A Little Opinion Piece on Fine Art America
I recently read a complaint and all its responses on a blog about the Fine Art America photography wall print website. For those of you who don’t know FAA, it’s an artist website where you can sell 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 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. The reality falls into an average of between $25-50 per sale. In sharp contrast, my largest sale to date has not been through Fine Art America, but through my own business website, the one you're on right now. The sale was the Japanese Garden photo, which you can find in Galleries > Personal Projects One. The photo was an upscaled 22,140 x 9,731 px digital image which sold for $2,500 to a couple in Japan who bought it as a large wallprint. I should add that this size was not an option on Fine Art America.
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. Additionally, I was hoping that having my photography on the site would provide additional exposure to the public eye. However, I learned that 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 and/or potential buyers is almost non-existent. There's a saying that "No artist is able to sell his work to another artist", and that's very true in this case.
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 a blog that listed an FAA artist’s sales allegedly screen-printed directly from the FAA website. The report shows multiple sales every day, and income in the thousands of dollars monthly. I have hundreds of acquaintances on FAA, fellow photographers and painters more talented than me, who are to a lesser or greater degree well known in the artist community.
Neither myself, nor any of these 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”. Apparently this seller is at the very apex of his game. None of us other photographers can even come 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 success. Sharing is, after all, caring. However, I also challenge this alleged seller to prove that he's not a star Fine Art America employee posing as an artist.
Secondly, the problem we’ve seen and discussed among 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 when he uploads the artwork, granted, but the artist must keep his markup extremely low to entice a buyer and make a sale. The artist is forced to do this because FAA’s share of the total 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, if that!
The obvious problem is that a buyer will rarely pay $52 for an 8×10 print. Fine Art America 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 artists increase sales and presence on the website. After all, no artists, no Fine Art America. Yes, to be fair, FAA does handle the printing and shipping to the client. However, compared to the photographers' portion of the work and cost in getting to a location to shoot, oftentimes in remote backcountry and/or foreign countries, 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 these reasons, starting this year I will no longer be upgrading my account on Fine Art America and will no longer keep a subscription pro account. I hope others do the same until the company changes this terrible method of doing business.