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Are your family and friends telling you that your pictures are so good you should try to sell them? Are you thinking that you should give it a try but you are not too sure how to get started?
The reality is that there has never been a better time to show your work to a wide audience, but there has never been a worse time to try to sell it… Don’t despair, keep reading!
On one hand, the possibilities to get exposure are endless and free. On the other hand, the market is saturated with photographers who want to sell their work for that same reason. The fine art market has always been a tough one to break into. Now that everyone owns a camera and thinks their work should be on your wall, it’s harder than ever to make a few bucks at it. Also, let’s face it, art is a luxury and not an easy sale in a tough economy.
Should you give up? Absolutely not! You may never get world wide recognition but if you’re good, there is probably a market for you at the local level. Here are a few things to consider to test your market and see if your work will sell:
1- First, put some of your best work online in a gallery with an e-store option (Fine Art America is free, Smugmug is reasonably priced and more professional looking. There are many more options available).
2- Print some business cards with your contact info, gallery and/or website links, etc.
3- Print 4 or 5 of your best images in a large format, matte and frame them. You can also order good quality canvas prints so you don’t have to worry about framing. Visit your local coffee shops and restaurants and ask if they would display your work for a few weeks (keep it under a month, no one will notice it after two or three weeks anyway). Most coffee shops welcome the free wall decoration and will not ask for a commission. If they do, figure it out in your price. You can also offer them a print of their choice to keep as a thank you. Make sure you leave plenty of business cards near your work so people can contact you if they are not ready to buy on the spot.
4- Unless you have fabulous images from your last trip to Italy that would be a great fit in your local Italian restaurant, think locally. People like to buy images of places they are familiar with. This is especially true if you photograph those familiar places with a unique vision that make them even more interesting. They also make great gift items for visiting guests.
5- Offer a framed print to a silent auction to benefit a good cause. You will help them with your contribution, get some exposure and feel really good about yourself for your donation!
6- Thinking about selling you work at art fairs? They are often expensive to join and photography is not the best seller. If you want to give it a try, make sure you have plenty of inexpensive ‘cash and carry’ items such as greeting cards, small matted prints, etc. Be prepared for a long day or weekend sitting around and not selling much (when you could be out there taking more pictures).
7- Have your own show at your house! Team up with two or three other artists (jewelry artists, painters, etc) for an evening. Share the cost of the beverages and snacks, combine your contact lists and have your own art show. Make sure to have a lot of ‘cash and carry’ items to sell, display some of your large prints as well. Those shows are great because the competition is minimal and people are here to shop and have a good time. Your guests will enjoy visiting with the artists and meet new friends. You can potentially make hundreds of dollars in a short period of time while having fun!
8- Greeting cards do sell! Since people are not using snail mail much anymore, a beautiful greeting card becomes even more special. Make sure you have cards for different occasions. I used to make my own cards and I sold hundreds of them. I remember going on ‘greeting card photo walks’ where I would photograph specific subjects for different occasions (flowers for Mother’s day cards, travel related subjects for ‘bon voyage’ or happy retirement cards, etc.)
The list could go on and on and I would love to hear your success stories.
You can make it happen if you remember to start small on a local scale and not set your expectations too high. It may not bring you fortune but making a few sales of your art is a wonderful feeling. Good luck!
Interested in learning more about making money from your photography? Check out dPS’s Going Pro Kit – for those looking to go full time or just make a few extra dollars from their photogrpahy.
September 22, 2013 01:26 pm
Question- how did you copyright? Everything I have read on-line says you have to send your work into the copyright office to have an official copyright. Can you get a general copyright that can be just added to your work? Or when you sell it, do you sign the print?
July 9, 2013 09:09 pm
Thanks for the tips.
Just setup a site for displaying and selling our photography, and we need to get 'known' a bit, so we will look into your tips.
Will investigate into the greeting card side of things a bit more I think, as it sounds that could be a good market to get into.
