The art of market stalls

Landscape photographers are finding community markets are an affordable and viable avenue to sell prints and products to tourists, as well as local residents.

Mieke Boynton, a photographer from the Kimberley region in Western Australia, runs a market stall at the popular Broome Courthouse Market.

Generating income from fine art landscape or travel photography is tough business.

A few photographers operate a gallery shopfront, typically in tourism hotspots around the country. But shopfronts come with huge overheads. The artwork typically falls into the ‘high-end’ category, and is priced accordingly – alienating a group of potential customers who want a photo memory without spending a fortune. So a gallery space is a business decision that comes with risks.

A more affordable way to sell photos, other than online e-stores and splashing prints across cafe walls, is the community market – and most towns in Australia have one.

They can be seasonal or regular tourist markets, art and craft fairs, or pop-up events.

From Streaky Bay on the edge of the Nullabor, to the Top End, and all across the east and west coasts of Australia, photographers are setting up market stalls.

Numerous factors can be attributed to photography making its way into markets, but one of the foremost is the availability and ease of high quality, low-cost photographic printing.

Most labs now offer simple online ordering forms, allowing photographers to send image files and receive prints. There’s also scores of printing companies dedicated to producing custom products – postcards, calendars, coffee mugs, phone cases.

More photographers are now also printing at home with inkjet printers, which with the right profiles can also produce high quality photo prints.

In Australia’s Top End, landscape photographer Louise Denton has carved out a successful career running a stall in Darwin. She has prints coming from suppliers in three different states, with metal prints from Melbourne, paper prints from Adelaide, and canvasses from Brisbane. (She left us guessing who handles what!)

Louise can be found at the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Beach Market during the dry season, at Darwin craft fairs, or at her Christmas pop-up store.

Louise Denton began her photography career in 2011 with a casual market stall, but is now looking for a permanent gallery space. Here is her temporary pop-up stall, open over Christmas, at Casuarina Square.

‘I started my business at Mindil Beach Markets in Darwin as a casual stall-holder in 2011. Over the next couple of years I reduced the number of hours I was doing in my day job and became a full time photographer in 2014,’ Denton told ProCounter. ‘Now, my year of work falls in line with our tourist season in the Top End, and Christmas!

‘I operate my stall at Mindil Markets between April and October (two nights per week), and from early November I move my pop up shop into our local shopping centre for a busy Christmas trade.’

Landscape photographers are naturally attracted to the outdoors, and Louise loves her fresh air ‘office’ with ocean views and a variety of visitors coming and going.

‘Markets have perks like cheap rent combined with high traffic flow – lots of people all concentrated in to one area,’ she said. ‘One of the other benefits to the markets I run my stalls at, is that all the people running the stalls are the business owners. Customers get a much more personal and rewarding experience – they are happy to be dealing directly with the artist, crafter, chef, or designer.’

Darwin is a tropical city flanked by picturesque meandering coastline, and also serves as a gateway to world-famous national parks, such as Kakadu, Litchfield, or Nitmiluk. Louise has captured all these areas, and visitors to the market can take a photo memory home.

The market attracts a wide array of visitors from all walks of life. Denton says customers are often ‘people who might not necessarily be the sort of people to visit an art gallery or photography studio’.

The market stall is the photographer’s primary revenue stream. Online sales are marginal in comparison. Louise previously ran workshops and photo tours, but gave it up to focus solely on the market stall and have more free time to shoot.

The art of the stall
Arranging a stall is an art form in itself, she explains. ‘You have to be able to think outside the box a little when you’re putting together a display. It takes a while to fine-tune your display,’ she said. ‘I remember back to the first market stall I set up, which looked terrible! But now, I am really happy with the way my display looks – it’s full of stock, bright and colourful. Lighting is especially important to me, as we are a night market.’

Broome landscape photographer Mieke Boynton, who operates a stall at the Saturday Courthouse Market, finds that a display that pops and has a natural flow is crucial to success.

‘It takes two hours to set up my marquee, awnings, tables, posters and display items. There’s a bit of an art to arranging the “flow” of a market stall, and it’s about making sure that there is a natural progression for people to follow when they come in,’ she explained to ProCounter. ‘Having items on display at different levels is important too – people come to my stall from three different directions, so I need items that you can see from a distance, like posters, as well as at eye-height, such as a bookcase for acrylic blocks and a modified shoe rack for postcards.

‘And obviously items on display on the table when visitors come in closer, like prints, cards, bookmarks and so on.’

She prints A3+ photos with an Epson Stylus Photo R3000 inkjet printer, using Epson paper and ink. Calendars, postcards, photo books, acrylic block and hanging prints, phone cases, magnets and bookmarks are ordered online.

The single boab tree sunset photo, Farewell to the Day, is one of Mieke Boynton’s best selling photos.

Like Louise Denton, Mieke lives in a tourism hot spot famous for its natural scenery.

The vast Kimberley region, with its white sand beaches, gorges and waterfalls, iconic boab trees, and an environment that dramatically changes with the (two) seasons, leaves her with no shortage of locations to capture.

‘The market is one of our regular tourist attractions, so many visitors come to the market in order to buy a memory to take home,’ she said. ‘But a lot of locals also purchase my work because I don’t have a gallery in town.

Mieke has a wide spread of products, with something for everyone. Customers can spend a few dollars on a postcard, or several hundred for a print.

As she mentioned earlier, most customers aren’t there to buy photos – casting a wide net, with a range of products and photos, is beneficial. Postcards and magnets sell best, due to affordability, but prints and acrylic products also move well. When Christmas rolls around, calendars take centre stage.

There are two other photographers at the Courthouse Markets in Broome, and high profile landscape photographer Yane Sotiroski has a gallery in town.

Operating a stall comes with unique chores and challenges. Packing, unpacking, arranging, organising, ordering and selling are all essential skills.

‘You have to work hard. Like really hard!’ Louise Denton said. ‘The set-up and pack-down are an extra challenge compared to running a “normal” business, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg with my business.

‘I operate the stall for around 20 hours per week, and then for around 40 hours a week on average, I am making stock – I do all of my own framing, mounting, and so on. I enjoy doing everything, but it is a lot of work.’

The same applies for Mieke Boynton. I’m usually up until after midnight the night before, packaging and labeling my acrylic blocks, or making bookmarks, or packaging and labelling prints,’ she said. ‘Then I get up at 5am to pack everything into my 4WD and get to the market before 6am. There are rules about where you can and can’t unload, we all have an unofficial arrival schedule. If I arrive after 6am, I put a real spanner in the works!’

Mieke said the work keeps her busy, but with a long-standing passion for photography and running the stall, she enjoys the job. It gives her an opportunity to meet interesting people and talk with them about the beauty of the Kimberley and photography, while making an income.

Check out Louise Denton’s photography here.

Check out Mieke Boynton’s photographer here.

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