Deal 9: Hacking Photography mega-deal
A Guest Post by Anne McKinnell
Most of us start out in photography because we love to make images, it gets us outdoors, and helps us explore our creative selves. We do it for ourselves because it makes us happy.
But there is different side of photography that adds another dimension to the experience: sharing images with others. It’s one of the most popular things to do on the internet.
We do it to share experiences with our families and friends, get feedback from other photographers, and attract customers or clients.
There are three steps to making a big impression online:
So, you want to put all of your images online for everyone to see, right? That’s a really bad idea. Not putting them online – the bad part is putting *all* your images online.
Imagine you are looking at a photographer’s portfolio and they have hundreds of images. Some are architecture, some are seascapes, some are portraits, some are still life. You’re going to see a lot of these. Hundreds of photographers will all blend together in your mind because they are indistinguishable from each other.
On the other hand, let’s say you look at a photographer’s work and they have 20 images all of which are black and white seascapes. He becomes the “black and white seascape guy”. Or let’s say they are all dog portraits. She becomes the “dog portrait woman” in your mind.
That doesn’t mean that if you are the dog portrait woman you cannot make images of architecture. You don’t have to choose right at the beginning what kind of photographer you want to become. Just choose one selection of your images to show the world right now. That will make you stand out in people’s minds and you will grow a bigger following because people can identify with you.
Pick a theme to work on. My first theme was seascapes at twilight.
Notice how all the images have a certain look to them. They fit together as a group. And there are less than 20. That’s what you need to do.
Now that you have a great set of images to share with the world you need to choose a method for getting them online.
But … where to start? There are so many options!
So many that I could never summarize the pro’s and con’s of every available alternative but I will share what I have learned so you can get going quickly and easily. And I’m only going to suggest sites where your photos are sure to look great (sorry Flickr that leaves you out)!
The first thing is to determine what your goals are right now.
Let’s look at these options one step at a time.
500px is the best option for you. Images look absolutely stunning on the site and it is free if you upload fewer than 10 images per week. For only $20 per year you can upload as many as you like.
This screenshot is from Michael Russell‘s page on 500px.
Note that you can sell digital downloads on 500px too. The only print product you can sell is a fixed price canvas print which just doesn’t cut it if you are interested in selling print products.
I’ve tried many of these services, some paid, some free, and I’m going to tell you which one is super easy, looks great, and is totally free. It’s Redbubble.
This screenshot is from Jessica Jenney’s page on Redbubble.
Redbubble offers lots of different products. I have ordered many of them myself and am always impressed with the quality. You can set your own prices and Redbubble makes a small commission from any sales. The only drawback is that you cannot sell digital downloads – only products.
If you want to sell both products and digital downloads take a look at Zenfolio.
Blogger is very easy to setup and adding content is straightforward but there are fewer options for design and custom features than WordPress offers.
WordPress has a steeper learning curve but if you are going to have a blog you probably want it to have a really nice design and some customizable functions. And it’s way easier to just start with WordPress than it is to try to move a blog from Blogger to WordPress later.
The bottom line is that Blogger is a better option if you want your blog to be super simple to set up and add content and you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. WordPress is a better option if you want more advanced features and customization.
Both options are free and both have plugins that allow you to display your gallery.
If you are already really serious about your photography and you want to have your own website with your own domain name and have a blog and a gallery in the same place, and perhaps sell products and advertising, then get ready to roll up your sleeves or get out your wallet! (Probably a bit of both.)
You might want to hire someone else to set up the website for you if you’re not tech-savvy and then all you have to do is add blog posts and new images.
If you want to take it on yourself you need to choose to a webhost, buy a domain name (yourname.com) and a web hosting package. If you want to blog you will need to install WordPress and find a theme you love and install that.
Next you will need to choose a method for displaying your image gallery:
Creating your own website is a huge topic so if you are going to delve into it you have some researching to do.
This screenshot is from Ken Kaminesky’s website built with Photoshelter.
For my own website, I use WordPress with a theme from Graph Paper Press and Photoshelter for my gallery.
If you want to promote your photography beyond your family and friends you should start building your audience right away. Using social media is the best and fastest way to find people who love to look at your images and might become customers or clients in the future. As well, they will be your marketing department by helping to spread the word about your photography.
