirectly. :confused:
I take it that you are doing this to resale, correct?

Do you have a Tax Id?

If so there are several wholesalers that can supply what you need at a resonable cost. At our shop, our money is made about 95% retail, the rest is wholesale supplies and framing which we do for artists and others that resale the product but want to sell professional quality product. For those customers that we do wholesale, we do it because of the volume they bring in number one and because our sticker goes on every piece.
Hi Pat,

Welcome to the Grumble, for what it's worth to you.

Actually, most of those who have replied to your original question have been very gracious in my opinion. I noticed that nobody asked how much you had invested in your photography equipment, archival paper, computer programs to process and touch up your prints, the archival paper that you are running through that Epson printer, or the cost of the printer. I am also wondering if you realize the amount of money that is invested in just the run-of-the-mill average frame shop.

I know that professional photographers charge upwards of $300 - $500 for a graduation photo sitting. They charge as much as $4000 for weddings and many times charge over $100 just for a b/w 8x10 of a newborn. I can't comprehend how they can charge so much for a photo! After all, it is just a photo, right?? How can they be so expensive when you can take really good photos with an average 35mm or a digital camera and have them printed at Wal-mart for less than a buck a print.

Artists charge an exhorbitant amount of money for commissioned work. Their originals are priced in the many thousands and their prints quite often run over hundreds of dollars. I don't see how they can justify those costs based on my knowledge of art, printing, marketing, and retail sales for paper artwork.

(And the key to this tirade is the last sentence.)

Your perception of framing charges is based on how you perceive the finished product and what your comparisons in price have in common. Sure, framing isn't cheap and sometimes it is simply a royal ripoff if the framer isn't good at his/her profession. But that is true in most specialized fields, isn't it? We are a specialized group of people. If you are a professional photographer, (I just assumed you were by the "digital dark room" comment), you are a member of a specialized group of people.

Try to imagine how we feel when a photographer comes to us and complains about our unreasonable prices and then tries to charge us $250 - $400 for an 11x14 of our newborn baby. One photo!

So I may be way off base here but I am betting that our experience in custom framing and all the years that we have invested in learning our trade isn't going to go your way simply because you feel we are too expensive. There are some other excuses that you could have used that I may have bought into, but hurling verbal insults our way in the opening post of your visit to the Grumble and then asking for our help isn't the best way to make friends and influence people.

This is my personal opinion and doesn't reflect anyonee else's feelings on this matter.

Lots of good and interesting information here. With that, a good amount of sarcastic and quite negative comments as well.

I understand you guys have years of professional framing experience and that you might be "offended" about my questions. So here are my replies to your posts.

Reply to Wally Fay :

I was just asking if what I proposed was feasible and was not meant for you to give up trade secrets. And, in fact, have not heard of any actually facts saying it can't be done.

Maryann :

I appreciate your opinion that it might not be the same quality but I would argue that it would be very close especially if I followed the proper procedures and used the same materials.

Bob Carter:

Are you actually attempting to compare "professional framing" to "professional photograhy"? I am sorry, but you've got to be kidding me. And I apologize if this hurts you guys a bit, but what comes around goes around.

Marc Lizer :

See above comment.

Ron Eggers :

Sorry for the "unintentional" insult but I am still not convinced I am off base.

Barb Pelton :

I pretty much agree, although my hope was to be more of a professional assembler. Using all pre-cut and ready-made materials. (trying to avoid all the cutting and measuring and such)

JPete :

Thanks for the info.

jvandy57 :

My sales tax ID is in process and will be looking for wholesale pricing. Thanks for the info.

Hi Pat-No, I was serious. I thought you would want to offer suggestions on how we could save money on our project. You certainly would want to share your ideas and knowledge, wouldn't you.

I do agree with your premise on the unfair comparison between professional photograhers (sic)and professional framers. I can't tell you how many times we have had to re-do framing work for clients that had their framing work done by photographers.

