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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Apprentice: Is There An Art To Selling Photos?

The Apprentice 

The Apprentices get "creative" with photographers to sell their prints

First things first. I have to own up to the fact that I'm the son of two commercial photographers whose work was very creative and beautiful. But was it art?

So bear in mind that I'm a bit biased when it comes to photography and art. It also helps to explain my delay in this post. I wasn't overly impressed by the candidates attempt at selling photos and I've struggled to give an even handed view. Anyway, here goes...

The Apprentice team's task for week 5 was to sell the mounted prints of two photographers the team chose from a selection of six photographers.

In addition each photographer had a list of contacts who'd either expressed interest or bought their photos before.

Initially both teams wanted to choose the same 2 photographers (Elisabeth Hoff, photo's of lips) and Tim (photos of horses).

The photographers got to choose the team they wanted to work with.

And of course the objective was to make as much money as possible.

Team Approaches

Both teams went to see the photographers and both took the view that they had to sweet talk and "get into bed" with them.  Katie seemed, as Sir Alan said, "to be in awe" of the photographers. Although to be fair I just think she was doing a huge amount of acting impressed, enthused, passionate and charming for the photographers benefit. Leave it up to Adam to ask the cold hard commercial questions that seemed rude, yet were essential.

Questions like:

  • Who's bought these before? (in the case of Elisabeth - nobody!)
  • What price do you sell them for? (well done Adam for thinking arty photo's should sell for less than a tenner)
  • Have you a list of people who've expressed interest or bought before?

The questions I didn't hear them ask were also vital:

  • What sort of person are these photos aimed at?
  • Where was your most recent exhibition?
  • Do you have any awards we can use in the marketing?

And one they should have asked themselves: "Which pairs of photographers contacts might be attracted by the other photographers pictures."

Natalie pretty much left her team to do the questioning. Then in the last 20 minutes of the review day she went to see Tim (the horse photographer) and massively blotted her teams copy book by saying they could only spare him 10 minutes! Then before even talking to him taking a call. A call could have waited for 10 minutes... if she wanted Tim to get the message he wasn't important she certainly delivered it.

Equally Tre when he visited one of the photographers who dressed family and friends up before taking photos of them seemed to sneer at them and the team managed to make the poor man ( Nigel Grimmer, I think) feel squashed. Even though he'd actually sold his photos to real people.

When the teams got together they both chose Elisabeth (the Lips) and Tim (The Horse) as their photographers. So the photographers got to choose who they'd work with. Elisabeth went with Katie and Eclipse led by Natalie and of course Tim went with Stealth led by Kristina and I suspect was really a vote against Natalie.

Stealth ended up with the horse photos and also the strange fish photos (taken by Linda Lieberman), which seemed to offend Tre and yet he was left in charge of them and spent hours just talking about what they represented to everyone who visited their gallery. Yet I think most people would have seen that he was just talking absolute rubbish. And of course he discovered that this was just one more skill he was amazing at.

Eclipse got the Lips and were bossed around by the photographer and her partner. She even had them filling holes at the last minute. For someone who hasn't sold a single photo yet she really knew how they'd sell. Or did she? Certainly only one photo sold. In the meantime although Natalie and Katie kept going on about a soft sell Adam went for the hard sell and actually sold photos.

In the end Kristina's team who adopted a pleasant but hard sell attitude won by  making £4,702 compared to Eclipse's £1599.78. And a large part of Eclipse's total was for one highly priced lip photo.

As Eclipse team leader Natalie was fired.

What Could They Have Done Better?

"Think Strategic!" Is the first obvious thing. It seems to be a recurring theme in this series.

They should have thought about how they could maximise their sales:

  • Check which photographers went well together to maximise the chances of cross-selling between the two photographers
  • Insist on the contacts list from each photographer (Elisabeth didn't give hers, so how could they make any immediate sales?)
  • Get more people into the gallery from outside the photographers contacts list, for example solicitors, accountants, city wide boys!
  • Work out an outline pitch with deals to get photos sold
  • They needed an offer to give people a reason to buy on the night
  • Maybe provide a short brochure with some highlighted photos with words by the photographers
  • Make sure they're selling limited edition prints, rarity value equals higher prices

There's so much they could have done, yet didn't. As one last example they could have had people going around the restaurants and giving out invitations to the event.

Come on get creative you lot! And Sir Alan thinks these are the best yet?

Was The Firing Deserved?

Yes, without any doubt at all. Although I do think Katie was a major contributing factor to the lack of sales. Mainly because Katie believed her way of selling an "artist" was the best way. Let's face it none of them had done it before they should have tried both the soft sell and the hard sell and then go for the one that sold the most.

Natalie was not managing the team, or the photographers at all. What they were doing was going with what Katie and Elisabeth wanted to do.

Adam continues to come across as being very dour. That said I saw him smile during a sale so there's hope for him yet.

Tre continues to make me laugh at his attempts to come across as a "Man For All Seasons" with superhuman abilities to do anything business-related.

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