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Would your landscape photographs inspire a new breed of post cards?

A photograph of Seattle postcards on a rack at a novelty store.
A photograph of Seattle postcards on a rack at a novelty store.
Photo Credit: Keith B Dixon

If a consumer walked into a novelty store and saw a display of artist inspired post cards this would breath a whole new life into post card sales. I asked a retailer in the Seattle area and they agreed that it would help to bring customers in.

I recently published an article titled “Cityscapes make the best post cards” The main reason I wrote the story was because I had visited different retailers in the Seattle area who sold post cards and the offerings and styles were limited and weak. Most postcards sell for quarters on the dollar at best because skilled photographers who make landscapes images are not willing give away their work for little or nothing to retail. Retailers bascially use what's available.

My blog and trip couldn’t have been timelier to introduce this subject because on a recent trip to Seattle I met one of the main distributers. It was a prime opportunity for me network, ask questions about the industry, verify first hand what I had researched, and a chance to learn how a photographer could submit images to a post card distribution company.

The distributer, whom we will call James, services most of the Seattle and Washington State areas. James was open to answering my questions and shared some valuable insight into the postcard industry. Here's the bad news first. The post card industry has taken a beating since the smart phone and social media birth; for the most part, post cards are hard sells to the consumer market and not very profitable right now. Most retailers use them to attract customers into the their stores to buy other items.

Here is the bigger problem most photographers want to make top dollar for their work and they should, photography equipment is expensive and there isn't enough profitability in a $0.25 postcard to make living off of making photos for cards. And, when a distributer takes on an image for a postcard they assume all the expenses of buying the images (they pay a flat fees to control the cost to the photographer), they cover the cost on the production, and distribute it to retailers before they make dime. So it only makes since to produce the cards as cheaply as possible.

Sounds like a sinking Titanic right? But there is an upside; if photographers delivered a finished product to the distributor on consignment this would cut the retailers risk of producing cards that don't sell. Imagine you as the artist selling an artist inspired postcards and you are able to control the style and quality. You would give the retailer and distributor more flexibility to offer different types of post cards and attract the more artsy customers. Let’s face it, Consumers love brands and brand names. Target, JC Penny’s, and Kohl’s are the masters at branding chefs and entertainers to sell products and this is no different.

I will be the first to admit that this is no easy task to pull off, but there is a market for a photographer to showcase their work to hundreds even thousands of money spending art buying tourist. If your goal is to get rich off selling postcards don’t waste your time. If your goal is to build a brand and a volume for the images you make this may be one more inlet to doing it.

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