Deal 9: Hacking Photography mega-deal
Wouldn’t it be nice to make money doing something you love – even if it were just enough to cover the costs of that hobby?
I’m going to share with you four ways that I have personally used to try and make money as a photographer. I’ll share with you my experience with each, advice on getting started, and whether or not I was successful in my attempts. I’ve also found a few more posts on DPS that will help you find more information on a few of these topics if they peak your interest.
Wedding photography is probably one of the more profitable ventures – I know for me even having only photographed one wedding I’ve made more in that one day than the other three methods I’ve tried combined. It has a relatively low cost to entry and if you’re lucky enough to be in or know a lot of people in their early to mid 20s you have a pontential gold mine of a client base to tap.
I recently was asked to photograph my sister’s friend’s wedding and after some convicing I finally said yes. Instantly I felt the pressure of the task before me. Even though I had nearly a year to prepare before the big day it still felt like I had a mountian to climb. Now I’d suggest that if you don’t feel this pressure when you’re about to photograph your first wedding then you probably shouldn’t be photographing a wedding. It was this pressure that pushed me to get help and make sure that I did the best I possibly could with the experience that I had.
Four words of advice if you’re going to try breaking into wedding photography
These are four of the most important ways to get started in wedding photography, but by no means is an exhaustive list of wedding photography tips. Here’s the first post in a great series here on DPS about wedding photography for more information.
Okay so the global economy is still pretty much in the ICU, but things are starting to look a little better right? After all the housing market is slowly starting to come back to life and as it does there’s an opportunity here for a photographer to make some money on the side photographing interior and exterior shots for real estate agents to use in order to sell the house.
I’ve only done this once and I wasn’t even really looking towards this as an option, but out of the blue a real estate agent who helped me buy my house contacted me after seeing the photographs I share on Facebook and asked if I’d be interested – I agreed to give it a shot.
Again – don’t fall for the working for experience line here if you’re serious about making money the worst thing you can do is start out giving your time away for free so come up with a price and stick with it. The going rate for real estate photography is going to change based on region so you might want to see if you can find local rates in your area.
A Couple Ideas for Pricing Your Real Estate Shoot
The best part about this type of photography is you don’t really need too much gear. A DSLR, a wide-angle lens and a tripod will go a long way. Here’s a post with a bunch of DPS reader comments on the subject of entering the real estate photography business if you’re interested in more information.
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I’ve only given stock photography a very half hearted attempt. I signed up for one of the many agencies out there and submitted a handful of my photographs – they didn’t sell – and I gave up.
It’s a very hard industry to break into if you’re just starting out because the agencies typically will feature popular photographer’s work first. One point I’d like to make is that you have to keep in mind that the photographs people are looking for are ones that will help them sell a product or service to their clients and therefore you have to think about that when you take your photos.
Just because I failed at selling anything through a stock agency doesn’t mean it’s not a good source of income for you. After all there are people out there who make good money with stock photography and that’s the main reason I chose to include it in this post.
So if you’d like to know more about getting into stock photography read this article on DPS it’s much more involved than what I’ve gone over here.
Fine art photography is probably the most competitive and most difficult avenue to break into due to the fact that the market is saturated with photographers trying to sell their photography and the fact that wall space is limited (we all only have four walls in each room to hang photographs on and typically we want those photographs to mean something to us).
Key Points to Think About as You Get Started
Ways To Sell Your Photography
Okay so now that we’ve gone over some of the basics of what you’ll need to do before you even begin to sell your photography how do you actually go about selling it?
Are you making money with your photography? If so are you using one of the options listed above or do you do something else? Share below!
August 28, 2013 10:58 pm
None of these 4 ways to make money apply to me, but I am making money with high school student photography, high school sports photography, and product photography.