There are so many different social networks out there. Again it is a learning curve just to figure out which ones will work best for you and how you should use them. So let me give you a quick primer on the five social networks that have worked best for me.
Twitter is my favourite social network and the first one I started. A “tweet” has a maximum of 140 characters so it is quick to sift through a lot of information to find what you are interested in.
Most photographers post links to their images and their blog posts. If you are interested you click, if not you move on.
If you want to grow your audience on twitter it is important to promote other people’s work as well as your own.
Google+ is the social network that was designed for photographers. In many ways it is the opposite of twitter because people tend to post very long posts and have conversations in the comments section.
Because of this engagement within G+, people rarely click links which makes it difficult to drive traffic to a blog. But if you put your whole blog post on G+ you might get more interaction and comments there than you do on your blog.
This screenshot is from Jon Cornforth’s page on Google+.
StumbleUpon is a bit like rolling the dice. You have no idea what it is going to land on but it will be something interesting to you. The idea is that you follow people who have similar interests and when you “stumble” you see the pages that they like. Or you can stumble certain topics like photography or travel.
The difference here is that you are not supposed to stumble your own links and you get penalized if you do it too often. It’s really better to put a StumbleUpon button on your website or blog and hope that other people stumble it. When they do you will get a huge spike in traffic.
Do you like scrap booking or collecting things? This social network is the one for you.
In Pinterest you have boards where you pin groups of images you like, just like pinning an image you cut out of a magazine on a cork board. It’s a great place for collecting images that inspire you, or places you want to go, or whatever you are interested in.
This screenshot is from Deborah Sandidge’s page on Pinterest.
When you follow someone you will see the images they pin on their boards. If you like an image and want to add it to your collection you simply re-pin it to one of your boards. You can pin your own images too and people who follow you will see them.
I hate to say it but I do get a lot of traffic from Facebook and it would be negligent of me to leave it out. Even though it is the most difficult, confusing, frustrating and sometimes outright stupid system to use. But because it was first almost everyone is on it.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to make everyone stop using it so it’s one of those “if you can’t beat them, join them” kinds of things. Regardless of my opinion, Facebook will generate traffic and help you build your audience.
If you do not yet have a gallery of images or a blog and you just want to get some stuff online quickly and easily, start with Redbubble. It is free, easy to use and comes with a great community of photographers. It’s a great place to get your feet wet.
Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad who travels around North America in an RV photographing beautiful places. You can read about her adventures on her blog. She is also the author of several eBooks on photography. This post contains excerpts from her latest eBook “8 Ways To Accelerate Your Photography.”
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November 14, 2012 06:23 am
Great post Anne!!
I had a blogger blog for many a year and recently decided to delete it as it wasn't generating any sales or receiving much traffic. In it's place I set up a facebook 'page' it's a bit of a shambles but I must say I have received much more exposure through this than anywhere else. My personal url directs straight to my fb page now.
I use twitter as the feedback is quick and concise.
This is also the 1st year I haven't paid for a flickr 'pro' account and haven't posted anything on there for some time, I tried 500px when it first started and really like how images look over there but I've not done much with it for about 6months or so.
Finally I've recently joined RedBubble and although I havent sold anything directly through it's a great looking portfolio site I particulary like having the framed images as the default view and being able to share these direct to my facebook page.
I used to be of the opinion of the more places I am online the more exposure and sales it will generate, recently I've been more of the opinion that this is spreading myself too thing and I should focus more on just a few of them until I'm in a position to have a great webispace with blog, gallery and shop.
October 26, 2012 07:50 am
Excellent article Anne! I've put together a similar outline for a talk I'm doing with a local art group and Redbubble was at the top of my list as well for people started out! It's where I started out :)
October 25, 2012 03:11 pm
Good article and thanks for the tips on "redbubble", I surely will give it a try.
October 25, 2012 02:58 am
Great article...one I'm a little familiar with since i have gotten a photo blog up and running not long ago and using a lot of what is talked about here....I will definitely put some of your suggestions to use, thanks for the article.
christophernelsonimages.com if anyone is interested in checking it out (feedback welcome!)
October 24, 2012 08:55 am
I've just joined 500px just to see what it's all about.
I've thought about starting a blog but I seriously worry/think....who would be interested?
October 23, 2012 03:31 am
Nice article- thanks. A lot of work is needed to promote photography and even harder to get people to buy it online I think.
