A positive consequence of the digital printing revolution is that more photographers than ever are makin their own fine prints in both color and black-and-white. Furthermore, more photographers are making some effort to sell their prints, usually at modest prices and with some modest degree of success. Keeping the price low, however, means keeping all the expenses (including your time) low. Otherwise it’s a losing proposition—or at least one that doesn’t bring in a living wage.
As a professional photographer, custom printer, writer and editor, and photo restorer, I’ve been shipping and receiving photographs for more than 30 years. My business has been custom work, with orders running hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Until recently, I’ve rarely shipped more than a few packages a week. Consequently, it hasn’t bothered me to err on the side of caution; it may take me an hour to package work for shipping and end up costing me $20 or $30 in materials and postage, but it’s worth it to me not to have something damaged in transit. It’s not a big investment of time or money compared to the rest of the job. I’m happy to say that I have never, ever had a photograph I shipped destroyed in transit.
I can’t say the same for other photographers. Most of the photographs I get in the mail are either woefully underpacked (the classic situation of the photograph in a manila envelope with no stiffening board and the hopeful legend “Do Not Bend” written on the outside) or so overpacked that it took the photographer twice as long and cost twice as much as it should have.
Recently I had to completely rethink my methods. A special low- price print offer I tendered last fall was too successful! I needed to ship some 450 orders in three months. Without question, $20–$30 shipping and handling costs and an hour of my time per order was not going to cut it.