The Most Important Single Tip for Selling Your Photography Over the Internet - Digital Photography School
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The Most Important Single Tip for Selling Your Photography Over the Internet

Raise your hand if you are a photographer and you would not like to sell your photography over the web.

I’m assuming that not many of you are raising your hands right now.
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A lot of photographers try to sell their work through their websites but nothing happens.  Maybe they have one or two purchases every year, but that’s it. People may complement their work, follow their every post, or they may visit the website once, love the work, and then forget to ever come back again.

It’s frustrating, to say the least.

Before you read further, or even think about selling your prints, you need to make sure that they are great prints and that they are printed on high quality, archival paper.  

What’s the point of selling your work if the customer is not going to be impressed and will not want to eventually purchase more?  If you want to sell your work then I suggest either learning to print well yourself (I suggest the Epson Stylus Pro 3880) or using a high quality printing services (Such as Digital Silver Imaging or West Coast Imaging.  It is one thing to sell to somebody once, but repeat clients are what make businesses run – especially in the fine art world.

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So let’s get to the tip.

The number one most important thing is your mailing list.  You may have a website and a daily blog, but most likely, most of the people who are going to it every day are probably other photographers looking for inspiration or people who are not actively thinking about purchasing your work.  A majority of your potential customers probably don’t even know that you are actively selling your prints and are probably too busy to constantly check your site anyway to see your new work.

So you need to go out and reach them.

Email is the number one way to engage people on the internet.  It is not even close.  If you want to show off your gorgeous work, then email is the best forum to do this.

I recommend using AWeber.  Plan to send out an email once a month with your best work of the month.  I personally would not send an email daily or weekly because I do not think that I can create good enough work in that short of a time period and I also don’t want people to tune me out.  If you have an informational blog, then you can send out emails much more frequently, but for art-based businesses, it is better to hold back.  You want people to be excited when they receive an email from you and excited that they will be able to see your gorgeous work again.  All you need is one or two minutes of someone’s attention each month for it to make a huge difference.

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In fact, I recently chose to take a break from sending out my emails because I was going through an extremely busy time in my life.

I quickly realized how ridiculous it was “that I didn’t have time” to send out my mailing.  I had the time because that is the number one aspect of my business that I should have spent my time on.  I should have cut something else out instead.

I received so many emails from people thanking me for starting it up again and how much they had missed seeing my work.  These people missed my work enough to reply and tell me to keep it going, yet many of these people did not visit my website regularly, if ever, to see my new work.   It’s funny how that works.

By sending these emails to people on a fairly consistent, but not obtrusive basis, you are becoming a regular part of their month.  It will help them to remember you for when they want to purchase a gift or something for their walls or for when they need a photographer for any reason (this tip can work wonders for studio photographers as well).

Occasionally, you should sell directly to your mailing list, but don’t overdo it.  You don’t want to be nuisance or a hawk.  You want your mailing list to be focused on showing off your work, brightening peoples’ days, and keeping yourself in peoples’ minds for when they do need a print – that’s its purpose.  Then, a couple of times a year, or when you have something interesting to offer, you can offer a discount on some prints directly to your list.

If you don’t overdo it then people will be so excited for your offers.  You will have built up a reputation with them and at the same time you will be offering them great value.  Save your offers for when you have a lull in business and some free time on your hands to offset the discount.

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Getting people to sign up

Many of you are probably thinking, how the hell do I get people to sign up for my mailing list?  

If you have a lot of traffic going to your website then that is one thing, but you don’t need a lot of people on your mailing to be able to sell a fair amount of prints.  More than a third of the prints that I sell come from a small amount of interior designers and art buying companies.  Ten local interior designers on your list can be as valuable, if not more, than a thousand other people. Make a connection with the interior designers in your neighborhood and eventually ask them if they would mind if you added them to your list.  Seek out connections in your everyday course of life.  Build a strong and engaged list, slowly.

But that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try to get traffic from your website to convert to your mailing list.  That is one of the most important things you can do.  Add a prominent area to your website that allows people the option to sign up.  I don’t have a particularly prominent area on my site, but in my opinion (and many of you may disagree) I have something better.

The single best way to get your web traffic to convert to your mailing list is to add a ::gasp:: pop-up to your site.  A pop-up is a little box that will appear on your website asking users to sign up for your mailing list.  

Hear me out.  A pop-up does not have to be intrusive if you do it the right way.  Most importantly, you do not want it to be the first thing that a visitor sees when they go to your site.  If it is, then a lot of people will immediately leave.  You want to give people a chance to see your beautiful work before it shows up.  I set my popup to appear 55 seconds after a person visits my site, and only once every six months for each person.  If they don’t want to join then they can click it off and it will not appear for another six months.  If this happens to annoy the occasional person then I am assuming that this person would most likely not want to be a customer of yours in the first place.  Most people just don’t mind.

Here is what my pop-up says:

Thanks for visiting!  I hope you enjoy my prints and views of the City.

You may be interested in receiving my monthly photo newsletter with my new work, informational photography articles and historical essays on the City, and the occasional print offer.

Thanks again!

James

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Websites like AWeber make it extremely easy to add this type of pop up to your site.  All you have to do is add a single line of code to the body of your site and then you can tweak or change the message through the AWeber website.

Finally, when people do sign up, send them a welcome email follow-up with an overview of your work.  You can automate this message to be sent right after a person confirms.  If you are like me and you are trying to make a living through photography during extremely tough economic times, then you may practice a lot of different types of photography to pay the bills. You may sell prints or do studio work or event photography.  Most people probably won’t see all of your best prints or learn everything that you do when they visit your site for the first time.