August 28, 2013 01:16 pm
As a wedding photographer I can say that it took me years to make it a profitable business as there is so much to learn. The comment" I’ve made more in that one day than the other three methods" could be very miss leading as there is well over 30-40 hours spent on each wedding when you calculate all of the work prior to, during and post processing. This is where people go wrong, they think that all they have to do is get a few weddings under their belt, a camera and away they go. Its not the case! be prepared to spend years learning your craft and getting a good reputation. And if you think that there is a market opening in the budget section you can also think again, this has been vacated by a previous person who thought the same thing and due to not earning enough went broke. The only photographers that last the distance are the ones who charge enough to justify the effort:)
August 26, 2013 12:16 pm
One of the more lucrative photography ventures is equine photos at horse shows and other events however they are very fast moving and do require an element of horse knowledge to get the best photo
August 23, 2013 03:13 am
I make most of my money from photography from weddings, followed by model portfolios and lingerie sessions. I have also sold a couple prints through Redbubble. This year I have entered a water drop macro printed on a metal wall float with a high gloss finish in the State Fair, so we'll see how that goes. I decided to try the State Fair because one of my portrait clients had sold a print that way. There is no entry fee, each division offers a cash prize of up $500 and the grand prize is $3500. I chose a very unique image that I was planning to order for my own wall anyway. I do keep my day job, though :-)
August 23, 2013 12:09 am
thanks. I hope it'll help me in future :)
August 20, 2013 08:27 am
@Mark - You make a great point about FAA's ability to attract people from search engines that is certainly a great benefit to using their service - might have to try and put a handful of photos up there and give them a shot.
I agree with you that both might be the best way to go - you can offer your 'fan-base' lower prices (while retaining your same profit) and then random people who are just looking for XYZ photo you can still capture some of the sales which may not have found you in the first place.
August 20, 2013 07:42 am
I'm on both Fine Art America and Zenfolio. And they both have their pluses and minuses. No Fine Art America won't promote you as an individual artist, but Fine Art America is incredibly well positioned with the search engines. If you do a good job of describing your work there, i.e. the same terms in your description that a customer would use searching for that art piece, all other things equal, you have a far better chance of showing up in the search engine results for someone searching for art like you make. Without question, I would say FAA wins for SEO.
Zenfolio has a far more customizable portfolio site with fewer printing and framing options. It allows you to build an online presence that is under your own brand name rather than just building a shop corner in another person's mall. But it's kind of like opening a store in the middle of the desert, you're going to have to work very hard to find customers.
It really comes down to what you're after in the end. In my case, I chose both. I don't want all my eggs in one basket and long term, I hope to get to that point where my own brand ranks well on its own. In the meantime, it's nice to also catch the sales from people who don't know me but find my work by random chance, i.e. good SEO on FAA.
August 20, 2013 07:15 am
Yes you're right Zenfolio & Smugmug are more like creating a website for your print sales as opposed to putting them up in a "market place" so to speak. They offer more customization in that aspect (especially the new Smugmug which basically lets you display your work how you want it to display). They will do just about any printing option that you can imagine from putting your images on standard prints to metal prints, canvases, framed prints, and even things like coffee mugs and mouse pads if you so choose.
Now not only will they frame and matte your print for you, but they will let you determine how much you want to charge for the framed print not just add a small commission on a sale of a framed print.
Finally to answer the question about "what does the margin matter?"
Margin is a huge part of business (arguably it's one of the fundamentals of business) - In my example above if your customers are buying prints for $22 then you could either make $10 profit at FAA or $18 at Zenfolio (which sounds better to you?).
Margin is a better way of looking at profit then simply looking at the cold hard dollar amount as it shows how much room you have to discount or how much protection you have against cost increases. Say FAA raises their base cost 10% your profit falls $1.20 to $8.80 and alternatively if Zenfolio raises their cost by the same 10% then my profit falls $0.35 to $9.65 and now because my margin is larger to start I'm actually profiting more in the end.
I don't really want to start a war here though - as I said FAA is a great service for photographers, but I think people should be informed when they make their choices and know that the reason that they are less expensive to join is because they cover their costs a different way - by taking more per sale and less from their members.
I prefer Zenfolio you prefer FAA it's a no win battle. I've used Zenfolio, FAA, Redbubble, Smugmug and even tried selling directly through my website and self-fullfilling orders (which was a nightmare) in the end I'm happy where I'm at.
