Start thinking about selling your photos and your first thoughts are likely to be of prints and licenses. A myriad of options from Buy Now buttons on websites and photo-sharing platforms to garage sales and galleries let photographers offer framed versions of their art. Microstock’s open policy means that anyone can now upload and hope for a royalty. But offering prints means selling in a hugely competitive market while microstock is both saturated and low-paying. Fortunately, there are plenty of very creative ways to get paid for your art.
- Publish a Photography Magazine
Blurb and Lulu, among others, have long made it possible for photographers to create their own photo books — an option often generally taken up by event photographers looking for an easy way to create a photo album — but it’s also possible to publish a regular photo magazine.
MagCloud, a service provided by HP, allows publishers to create print-on-demand subscription-based publications. It currently offers around 5,350 self-published magazines related to photography. Some, like Maree Slaven’s magazine, function as portfolios. Others, like DCist Exposed, are annual catalogs containing shots taken by competition winners. A few though, such as Visions, act as real magazines with articles and contributors.
How many of those magazines make money is questionable. The print version of Visions costs $17. That price includes access to the digital version which usually costs $3.25 but is unlikely to ensure high numbers of sales. Delivering a profit of $4.80 over the cost of printing alone, it’s also unlikely to deliver high revenues.
But producing the magazine could be fun. You’d get to put your images in print, work with other photographers in your field, and explore photography issues that you find interesting. The selling would be hard and the profits small, but MagCloud makes the publishing easy and enjoyable.
- Art Cards
Selling art is never easy but one genre that’s recently been enjoying some sudden popularity is ACEO — Art Cards, Editions and Originals. The movement started in Switzerland and requires artists to create works that can fit onto a card measuring just 2.5 by 3.5 inches. The size is the only rule; artists can use any materials they want to create their works, including photography.
Although ACEO are traditionally exchanged, like collectors’ cards, some are also sold, often on eBay or Etsy. A typical price is usually around $5 for a card, an amount small enough for quick buys and a good price for bargain purchases at art fairs and garage sales.
The big advantage of ACEO, other than the opportunity for impulse buying and the absence of a need for an empty wall to display the print, is the creativity. ACEO are meant to be collectible. The more artistic and creative you can make your ACEO, the more desirable you can make it too. Niver Daduryan combines photography with colored pencil, watercolor, ink, marker and even sparkle to produce his cards. Felicia Kramer adds a poem to her montage. With art cards, you can really let your artistic juices flow.
- Wall Decals
Photography can go on walls, but they don’t have to go in frames. The estimated $8 billion spent on wall décor in the US every year includes money spent on decals — giant peelable stickers.
Usually, wall decals are produced by designers who use graphics of trees or animals to decorate children’s rooms and offices. A few decals though make use of photography rather than drawing. Designer Dan Witz has a series of decals called “What the %$#@…” that show a photo of a goat, a person and a Tasmanian devil poking through a ventilation grate. The decals are sold through Blik for $30.
Dan Witz’s decals are fairly small. Photographers who want to make the decals of their own images can go further by using Shutterfly wall decals which lets anyone turn photos into stickable wall art. It’s not cheap though, with prices starting at $59.99 for a sticker of 36 inches by 27 inches. That doesn’t leave much room for profit while still being affordable but photographers of college sports teams or even nature scenes might be able to win some sales — or land a better offer from a local printer.
- Duvet Covers
Art cards and decals might go on a wall but that’s not the only location you can place a picture. You can also take it to bed. Like decals, duvet covers are usually made up of graphic images but a few smart designers have been playing around with printing photographs on the bed covers.
Target sells a simple cover made up of a photo of a marigold, with matching pillows. The range also includes gardenias and orchids and sell for between $69 and $89. Lazybone, a UK gift shop, sells “cheeky nude” duvet covers for £33.99, while BagsofLove, another British store will print your image on bedding for £99.
You don’t have to be as cheeky as Lazybone or as expensive as BagsofLove to put your photos on people’s beds though. Find a designer who’s willing to work with you (Etsy forums could be one place to look) suggest a joint venture and split the revenues. While you’re unlikely to hit giant sums unless you manage to find distributors as big as Target, you should be able to land a few helpful sales.
- Web Comics
Decorating bed covers might be fun but not as much fun as turning your images into comic strips. Photonovels are a small genre within the small, nichey world of comics but it does have a market. Some, like Alien Loves Predator, use models to create compositions while others, like A Softer World, transpose haiku-like prose over meaningful imagery. The creators of that strip, Canadians Joey Comeau and Emily Horne have been able to make a living from their comic.
Few other comic creators are that lucky but with a large enough audience and a good line in accessories and merchandise, you can still have some fun telling stories, using images and earning a few dollars.