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How to Sell Photography for Beginners

Richard is a professional writer and author. When he's not creating, he's actively pursuing his goal of becoming a handsome billionaire.

How to sell photography for beginners

How to sell photography for beginners

Why Photography?

One of the reasons I started to think seriously about becoming a professional photographer is because of the attention I was receiving on the photos that I would post on my social networks. Most of my comments came from friends and family members but that doesn’t make them less valuable. In fact, friends and family can be the most critical of all creative endeavors.

Many of these friends and family members would boost my ego and say things like “You should be selling your photos,” and I would always respond by saying “You should buy one of my photos.” Most were being kind but a few of them actually purchased photos from me. But what they really meant is that I should be selling my photos to magazines, art dealers, designers, and other commercial outlets.

For many years I remained just a hobby photographer until I took a friend up on an offer to set up a booth with her at a local craft fair. I brought about 200 prints of some of my favorite pictures. I framed about 3 dozen of them in some cheap black frames I purchased from a dollar store. Amazingly, people were drawn to our booth and actually purchased quite a bit of my photos.

I think it was at that moment in the craft fair where I thought, “Wow, I must be pretty good at this.” But once the fair was over so were the sales even though I handed out hundreds of business cards. My ego took a nose dive but like with my writing, I didn’t let it sideline me for too long.

I did a lot of research and testing methods to sell my photos. Most of them failed but a few of my methods work like a charm and I earn a steady flow of cash each and every month for my photos. I’m not breaking the bank but by definition the fact that I’m steadily selling my photos makes me a professional.

I’m going to share with you the methods that I have found to work for me. Keep in mind that these methods will not work for all types of photographers. I sell my photos as fine art and they include landscapes, street photography, architectural and historical interests, and a bit of macro photography.

Also keep in mind that my sales of photography did not happen overnight. It took me several years of trial and error to start earning anything worth bragging about. But if you’re serious about wanting to sell your photos as a professional photographer then you know that time is not a hindrance, it’s a major factor in the equation.

sell photography online

sell photography online

Number One Tip: Set Up a Website / Blog

One of the lessons I learned early on is that if I wanted to be treated as a professional I needed to appear and act as a professional. The way I present myself to the world is how they are going to see me. A college professor also told me that when I had the confidence, I should “fake it until I make it.” I hear all types of professional mentors saying the same thing to their protégé’s.

Step one to appearing as a professional photographer is to set up your own photography website/blog. Here you can tell the story that you can’t always tell with your photos. A photo blog is a great way to start attracting potential fans but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone that follows you wants to purchase your work.

The fact is, you will probably get a lot of followers that will look to your work for inspiration and ideas for improving their own craft. That is perfectly fine because it’s more than likely that these followers will be sharing your work with their other connections.

As soon as you set up your photo blog, you should set up a means to starting an email list. I use MailChimp because it’s free until you have over 2000 subscribers. Once you get to that many subscribers then you will be earning enough to move to the next level of their paid service.

Once you have MailChimp set up, you should set your opt in as a popup. If you’re using Wordpress then there is a free plugin called WP Popup Plugin. With that you can set up a delayed popup for your opt in request. I set my delay to 55 seconds. I think that if a random user stays on site that long then I have peaked their interest.

My opt it request looks like this: “Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoy my prints and photography related articles. You may be interested in receiving my monthly photo newsletter with my newest photos, articles, and occasional print offer…. Thanks again! Rich”

This gives me a pretty good opt in rate. It varies monthly between 15% and 23% and in the first six months my email list has grown to just over 2000. From that list of 2000 my email newsletter conversions are typically 2% to 6% depending on my offer.

sell photography offline

sell photography offline

Selling Online

Other professional photographers have always told me that selling photography online is the easiest way to earn a steady stream of income. They’re right too except that it only becomes easy once you’re established.

Honestly, it takes quite a while to become established unless you have a team of people doing the work for you and that may be a tactic you want to employ. Setting up accounts at places like Etsy, SmugMug, and 500px are easy but just like with any other type of online content you have to actively market your product for others to discover it.

