You’ve been shooting a while. You think beyond the auto settings on your camera. You take the time to compose thoughtfully. You wait for the light to bring out the right tones. You can catch the mood of a scene, the emotions of people and animals, individuals and crowds.
You’ve heard, “You should be making money at this” as often as your mother used to tell you not to slouch.
But how are you supposed to make money with your photography? You know there are already tons of seasoned pros selling their work to stock photography sites. Besides, the stock photo sites often want thousands of images and you’re not quite there yet. So what can you do?
Start small. Realistically. It’s good that you’ve already acknowledged that there are pros out there with more shots and, let’s face it, more experience. At one time, though, they were like you—just starting out. The world might have been different then and their beginnings may have been working in a photo lab that agreed to let them hang some of their work in the lobby. Or maybe they volunteered in a gallery in exchange for hanging some of their work on the restroom walls. The point isn’t how they started, but know they didn’t begin by selling work to collectors, hanging work in art galleries (complete with wine and cheese openings), or getting juicy assignments from national magazines.
Congratulate yourself for knowing your way around your equipment (both camera and photo processing software) and give yourself a chance.
How? There are scores of websites that provide all you need to get things underway. Some are free; some not. Some take a commission on each sale; some don’t. Some let you set the price for your photos; others have already decided what you should charge. Some let you create your own Web pages; others add your work to their galleries based on themes (animals, sunsets, rivers, etc.). Some allow you to sell only prints; others have a variety of products centered around your images (mouse pads, mugs, calendars, t-shirts, to name a few).
Where to begin?
Simple. Your first step is to check out what’s available. You may have friends already selling their work online, and they may swear that the site they’re using is the best possible one. Could be true for them, but it might not work for you. Trust me, you really need to do some research and find what best meets your needs (budget, ease of managing your photos, ease of selling, availability of marketing and merchandising, etc.)
Here’s a list of a 10 sites to get your started. Don’t limit yourself to only those I’ve listed, but these will give you a good feel for what’s available. When comparing sites, it helps to keep track of who does what, for how much, and how easily. I’ve included a sample table at the end of the article to help with tracking. You’ll want to modify it or create one of your own so it compares the features that matter most to you.
Things to look for include:
Be aware of exactly what you’re getting. Some sites say they’re free. Free can mean very, very basic features. For any extra features, there may be associated costs, and these could break your budget.
On the other hand, if the site offers a variety of packages, from basic to pro, don’t pay for the most expensive if other packages give you what you will need.
Also make sure you know who sets the price of your images – you or the site.
Does the site take a percentage of your sales?
What kind of free templates does the site offer? How easy are they to use? Can you customize them?
Can you use your own templates?
Do you need to know any coding, like HTML or CSS?
Can you have your own domain name?
Does the site offer design consultants?
Are there any photo editing tools on the site?
Are you limited to the number or size of photographs you can post?
Does the site make it easy for your visitors to order prints?
Does the site have a fully hosted shopping cart?
Are credit cards accepted?
Does the site ship both nationally and worldwide?
Does the site offer specialty products like greeting cards, mouse pads, and mugs?
Does the site have framing options?
When and how do you receive payment?
What kind of payment does the site accept? (e.g. PayPal, credit cards, electronic transfers)
Look into shipping – how quickly are orders processed, what does shipping cost, and who pays.
Interactions with customers and other photographers
Can your customer’s contact you directly through the site?
Is there a comment option?
Is there a community forum?
Marketing and branding
Can you connect directly to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter?
Does the site offer any marketing features?
Is there a blogging feature?
Can you use your own logo?
Protecting your images
Can you easily watermark your images?
Can you password protect your images?
Who owns the copyright for your images?
Does the site offer ways to prevent unauthorized downloading of your image?
What kind of technical support does the site offer? What is the availability?
Who takes care of problems with orders (you or the site)?
Are there any training videos or webinars offered?
Are there analytics to help you track traffic and views?
You will no doubt come up with additional questions as you learn more about selling online.
As promised, here’s a sample table to compare the various options available.
Who sets price of photos
Social media options
Number of photos/galleries permitted without additional costs
An obvious question to ask at this point is this: How do I get people to find my photos? That’s a whole separate blog, which I’ll post in the near future.
First, though, research some sites, narrow down your choices, and start figuring out which photos you want to sell online. (Watch for an upcoming blog on selecting photos very soon.) The research will keep you plenty occupied while you wait for the upcoming blogs I’ve promised.
Good luck, and congratulations on taking the first step to earning money doing something you love!
Article by Nancy Hill