Photography: Peter Faretra
It’s happening. In fact, it’s been happening for a while. But it’s happening quietly, and outside a few forums on Flickr, people aren’t really talking about.Photo users are browsing Flickr and they’re not just taking Creative Commons-licensed images (or stealing protected photos). They’re contacting photographers and offering to pay usage fees.The amounts might not be huge, which is probably one of the reasons that the sales aren’t making headlines, but they are being handed over at the end of email offers and modest negotiations. Taylor Jones, a relatively new band photographer, mentioned to us in an interview recently that:
“I’ve sold a few images thanks to the site…”
“…nothing serious though.”
as though having someone hand over cash for images they’ve uploaded to Flickr happens all the time.
Upload to Flickr, Get Published
Photo users are buying images for all sorts of reasons but perhaps the most common is the one that photographers tend to find the most satisfying: they need pictures for books and publications.
Terry McCormick’s image of the world’s largest steam train, for example, was bought by a manufacturer of model railways and appeared on the cover of the company’s catalog; Peter Faretra’s photo of diving gannets (shown above) was bought by the publisher of a wildlife book. Denis Callet’s picture of a lake was used by a media company producing a history book.
The ingredients in all of these sales include:
- Careful tagging so that buyers can find what they’re looking for;
- Clear descriptions so that they know what they’ve found;
- And, of course, a professional quality picture shot at a high enough resolution to be reproduced commercially.
It might help too if the photographer’s photostream includes a few Creative Commons-licensed photos to bring in users looking for free images. The lower-quality shots they can have for nothing; professional quality images they would have to pay for.
Selling Photos as Prints
Of course, it’s not just publishers who are reaching into their wallets on Flickr. The site’s forums occasionally include questions from buyers asking how they can purchase prints from Flickr members.
Again, it’s clear that you’ll need to display the sort of images that people would actually want to own, but it’s a good idea too to indicate that the images in your photostream are available for purchase.
Flickr doesn’t want big “For Sale” signs everywhere, and unlike many photography sites, it doesn’t have its own click-button print-ordering service. So just mention in your profile that your images are available as prints and suggest that anyone interested in buying them should drop you a line.
As long as the photos are good enough, you’ll be in with a chance of making a sale.
Marketing the Flickr Way
But to increase the chances of making a sale, you have to market. Like anywhere, it’s not enough to put your goods on offer — however good your photos might be — and hope that photography-lovers with bucketloads of money spot them. You have to let people know they’re there.
On Flickr, that doesn’t mean spending vast sums on pay-per-click advertising.
It means investing time in networking. As Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, probably Flickr’s most successful member, put it:
You can’t just put your pictures up and leave them there. You have to drag people back to your photostream.
That happens by leaving comments on other members’ photos, joining groups and participating in forums. It means doing all of the things that Flickr was created for: being part of a community and exchanging information and advice as well as image views.
Become a popular Flickr member, and your name will become known among buyers as well as other photographers.
There is still a tendency among photo users on Flickr to expect photographers to hand over their images for free — and a more worrying tendency for photographers to agree. But shoot good images, upload them to Flickr and let lots of people know that they’re there and available, and your Flickr popularity can translate into sales.
Check out our interview with Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir here and tell us whether you’ve sold a photo on Flickr.
[tags] make money on flickr, sell photos on flickr, selling flickr photos [/tags]