Photography Blog

Discover 3 Strategies for Selling Your Photos Online

Since sharing the image below, I’ve received three print orders for it — one for a 20″ x 30″ metal print — all within three days. Keep reading for tips on how to sell your photos online.

Snow capped mount washington seen through a window in the fall foliage.

You’re ready to take the next step with your photography and you want to start selling prints of your best images. But where to start? I don’t claim to be an expert, but the following strategies have worked very well for me as far as both print sales and being hired for commissioned work.

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1. Online selling starts with metadata

Bright red male northern cardinal standing on snow and looking right at the viewer.

For photos to sell online, they need to be found. What you do with the image files long before you upload them to a fan page, website or blog can matter as much (or possibly more than) the actual picture itself when it comes to having your images found by search engines and bought by clients. This is the boring stuff, but it’s the stuff that matters. Proper use of keywords, file names and descriptions increase the odds that someone searching for a specific photo of a specific location will find and hopefully purchase yours.

Start with file names

The photo of a male northern cardinal came out of my camera as _MG_5390.dng. If I gave you that file name without looking at the photo, how many of you would have any idea what the photo is of? How about male_northern_cardinal_1.jpg? Now you and search engines have some idea of what’s in the photo.

Keywords

Keywords are descriptive words you add to the metadata when uploading the photo to your computer. Use as many meaningful keywords as you can: Not only does it help you organize your photos, but it also helps search engines and buyers find your photos. It’s also important to include a good description of the photos. This was best put to me like this: Write the description as if you were describing your photo to a blind person. 

Without the use of keywords, descriptions and a good file name, the odds that this image would have been discovered by the photo editors for the National Wildlife Federation are pretty much zero.

male cardinal on the back cover of ranger rick jr magazine

2. Start a fan page

screenshot image of the Jeff Sinon Photography fan page cover image.

A good and free place to start sharing your images online a Facebook fan page for your photography. It’s taken a while to build a decent fan base, but I’ve garnered a lot of print sales from fans on my Facebook page.

When starting a fan page, enlist your friends to like your page, spread the word and share your photos. Slowly you’ll build your own fan base, and if all goes well, you’ll sell a few prints.

Regarding the print orders of the photo at the beginning of the article: All of them came from inquiries on my fan page before I had uploaded the photo to my website. Rest assured the print orders are not going to start rolling in overnight just because to set up your own fan page. Facebook is a good tool to get your feet wet when it comes to sharing your photos with the intent to sell them, but it won’t make you rich overnight.

3. Set up a website

photo of the jeff sinon photography website showing a common loon with its wings spread

There are numerous photo hosting sites that enable you to set up your own website where you can upload and sell your photos. Companies such as SmugMug offer reasonably priced website solutions for photographers, offering you the ability to sell your photos through your own unique website. A SmugMug-hosted site that lets you sell directly through your site (with them handling payments, printing and shipping) currently starts at $150 per year. 

For a less expensive alternative, take a look at Fine Art America. FAA lets you set up your own website, albeit with a considerably less customizable appearance than SmugMug. You can set up a basic website for free; however, if you want to use their shopping cart to handle print orders, that will set you back a whopping $30 per year. That’s 1/10th the cost of the full-ticket SmugMug account.

The beauty of a website like one hosted through SmugMug or Fine Art America, or any of the other photo hosting/e-commerce options out there, is that they handle the orders, printing, shipping and the payments. You’re on your own with sales made through your fan page.

These tips are just to get you started

Your work doesn’t end with the creation of a fan page or website. You still need to promote yourself. If people ask about your photos and where they can buy prints, steer them towards your website. Submit your website to the photo editors of local magazines and regional websites. Create and maintain an active presence on social media: start a photo blog, an Instagram account and a Twitter profile, to name just a few. Selling your photos online is a lot of work, but it’s work that can be very rewarding.

Learn How to Sell More Photos!

breaking into photography business

Discover business best practices to turn your love of photography into a profitable career during this online video class that you can watch anytime, anywhere, forever.Enroll Now »

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