Or, maybe it would be wiser to respect each others professions a little bit more
I work both sides of the fence...Many...many years behind the lense....I paid my dues...I spent endless hours learning how to become an artist...years in the "Wet Room"....I have only had a Framing shop for less than a year now....
Am I a Professional Framer ??? " I " will not insult these folks on the "Grumble" ...They have "Paid their dues"..."Spent years and years becoming "Artists"....
Behind the lense I am good....In the Darkroom I can create a few miracles....
In the frame shop I am an "Idiot"....But continue to pay my watch...And maybe some day I become good at this form of Art.....

I figured the "Framerguy" would chime in on this one.....(He has forgot more about framing than I will ever know !!!)
I have had the honor of meeting him and he has shared so much of his wisdom...and I "Can Tell You " He is an "Artist" as so many of the Grumble Gang.....They, like any other Artist have taken the hours, days, years, decades to
study, work,and put in the time and paid their dues to reach their well deserved Artistic level in lifes arena.....

So.....As a few said.....
Would you please in short order explain the "Zone System" may take Ansel's approach or Minor Whites interpretation....but please make it short and sweet...A few of the Grumble Gang want to get into "Fine Art" Black & White Photography before dark !!!

J. Michael
I would think that in the same amount of time invested in the framing side you could be improving and taking more pictures. I would think you make more money off the photos than the mark up that you would be making on framing.
We have an artist that we sell very well. Paintings in a 30x40 size sells unframed for 3400.00.for the art,WE design frames for the art
in the range of 1500.00 we sell the art framed for 4900.00 . he has other galleries that think the frames are to expensive the put stock
frames on his work in the price range of 200.00 to 500.00 some of these galleries aer in much higher traffic areas than we are but we sell his work 8 to 1 . I use this example just to show in reality the frames cost 0$ and the use of professional framer can make you money and save your limited creative time. But if you want to do framing Im sure one could get a professional look on a budget . I for one want to get paid for my limited time.

[ 02-28-2004, 05:10 PM: Message edited by: Cassetta ]
As the :D "Idiot" :D from Alabama said, I may have forgotten more than he will ever know about framing.

What he failed to mention is there are many days when I feel like I have forgotten more than I thought I knew about framing!! I messed up 2 mats this morning and it was just a stupid mistake that I made that even Alabama born framers would have caught! that is the main reason why I continue to be a "student" of framing. There is so much to know and so many new trends and techniques to learn every time you turn around that you will never know enough to be classified as a true "artist" of your trade.

There are always the unknowns to anyone's profession that aren't readily apparent to someone without the trade (as I attempted to point out in my earlier post) and it is presumptuous of anyone to make a blanket statement about the work of others without knowing what that work actually entails. So treading with a light step is always the prudent way to travel.

I thought I read you wanted archival materials, so I figure if you really DO want archival quality you'll end up cutting the materials yourself or having them cut for you.

I haven't seen any archival precut mats anywhere of quality. (Then again, I don't get out much these days). "Acid-free" is a catch all, gray area, generic term that really doesn't mean much...kinda like "lite" cheesecake.

Pat, I'm giving you the answer that no one gave me 15 years ago. To provide a quality product is never easy--no matter how easy it LOOKS from where you are sitting right now. Sure, it can be done, but you will have to invest a substantial amount of time learning, researching, tracking down the sources, ordering the materials, etc. and unless you are just not doing much business at all--then it isn't the best way to utilize your time.

Like Jerry, I wholesale to established artists that are consistant and professional and who have a tax id. I enjoy working with other artists in my community and helping them anyway I can. Good luck.
Are you actually attempting to compare "professional framing" to "professional photography"? I am sorry, but you've got to be kidding me.
That insult was somewhat less "unintentional." :D

Actually, quite a few of us here are in an excellent position to compare professional framing and professional photography.

Did you think we were all framers from birth?

Ron Eggers
Brooks Institute of Photography, Santa Barbara
Originally posted by Pat Regan:
...Are you actually attempting to compare "professional framing" to "professional photograhy"? I am sorry, but you've got to be kidding me...
Pat, you probably don't need any training or experience to achieve near-professional framing without tools or equipment. Just practice until you're happy with your results.

