For What It’s Worth
This New Year is starting off on an unexpected foot when it comes to photography. I am a hobby photographer all the way through but sometimes put the craft to good use for charity purposes. I belong to a writing website where members set up auctions to benefit various groups on the site. From time to time, I will donate my photography in some form. Usually I offer framed prints, but I recently donated a photo book (which contained some of my favorite photos of Duluth). I mentioned the dimensions of the book, which should have made it clear it was a physical item. Well, the winning bidder thought it was an online item and would not accept it even though I stated several times it was printed on professional paper and needed to be shipped. Long story short, the bidder would not provide a shipping address, so I had to provide an alternative to fulfill the prize package.
The whole experience hurt. This was not the first time I auctioned off a physical photo item, but this was the first time when the prize was refused. I felt terrible about it. First, I had the book made at Adorama labs, so the book was professional quality. I had the book created during a sale as a test run for the wedding photo books I made for Christmas gifts. I had no use for it in my collection, so I wanted to send the book to a good home. Not getting the chance to do so broke my heart. On top of that, the site where I auctioned the book uses gift points as site currency, so the dollar equivalent of the bid was two dollars. That’s not a big surprise, but I do like to think my photography is worth five dollars. 🙂 Nonetheless, I started thinking about what my work is worth. This is a discussion I’ve watched among professional photographers but never really considered as a hobbyist. At the same time, since I do like to donate my work for small charity auctions and participate in free competitions, I am going out there asking for a market price. I’m not really asking that in so many words, but the implication is there. I wish I had an answer to that question that was more analytical than, “It’s worth whatever charity auction buyers are willing to pay.” My photos did net $20 at an in person auction several years ago. This was before I had Cameron and the photographic flexibility I have gleaned over the last two and a half years. I’d like to think I could get $30 at an in person auction. I’m not really sure. I know I’ll never be a professional in the field. Even so, I do think my photos are worth something. We’ll see when I put that photo back on the auction block. If you’d like, here’s a sneak preview.