You know all the old standards. You know that you can walk into a bookstore and see calendars filled with photos of fluffy kittens and baby Dobermans. You know that you can browse a gallery and – assuming you don’t die of envy first – see beautiful photographs, framed, matted and available for sale at eyewatering sums. And you know that you can browse a stock site and see image after image of jumping families and headset-wearing backroom staff.
You might even know that with a well-managed Flickr stream, you could be selling licenses and offloading prints to the buyers who cruise the site.
But here are five places you probably didn’t know that you could sell your pictures:
The trouble with handicraft sites like Zazzle and Etsy is that they don’t really do any marketing. Instead, they supply the shop window and the selling infrastructure, and rely on the sellers to bring in the buyers themselves.
Often then, they don’t work.
In part, that’s because when anyone can open a store, the quality of the site as a whole tends to suffer, putting buyers off. And in part, it’s because marketing a Zazzle page requires special skills and knowledge that only a few handicrafters possess.
Etsy though does things a little differently. It charges sellers a fee, which puts off chancers, and it enables buyers and sellers to browse and chat. We’ve come across at least one amateur who made her first photography sale on the site. Market carefully and it might just happen to you too.
Most photographers are accustomed to selling one image at one price at one time. Stock companies though try to chain their clients to their outlets by selling subscriptions. In effect, they give their buyers a large discount in return for advance payment, ensuring that they won’t go anywhere else in the future.
It’s a model that some artists are using to sell their works directly too.
Vlad Gerasimov, a Russian designer, makes high quality versions of his wallpapers available for $19.99 a year or $29.99 for life. These include his photographic series of Siberian wooden houses.
He told us that he’s sold more than 11,000 subscriptions, and that’s without spending a penny on advertising.
You’d need to create good, original images to do this, and you’ll have to network like mad to become well-known. But if your photos are interesting enough, you could find that you’re locking in plenty of buyers and packing away lots of money too.
Twitter might be a lot of fun and a great place to network, but it’s also becoming a valuable marketing tool. That’s especially true of each Twitter page’s background which allows twitterers to create a sidebar packed with URLs and product information.
Designer Natalie Jost is cashing in on that opportunity by allowing twitterers to use her textures as their background designs for free. If they want to use them for any other purpose though, they have to pay.
That’s a clever marketing ploy that photographer can learn from, even if they don’t want to give away their images for nothing. Create a series of images formatted for Twitter – complete with space for sidebar – and you’ll have a new product line.
You’ll also have the ideal marketing tool to spread the word too.
Postcards can be as tricky a sale as calendars and posters. Stores tend to buy from their regular suppliers, the profits from each are tiny and the competition is fierce. Some places though are easier to break into and sell from than others.
We’ve spoken to at least one amateur photographer who was able to place his photos at tourist sites that he visited frequently. If there are places near you that have a steady stream of visitors – and especially if it’s the kind of place that tourists bring their own cameras to – then there’s an opportunity waiting to be plucked.
Again, you’ll need great images of course, and you’ll have to be able to persuade the sellers that that your images really will sell but the fact that you’re local gives you a big advantage. You know the best places to shoot, the times of day that have the best light and the times of year that produce the best colors.
You’ll also be able to update your collection frequently, and offer a complete range of site-oriented products that could range from postcards to posters, and from books to t-shirts.
All you need is the right images and the right places.
One career choice chosen by many photographers looking for the security of a regular salary while still keeping their hands on their camera is to teach. The top photographers teach at universities and on professional courses but there are plenty of further education centers which demand few qualifications and while they won’t pay very much, they will give you an audience of eager photography enthusiasts.
You won’t be able to sell directly to your students – colleges tend to look down on teachers hawking their goods in class – but it’s likely that many of your students will want to see your images and buy your Blurb books, if only to get a feel for the sort of images you take.
Strictly speaking, it might be against the rules but if someone is going to buy your book anyway out of curiosity, is it really so bad if you order it yourself and give them a discount?
Those are just five unusual ways of selling images that we know of. Put them into practice, and you might find that they become the new standard.