Commerical Photography

5 Ways to Sell Your Photography

So, you’re ready to take your photography to the next level and you’d like to start selling your photos?

Here are a few tips for earning a decent side income with your camera.

Loon Island Lighthouse un frozen Lake Sunappe in New Hampshire under the Milky Way

Selling starts when you upload your photos.

The first step in getting your photos ready to sell begins on your computer, either during upload of your photos or during the editing process. If you’re going to be sharing your photos online, they need to be found by potential buyers before you can sell them. This means keywords, file names, descriptions and titles are almost as important as the image itself.

Search engines don’t see a pretty picture, they see your photos as nothing but 1s and 0s. What they do see is the file name, keywords, title and descriptions. Use as many descriptive keywords as you can when importing your photos. Then change the file name to better represent what the photo is. For example, the above photo of Loon Island Light under the starry night sky started out life as _MG_0816.dng when it was first came out of the camera, by only looking at that file name do you think anyone could tell you what the photo was actually of? The finished file is now loon-island-light-with-milky-way-vertical-0816, giving a much better “picture” of your picture. 

When it comes to descriptions I was advised by someone much more knowledgeable about SEO to write as if I was trying to describe the photo to a blind person. Below is the description of my Loon Island Light photo.

“Looking up from the frozen surface of Lake Sunapee, Loon Island Light stands tall under the Milky Way in the starry night sky. The lighthouse beacon is a starburst of brilliant blue-white light, with numerous rays emanating from top of the towering white and octagonally shaped structure. The cracked surface of the foreground ice has a slightly blue color cast. On the horizon, the very first hints of the coming sunrise show as a faint orange glow in this vertically composed image.”

All of this has enabled my photos to be found by everyone from people looking for a photo of a specific place, to magazine publishers looking for content, including the photo editor for Ranger Rick Jr. Magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation, who found my cardinal image while doing an online search. I can thank keywords and descriptions for this magazine (back) cover.

Cardinal photo on back cover of magazine

Utilize social media to share your photos.

Facebook fan pages and blogs are low to no-cost options for getting your photos seen and can often result in image sales. Within two days of posting my Loon Island Light photo to my fan page I had half dozen print sales. My WordPress blog, another free option, has given my photos a worldwide audience that has also resulted in photo sales.

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This should be obvious, but only share your very best photos. Be your own worst critic, and be harsh. When someone lands on your fan page or blog for the first time the last thing you want them to see is a mediocre photo. Their first visit may very well be their last. Also, make sure your contact information is easy to find. Post your email and phone number where it's easy to find. Rare is the potential client who will go through a lot of fuss to hunt you down to make a purchase.

Start your own website.

Jeff_Sinon_Photography_home_page

There are numerous options for photo sharing and selling websites, ranging in price from $30 to several hundred dollars or more. Determine the features and level of customization you want and the rest is relatively easy. My website, hosted by SmugMug, has what I feel is a one-of-a-kind, custom appearance, something you won't get from the cheaper options, yet was basically a drag and drop affair to set up. This was a huge bonus for those who are technologically challenged (like myself). Again, have an easy-to-find contact page.

Attend art and craft fairs.

Art and craft fairs can be a great way to sell your photos. Some people make a good portion of their income from selling at these fairs, but it takes a lot of time, effort and the expense of buying a tent and putting together an inventory of images can be daunting to some. While I personally have only made a few sales at craft fairs, my largest single sale, 30+ large custom framed prints, was the direct result of having a booth at a local art fair and having the right buyer walk into my tent.

Display your work at coffee shops and other outlets.

The absolute best way I've found to sell my photos is to have them hanging for display, framed and ready to go, in a few local shops. Start hitting the local coffee shops and stores that sell locally made art. Some will charge a commission, 30-40 percent seems about average, some are just happy to have art to hang on their walls and will let you sell without any commission fees at all.