After all, I get great results with my Nikon Coolpix camera, and I haven't even read through the whole instruction manual yet. I'm only a few weeks away from being a near-professional photographer. But I know I can't really be a professional photographer until I buy that special printer.
That was not sarcastic.

I am really tearing down my home building a new one. The total project cost is about 1.5 mil. Of that, the contractor alone will be about 8 percent of that. That's cash in his pocket, not payments for materials or labor. Pretty much, he is going to be making phone calls, pushing paper, and supervising people. About the same thing I actually do at work. Heck. I can do that already! But I'm paying for the right phone calls. The right paper being pushed, at the right time, and the right people being supervised, in the right way. So, pretty much, if I knew what he knew, I'd save over 100K's.

No problem. After doing it once, now I know about 1/2 to 3/4 of it. However, on my next project, I will still gladly hire him. Because 1/4 wrong, is still not acceptable. Is it?

I did not say framing was more "important" or less important than construction, but I do say a Contractor will build a house better than a Picture Framer.

Now to taxes. I'm just getting that finished up.

Wow. The things that they know. Deductions I never even knew of. I am deducting my property taxes, my 3/4 of my water bill and 1/2 my electrical for the year. As well as even the Gardner and all those home depot receipts. Lets' see. What else: All hospital, doctor, medical, dental, eye, prescriptions etc. Tuition for my kid's school, the lunch program, and membership there too. The fee/points we paid during re-financing last year. Last years CPA charge. LLC legal fees. And even other things.
What a professional CPA can for you. I did not say framing was more "important" or less important than CPA's, but I do say a CPA will do taxes better than a Picture Framer.

Now to the car. I have a '46 Plymouth. It needs a bit of work. Heck. I spent money on the car. Now I should spend more to fix it? So, will cheaper fuel lines, brake lines and pads be better for me in the long run? Will it make it safer or less safe? Will it make it re-sell for more or less? Should I use leather interior or vinyl? I did not say framing was more "important" or less important than mechanics, but I do say a Mechanic will fix a car better than a Picture Framer.

Be that as it may. I don't see Picture Framing is more or less important than these professions. They are different, but not better or worse. However I can get the seance that you feel that (quote from you)" "professional framing" to "professional photography"? I am sorry, but you've got to be kidding me."
The sub text is also "professional framing" to contractors, CPA, or mechanics: Are you kidding me?

Well, I have a respect for other profesions. I see you don't.

It seems that you are the one that feels they are better than some other profession. However, your Digital Darkroom is really just you sitting in front of a computer. Isn't it? Why heck, I'm doing that right now. I guess I just opened my own digital darkroom! Next stop. Professional Photohack! I think I have a disc camera somewhere around here.

Each of the three trade problems I brought up (both times) illustrate the drawbacks of your problem. The photographers I know work better that way (in ilustration). As a photohack, I would have assumed you worked in illustrations a bit better than dry reasoning, as they do. But that would have assume you were a professional like them.
Hey Bob I can help you. I have an old Barbie usb camera here. I can also give you an old bootleg copy of Paint Shop Pro. That should get you near professional results (after all it does say "pro). Just prepare your brochure the way you want it and I can print it on my Deskjet. Can you imagine the money that would save you? Call Me!
Originally posted by Jim Miller:
Originally posted by Pat Regan:
[qb] ...Are you actually attempting to compare "professional framing" to "professional photograhy"? I am sorry, but you've got to be kidding me...
Pat, I have never posted on here before but I read everything! Your comment that comparing "professional framing" to "professional photography" is a joke really got to me.
So am I to assume that wedding photographers are more skilled then a professional framer? My 14 year old daughter takes beautiful photos from time to time, but she never does a beautiful frame. Its easier to become a "professional photographer" then a "professional framer" so you might have the joke wrong. Ken
A good resource for finding what you want is in one of your trade association's monthly publications. PMA (Photo Marketing Association). I subscribe to it, do you?
I quess this is my day to unload on the grumble. You can't say that knowing your digital camera inside out, or taking a few chance "award winning" photos in any way deems you a professional photographer. There are skills such as setting up and managing a photo shoot, lighting ect., but in the same breath, there are just as many nuances and tricks of the framing profession, that you must master in order to become a professional framer.
I charge as much for one day of labour and or design consultations as most professional photographers would, and I bill a fortune for some higher end projects.