I have a 'buy prints' page, set it up with a free plugin (Ecwid) that I'd highly recommend.
My page is http://www.photoblog.ie/buy-print/
The way I look at it is I've nothing to lose by having a buy print page. At least if I have it available I just might make a sale through it.
October 22, 2012 03:30 pm
nice read... i personally use 500px and wordpress... I also use flickr (of course!) and tumblr
October 21, 2012 06:35 am
Thanks for the article! It's nice to see a breakdown of how to use the different sites. I've been reevaluating the different sites I've used over the years and have deleted quite a few. I've been on Flickr for 4 years and though I like the community there it's definitely not for selling photos. I've just joined 500px. I deleted my Redbubble account mainly because I had sculptures on there and not photos. My main concern with RB is how easy it is for people to right-click and take your work. I know, even if it is protected if someone wants the photo they can do a screen shot. I just don't want to make it so easy for them. On Flickr and 500px photos are protected. Facebook is a mess in so many ways I don't use it for photos any more and use a link but that has proved worthless as people don't want to click on it, come back and leave a comment.
I guess I'll continue building my website, try to sell from there and maybe try Redbubble again. I have bought things from them and the products are good.
October 20, 2012 10:12 am
I really enjoyed this article and it introduced me to some websites I wasn't familiar with. I have wanted to get some pictures online for a while but don't know how to protect them. I know the professional version of SmugMug allows you to put watermarks on each of your pictures, but I rarely see watermarks being used with online galleries. How do you protect your pictures - what is stopping anyone from saving it to their computer and using it? I realize smaller pictures aren't very versatile but some sites have high resolution pictures on them. Also, Facebook's policy relating to pictures that are uploaded to the site seems to take away any rights the photographer has. How do photographers deal with that?
October 20, 2012 01:49 am
Thanks for some great tips. My wife and I "launched" this year when she finally convinced me to enter our local juried arts fair, the Danforth East Arts Fair (literally half a block away). I really had no excuse, and while it was a bit scary, it certainly showed me that: a) it could be done, and b) boy, do I have a lot to learn.
We're still working on the website and social media part, but what I learned from the actual fair itself is that, whatever photos you like, and whatever photos other people like, can be totally different from what customers will actually BUY. For instance, I've been on Flickr for years, and while some of my photos there get a large number of "likes", comments and views, nobody was interested in buying a print. There is a HUGE difference between viewing something for a few seconds on a screen and investing in something that is going to hang over your couch (BTW, someone is already using "art above the couch" as a website - that's good marketing).
We had some sales (actual strangers and not friends, relatives or neighbours), but what got me was the length of time potential customers spent flipping through a little book we had on display that I had given my wife for an anniversary. Needless to say, we didn't have the foresight to actually have any for sale.
October 19, 2012 02:37 pm
I have not messed with my Redbubble in probably 2 years. Great article Anne :)
October 19, 2012 12:55 pm
Thanks for the invaluable tips and for sharing your knowledge.
Through my own experience I have tried many online photo hosting service - started with pbase.com. flickr, zenfolio and smugmug but a,omg these big players I found zenfolio most suitable for my requirement. It offers flexible nad user-friendly customisation, it provides us with several elective packages, and it offers e-commerce facilities (with Premimum and Premium Business plan) to sell our pictures.
Do check out http://www.zenfolio.com website for more details.
By the way please visit my zenfolio online gallery at http://zain.zenfolio.com where I also offer my photos for sale either in idigital format or in print.
October 19, 2012 07:46 am
A very informative and interesting article.
I use 500.px and one of my photos was picked up by a photo agency who got it published in 2 UK National newspapers as well as on several online sites.
I also use Photos4Me - mainly a UK site and recently Fine Art America - but will now have to try RedBubble.
I also have a website and blog and use Facebook and Twitter.
The main problem is that one can spend so much time posting on web sites and in forums, there is no time left for actually taking photos!!
October 19, 2012 03:53 am
wow need quality articles like this,
everything on photography is shared on the web
October 19, 2012 03:15 am
This is an excellent article. I have already reshared it on Google+. I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty of quoting your bit about posting on Google+ for those who might be disinclined to click on a link. You have hit the nail right on the head! To me people who post a link to their blog or sale Website break the flow of scrolling through fine photographs and are insulting the rest of the community. The irritate me to the point I refuse to follow their link and stoke their click count no matter how much I'd like to see a bigger view of the thumbnail.