Setting up accounts on Flickr, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram is also a good idea as well as setting up a Fanpage on Facebook. These social networks are where you would post watermarked images but also places where you would actively seek out followers and people to follow. They’re social networks and can carry a lot of weight when developing your brand and your website.

I recently read about a photographer from New York named Daniel Arnold who earned $15,000 in a single day on Instagram. But to be fair, he had over 23,000 followers on that network. He sent a message offering a one day only sale on his prints. This shows as an example of how powerful social networks can be in marketing your photos.

Selling Offline

I’ve had fairly good success selling my prints offline. My most successful sales come from setting up booths at craft fairs and art fairs. It takes quite a bit of product to make a decent profit and the profits are usually a one or two day only affair. However, if done properly and with a little research then you could possibly travel to different fairs and venues in your region each month and during the summer months, each week.

I wouldn’t try to approach art galleries to sell your photos. Most brick and mortar art galleries only accept work from established artists and those that are represented by an agent. So, unless you set up your own gallery, this isn’t a valid option.

A better way is to approach local coffee shops, doctor and dental offices, and other places of business where people gather and ask the proprietors to display your framed work. You place a small contact card in the bottom corner for people that are interested in purchasing your prints.

Also, let people know you’re a photographer. Hand out cards at events and live social gatherings. Talk about your passions with the people you meet and you’ll be surprised at what could happen. I was in the food court across from City Hall in Chicago scrolling through my Tablet and talking on my cell phone with a client that was happy about a photo shoot we just had and a man sitting next to me interjected once I was off the phone. He was a Human Resource Director for a large company in the city and looking for a photographer to do Executive Head shots. He looked at some of my shots on the tablet and offered me the job on the spot.

The point is, opportunities to sell your photos offline are everywhere; even when you’re not actively looking.

sell photography prints

sell photography prints

Selling on MicroStock Sites

I started selling my photos on Micro Stock sites back in 2008. Or rather, I started submitting my photos to Micro Stock sites at that time. I first looked into microstock photography because my then 16 year old niece was earning a very nice income from her portfolio of about 500 photos.

When I started, I submitted only 20 pictures to about 30 different sites with the delusion that I would make more by submitting to more. I was wrong but the lessons were learned. Slowly over the next several years, I increased my portfolio to just over 800 photos and reduced the number of sites I submit to just 7.

I almost gave up on microstock because I kept getting rejected. But after doing a bit of research on what the sites were looking for, my rejections are now about 1 in 10. However, most of those photos that get rejected end up on my Flickr, Instagram, and Google+ accounts and they still get tons of likes and comments.

Before you jump into microstock, just know that it takes a lot of work. It’s not just snapping off pictures and uploading them, though sometimes it is. Photos need to meet certain guidelines set up by the actual sites you submit to.

I have portfolios up at 123RF, Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Fotolia, iStockphoto, Bigstockphoto, and Depositphotos. Some of these sites have the exact same portfolio. These are the top 7 sites by volume of search traffic. I’m not much concerned with how many photos these sites have in their entire libraries. What concerns me is how I tag each of my photos. Tagging photos is how they are found by searchers.

The great thing about microstock is that there is no real upkeep. You upload it following a set of established guidelines and tags and then let the sites do all the rest of the work.

What do you do?

If you are selling photos, how and where do you do it? Please share your experiences with us below in the comments. I have shared some of my experiences above but I am always looking for more ways to be successful in selling my art but also my craft. So, if you have experience in other forms of photography, such as weddings, real estate, portraiture, or even pet photos, please share with us.

Comments

Ons on May 10, 2020:

I have only a few shots, which plattform is the best fit for a beginner to sell some pictures ? not a crazy number like 100

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on December 27, 2019:

You retain the rights. You are licensing the rights to those sites and will be compensated with a royalty if they are purchased. Or, you can license exclusive rights which transfers your rights to the purchaser for a much higher price of course.