June 18, 2013 10:04 am
Thanks for the tips so much, I've always been told I have an eye for photography, but is there a special "size" photos have to be captured in order to make various sized prints? Is there a common standard size? I've never had my photos printed for sale purposes. Just for scrapbooking and such.
May 14, 2013 05:26 pm
Great tips, thanks for sharing! I definitely agree that the local support will gain some early takers as people do like to see things that they are familiar with.
April 11, 2013 04:20 am
This is a great article, Valerie, especially Tip #8!
We have a lot of photography customers who have success with using their printed photos in our photo insert cards for Farmers' Markets and specialty shops. As a result, we've compiled a list of tips geared towards photo greeting cards that your readers may find useful.
Photo greeting cards can be good bread & butter pieces for those who may not have the budget for larger pieces. They are also a great way to introduce people to your photography.
Your other tips about silent auctions, donations, and public places (hospitals, restaurants) are all great ideas for photographers to gain exposure.
April 5, 2013 07:30 am
@Kiana, I highly recommend WHCC http://www.whcc.com/ Great priced, pro quality and great service and packaging.
April 4, 2013 07:50 am
Loved this article! Some really great tips for someone just starting out or thinking about selling some of their photography (like me). I have a question about printing - what companies to people use for printing their photography when selling? Would something like Shutterfly be ok or should I be looking into something more professional? I have many more questions than this but I'll start small =) Thank you in advance!
March 16, 2013 01:55 am
you can offer to put your images on display at local hospitals, etc. If you are thinking of selling print to be displayed on their walls, you would probably have to go through the interior designer firm who takes care of those needs for the hospital, office building, etc. Good luck!
March 11, 2013 02:00 pm
Hello I am a junior in high school and I am getting pretty interested in selling my photography. I heard from someone that you can sell your work to hospitals and doctors offices. how would you go about doing this?
February 12, 2013 08:46 am
Lovely article. The internet is also providing some interesting alternatives in bridging the gap between online sales and local sales. I just came across a website for San Francisco Bay Area photographers that will gallery their work for 15% commission. It is a nice hybrid of local photographers, sense of community, and online retail. The site is photopatron.com. I haven't had a ton of luck selling yet, but they seem to be nice people, great concept, and only a few months old.
October 22, 2012 02:08 am
I am curious for pricing my work. A local shop wants to purchase some of my prints but I'm not sure what to charge. Thanks!!
October 15, 2012 03:14 am
Kassandra, your photos are copyrighted the minute the press the shutter button. What you are talking about is registering your copyright with the copyright office. That gives you much more teeth in court should someone use your images without permission.
October 13, 2012 11:22 am
I have a place that's willing to sell my photographs for free, but my photos aren't copyrighted yet. Would it be best to get them copyrighted before I sell them?
March 30, 2012 09:56 pm
@csmall. I am not sure I understand the copyright question. You own the copyrights to all your images so no worries there to sell your prints. If you can get a free spot on a busy market day, why not set up a table and show some of your work? You may make a few $$ and all exposure is good exposure! Good luck!
March 30, 2012 07:03 am
I live in California and the street my office is on has a farmers market where anyone can set up a booth and sell oonce a week every week. Im just starting the process of trying to sell my pictures what do you think about this idea? and as far as copyrights go how do i go about that i need help and dont knwo where to start.
February 15, 2012 11:30 pm
Funny, I just asked at my local coffee shop last night and she said there is a 2. 5 year waiting list ! I'll keep trying other places !
January 25, 2012 01:53 am
Some really great ideas here! Ive been selling on etsy and ebay. Obviously id love to sell more, but im hoping this coming year i get my photography out there more and get more sales. There are alot of options online to get your work noticed (facebook, heartsy, etc.). I believe that once other local people see how you are with the camera they too will want photography done. I have a few people wanting a session next month. I have only done a few sessions (mainly family members) so im looking forward to photographing other people. im def going to check out the fine art america gallery.
January 18, 2012 04:09 am
@Rhonda: I haven't made cards for year but The Photographer's Edge was a great resource. Also, you can buy inexpensive card stock that is ready to fold from stores such as Michael's if you live in the States.
