You've seen Alan Maltz's photography if you've browsed Florida's official tourism websites, or flown into Florida's Ft. Myers International Airport, where his prints grace the walls-some as distinctive 10x15-foot displays. Or perhaps you've spent some time looking at his imagery if you visited the Alan S. Maltz Gallery in Key West, where his framed works have generated close to $8 million in sales since the gallery opened in January 1999. Clearly, Maltz has nurtured an idea into a flourishing business in fine art photography.
Behind the exquisite imagery is a photographer driven by a passion for his art, a golden work ethic, and a desire to create win-wins with his clients. Maltz has built his business one success at a time, beginning in the 1980s with a popular poster series, "Country Magic." "After this small success, I self-published a coffee-table book titled Key West Sunsets, which sold well." That's when things really started to change.
Publishing books was clearly part of his winning formula. Celebrities of Nature, featuring endangered species of Florida, was published in 1992. Then came Key West Color in 1995.
"Key West Color was the turning point," says Maltz. "It's still in production today, and still selling well. The key was the timing, and the way I approached the sales. This time, I was very careful to pre-sell orders mid-year to corporate clients, who would use them as seasonal holiday gifts for employees and friends. I offered to personalize the books for the companies, and the idea flew. With this approach and the book's pre-sales, I was able to cover production costs and still make a slim profit. So, before I'd even started printing, I'd made some money. Every book sale after that was gravy."
With over 50,000 book sales to date, Maltz has mapped out a winning marketing strategy. His 2006 release, Florida: Beyond the Blue Horizon, was introduced at the Governor's Conference on Tourism by Governor Jeb Bush, and Visit Florida recognized it as the Official Coffee Table Book of Florida. It didn't hurt that the Super Bowl Host Committee proclaimed it as their "Official Coffee Table Book for Super Bowl XLI."
Building on continued success, Maltz recommends always taking your business to the next level-and planning carefully for it. "It's an evolution," he says. Maltz knew he wanted to open a gallery, for example, but the trick was doing it right-the first time.
"I purchased some commercial space in the early 1990s, but kept the space leased until I knew I was ready for a gallery. In 1998, when giclée printing became available to me, I knew I finally had found a medium that would make me stand out, allow me to express myself creatively, and give me that control I wanted. The timing was just right. And waiting until my work, business awareness, and family were ready before taking the property and opening a gallery was the smartest thing I could have done."
Maltz's Key West Gallery, offering high-quality service and impeccable style, accounts for almost 65 percent of his business. "One of the things that attracts passers-by is what we call ‘The Great Wall of Florida,' a 7.5x9-foot wall consisting of 186 6x9-inch pieces. We've sold two entire sets of the whole wall in the past few months," he says. Sales in the tens of thousands of dollars occur with regularity these days.
Producing the work entirely in-house has really helped the bottom line. "When we opened, we outsourced printing and framing, so my idea was to change that one step at a time. First, we added two Epson Stylus Pro 9600 printers. When the 9800 was introduced, we brought in two of the newer printers. Then we opened a framing shop in the back. Today, we control every facet of print production and framing, and the difference to the bottom line is great."
Achieving high visibility, through his galleries and books, and being vigilant about quality have also contributed to his success. Maltz ensures that all of his gallery wraps and prints appear in frames that are elegant, classical, and modern. All image liners are hand-wrapped in either silk or high-quality cotton then finished in high-quality, imported frames. "Quality is the only way that works for me," he says.
Named the Official Fine Art Photographer for Visit Florida and the Official Wildlife Photographer of Florida by the Florida Wildlife Commission, Maltz has won additional corporate projects through word-of-mouth referrals. One example is his Ft. Myers airport assignment, commissioned in 2004, for which he was asked to shoot 100 images, 60 of them designated for the airport. These photographs, as it turns out, will be published in a coffee-table book next year.
"Photographing nature is one of my favorite things to do," says Maltz. "To be cchromegiven a shot list and asked to go and do my thing, that's great-and that's how the job started. I shot from January 2004 through September 2004. They were some of the best months of my life."
Maltz's advice for someone entering the fine art photography field is to be sure you're shooting your passion.
"I have enjoyed what I do so much that I never stop pushing to succeed," says Maltz. "If one prospect said ‘no,' I'd try harder until I had three that said ‘yes.' I would cold call, anything-anything to get the door open. One cold call resulted in 20 thematic sunsets for a ship Carnival Cruise Lines was renovating. So, don't give up and don't rest on your laurels. There's opportunity to be found if you persevere."