Jen on December 26, 2019:

If you post a picture for the site to market do you lose the rights to the image. Like... you can still sell those same prints to internet marketing and or art shows? Thank you for the advice

Dhiya Ak on August 17, 2018:

Hello Sir, still I didn't get the idea of how to sell my photographs. Could you help me sir?

Svetlana on January 12, 2018:

This helps a lot, thank you!

Tracy M on July 30, 2017:

Thank you for the tips. I am determined to get some sent in today!

Scott S Bateman on July 29, 2015:

Informative and well-written Hub. Voted up.

Kiss andTales on February 25, 2015:

Your welcome looking forward to reading more of your work Richard. Thanks again.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on February 25, 2015:

Very kind words... thank you for your comments.

Kiss andTales on February 25, 2015:

Great hub , I think this hub is covers one of the greatest quotes, If I get it wrong I am sure somebody will correct it to the exact

But here it goes , give a man a fish it is eaten and gone, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

Your hub is this modern day example. Thank you so much for your hub on photography.

ezzly on February 08, 2015:

Excellent read, sharing on twitter ! I've just bought a canon so,have to train myself . I particularly like the pic of the bird the colors are stunning on its tail!

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on January 09, 2015:

Billy, I hope you can find the balance to enjoy both worlds. I try to mix it up each day but I always carry my camera, also an Nikon, in my car. I don't want to get burned out on any of the things I love so when I get "writer's block" I know it's because the imaginary people living in my head are in need of some playtime. That's what photography has become for me... playtime. It's not a task, not something I 'need' to work on, it's something I truly enjoy and then those images I capture become inspiration that I can then put to words. Win win in my creative world.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 09, 2015:

This is something that appeals to me greatly, but so far I have not made the time to do it seriously. I was going to say I don't have the time, but that's a cop-out. I spend all my time writing and not nearly enough time taking pictures with my Nikon. Maybe 2015 will be the year I manage both. Thanks for the tips.

Fantastic Voyages from Texas on December 27, 2014:

These are all great tips for selling photos, both on and offline. I'm bookmarking the site for future reference.

Tanya Jones from Texas USA on December 27, 2014:

Once I upgrade my camera, I hope to be able to sell my images. You're article is very useful and I can use many of the recommendations.

JLlewellyn on November 20, 2014:

Good info here thank you. And good luck to you for the future!

RAJESH CHANDRA PANDEY from India on November 19, 2014:

I think this can be a good earning source for serious would-be photographers. You have amply expressed how one should begin. More than anything your hub is useful to many. I would go as far as to say you are generating employment however small that may be. Thanks friend.

Paula from The Midwest, USA on November 19, 2014:

This is great information. How great to have a hobby that you are good at and enjoy, and make money on it also. Thanks for sharing your tips of what worked for you.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on November 18, 2014:

Thanks very much for that information. I may try it after all, then. If they even still sell film, I may dust off my old 35mm...

I grew up around photography; my dad was a hobby photographer, in the black and white days, and even had his own darkroom.

I was given my first camera at age 8: a Kodak Brownie box camera. Dad was a machinist by trade, and he modified that camera with a light shield for the viewfinder, and a tripod socket!

I have kicked myself countless times over the years for selling it at a yard sale back in the 70's.

But I did learn composition from both my dad, who was a natural, and a photo class in college.

Sai Chaitanya from INDIA on November 18, 2014:

I may not be a professional photographer. But, I like the way, you have explained, how to sell photos. And your photos are amazing.

Dianna Mendez on November 18, 2014:

Congratulations on the HOD! Your advice is told with encouraging words. Your sharing from experience is a valuable lesson for readers. I love the blue bird in the first photo, very pretty colors.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on November 18, 2014:

Thank you all for the wonderful comments.

DzyMsLizzy I use both, my DSLR and a Point and Shoot. It's not the camera. As a matter of fact, on microstocks, my point and shoot pics out perform my DSLR pics. Composition is everything.

Sharilee Swaity from Canada on November 18, 2014:

This is excellent, useful information. Thanks for sharing, and congratulations on your hub of the day!