January 16, 2012 09:35 am
Valerie, How did you go about making your own cards? I have been making cards myself but not sure if it is the most efficient way. Would love your tips.
January 13, 2012 09:02 pm
Your article and comments from fellow photographers inspired me to setup my account on Fineart america... hope people like my work and visit it to leave comments / buy greeting cards/prints :)
On a different note...loved your article as its full of small, simple and practical advise.
January 3, 2012 09:41 am
@ Jeff, don't let negative people destroy your dreams. I don't know your work but if you are having fun and you have a passion for photography, surround yourself with likeminded people who will support you.
@ Sean, Smugmug is awesome, contact me for a trial and a coupon if you'd like.
January 3, 2012 09:19 am
Would you say that smugmug is the best site for selling your photos? I recently started photographing and have been told that my photos are marketable. Would this site be a good place to start?
December 31, 2011 12:35 am
I enjoyed your article and I have a passion for photography too. I feel some of my shot are good enough for someone to buy?? I like your idea of the greeting cards. I get a little discouraged when family members look at my shots and wonder why I take so many scenery or sunrise or sunset photos? They don't see the beauty in my work and the clarity I see in them.
I would love to get a professional's opinion if I have what it takes to be a serious photographer.
October 15, 2011 04:05 pm
That was super helpful! I never even thought about doing greeting cards.
October 1, 2011 04:08 am
I would like to sell my photographs, cool landscapes and street photography. I will try out the coffee shop idea and haven been thinking about starting on Smugmug. So this post is helpful in generating more ideas for me. Thanks
September 7, 2011 10:50 pm
ooh, I like their bookmarks! Thanks for the link Valerie.
September 7, 2011 10:46 pm
Rhonda and Kathie, check out http://www.photographersedge.com/ They are not cheap but they have a nice selection. They used to send free samples.
September 7, 2011 10:11 pm
Rhonda, I'm going through the same thing and currently looking at card stock that I can print my own photos on. I'm also looking at services such as Vistaprint, Snapfish, Smugmug and others that professionally print cards - the balance has to be how much I think I can add on to the price I pay and get people to actually purchase the cards. I'll be selling them at markets leading up to Christmas.
September 7, 2011 05:19 am
Hi, Taking about greeting cards...I have made up my personal greeting cards and do sell them. But I am not sure what is the best. I print 4x6's, apply them to half fold notecards and put them in a clear envelope along with the greeting envelope. Is there any other suggestions out there for selling greeting cards? Any companies that might be easy to order greeting cards from with my photos on them? I have had a sample made from Moo Printing which I love but wondering if there are any other suggestions.
August 7, 2011 01:21 am
@julsky: there is nothing wrong with stock, go for it. Even micro stock agencies have very high standards and just getting your images accepted is a great learning experience. Keep in mind that what sells in stock is not what you would put on your wall. Fine art images do not make top selling commercial images. Also, it takes thousands of images to make any money in stock, it can be a nice passive income though!
August 6, 2011 08:00 pm
i specially love the last tip, thanks for the share... i've been considering stock photography, for stock photography sites, is it bad?
August 4, 2011 12:31 am
*sell - whoops :)
August 4, 2011 12:29 am
Thanks for this article! I have been trying to see my photos on Etsy for a couple of weeks now to no avail. Not giving up hope though :)
July 30, 2011 03:58 pm
Sounds good. I need to start planning. I already have cards as well and know these sell. Food and wine - yes, good idea. I live in the hills away from the suburbs so I have some land they can enjoy too. sounds like I need to do this!
July 30, 2011 03:44 pm
Kathie, each time I shared the show with another artist so we combined our guest lists. Also tell your friends to each bring a friend. Have smaller items available too (cards, small matted prints). If there is food and wine, they will come ;-)
July 30, 2011 03:30 pm
@Valerie, were your homeshows by invitation only? I expect they would be as you wouldn't want to open your home to strangers would you? I have the right type of house to have an exhibit in - all the walls are wood, and my photos are of landscapes and wildlife so wooden frames and canvas prints look great on the wood panelling. But I'm not sure how many of my 'friends' would want to come and buy who haven't already been to my exhbition at a local cafe.
