People Need A Connection To Your Images

May 23rd, 2011 by Mike Moats

When I started in the art show business five years ago it was my first experience at selling nature photography, I thought that the art shows were a place where people came to find contemporary abstract art, so I loaded up my booth with abstracts and soft focus images.   It didn’t take long to figure out that the people that attended these shows were not interested in the abstract images.  What they were buying was the images that is called realism.  Everything in focus images of subjects that people could identify and relate to. Images of reality.

After about five or six shows, I pulled out most all of the abstracts and replaced them with realism.  My sales shot up dramatically.

So why do people like realism over abstract?  Not everyone likes realism, there are the people that like abstracts, but they are in the minority.  I’m in the minority because I tend to prefer the soft focus abstracts, or images with patterns, shapes, soft blurred colors.

One thing that I have learned from talking with the people who buy my images at the shows is that they usually have a connection to the subjects in the image.

Take this Lily of the Valley flower in the image above.  One lady buying this image told me that her grandmother had a patch of Lily of the Valley flowers in her yard, and every time she sees this flower she thinks of her grandmother.

Many women who bought it told me that they carried Lily of the Valley flowers down the aisle on their wedding day. So they were buying the image based on that connection of a happy day in their lives.

Another lady told me that her favorite perfume is made from the Lily of the Valley, so she was buying the image based on that connection

I would have never believed that my best selling image every week would be of a frog in duckweed.  I had this image for two years before I decided to take it to one of my shows.  It outsells every image, every week.

Why does it sell so well, because amazingly I’ve been told several times by buyers that they have huge collections of frogs at home.

I hadn’t taken this frog image to the shows because I thought, who would buy a frog to hang in their home, boy was I wrong!

I stopped taking most of my images of wildflowers because very few were being sold.  I started to realize that most people are just not familiar or knowledgeable on wildflowers. If they don’t know what kind of flower it is, then they are not interested in hanging it on their walls.  Again, people need a connection to the subject. They like Calla Lilies, Sunflowers, flowers that they can easily identify.

My wife has attended many of my art shows and knows some of the European photographers that show landscapes and scenes from Europe.  She had never expressed any interest in any of their images until she went to Europe.  After her trip she bought four images from one of these photographers because they were images of places she had been.  A connection now caused her to purchase those images.

With abstract, we can’t connect these images with anything in our lives.  Unless we have some artistic tendencies we will not be able to connect to these subjects in the photographs or paintings.

The connection to reality is strong.  One lady was buying an image of a Trillium that she thought was a Calla Lily, and when I told her it wasn’t a Calla Lily, she no longer had any interest in buying it.  It’s still a great image of a beautiful flower, what difference does it make that it’s not a Calla Lily, but it did make a difference to her.

Photography of landscapes are shot with everything in focus and would not be considered abstract, so these are images of realism and reality.  That’s why landscape photographers will get good response to their images.  But as macro photographers, we tend to be more artistic in what were can do with our subjects, so many of the macro photographers get disappointed when friends and family don’t get the abstracts.

It was mentioned on my facebook page that abstracts tend to appeal more to the younger generation, and I totally agree that younger people tend to be more open minded to this kind of art.  The few abstracts I did sell were to the younger generation. The problem is for those of us trying to sell, the art shows are filled with the older baby boomer generation who have the finances to purchase art.

Young people have families and very little money that can be spent on collecting wall art.  If they need art for their homes they can buy it much cheaper in the prices they can afford at Ikea, Kirland, Walmart.

Most of the buyers are the older people that have more disposable income because their kids have left the nest, and they have more money to spend on themselves and their homes.

So if you would like to see a more positive response to your macro photography, shoot everything in focus of reality in nature.  Hey it’s good stuff, I have lots of great images of reality that do very well in selling, photo contests, and impressing friends and family members.

Find subjects to shoot that people can connect with.


You can visit Mike's blog and learn about his workshops here:  Tiny Landscapes

Mike's eBooks are available in the OPG store here:  Mike Moats



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One Response to “People Need A Connection To Your Images”

  1. Stacy Niedzwiecki says:

    An excellent article and interesting read, Mike. Thanks for sharing!

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