Your welcome email is your chance to succinctly show them what you do.

Always think of creative ways to get people to sign up.  Any time I do a job for someone or sell a print, I always ask that person if they would mind if I add them to my mailing list.  Or, for example, this post.

It’s pretty obvious that this post is the perfect opportunity for me to ask you to join my mailing list, given that you just read 1500 words on how a mailing list can help you, but with the pop-up it just doesn’t matter as much.  Ultimately, the people that I want to join my list are the people that like my prints, and the pop-up will convert enough of these people once they visit my site. This post could have been about anything, as long as the people who read it enjoy the work enough to visit my site for longer than 55 seconds and then want to see more through their email – that’s what truly matters.

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James Maher is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the unique personalities and stories of the city. He is the author of the e-book, "The Essentials of Street Photography" and runs photo tours of New York. To view his work or connect, visit his website.

  • http://yaelstuff.wordpress.com yael

    Thank you for this post, it was very inspiring!
    For printing, what do you thing of ezprints, bayphoto or even whcc?
    I have you Aspen Creek photo which is part of West Coast Imaging and I liked the results.

  • http://www.marcusdavisphotography.blogspot.com Marcus Davis

    Great article and great pictures. The subway picture is my favorite. My wife is from Manhattan, so she shows me around when we go back to visit.

    Thank you for the tip about the pop ups. I agree with you that pop ups are annoying, but if someone is willing spend a minute on your site, chances are, they won’t mind signing up for your letter.

    Thanks again for the tips.

  • Adam

    Thank you for good tips. I have a few questions for you. Do you offer only prints? I’m asking because of copyrights when pictures are downloaded. What service do you use? I’m interested in worldwide delivery.
    How about setting the price? Could you please share price range ?

  • http://schweetlife.com Natasha McEachron

    Great post and thanks for the tips. I recently created a new website for my photography work and I’ve been thinking about if I should sell prints and also if I should sell them online. I’ll definitely take these pointers into consideration while I’m making decisions.

  • http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com Jeff E Jensen

    Good advice, James. I like your thoughts behind the pop-up, I need to look into that.

  • http://www.sisson.co.nz Todd Sisson

    thanks for that James – great advice and in tune with what I have experienced. Like the pop-up idea too. Will look into that.

    Cheers – Todd

  • Monica McGuigan

    Thank you for your really informative newsletter, I am relatively new to photography having just completed my City and Guilds level 2 in photography so I have learned a lot from you.

    regards, Monica McGuigan, from Northern Ireland.

  • Truth

    selling photography online must be a joke? There is milions of users with top notch machines, top photos everywhere, for free mainly… So… Get real. Its a hoby, nothing more unlesss empleyd by Vogue or Nat Geo or such…

  • Flow Reaction

    I agree, people are very passive. One needs to make sure their work/art finds the people and not hope for the people to find one’s work/art.

  • Kolbie Bartholomew

    Thank you for the great tips. I think building relationships with interior designers is an idea that will help me out a lot!

  • Abhilash

    Inspired! Thank you James, It’s hard to sell next door and online might be just dream!
    I wonder people may show interest today but not be same tomorrow. Best to add people to mailing list, what kind of photographs they are interested in and send the same. hope this could also give me a rough idea about what kind of photographs can I sell more?

  • Mark

    They are not free “mainly”. Even on Flickr most images have strict copyright set. And the author did make it clear that “selling online” only brings in a few a year if that. It is not about selling online it is about converting potential buyers.

  • Barry E Warren

    Great Idea, I’ll have to try this. But I find Social Media works for getting You name out there. And showing the quality of your work.

Some older comments

  • Monica McGuigan

    June 8, 2012 07:13 pm

    Thank you for your really informative newsletter, I am relatively new to photography having just completed my City and Guilds level 2 in photography so I have learned a lot from you.

    regards, Monica McGuigan, from Northern Ireland.

  • Todd Sisson

    June 5, 2012 08:34 am

    thanks for that James - great advice and in tune with what I have experienced. Like the pop-up idea too. Will look into that.

    Cheers - Todd

  • Jeff E Jensen

    June 4, 2012 02:26 am

    Good advice, James. I like your thoughts behind the pop-up, I need to look into that.

  • Natasha McEachron

    June 3, 2012 09:28 am

    Great post and thanks for the tips. I recently created a new website for my photography work and I've been thinking about if I should sell prints and also if I should sell them online. I'll definitely take these pointers into consideration while I'm making decisions.

  • Adam

    June 3, 2012 07:34 am

    Thank you for good tips. I have a few questions for you. Do you offer only prints? I'm asking because of copyrights when pictures are downloaded. What service do you use? I'm interested in worldwide delivery.
    How about setting the price? Could you please share price range ?

  • Marcus Davis

    June 3, 2012 03:18 am

    Great article and great pictures. The subway picture is my favorite. My wife is from Manhattan, so she shows me around when we go back to visit.

    Thank you for the tip about the pop ups. I agree with you that pop ups are annoying, but if someone is willing spend a minute on your site, chances are, they won't mind signing up for your letter.

    Thanks again for the tips.

  • yael

    June 3, 2012 03:02 am

    Thank you for this post, it was very inspiring!
    For printing, what do you thing of ezprints, bayphoto or even whcc?
    I have you Aspen Creek photo which is part of West Coast Imaging and I liked the results.

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