July 30, 2011 03:23 pm
@Alec, pricing your images is always a tough one. If it's to sell online, I would recommend checking out other
local photographers' online stores to get a general idea. Walk around art fairs and look at the price tags on the prints displayed for sale. See if they are selling and how your work compares. Unfortunately there are no practical answer to your question. Just price it fairly, not too low, and see if it sells. Adjust accordingly.
@Ramesh, I've had good luck in all of them. I also depends on your location. I live in the US and I've been fortunate to have my own exhibits. It's not so much a money thing, it's more the satisfaction of seeing your work displayed and appreciated. I also displayed my work at local restaurants and several pieces sold each time. Make sure you don't keep your work on display too long (a month is long enough or people stop looking) or update the inventory often to keep it fresh if you can.
While nothing beats the satisfaction of having an exhibit and working with a curator, I must say that the few home shows I've done have been the most fun and the most profitable.
July 29, 2011 11:44 am
Some good ideas, and there is always a need to distinguish your work from other people's work. I have some ideas in that direction to do with using alternate printing methods, be it kallitype, platinum, palladium or carbon printing. Yes, learning these processes is a somewhat long curve, but they have a quality which places them in a category of their own. (People who buy fine art prints want the hand of the artist involved in each one, whereas any inkjet print, no matter the quality can be made a million times mechanically.)
And so, start with a great composition, and then realise it in a way which is unique for each print.
July 29, 2011 11:38 am
On the heels of some comments, I remembered that our local Barnes & Noble would put up photography in their cafe, generally from local artists. Might be worth looking into as well.
July 29, 2011 06:17 am
Thank you so much for this informative article. I have done the coffee shop thing & had already been planning the home show in my head & then I read this. It must be a sign. Awesome! I had not thought of the greeting cards, but am going to research this option. Had forgotten abuot the Moo cards too. Thanks!!!!!!!
July 29, 2011 03:17 am
I did a calendar, but...I did it based on pre-orders...In order to keep the cost down you need to buy a not so small qty...If you dont do pre-orders, there is a decent capital outlay on your part before you even know if people are going to buy them...You could go and talk to a retail outlet to see if they would buy from you wholesale...
July 29, 2011 03:03 am
Great Post. I've been think about this for awhile now and my thoughts werte turning around publishing a calender. Has anyone experince of this. But now will add post- and greetingscards, seems a way of starting to earn money from my photography.
July 29, 2011 02:49 am
Art fairs while somewhat expensive to get started do have the upside that many more people will see your work in a finished state. A gallery online, while nice, doesnt give them the ability to "picture" the image on their wall. And for some, art is an impulse buy, have it ready to hang, and if it strikes them, they will buy.Yes there will be periods of no activity, but if it is a well attended fair, and you have a good display, your booth will soon be packed...not everyone will buy of course, but most do pick up business cards..
Check with small retail stores in your area, especially those frequented by tourist and/or business folks. I found one not to far from where I work inside an office/retail complex...Have sold over 100 pieces (both matted & framed) in a year & a half...I pay a comission, but I get folks looking at my work who are ready (and more importantly ABLE) to buy. And if you want your images to sell, then they need to be of the type that folks know they are not going to be able to replicate easily. Have heard more then once at the Art Fairs "but its only a photograph" Seems everyone has a camera and thinks they can get the same shot....It's the different perspective & "eye" that seperates the typical touristy shot, from the one folks are willing to shell out their hard earned money for.
For online I use both Redbubble & Fine Art America. One benefit of FAA is if you sign up for the POD (pay on demand-$30/yr) you get a gallery website that you can point folks to that they can purchase from directly.
July 28, 2011 02:02 am
Unique ideas on how to market. I would never thought of silent auction / show at my own house tips / coffee shop displays. Thank you and hope to see more from you. Out of curiosity, of all the above mentioned venues, which one worked best for you?