By having your photos framed and ready to hang, you take away the element of the potential buyer second guessing whether or not they want to buy your photo. Once they start thinking about the hassle of getting your photo matted and framed, what color matte, what color and style of moulding, they may start to wonder if they really like your photo all that much after all. If they see it, fall in love with it, and the only thing they have to think about is where to put the nail in the wall, the odds of them actually making a purchase goes way up.

Contact local magazines.

Cocheco River Falls, Dover, NH At Night.

Most of us photograph primarily on our local areas. There are often regional magazines that cater to these very same areas, and they will need photos from time to time. By writing the photo editor and making yourself known to them, along with providing links to where your images can be seen, you may very well end up having your photos published.

How not to sell your photos

Maybe I should rephrase that. "How not to get paid for your photos with a worthless currency," would be better.

Once you start sharing your photos online, do not be surprised when you're contacted by someone offering photo credit as a form of payment for the use of your photos. Lets say you're contacted by someone working for a local town on "a magazine-style brochure geared towards people moving into said town and to also promote tourism within said town," "Would you be interested in providing photos for this project?" "We don't have a budget for photography, but we can offer you photo credit."

Because so many amateur photographers willingly to fall into this trap, the value of photography has gone down considerably. I beg of you, don't contribute to the problem by giving your photos away for free. Don't undervalue your photos just to make a sale either. Your photos have value, and the people offering photo credit need to realize that.

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39 Comments

Donna

I want to find out how to sell my pictures to get put in magazines, on postcards etc.

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Jeff Sinon

Try contacting the photo editor or art director of the magazines and or greeting card companies you’re interested in getting published in or selling to. The information is likely on their website.

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Glenn

Yes I want to sell my photos, let me spread the word to all of you photographers and non photographers alike.
http://www.gfritzschephotography.com also powered by Smugmug! 🙂

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David Mclean

So how exactly do I sell my pictures???

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Jeff Sinon

Promote, promote, promote your photos. Try setting up a booth at a craft fair(as mentioned in the article), submit your photos to magazines, and get your work hanging in local coffee shops and art stores/galleries, (also mentioned). It takes a lot of work, but if you put in the effort you may very well be successful at it.

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Andy Edwards

Hi David, a really simple way to start is using GeoSnapShot.com you’ll find videos on how to attend events, upload and sell your photos. Give it a go it’s totally free to register and use the service to sell your photos.

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Randy Jonker

How do I make it so I can sell my pictures and be sure someone doesnt reprint and sell them?

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Jeff Sinon

With website hosting services like Smugmug, your photos are right click protected and you control the size and resolution of the previews people see while visiting your website. For photos you share via social media I suggest only sharing very low resolution files that are watermarked. All of the photos I post on my photography page, my photography blog, as well as the articles I write for Craftsy, I size them at 800-1,000 pixels on the longest edge at 5ppi. At that resolution even of someone could crop out the watermark any print size over about 4×6 would look like garbage.

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Jeff Ellis

I am interested to take FREE online class.

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John F Tremblay

Hi, great info. Do you have more information, ie: Newsletters, Web Page, Book? I’d be interested. Thank you, JohnT

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Geo

If I sell my photos from my website, do you think I should sell them electronically or framed in an actual wooden frame? What’s the best way to present them? Thanks.

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Jeff Sinon

Geo, I’ve found the best way to sell prints is to have them either framed and ready to go, or in some other ready to hang form such as canvas gallery wraps or printed on metal. I feel more sales are made while the emotional reaction of the buyer is fresh and they don’t have to think, “how am I going to frame this, what moulding, what color matte?” In all honesty my website earns me just enough in sales to pay for itself.

I’d also suggest checking around the area for small coffee shops or craft stores, even a small gallery, where you can hang your work for sale. Most places will want their cut of course, but you may get lucky and find a place that just wants free art for their walls and won’t charge you a commission on any sales you make.

In short, people want to see your work ready to hang so all they have to do is bang a nail in the wall when they get home.