I form alliances with other photographers and refer them clients, I also pay full price for full day photo shoots. They in turn send clients to me to frame their photos. As someone already mentioned, your time may be well spent finding a good framer that will do wholesale framing for you at a "fair" price and be thankfull that you've found a good alliance.

Speaking of being condescending about other trades, it's amazing how some really wealthy clients treat you so well and their spoiled kids treat you like you are nobody because you are "serving" their parents. Just had that happen recently and almost strangled the little #@*#*#!
All right, all right. I apologize. I was way off base with the profession comparison remark. I was just a bit upset with the backlash from my original post. Not sure I deserved all the nice words I got back (probably some but surely not all).

If I had it to do again, I would have substantially re-worded the first post to make myself more clear. But sense I offended everyone here, I will just apologize and move on.

For what its worth, I do respect your profession.

A major issue of this thread hinges on one's definition of professional. it seems to me that originally it referred to doctors, lawyers and certified public accountants because they are licensed by the government, are monitored for compliance lest they lose their license (and are subject to criminal sanctions for transgressions)and must pass uniform tests in order to practice. They also are bound by an enforceable code of ethics. It then began to mean any one who gets paid for doing anything, especially in sports. Now, and especially in this thread, it is used to denote I know not what.

Using "professional" clouds the issue so much that many are arguing at cross purposes and I fear we may never resolve this issue. This guy reminds me of the man at the craft show who tells his wife not to buy the beautifully crafted maple jewelry box because he will build her one using his rusty table saw that he last used ten years ago to build their deck. He then asks the crafter a few questions which the crafter answers politely. Do you think she will ever get that jewelry box? Do you think this guy will ever do a
beautiful frame job with a few facile answers on TG?
I think this about covers it.



Of, relating to, engaged in, or suitable for a profession: lawyers, doctors, and other professional people.

Conforming to the standards of a profession: professional behavior.

Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career: a professional writer.

Performed by persons receiving pay: professional football.

Having or showing great skill; expert: a professional repair job.

A person following a profession, especially a learned profession.

One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation: hired a professional to decorate the house.

A skilled practitioner; an expert.
Originally from P R:
I would like to spend a small amount of time framing and matting my prints (about 30 minutes per print). I am willing to spend more per framed print and make less when I sell. I would rather spend my time in the digital dark room rather than cutting mats and such. I want them to look professional and be archival.
OK, now we have somethink I can work with.

First off, you are approaching it backwards. First you need to decide what you need, then work on time and price. At least, if you were a customer infont of me, that would be the approach.

Originally from P R:
I want them to look professional and be archival.
Is the first stop. For the archival part, that would mean using Rag Board. Rag backer (there are other options for that, but let's stay simple for the moment)

Second is "The Look." I think you are not angling at the craftsmanship side, but rather the perception of "high end" side. Wood looks better, and will sell more than metal. Wood (we are talking, like a stain black squareish shape) may cost a bit more, but this gets you to the time side of your equation. Wood, will take less time to fit, and is easier to re-fit, when you find you have closed it with dust inside. Wood will also not break the glass as easily. It can get marre easier, however a Sharpie is usually all that is needed to salvage the day.

Originally from P R:
Of course I don't want a professional framer because it would be too expensive. I am leaning towards buying pre-cut photo-ready mats.
You may want to re-think that. Not all frameshops are equal. And not all shop served the needs of all it's clients. For instance, we have something we call our "Chop Program." Some of our Artists, Photographers and the WaterColor Ladies customers use it.

They bring in the art. We cut a mat, backer, frame and glass (or acrylic), and they are good to go. They do the rest at home. So they get a custom sized, profesionally cut and joined frame, and mat. The glass is a bit cheaper, as we are not cleaning it. The mat and frame are the normal price. They have no fitting, or labor charge.

