Why So Cheap?!?!

Many of you have Emailed me to ask me "Why are your prints so cheap?" - assuming that, somewhere, I've cut corners in order to keep production costs down, or that I use cheap paper or some cruddy internet-based print service that results in cheesy-looking, jaggy images. NOPE! These prints look great, and I know you'll agree or I guarantee I'll make you happy.

Here's what's going on: There are a lot of photographers who are trying to sell ink-jet (excuse me, "giclee") prints on the web for $200, $300, and up. I just don't think they're worth that much, and most of you don't, either. During the course of my photographic career, I've done platinum prints, silver gelatine (I.e.: "normal black and white") prints, and ink-jet prints. I think they all look great - but you, the customer, have to pay an appropriate production cost for getting the print to look right. For example, if I'm doing a platinum print, I have to coat my own emulsion, then expose the image in a contact frame and process it. The total production time is about 3 hours, it's not guaranteed to come out perfectly every time, and the platinum chemicals cost about $10 for an 8x10" print. To sell you a platinum print, I need to charge about $150 or I'm losing money. With a silver print, the paper costs about $1 for an 8x10" and I don't have to coat it myself. I need chemicals and a darkroom and it takes me about 2 hours to get the print done (but I can do other prints at the same time). So I can sell an 8x10" silver print for $50 and I'm not losing money but I'm not going to get rich, either. To produce an 8x10 ink-jet print I need to launch photoshop, click on the file (which I already have set up for my particular printer), turn on the printer, load a sheet of paper, and click OK. The cost of the ink and paper is pretty much the only cost inherent in producing an ink-jet print. That's why the art market is not taking ink-jets seriously at $300 apiece, unless they are from someone famous or someone who is using an insane $40,000 100-megapixel camera back to do 6-foot by 8-foot spectacular prints.

So what's the deal? The deal is this: I enjoy photographing and I am thrilled to death at the idea that one of my prints might wind up hanging on someone's wall! If I were retired and wealthy, this would be the "give away prints" page, but I'm not, so I am interested in recovering the cost of my paper, ink, and the time it takes to package it up and send it to you. To be completely honest, the part I hate the most is packaging up a print and consigning it to the tender mercies of the US Postal Service.

I love the idea of art commanding a high price, but when an artist is asking you for $300 for an ink-jet print, what they're saying is that that ink-jet print is worth more than a steak dinner (and a good bottle of wine) for 2 at a really really good restaurant. Or 10 months of "dinner and a movie" once a month. Or a new muffler for your car. I enjoy my photography a great deal, but if I were pricing it at $200 a print I'd suggest you go have dinner at The Prime Rib instead. That's what I'd do.