Magazine Article


Portraits on Canvas
Selling art that matters

Kristin Farnsworth

Kristin Farnsworth

Kristin Farnsworth

If I were forced to scrap all of the art in my house except for one piece, I know the one I would keep. It's a huge 40-inch by 60-inch canvas that features 15 different pictures of my kids-the ones that show the radiance and spirit that I love about them. This canvas is the one they'll look at the rest of their childhood. It's the one that each of them will someday show to the "One." It's the one that they'll show their own children, and to which we'll all compare faces to see who has similar expressions. It's the one I'll find again and again when I want to swim in happy memories of my family.

Such is the power of the images put on a canvas. More than any other format, canvases have a unique ability to make customers do a double-take at how stunning their images are-at how stunning their family is. Most of the people who see them end up buying them-and not just buying them, but loving them.

Selling a Piece of Art

One of my goals in selling canvases (and in my business, for that matter) is to help people realize that they can ditch the bland, meaningless junk art that most people have on their walls and replace it with images as amazing as the ones surrounding them in my studio, but better because it's personal and meaningful. To this end, I made the room I use for both initial consultations and previewing/ordering a welcoming one. It looks and feels like a great living room-cozy leather chairs, soft lighting, warm wood tones-and vivid, dazzling canvases on every wall.

At the end of the consultation, I tell clients to go home and take note of the spaces where they want their images. The better the samples are, the more clients will remember what they saw in my studio, envision what their own images will look like on their walls, and get their measuring tapes out accordingly.

I should note that having a superior vendor is critical. The samples in your studio should be outstanding and produced by a company that you know is reliable and consistent enough to deliver on the implicit promise you make to your clients: "I can get you canvases as brilliant and high-quality as the ones you see here." I selected my current vendor, Simply Canvas, because their attention to detail (and subsequent quality) is so stellar that the chances of selling clients another canvas at their next session increase dramatically.

The viewing/ordering appointment is where it takes special skill to overcome people's primary reason for rejecting a canvas: price. For some, it's a matter of a little marketing magic (maybe pick names for canvas types that reflect quality and timelessness). For others, it just takes vision (show images on a projector, perhaps, so they're seen in large format). I often match specific images with the size and type of canvas ethat I think would display an image at its finest.

When clients are still unsure if they want to spend that much, remind them that putting word art on the edges saves the cost of a frame. Plus, the canvas becomes more meaningful by reminding them of the words and phrases that are special at this time in their child's life-something that makes it even more of an heirloom. Few other formats can offer that advantage while looking so sophisticated.

If someone is motivated to commit to a canvas but still uncertain, one final step I take is to offer to make the canvas a collage for a nominal upcharge. This raises my time commitment so significantly that I don't even offer it on my regular price list, but some things are simply done in the name of customer satisfaction.

In the end, customer satisfaction is the reason I sell canvases. Profit margins are higher on other items, but I notice that clients who buy canvases are more satisfied with their results than people who don't. They keep coming back for them. Perhaps this is because, as one client put it, having a picture that's closer to real-life size makes it seem more like real life.

Kristin Farnsworth is the owner of Whispers Photography (, a boutique photography studio in Huntsville, AL, specializing in newborn, children, family, and high school senior portraits.