One of my Twitter Buddies asked me advice on selling photos online.
I’m a professional photographer. Taking portraits is how I pay the bills and what allows me to travel around the country. I don’t sell portraits online. I now do Shoot and Show, as the Assembly Line Portrait business calls it. I take portraits and then turn around and show the subjects proofs of their images. On a good day I sell around a thousand dollars worth of portraits. On a bad day, a few hundred dollars worth. I’m not very good at selling. The hot shots at The Company sell a couple of thousand dollars worth of portraits a day.
I’ve read a couple of books on selling photos online. Books on Mircostock photography that tell stories of making a couple of thousand dollars from one popular image and books on fine art photography that talk about selling single prints for a thousand dollars. I have had no luck with either. I have a few images on a couple of microstock sites, I think my lifetime earnings for all of them would be under ten dollars. Plus, they are a picky bunch of bastards that won’t accept just any old image.
On the Fine Art front, the usual advice is to Find Your Tribe. Well, I haven’t found mine yet. Oh, there are two or three people who like my images and they have even bought a couple. But for the most part, my images go unnoticed and unsold.
There are also places like Redbubble where you can sell all kinds of random items with your image on them. And I do like FineArtAmerica, though I haven’t sold many prints. Much like the mircostock sites, this may be due to the fact that I don’t have a million images listed.
So I have no advice when it comes to selling images online. I’ve been on DeviantART for about ten years and sold one print. I can look back and see that some of my images are not all that great, but I do have a handful that I think are really good. But then, my opinion doesn’t really count.
A co-worker once asked me why I wasted so much time wandering around a strange city taking photos. I said that I liked it and that I hoped to sell some of the images someday. He replied in a standard professional photographer cliche: I never put a camera to my face unless someone is paying me to. He was an interesting character that didn’t last long in the Assembly Line Portrait world.
Of course, he does have a good point. It’s easier to sell something when you actually have a customer.