August 20, 2013 07:03 am
compare apples to apples - what are you getting in zenfolio? it usually depends how the print looks, the materials it's printed, the choices of substrates, etc, all this works into the final cost. you mark up your amount you get your price if you sell it. my customers have yet to complain.
i feel art shouldn't be discounted because it cheapens the artwork itself. if people want to pay for quality they will pay a little extra in a place designated for fine art. it's also a matter as to who shops at these places. till now i never heard of that other place. and looking at it, i can't tell what that site is. they seem to sell a little bit of everything there which makes it that much more confusing to be there.
as to which i would buy? the best quality. low prices are great if you are giving a random gift and don't care so much about quality. but when it comes to quality people will spend more on something. looking over the pricing there it seems you need to spend like $250 a year in order to sell quality things, that place sounds more like a webpage then a pod. zenfolio sounds more like a place where you would place family snap shots and maybe street photography into. if you want a pro look, and your serious, FAA is a better choice. i make quite a few sales there, more than just a few.
August 20, 2013 06:36 am
I really can't speak about Zenfolio because I have never heard of it before today. From what I gathered looking at the site it is basically a site to create your own website. FAA allows that but it also allows people to buy your work, even if they don't know who you are. FAA is a place for people to BUY art. I have never sold just a print there of any image. I have sold framed prints, acrylic prints, metal prints and even greeting cards there.
Again, I can't speak for the quality of the prints from Zenfolio because I have not purchased anything from them, but I can say the quality of the work from FAA is outstanding, archival prints. Plus they will frame and mat my prints and give me a piece of that on top of my profit on the print itself. They also offer buyers a 30 day money back guarantee to assure them they will be happy with the quality of the work.
The profit for both places is $10.00, what does the margin matter?
I can build a website on FAA like on Zenfolio. I get unlimited uploads, a thriving community of fellow artist on their discussion board, I can link my FAA sales page to my personal website. All for $30.00. Zenfolio starts at about $30.00 and goes WAY up from there.
I think anyone serious about selling fine art should consider FAA.
August 20, 2013 02:52 am
@John Crothers – Hi and thanks for the comment and question....
Yes in principle you are correct – FAA will let you set your profit, but at what cost to your customers?
Here’s a rough example for you which I did using my Zenfolio account vs a free account I have at FAA..
Say I want to sell an 8x10 print and return a $10 profit per sale. At FAA the base cost for this 8x10 print is $12 contrast that to Zenfolio where the base cost is $3.52. To make my $10 profit/sale for this 8x10 print at Zenfolio I can offer it to my customers for $13.52 dollars, a 39% discount over the $22 that I’d have to offer it at FAA to make the same dollars/sale.
To look at it another way... At Zenfolio I have a profit margin of 74% [profit ($10)/total cost($13.52) *100] and at FAA the profit margin slips to 45%. To match the same margin/sale you'd have to charge roughly $50 for an 8x10 print. Now of course these are just some numbers I pulled out of thin air and the "cost" of the print really doesn't come out of your wallet as it's just built into the sale price of each product you offer - but given the same print priced at 14, 22, or 50 dollars which one would you buy?
All in all - I think sites like Redbubble and FAA are great for those who don't have many sales/year, but if you're selling more than a handful of prints I'd expect it'd be more profitable for you to jump to one of the other alternatives.
August 20, 2013 01:02 am
I would like to point out that I have been a member on Fine Art America for over a year and I am not sure where you got the information that they don't have as many features and take a larger percentage of your sales. FAA allows YOU to set the profit you want to make on an image, be it $1.00 or $1,000.00 FAA does not set the profit the artist makes at all. In my opinion FAA is one of the BEST sites for artist to sell their work. Not to mention a premium membership only cost $30.00 a year.
August 19, 2013 05:32 pm
I work in the corporate photography sector and this is very competitive as well. I tried selling stock photography through my own site and Alamy. The problem with trying to make a living from stock photography is their are millions and millions of images available and some sites sell them so cheaply that it is barely possible to cover the cost of a shoot if you use models.
August 19, 2013 09:31 am
The last couple of years I have made themed calendars on Zazzle and sold a few. I think if I promoted them better and had more, I could sell more.
August 19, 2013 02:30 am
I have found out that putting photos on Flickr has resulted in several sales out of the blue, including one for the cover of a novel. You need to be out there with good tags.
August 18, 2013 11:32 pm
Thank you for telling that what I like is the most difficult to break into. I am going to hang on to my day job :D
August 18, 2013 05:19 am
Yes! I do make some cash from my photography mainly from the art fair scene but an occasional sale fro Etsy too...
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