Alot of times they will think: I can afford 15 frames if they do the labor, or 19 frames if I do the labor (or whatever the numbers are).

Often they are behind sched, and with the show the next day, they don't have enough time to complete them all. Wheras we coulda banged out 15 in 2 hours

Originally from P R:
My biggest confusion lies in how to best mount the photo to the backing board.
This depends upon how actually archival, correct and professional you wish to be.

Originally from P R:
And then how to adhere the window mat to the backing mat?

Originally from P R:
I want something that will keep the photo flat and last.
Very little in life lay totally flat. There are some things that can be done. You can ATG tight and close on all sides (not recomended). You can actually mount the photo (again, not the best). It's part of the art. Use thicker paper, or drier ink.

Originally from P R:
And finally, glass or acrylic?
Glass breaks, but is hard to scratch.
Acrylic scratches, is half as heavy, and over twice as hard to break. It is also harder to clean when fitting, and harder to keep dust out when fitting.

If it is small, say under 16 x 20, glass should be fine.

If larger: tough call.

I think your estimates for sales amounts are too high. I have had many artists (who were just getting started) come in and think sales were going to take off.

Pretty much, they have several years of Christmas presents, and nice art on the walls at home in the meantime.

So pretty much what I am saying is: Use a frameshop. Get a custom item. Nice look. But save on labor.

You will need to invest in a Framers nail gun , or a point driver.

This is avail at the local wholesaler.

They will often have open stock ready made wood frames too. (and the glass by the box)

You will still need to visit a framer and have them make mats. If you do that yourself, the results usually show.

But if you are "saving" buy getting the open stock, spend the extra on getting better matting. Like 8 ply Rag.

That looks really sharp, and will increase your sale price, and percieved value for the item you think you are going to sell.
Marc -

Thanks for the great information, maybe I won't move on. I did take someone's advice here and talk to a local framer and got some quotes. They were more reasonable than I expected. I had it in my mind that it was going to be much more.

In any case, I have no clue on sales volumes and you probably are correct. I definately have to research that area but I might indeed be way high. Does anyone know people who sell prints at art fairs and what a typical volume might be? I would not want to run out of prints to sell, which is my fear of going to low.
Pat, I have a friend who is a talented fine art photographer. He's also very good in the darkroom and makes beautiful B&W prints (on real, fiber-base paper.)

He took a bunch of 'em to a juried art fair here years ago. People would flock around his prints and say things like, "What kind of camera do you use?"

When he told them, they'd say, "Great. I use a Minolta, too. I'll have to go out and take some pictures like that."

Photography, especially fine art photography, suffers the same PR problem that picture framing does. It appears to be incredibly simple.

Ironic, isn't it?

Oh, they'd also say things like, "Too bad you didn't shoot that in color."

My friend now owns a successful company that makes cremation urns.
It is better to sell out and take orders for more prints than have to use Ron's
Ron -

You have a point there, and so I might be having my "Grand Opening" and "Going Out Of Business" sale at the same time.

However, I do see the same photographer's year in and year out selling at these art fairs. If they were not selling, I wonder why they would return? Maybe just more for marketing purposes, you think?

And yes, both framing and photographer look easy until you really get into it. I agree.

And JPete, another good point and considering all the unknowns, it makes more sense to run out. That's actually a good thing! And when the people see that you have run out they might think, "Hey, that guy must be really good if he sold all his stuff?". It might just work...



Just a couple of comments to add:
1.) One of my best customers- an artist- started bringing his paintings to me about 13 years ago. Before that he framed his pieces himself. He told me that he knew he had "arrived" and was a professional artist when he was able to afford to have his pieces professionally framed. Of course, that meant his prices were high enough to no longer make it worth his time to frame himself. After I framed a number of pieces for him, he was thrilled to report back to me that the professionally framed pieces sold immediately and for substantially higher prices.
Yes, framing is expensive, but worth it.