I have wanted to do more with my photography for a long time, and this hub was great information for me.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on November 18, 2014:

Congrats on HOTD!

I've thought of this (micro stock) from time to time, as a possible source for semi-residual income.

I guess I just don't think I have a good enough camera. It takes perfectly fine photos for my purposes to post here in my articles, but it is a point-and-shoot Nikon cool pix, and not a DSLR.

I can't afford to buy one of those, even second-hand. We are retired & hubby is disabled. Our income is both low and fixed. So, I guess photography will remain simply a hobby for me.

Voted up +++, shared and pinned.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on November 18, 2014:

Good for you. I am impressed by your success in this field. Nice photographs.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 18, 2014:

Congratulations on the Hub of the Day! Thank you for creating a very useful hub. I love all your tips and suggestions. They've given me some ideas!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 18, 2014:

Well deserved HOTD. I have not really been into photography but I know people who would benefit from this. I only dabble on it so I can take pictures for my hubs but maybe in the future I might just try. I won several top prizes when I was in university so time to get back. Thanks for the tips.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on November 18, 2014:

Hi Rich. Very interesting hub. This is great information. Perhaps someday I'll give it a shot. I've always wondered how photographers go about selling their work. Great job.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on November 18, 2014:

Thank you... believe it or not, the alligator was behind a glass wall. I was very surprised too at how well this photo turned out.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on November 18, 2014:

Congratulations on the HOTD award, Richard. I enjoyed reading your hub and feel your great tips and information can help me with marketing/selling my crafts. I must say, the photo of the alligator looks like he is going to jump right off the page - it is fantastic!

OrhanGokkayaTR on November 18, 2014:

Your photos are amazing, and the writing is very informative.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on November 18, 2014:

Lots of kind words... I appreciate them all...

Kiss andTales on November 18, 2014:

Thank you for your informative hub on photos ! You have given some people a new direction in employment ! Your hub will be appreciated by many including me.

Gous Ahmed from Muslim Nation on November 18, 2014:

Thanks for this info. I have been really looking forward to uploading some of my photos to see if i can sell them.

I have tried to sell them in the past but due to unforeseen circumstances i couldn't make the time. You have given me new confidence to try again!

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on November 18, 2014:

Voted up and interesting. Thanks for the great suggestions. I have lots of digitals and now I see they can be very useful. Passing this on. Congrats that this made Hub of the Day and well worth it.

RTalloni on November 18, 2014:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this post on selling photography and thanks for the useful info. My husband and I were talking about this just last night and I'll be showing him this hub.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on November 18, 2014:

Thank you everyone.. and thanks for pointing out the misspelling on the top photo, an oversight I will correct shortly.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on November 18, 2014:

First, congrats on Hub of the Day! Second, appreciate the tips. I have some photos that might qualify. BTW, gorgeous photo examples!

mySuccess8 on November 18, 2014:

Lots of useful tips being shared here based on first-hand long experience. These tips will allow beginners to have a better chance of achieving reasonable success within a reasonable time. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on November 18, 2014:

Very interesting. I have just changed the function of my website from Photography Site to a Wet Felting Site.

My first love has always been Macro Photography which I now do only in my spare time. I have developed my writing here to include a different type of photography but this article leads me to think that I might very well be able to sell some of the sites you mention if people were looking for images on the same subject. A very interesting read, thank you. Well done on the HOTD . I think your images are awesome.

higherstandards on November 18, 2014:

FYI, your intro photo has a spelling mistake....

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on November 18, 2014:

Freecampingaussie, you have to start somewhere so I would suggest giving microstock a try.

freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on November 18, 2014:

I enjoyed your hub as I enjoy taking my own photos for my hubs and would love to be good enough to sell them.

Richard Bivins (author) from Charleston, SC on October 10, 2014:

MoiraCrochets if you do, consider starting your own blog first that way you can send traffic to and from your photos.

Moira Durano-Abesmo from Sagay, Camiguin, Philippines on October 09, 2014:

Wow, I should seriously consider your suggestions here.

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