October 19, 2012 02:47 am
Excellent and very informative article as usual Anne.
October 19, 2012 02:13 am
this is a great article. I have so many photos and would like to put them up to share and sell but I am not sure how to get that done. This has given me some good ideas to help me to get started. Thanks
October 19, 2012 12:45 am
Excellent article and tips. I do have to say a word about Redbubble though. I had my photos up for a couple of years, got no traffic (I'm not a blogger), no sales and when I purchased one of my own prints it was dark and unacceptable. I have also heard negative things about misuse of images. That's all I will say so as not to get sued!
Planning a personal site on SmugMug when I get around to it.
October 18, 2012 11:38 pm
I've got a couple of friends that have mentioned redbubble, but I still need to check it out. I have a 500px account, but it's been a bit since I've done anything with it. I need to get back after it.
October 18, 2012 10:25 pm
Ah, what a great article! Thank you so much for your advice, very informative!
October 18, 2012 05:09 pm
October 18, 2012 04:03 pm
Great information as always Anne.... I think I saw what John Davenport was taking about.. payment to list your post... I think it was $7.. have you seen this? Do you know anything about it?
October 18, 2012 03:47 pm
Nice list of options!
October 18, 2012 10:38 am
Great post Anne. I've been with flickr for quite a while, but never really got into it. I just created an account with 500px because of this post, and within minutes of uploading just one photo, I've already received feedback from members on it. It has such a great social factor which I personally never encountered on flickr. Not that there's anything wrong with flickr, but I just feel more at home now on 500px.
October 18, 2012 10:12 am
Thanks for the article, Anne! A well-rounded guide that I very much enjoyed. Never heard of Redbubble, but will certainly be headed over there given your recommendation. Thanks!
October 18, 2012 09:13 am
Very informative, a great breakdown of the options out there.
I'd suggest creative commons license as well. I'll never make money from photography, but the sharing aspect is much better when other can use your photos.
October 18, 2012 08:22 am
Great post and very informative I use Flickr as well do many of you use this to showcase your pictures? Mark
October 18, 2012 08:12 am
It can be daunting AF, I'm glad I was able to help point the way.
October 18, 2012 08:05 am
Thanks Anne for providing an informative and inspirational article. Great reminders on the options available to photographers for sharing work!
October 18, 2012 06:06 am
Thanks so much for this review. I've been wanting to sort through some of these options, but the thought was daunting...
October 18, 2012 06:02 am
Glad to be of help Howard!
October 18, 2012 05:55 am
Anne this is a great article! I'm going to have to look hard at redbubble now that SmugMug's upped their prices so much. Thanks for the heads up!
October 18, 2012 05:12 am
Thanks for your comments John! The other reason I like Redbubble, especially when I was first starting out, is that there is a really supportive community there and also lots of people who post tutorials using the "journal" feature.
October 18, 2012 04:42 am
Great tips Anne!
Definitely agree with you on a lot of points. I have to say that I've used Redbubble before and haven't really liked them, but they are free so it's a great place to start and test the waters to see if your photos are at least sale worthy before jumping into something bigger.
As for your comment on Facebook - I have to agree - with how they segment who sees posts and have started to force payment for posts to reach your fans I've actually seen a drastic drop in the traffic the site sends me, but it still performs better than any other network out there and that simply has to do with quantity of people who use it.
October 18, 2012 04:02 am
You are absolutely right Dewan, it depends on how much control you want over the display, how much technical experience you have with the web, and whether or not you want to sell. Thanks for your comments!
October 18, 2012 03:59 am
Thank you very much Jai! I love Pinterest too. Have you seen the Digital Photography School's boards? They have excellent boards of various photography techniques. Check it out: http://pinterest.com/dpschool/
October 18, 2012 03:52 am
i had not come across RedBubble until you mentioned it, but now I am sure to go give it a look.
I find twitter and facebook great ways to get people to look at my images where ever I have them hosted, which could be either 500px, google or my webpage ( http://www.dewandemmer.com/melissa-and-gareths-wedding-at-oakfields-farm-muldersdrift/ ).
It all depends how much control you want over how you images are displayed.
October 18, 2012 02:27 am
Great shots in your website, Anne!
October 18, 2012 01:39 am
Excellent tips. Pinterest is great. I love that it grows organically too.
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