2.) I always encourage professional artists to learn to frame their own work. I think they SHOULD know what goes on behind the glass, and be knowlegeble in proper framing techniques and aesthetics. I like artists to know exactly how much work and experience goes into each piece and how much potential there is for things to go wrong! And I am happy to have them as customers when they come back to tell me, "Whew! That's a lot of work. Here: frame this for me, I'm too tired."
Again: framing is expensive, but worth it.

If you think framing is expensive, maybe your artwork is priced too low! I mean it. When the price of artwork goes up, the cost of framing stays the same and suddenly looks like a good deal.
Pat, I would try to find a local framer who shares your aesthetic and appreciates your work. I predict that you will have no problems with that. Find someone you like as well. Tell them what you have and how many. You can actually split some of the labor. I cut mats and backings for many artists (and art students) who will then assemble the frame on their kitchen table. Read all the archives on this site about proper matting and mounting and glazing techniques. Educate yourself: subscribe to Decor and PFM. Check out their selection of framing books as well. Forget about the framing books available at the local library. Those are largely for hobbyists. Once you have established a good working relationship with a framer, this professional will work his/her @ss for you and suddenly it won't seem so expensive- it'll seem like a real deal!

edie the 22yearslaterandstilllearningeveryday goddess

Doh! Just read the 2nd page to this topic! Pat, you are on the right track! I am glad to hear that you went and talked to a framer. Reread Marc's post and you will be in good shape! Best of luck to you and I hope you sell like mad this summer and will be kept busy making more art and have no time for framing!! -edie
Hi Pat

If you'd like another price, send me an e-mail. I would LOVE to have your business. I am not local to your area, but there's always FedEx.
Framing Goddess (cool name) -

Thanks for the info, I will definately do more reading on it.

And I would love to be in the position to have all my stuff professional framed and maybe someday I will. But since I am just starting out (literally), I am looking at investing lots of money in a booth, display system, etc, etc. Which is very expensive.

So, I am torn. Since I don't know if my prints will sell well, I am inclined to reduce my financial outlay for my first show. One way is to reduce the number of prints I bring. Another is to do some part of the framing aspect.

Although framing is not an area where I want to skimp since it is an integral part of the presentation. So, I am having a hard time deciding on an approach.

Additionally, pricing of my work is another can of worms. I need to research this but some have said to price it 2 to 3 times the cost (labor and materials). That sounds high, does anyone have some guidelines here?
Hi Pat-One of the most basic (and best) methods to determine pricing is to use comparatives-in essence, what is it worth?

How does your product stack up to the many others at these shows? Is it clearly superior, clearly similar, or clearly inferior?

As the consumer gets the final vote, price things that look like that's what they should sell for.

Can you imagine buying an Ansel Adams for 2-3 times what he had in paper costs and developing materials? Isn't his work clearly superior to others? Shouldn't it be priced accordingly?

Let the market dictate how much you can charge by doing some comparative pricing.

As an easy rule of thumb: If you sell out too quickly, you are too cheap. If you sell little, you may be too high (or your product may not be as good as you think-a common mistake).

Attempting to price items like this on a cost-weighted basis offers no difference for talent or ability. Otherwise original Adams pieces would sell for $30.

The market will tell you all you need to know. Just be perceptive enough to listen with an unemotional ear.

And, see we are bunch of decent people. Treat us and this forum with a little respect and you will be buried in information (some good; some not so good).

But, never underestimate the value of getting the best-and that can be cameras, paper, printers or framers. In the long (and short) run, it pays for itself
Bob -

I probably fall into the cleary similar to category. (with hopes of moving up in time)

I checked out a few comparable photographers in this area that produce this type of work and 2 were similarly priced and one was much higher. This is for a framed and matted 8x10.

Photog #1 - $175 (He uses a higher end double-matted and 8 ply, etc stuff)

Photog #2 - $75

Photog #3 - $80

So, between 75 and 175. Thats a huge range but I would lean towards the lower end of that range, possibly.
Hi Pat-Sure that's a huge range, but if you were selling your house, wouldn't you expect to get top dollar for your house if others in similar conditions, similar features and similar size got top dollar.

