As much fun as I’m having learning Corel Painter X, there is a small mercenary voice that keeps asking, “So how do you approach making money with this product?” I’ve found I’m not the only photographer knee deep it wet pixels asking this.

So a side trip of the art quest was finding the best pricing approach for these new images. Many photographer/artists shared their philosophies with me; I’ll go cover 3 in detail with you. As you develop your pricing model, you may want to consider, even incorporate some of these approaches.

A core value everyone touchstones to is from the question, what is my creative time worth? That ranged from $50/hour to $240/hour. Speed and skill stirred the mix. The $240/hour artist works faster with more skill. So a starting point or at least one guide for the pricing arch is your creative hourly value, something to keep your eye on as the complete value is worked up.

Before you begin though, do a couple of pieces; see how long it takes to create something you can sell. Do one as a 16x20 and another as a 32x40. Your speed and quality will give you a hint of where you fit. Don’t make the mistake of pricing it to low. This is not the arena to be giving your hard earned talent away.

A thing to remember is that wherever you start, it is just that, a start. You should have regular price increases to keep moving yourself up the scale. This approach will also insure you keep up with the learning of new and better techniques, both because you can afford to and because you’ll need to.

There are a few overall things I noticed, all the artists had a minimum size, which most often was 16x20. Next, the base seemed never lower than an additional $1,000 on top of the price for your best product. The last thing was it is not cut and dried. The pricing reflects the complexity of the art piece, both in the medium, (which was typically oil or water color) and in the subject matter (number of people, detail rendered in background.)

Now before we get too deep into the actual dollars talked about here, please remember they are presented as a framework, some are US bucks, some Canuck coin. It is not so much the actual amount you want to focus on but the relationships to the sizes and art work. These are presented as models to work from.

A long time artist like Jane Conner-ziser has her approach pretty refined. In her part of the world, her partner Patrick does the photography. She explained their 16x20 print price is $750, when turned into a simple watercolor its $2,200 when into an oil its $3,600. These are her starting price points. Jane’s pricing climbs so a 30x40 oil of a single subject, full length child or ¾ adult, is $7,500. Her prices are for a single person, in plain clothing with a plain background. She adds 50% more for each extra person and 50% for more complex backgrounds. Even these extras are just a starting point for detail delivery; if the background becomes very complex her pricing will rise to match.

Remember when painting your digital image; you can simplify or even bring in a new background or with your brush stroke simplify the outfit/background details.

Jane was one of the originators that brought Painter into the main stream, She looks too young be considered a pioneer yet she was and remains one with her medium stretching. If you want a good grounding in Painter (even the new CS2 for that matter) take a look at her DVDs. ( She just released the full updates to both products.

Jane is an example of an artist that works fast and with skill. While her approach is drawn from the art world, and most of the artists I talked to reflect that same path, she does it from an hourly framework. Her base line math runs on the $200/hour figuring. With her experience she knows how long a complex piece will take her, and uses the hourly ticker to help create the pricing arc. Be mindful she doesn’t go hard and fast with that hourly rate, it’s just a minimum guide in her figuring.

Marilyn Sholin, a Floridian too, took her first Painter course in 2000. She followed that up with some full day Painter seminars, then spending the year concentrating pretty much solely on perfecting her Painter technique.

Since a lot of photographers are uncertain as to where to start pegging their hourly rate, her starting point suggestion is to take their most expensive product and double it. Lets say that a 16x20 on canvas, your minimum size offering, is $500, doubled for a watercolor it turns into $1,000. This would be a simple head and shoulders portrait.

Marilyn recommends charging additional amounts for extra heads and detailed backgrounds too. A believer in keeping price lists simple, she doesn’t charge differently for the material substrate. Her watercolor work is printed on paper, one size larger than the image. EG: 16x20 goes on 20x24 paper but priced for the 16x20 print size.

Her base price is $1,400 for a 16x20 and smaller. Marilyn makes copies available for album (8x10) collections of the same piece as her regular print prices, sans the art charges since she feels she’s already been paid for it. Additional wall prints of the same image are charged out at 20% less for each of the additional prints.

She has been playing around with collages, finding a great response for this new niche. The success of her pricing model and style is clear with her Painter commissioned work booked to months in advance! Marilyn has a blog that shares all sorts of Painter knowledge, creating a Painter Artist community,

Marc Bailey, a Quebec photographer, has been creating with Painter for a little over a year. He loves the creative and revenue doors it’s opening for his studio. Even changed his studio name to reflect that. Marc shares the pricing model he has put so much thought into.

The key philosophy to Marc’s imagery pricing “is that he is not a photographer but an artist so the price is only related to the beauty and workmanship of what is on the walls.”

Oddly, in Marc’s studio, his clients are not given a fixed price for the finished art at first, just a range of $1,000 to $3,000, perhaps higher. They do a couple hours work on the image, enough to get a feel for how long it will take, plus enough to give his client a feel for the look of this piece. This involves them in the art creation; he invites comments along with guidance from his client.

He has two guidelines that help determine pricing. The first is the detail desired; a detailed oil painting, an impressionist painting or a watercolor. Each has a different detail level. Mixed into that is the client’s budget (although they are more open budgeted than you might expect.). His painting value begins at $1,000.

Marc charges Painter images as an add-on to his regular priced canvas print images, varying some for each client. There is no set price for any size/product. This reflects the difference of effort and creativity that occurs in each commission, removing the induced stress of working to a stock price. The value has varied beyond $3,000 but average out at $1,500.

You should note there is no matching of value to print sizes; the add-on price is for the artwork, not an image size. Marc combines the artwork charge with the size selected for the final price, encouraging the client to consider larger images. His marketing/production approach is to create a small section sample of an image he thinks would work well for a client he believes can afford/appreciate/desire his art product. Marc shows this on spec to a client at their time of viewing. A bold position that Marc takes is that final art pieces cannot be reproduced in smaller sizes, establishing a higher perceived value for the effort.

Like the others, Marc uses an hourly rate as a rough background guide in determining the final art effort charge. This is used as a guide to find the ballpark, not a fixed price. He has determined a fine oil painting takes about 40 hours of work. At the moment he uses a $50/hour rate, ball parking a starting oil painting around the $2,000 infield.

In figuring my pricing model I like the hourly value guide combined with the doubling of my canvas product. With a value that feels right for my studio, I am going with the add-on approach to any size product. I think removing substrate charge choices keeps presentations uncluttered. While I will have internal guidelines, I like the flexible solution of increased detail moving up the value.

These pricing models should give you the needed guidance to generate appropriate value for your artistic efforts. They sure clarified mine!

Author's Bio: 

Mark Laurie mpa, spa, Fswpp, is an international photographer, digital artist, speaker and instructor on all aspects of photography. His Digital Nude & Glamour Photography School is opening this August in Paradise Island, Bahamas. He runs mentorship programs for emerging and established photographers. Mark has 3 limited edition fine art books with 3 more hard cover books coming out in 2008