For most photographers, the most obvious way to make a living out of photography is to create great images and sell them. That might be by providing a license to a buyer to reproduce the image. It could be by placing the picture on a stock site and taking a fee each time the photo is downloaded. Or it could be by taking assignments and creating specific pictures for a client’s use.
Those are all the traditional ways of earning from photography. But is it possible to make money out of photography simply by showing images without selling them?
The Internet has made it possible… but it hasn’t made it easy.
In theory, you should be able simply to create an online gallery, place ads on the side of the page and generate revenue either per ad click or by page view. But with prices as low as just a few cents per thousand page views, you’d need massive amounts of traffic to turn banner ads on an online gallery into a money-spinner.
And AdSense units, which tend to generate higher incomes, produce targeted ads that are based on the Web page’s text. A page that only contains images is likely only to return public service ads that earn you nothing.
There’s a good reason that professional photographers use Flickr to advertise their talent rather than to make money.
So what can you do to turn an online gallery into revenue?
1. Niche Your Gallery
For any site to make money, it has to have traffic. Lots of traffic. It also has to show ads that users are going to be interested in clicking. The easiest way to do both of those things at the same time is to create a gallery that’s as finely focused as possible. If you do wildlife photography, then you could create a gallery that just showed bears or the animals of Yosemite or domestic pets or whatever it might be. The keyword marketing will be easier and when you add a paragraph-length description under each photo — and you will need to include some writing — the ads will match the images.
That will give you a good click-through rate, helping you to turn your visitors into payers.
2. Offer Lessons
One of the most common reasons that people like to visit websites is that they hope to learn something. They feel that they’re getting something valuable (information) for nothing. In order to encourage people to keep coming back to your gallery then, you could arrange some of your photos to form an online tutorial. For each photo story, for example, you could have a second gallery showing how you set up the shot and how you created the image.
Users would come back to keep learning, keeping your ad revenue ticking over.
3. Optimize Your Ads
The downside of placing ads next to photos is that they distract. Users will come to see your photos not to see ads. But if they don’t see the ads, then your photos won’t generate any income. The solution is to blend the ad units into the page so that they’re noticeable but not obtrusive.
It’s not difficult to do and the results should be a fine balance between picture, text and ad income.
Of course, the result of creating an online gallery supported by ads might well be requests to purchase your images. But that’s just something you’ll have to live with.