Now, if the $175 guy offers a product that is demonstrably better, he should get more from thee consumer. So my suggestion is what can you do to get closer to his quality or features, so that you can get closer to his price.

Or, if he is just a cut above, what can you do to get a "cut above" the #2 and #3 guys. Maybe a better presentation might yield $90-100? Okay, a shameless plug for having your work done by a professional framer, but you get my point.

Look for the mark up opportunities unless the only way to compete is on price. If that's the case, make sure you sell a ton of them
I have had experience with craft shows and a few were in Pat's upstate NY area.

First, to consider how much product to have on hand some crafters use this formula: Take the previous years attendance (or projected for this year) divide by two (the shoppers are usually couples) and then divide by the number of exhibitors. This will give you a ballpark of how many pieces for inventory.

Second, framing is a tricky business at these shows because now they have to like the print AND the framing. I've noticed a few artists recently having different frame corners on display for the customer to choose. But they basically make their money from selling matted prints. Some shows attract a very sophisticated buyer who knows good framing when they see it.

Thirdly, doing these shows with framed pieces increases your labor exponentially. You must haul the frames with the glass (or get plexi) and if you do outdoor shows many other grumblers can better tell you about the effects of the elements.

Fourthly, the startup cost for entering juried shows is significant. Slides of your work BY AN EXPERIENCED JURY SLIDE PHOTOG, canopy, lighting, panels, tables, jury fees, booth fees prepaid, merchant account, to mention a few.

Good luck.
Since this will be your first show, maybe you could calculate what the show will cost to get into and bring just enough merchandise to break even. If you have more room in your budget, take a few more pieces. That way you'd get a feel for the amount of merchandise you'd need for the next show laying out a minimal amount of money.
If just one customer asks "How much would it be without the frame?" take this as an indicator that your framing does not match up with the quality of your prints. A lot of your customers have really good taste and your stuff would probably sell much better with better framing. I've proved this in my galley over and over. If you're under capitalized, don't start a business.

Ink jet prints are the worlds hardest to mount. Most are very moisture sensitive (that eliminates wet mounting) some inks are very sensitive to the solvents in spray adhesive mounting, pressure sensitive adhesives are not all that permanent and can't be done well without a roller/laminator.

IMHO I wouldn't bother with upgarding to "archival" anything because your prints will probably fade before acid burns from mats will be evident. Ink jets are notorius for fading! Regardless what the ink jet folks say.

I'd leave it to the pros with the equipment and expierence and just pass the cost of the framing on in addition to the price you want for your art. If the combination of your art and a proper frame won't sell - don't give up your day job.

Many framers would be glad to offer a better price if they can truly save on their costs by buying larger quantities. This is rarely the case and the only time savings would be from not having to spend time selecting mats and frames for each piece.
Bob -

I agree and I keep hearing from many sources that presentation is extremely important. But I have noticed that most photogs choose a single frame style for all there framed work. I am thinking about doing the same but am leaning towards oversized frames with large mats (8 ply) and off center window openings, kind of like you sometimes see in galleries. I think that might be a nice presentation style. What do you guys think of picking a single style for all prints? Would you guys choose a different frame for each one?

Al -

Cool formula, lets see, the web site says about 200,000 visitors and 300 artisan booths. So that would be 100,000 / 300 = 333. So about 300 pieces or so. Wow, I guess my original estimates were pretty close. For me though, since its my first time with so many unknowns and such, I might want to go lower (maybe much)

Flintstone -

Yeah, I thought about the break even plan a bit. I am thinking about taking all the app fees plus the cost of prints and framing. I would hope to sell as much to cover that. I will not expect to cover the one time costs of booth, presentation system (panels), tables, print bins, chair, etc. Definately no way to cover those but would be nice. I have not run the numbers though.

Greg -

Yeah, inkjet prints are a pain to mount from what I gather. I have seen claims of btween 50 to 100 years for my printer but, as you say, they are just claims.