July 27, 2011 08:53 am
Really like the canvas print option. I recently purchased a landscape photo in canvas format as art that I would have never thought to purchase otherwise.
Agree that SmugMug as an online solution.
I like MooCards because you can put a different image on every business card.
Great ideas Valerie! Well written with lots of non-mainstream approaches.
July 27, 2011 07:32 am
Very insightful article. Thanks for posting!
One thing I just did was sign up for a 500px account (http://500px.com/alechosterman). It's a good collaborative tool to be inspired by some amazing photographers.
In this I've been forcing myself to look at my own photos more critically, only putting up those I think are really top notch and might have a shot (pun intended) of selling. As such, I would like to know what goes in to deciding how to price my photos. I'm not a fine artist, but I'm also not an amateur just starting out. Thoughts on this?
July 26, 2011 07:24 pm
Thank you for all the great feedback,
@Anne, ideally you have to find a way to sell them directly. The mark up on greeting cards is small and not worth the effort if you give most of it to a third party who would resell your products. I used to have home shows (explained in my article) with other artists and sold hundreds of cards at each show resulting in hundreds of dollars in profit in a few hours. The back of each card had my website and contact info and people always left with a couple of business cards too.
I also make greeting cards available through my Smugmug online store but the profit is quite small as no one is going to pay more than $4 for a greeting card. The point is to offer a product that everyone can afford. Not every one who likes my work will be able to purchase a $300 print. Those sales are great but over all there is more money to be made in smaller items such as cards and small matted prints 5x7 or 8x12, especially in an economy where art is definitely a luxury :-)
July 26, 2011 06:36 pm
As most of my work tends to feature nudity of some level or another I've often found it hard to get it displayed in coffee shops and resturants ... Although bizarrely its has been welcomed whole heartedly and hangs on the walls of a purveyor of fine gentleman's shoes !
July 26, 2011 04:51 am
I keep thinking about selling some of my prints, my bigest problem is with matting. I never can seem to get matts to look like some of the ones that I have seen, I think it would be a good subject to go over.
July 26, 2011 02:20 am
Sorry, the correct address for above is www.artscow.com
July 26, 2011 02:18 am
Artcow.com gives you 1200 or so free prints just for joining. You could possibly use them for marketing and such as freebies. Just a thought.
July 26, 2011 12:05 am
I would highly suggest getting some nice prints and framing them. I sold a handful of prints this way. I think it helps living in a tourist area. I did some awesome metallic prints through Mpix. Also, not to be a jerk and shamelessly self promote, but mpix gave my multimedia business a promo code for 15% off any size metallic prints. Use the Code MELD. They are also giving away $25 worth of prints by liking our facebook page (www.facebook.com/meldmultimedia)
July 25, 2011 09:44 pm
Great article, Valerie! Thank you so much!
I will definitely follow that path, despite the fact that they are many of "us" in the industry. Why should hold my passion and restrict myself with negative thoughts. I agree with John : " no one sees the world quite like you do, but its up to you to show them that."
On my blog (French), I (just) started a project call "Project 52 weeks", --> http://annejutras.wordpress.com/category/projet-52-semaines/ every week I will post ideas to get me in the industry. Post cards is one of them, but never thought of Greeting Cards, that is a great idea! Where do you sell them?
July 25, 2011 01:49 pm
I would also look into donating to your local hospitals , or possibly retirement homes etc. I know in a doctors office the pictures on the wall are usually attention getters during a boring wait.
July 25, 2011 06:29 am
"over-saturated photo industry" : definitely true for the digital world, but for printed photographs ?
"Exhibiting photographs in a serious venue is demanding and hard work" : yes that is obvious, that's why there are still as few photographs as before who can reach the point of exhibiting its photographs... so where's the problem ?
I would really like that you precise your opinion to be able to understand you :-)
July 25, 2011 02:09 am
Great ideas for getting started.