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Sean Dudley

Jeff these are all great ideas, thank you so much, have you had any dealings with Fine art america, a couple of friends are using it and I was wondering if you have any insight..

thanks

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Jeff Sinon

I actually have an FAA account myself and I personally know of at least a couple of photographers that do very well selling there. For the price, $30 per year for the paid account, you really can’t go wrong. My only complaints with FAA are that it takes a ton of work on your behalf to get your photos to stand out from the rest of the FAA crowd, and the website you’re able to set up is rather cookie-cutter with your website looking a whole lot like everyone else’s.

Take a look at my FAA site; http://bit.ly/1RbwGUm and then take a look at my main, Smugmug site; http://bit.ly/1BYH630 Personally I think jeffsinon.com looks more professional, with a more custom appearance, than the FAA site. Of course that comes at a price of about 5x the cost of FAA.

In short, if you’re on a budget and don’t already have a website to sell your photos I highly recommend setting up an FAA site. And then work your butt off promoting it!

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Diane

I’ve heard Snapped4U.com works well for selling event photos.

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Carol Willis

How do I decide what a fair price would be for my photos? Excluding framing of course.

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Jeff Sinon

That’s probably one of the toughest questions you’ll ever ask yourself. The best advice I can give is something I came across a some time ago. “Never price your work based on what you can afford.”

That being said, I suggest taking a good hard look first at your own photos, trying hard to remove yourself from the emotional attachment you may have for them. Then look at the websites and pricing of other photographers who’s work you admire and who’s work you honestly feel yours compares to, in order to get a feel for their pricing.

I can’t give you an exact formula like “multiply your cost on a print by X = the price you should charge.”

More than anything else I urge you to resist the temptation to blow your photos out at discount store pricing! You may be thinking that you’ll make more sales, but really you’re not only hurting yourself in the long run, but you’re also hurting every other photographer out there trying to make a living selling their work at reasonable prices. It’s also very hard to raise you prices once you become known as the “discount photographer.” If you’d like, pay a visit to my website, http://www.jeffsinon.com and take a look at my pricing. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I feel my prices are in line other good photographers.

The most important thing to remember is that your photographs are much, much more than the paper and ink they’re printed with.

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Fred Gerhart

Do not count on right click protection. The Windows Snipping tool is a powerful force.

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Carlos

Good article… I saw your Web page… Is there any online company behind of the wall art or you have to go to the shop and send the package to the customer?

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Jeff Sinon

I don’t count on right click protection at all. That’s why my website only displays low res, and very obviously watermarked, copies of my images. Anywhere else I share on line, my fan page, Flickr, 500px, etc., I only upload low res files sized at 1,000px on the long edge at 5ppi.

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Jeff Sinon

Carlos, any orders placed through my website are professionally printed by Bay Photo in California. For local direct sales I’ve used several other labs as well and locally sold metal prints I’ve started using a company called Aluminyze.

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Brian Paterson

When selling Photos, what price do they sell for usually and what size should i have them printed in

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Jeff Sinon

Brian, price is the hardest thing to settle on. I constant;y ask myself, “Can I really sell my photos for that much?” That being said, my prices very greatly depending on product and quantity. Generally speaking a matted 8×12 sells for around $45, a framed 16×24 will be in the $250-$300 range, and metal prints start at around $100 for an 11×17 and go up from there.

When pricing your work let me offer one piece of advice that I live by. Never price your work for what you can afford. Be realistic in your pricing, but don’t sell yourself short either. Remember, art buyers can be fickle. If your art is priced too low many buyers will associate that with not having any value. Strange but true, in some markets/areas you may sell more by increasing your prices not lowering them. I hope that helped.

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Donna J

Some very useful information here. I found this article by accident, I was looking for something else but I’m glad I stumble upon it.
Thank you for taking the time to post this.

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Stephanie

Can you just sell the photo without having to make a print and get it framed? If so, how do you go about pricing for that? Thank you.

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Jeff Sinon

Stephanie you most certainly sell your photos that way, I do it all the time. Most recently I licensed 13 of my photos to the New Hampshire Lottery for their 2017 calendar. As for pricing, that’s tough. When contacted about the use of my photos I always ask what the budget for the project is and then try to work with the potential client to come up with a fair price. I prefer not to discuss my pricing publicly, but if you’d like to contact me privately I’d be more than happy to give some examples of the fees I’ve charged for the use of my photos.

