I met master photographer Elizabeth Homan last week who was speaking at a photographer event we regularly sponsor. She made a statement that when she shoots her portraits she likes to shoot the people small in the frame. She does this because it encourages her clients to order bigger prints from her. It got me to thinking about the frequency artists and photographers order big prints from us and why they do so.
Why do they do this? Do their customers want their artwork or photos printed big? Do the artists want to see them printed in its fullest, largest glory? There are some very valid reasons to we see images printed on a regular basis in a wide format.
We once had an artist walk into our lobby with some digital artwork he wanted printed as an incredibly large canvas print. He was frantic, saying he had been looking all morning for someone to do this on short notice. He had a client in Austin, which was just a little over an hour away from our facility which needed the artwork printed as a large canvas print for some sort of gala. It needed to be a gallery wrapped canvas around 8×4 ft in size, a little bigger than what we allow online. Since we have some leeway and would not need to ship it via UPS and he planned on picking it up, I told him we could make it happen and have it for him by the following afternoon. Relieved, he provided us the image file.
We told to come by midafternoon the next day which still gave him a very small window to get the print to its destination and installed. This poor guy nodded but stressed how important it was to have it ready in time. He admitted he was late with the project and his client and felt his client was not very happy with him running on such a tight schedule.
By the next day we had it ready like we had told him. He arrived and still a little anxious but looking relieved when we carried it out into the lobby. He thought the print looked great and had the hanging hardware he needed so it would be easy to hang. But suddenly he smacked himself on the forehead and let out a groan. Myself and one of the staff looked at each other wondering what was wrong. He raised his head and said, “I can’t fit it in my car”. I looked outside and sure enough he had a small compact car. The good news for him was we were able to call a local courier we frequently use and have it transported in time.
When people tell me, they want to print something real big, I am reminded of that story. We print a surprisingly large number of big prints every day on canvas and paper. In most of the cases the artist or photographers know exactly what they are ordering but on occasion we get feedback stating that they might have ordered a print smaller, or subsequent versions of a print are ordered in a smaller size.
Reasons Artists Print Big
I think I have come up with probably the main reasons artists print big.
- Client requests. Sometimes they have a big wall space to cover. Or if it is for a business interior, many times they want something big as a focal point.
- Display to showcase and advertise their work. Nothing like a sign to advertise and in some cases that is exactly what a big print does. If in an art fair it acts as a sign that can draw people to the artists booth.
- Ego driven. They like to see their work big and the size really does showcase an image. Not that there is anything wrong with it. We all have egos. We want to be proud of our accomplishments and one thing that does it very well is seeing our artwork or photography reproduced in a large tangible piece.
Benefits of Big Prints
There are some benefits for artists producing prints big. Foremost is the artist is usually able to make a higher profit and even sometimes get away with a higher markup percentage then they can with their smaller prints. Another benefit is they have a greater visual appeal. When viewers have to actually move their head or scan the image to take it all in, they are more likely to be emotionally moved by it versus when they are viewing something small like an 8×10.
Of course, there are some disadvantages as well. Obviously being harder to sell might be an issue if your venue or customer base does not usually purchase your artwork at the price point you need for the larger prints. And of course, the actual cost to have the print is higher than a smaller one.
A Low-Cost Way
This is where canvas prints have always been such a good option for artists and even photographers. When you factor in adding a frame to a big print, the price goes much higher but with a canvas that is stretched and mounted you don’t need a frame, thus saving you some money. You can then choose to pass that savings onto your own client.
Finally, Consider This When Ordering Big Prints
Just like in that initial incident at the beginning, the artist had not full considered the ramifications of the size of the print. Ultimately before you decide to invest in a bunch or large prints, only have a few done, then discover if there is a market for your work at that size and at the price point you are considering.