@Adam - I started with film and once sold a picture to Life magazine so I think I have some basis to speak. The days of being able to produce good photographs and sell them just because you knew the finer points of a camera are gone. Like the music & book industry, times have changed and ways of marketing have also changed with them. However like the music & book industry, quality and extraordinary talent does rise. The difference is that now one has to be able to show why ones photographs are different.
Always remember, no one sees the world quite like you do, but its up to you to show them that.
July 24, 2011 11:54 pm
The silent auction is something we use all the time in our portrait business. Charities really like photographers and artists because the work sells for big bucks and they usually get a pretty good sale. Just Google "your town charities" to get a list.
July 24, 2011 10:04 pm
Just found you via Twitter last night. Liking what I'm seeing so far and looking forward to following you in the future!
July 24, 2011 09:45 pm
I have two images at the framers as we speak to hang in my local coffee shop. and they are local images displayed in their local area.
We'll see what happens.
July 24, 2011 09:16 pm
Great article, this is exactly the path I've been treading. I've even sold a few prints at a recent exhibition.
July 24, 2011 08:46 pm
Loved this article....Nice ideas of marketing your own photography and making your own value.
July 24, 2011 07:19 pm
A fantastic insight on how to get started, many, many thanks Valerie.
What a shame some people feel they need to play it down and think they are considerably better than those around them :-( , which, in fairness, he/she probably is but it's still not a pretty side to anyones personality.
A great shot will always be a great shot and it will shine through and sell amongst the many shots that people think they can sell or display for the public to see.
As an amature with a full time job I'm loving the comments I get from friends and family about my hobby and if I ever find time to set something up to sell my shots to help pay for that much sought after 'L-series' lens then I'll be a very happy bunny.
I'm definately going to look at the postcard selling suggestion as I think there's a market for it in Coltishall, the picturesque Norfolk village (UK) in which I live.
I'll be sure to send you one if I ever get the chance to see it through.
July 24, 2011 03:22 pm
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this article everyone!
@Deb, not sure if you can get a listing of silent auctions but check with your community. Most non profit orgs have silent auctions when they host a gala. Ask people in your community, I'm sure you'll get some good leads. Good luck!
Although some people may feel threatened by emerging new talent, I do believe that great photography and a good business sense will shine and sell and you won't know unless you give it a shot!
July 24, 2011 01:55 pm
It's articles like this that fuel the over-saturated photo industry. You're essentially telling everyone to go out and do it, which creates a cluster of people trying to be exhibiting photographers. Exhibiting photographs in a serious venue is demanding and hard work. Countless hours spent on the images, frames, matting, peeping to hang the exhibit, and this article explains how to throw together a glorified craft fair using frames on sale at the closest A C Moore. Tisk tisk.
July 24, 2011 01:06 pm
Can second the auction idea. I donated a B&W framed print to our church's youth auction. Had a few buffers and fetched a good amount. The winning bidder then donated it to a Joni & Friends auction a few days later, again had good bids and the original bidder liked it so much she won it again. Now, alot of people familiar with me know about my photos. Good word of mouth.
July 24, 2011 08:53 am
I have done a few art shows/fairs and had some stuff on cafes and that's how I've sold most of my photography. However, word of mouth has also been a good thing for me. Making postcards of a landmark has been a good way of getting noticed as well.
July 24, 2011 08:47 am
This is really a good idea. Thank you. I will try them.
July 24, 2011 07:33 am
Thank you for creating this article highlighting creative and resourceful ways to market photography in an increasingly competitive environment.
I'm also grateful to Thomas Marzano who posts as @ThomasMarzano on Twitter for linking to your post. Another outstanding example of how Twitter can unveil and promote excellent resources.
July 24, 2011 07:10 am
Great advise. Think local, start small!
July 24, 2011 06:58 am
Great post! I'm gonna definitely do the greeting cards/postcard thing.
July 24, 2011 06:43 am
I love the silent auction idea. My husband and I have been out of work a few times in the past few years so we haven't been able to give much for donations. How can I find out more about these auctions?
July 24, 2011 06:20 am
I'm not trying to sell, but these are interesting ideas that I've never heard before.
Maybe I should try this one in our favorite local Italian place.
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