I recently read a complaint and all the responses on a blog about Fine Art America. For those of you who don’t know FAA, it’s an artist website where you can sell your artwork, whether it’s photography or painting, and other types of artwork in between.
I’d like to add my own long term experience with Fine Art America here on my own blog. I’m a professional photographer who has had a pro account at FAA since December 2011. In this time I’ve made a total of fifteen sales, the lowest being $.25 for a post card and the highest being $177 for a 24×36 matte paper print, which FAA shipped “Rolled in a Tube”. The reality falls into an average of between $25-50 per sale.
These kinds of sales are dismal to say the least, but I kept my account open because the sales at least covered the yearly membership fee, plus maybe a little left over for a Starbucks coffee, which I don’t drink since I rarely drink coffee. Additionally, I was hoping that having my photography on the site would provide additional exposure to the public eye. This year however, I’ve let my membership lapse because it really doesn’t seem to add or diminish my exposure, considering there are better options in having my photography seen out there, a Facebook fan page being one. The exposure isn’t really there, mainly because the majority of FAA users are actually artists themselves, and the ratio of artists to fine art collectors (i.e. buyers) is very very low. As a matter of fact, none of the comments on any of the photos are from any potential buyers, but rather from fellow artists. Those comments, while greatly appreciated, aren’t why I uploaded the photos to a commercial sales website.
The reason I’m writing this article is two-fold. One, I saw a photo post on said blog that listed an FAA artist’s sales as if screen-printed directly from the FAA website. My collegues and I don’t buy it. The report shows multiple sales every day, and income in the thousands. In no way or form do we buy that as genuine. I have hundreds of acquaintances on FAA, fellow photographers and talented painters who are to a lesser or greater degree well known in the artist community, as well as known photographers whose portfolios contain hundreds of National Geographic level work. Neither myself, nor these hundreds of artists have ever seen these kinds of sales on FAA from our work. We had a good laugh and proposed a toast to the artist who posted his income report from FAA as “in the thousands” and “earning at least $1,000 every month”, because he’s apparently at the very apex of his game. None of us actual professional photographers can come even close to those earnings from FAA every month. We must be doing everything wrong, and we invite this artist to enlighten us on how to achieve his level of FAA success, because sharing is, after all, caring.
Secondly, the problem we’ve seen and discussed amongst ourselves is that FAA’s pricing scheme is actually very flawed and unequally balanced towards FAA earnings. The artist sets his own markup for each size sold, granted, but the artist must keep his markup extremely low to make a sale, because FAA’s share/price is already set at the maximum of what a buyer will pay. For example, if an artist sets a markup of only $5 for an 8×10 canvas print, FAA’s sales price for that print will be $52. That’s a $47 markup for FAA! That means the artist earns roughly 10% of the sale. The problem is that a buyer will rarely pay $52 for an 8×10 canvas print. FAA needs to change their, what I would consider greedy, pricing scheme, not only to be more fair to the artists who do the majority of the work, but also to help the artist to increase sales. Yes, FAA does handle the printing and shipping to the client. Compared to the photographer’s portion of the work in getting to a location to shoot, oftentimes in remote backcountry and/or foreign lands, post-editing the work, and the often extensive time spent simply uploading and pricing the print before it appears on FAA’s website, FAA’s share of the work pales in comparison.
For this reason, starting this year I will no longer be upgrading my account on FAA. I hope others follow suit until FAA changes this method of doing business.
End Note: If you liked this story, please give it a five star rating (at the top), or share it on your WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest account, whatever, or just simply click Like. Do something that tells me you liked it enough to press a button, and thank you for reading my stuff.