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Michael Ting

Hi Jeff.

Just stumbled upon this post. Many thanks for the advice.

For the past 6-7 years I’ve been travelling around the world taking landscape photos just for sheer enjoyment. After discussions with friends and family I’ve come to realise that I have a treasure trove of stuff sitting there in my hard drive not doing anything. Long story short I’ve decided to first promote them and eventually sell them.

Anyway…

(1) My initial thoughts would be to merely place the highest quality jpegs online for people to download and buy at a one-off price. Is this an unorthodox way to sell digital photos? You mention licensing. How does that work without having the images pirated?
(2) I don’t have much time to print and frame my own work. Do services like SmugMug sort that all out for you?

Many Thanks!

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Michael Ting

Sorry just to add one more point.

I do not intend to work within the stock photos business. I realise there’s a lot of restrictions on a creative level. Thanks again.

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Tim Nicol

Great article, very useful information on how to get your work in front of people. I love your work, beautiful shots. My question is how much post editing is too much, whether it be adjusting basic color saturation, sharpness, etc. or even layering?

I’ve seen some photos that look obviously over manipulated and thus unnatural. I know that some photographers will stack layers of different shots to create one “perfect” picture (star trails in the desert sky for example). But that seems like “cheating” to me. I think there’s a big difference in capturing a great scene, and CREATING a scene (even though the end result may look absolutely stunning).

What are your thoughts?

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Jeff Sinon

Thanks Tim.

Regarding how much is too much when it comes to editing, that’s entirely subjective and depends on the vision to photographer has for the photo. For me personally I do enhance my photos but I strive for believability. The last thing I want is someone’s initial reaction to be “that can’t be real, it must be Photoshopped.”

As far as cheating, as far as I’m concerned the final image is all that matters. Take your star trail example for instance, I could take several individual, relatively short exposures and stack them, or I can take one really long exposure. The final result would be the same, except that the one long exposure would likely have a lot of digital noise. So which method is cheating? Either one creates an image that isn’t possible to see with the human eye, so in this case I have no problem “creating” an image. In fact, outside of photojournalism all bets are off. When I look at a photograph I don’t care so much how it was created, just whether or not I like it.

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Julia Bell

I’m about to set up at a friends shop to sell my photos that I have had made as canvas prints. Two questions – how best to price these pieces and do you need to report these as income or put a sales tax on them? Any guidance would be appreciated!

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Koren Schmedith

Thank you for spreading your ideas about selling photos. In my point of view, advertising is the main key to sell photos. I got some great ideas on selling photos. I am a photographer and also a photo editor. But the thing i am lacking in that i do not attend various art and craft or photography exhibition. Will exhibiting my photos help me to sell my photos in a high margin?

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Ivy Baker

Selling photography to a local magazine does seem like a very smart thing to do. It might also be smart to set up a booth at a farmers market. If I found some really beautiful picture of local landmarks at a market I would probably get those prints.

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Ken

stumbled upon this article and read your kind and informative replies… Glad you do well, I like it when decent people succeed…

thanks again for all the good information, As I just moved to a new state and am looking for work (but it’s just me and my kiddo) so trying to do a full-time job is going to be tough to fit in “between school hours” so I was hoping to find a part-time job and maybe supplement my income through photography..I’ve own a dslr now for 2 years and am getting pretty decent, considering I had never picked up a camera before. I’ve done tons and tons of the “free stuff” you were referring to, mostly public events and charity work (figured it would be good practice) so after at least 1,000 hours photographing and editing photos for free… I’m looking to up my game and not allow myself to be used anymore except for charity stuff of course….. anyhow thanks for the tips.

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Louise KEarney

Hi. I am absolutely brand new to this and am hoping to put my love of photography to good use and perhaps earn some extra cash.
So, a daft question – to sell your photographs, do you print them out yourself, and buy frames in bulk?

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