Taking marketable images is hard enough. Marketing them is even harder.
You might know everything there is to learn about lighting, technique and composition. You might have a perfect understanding of which pictures sell and which pictures don’t. But if you’re hoping to sell your images from your website and have no idea how to persuade people to buy them — or even how they might like to buy them — none of that knowledge and talent will help you to make money.There are a number of approaches you can take when you’re looking to sell photos from your own website.
1. Sell Prints
Prints are the most obvious product for a photographer to sell from a website. They’re simply a way for an admirer to own a copy of a photograph, and require no more effort than taking the money, printing the image and putting it in the mail.
Zenfolio is just one of many services that make it easy for photographers to build websites from which they can sell prints.
And that should give you an idea of the problem. With so many people offering prints, the chance that users will buy yours, however good they might be, are fairly small.While you can hope to sell a few prints to random visitors, this approach is best taken when you already have people who admire your work and want to own it.
Bill Schwab, for example, a landscape photographer whose works are available through several galleries, offers limited edition prints to members of his Internet mailing list. Not only does that enable him to sell prints online, it also rewards his admirers for following his work — and because the works are rare, increases their value and take-up rate.
One strategy then, might be to collect emails of people who view your site, and offer members exclusive prints of your work.
Screenshot from billschwab.com
2. Sell Books
Prints can be expensive. Even if you keep the price low, you might still be asking buyers to part with twenty or 30 dollars to own just one image. Put the photos together in a book and you can demand the same amount of money for a great deal more.
That sounds like a better offer. And books have another advantage too: there’s always room on the bookshelf for another photography book; walls have limited room to hang prints.
But books face a similar problem to prints. Although fewer photographers offer them than offer prints, they’re still most likely to be sold to people who know your work. It helps too if you can find a way to suggest that your book is in demand.
Chris Harris, a nature photographer in British Columbia, does that by listing his speaking and signing schedules on his site. You don’t need to be a best-seller to do that. If you can persuade venues or local groups to host you, you can add them to your site and make an impression.
Screenshot from ChrisHarris.com
3. Market to a Niche
Screenshot from: landscapephotography.com.au
In all of the examples we’ve seen so far, the main selling point has been the photographer’s name. For most users though, the name will mean little. They’re more likely to be interested in a particular genre.
Mark Gray, an Australian landscape photographer, focuses his website on what he shoots, not who is doing the shooting. He’s also lucky enough to have an URL that sums it up nicely (www.landscapephotography.com.au), and although his name does appear in the logo, the word “landscape” is much more dominant.
It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get childphotos.com but you might be able to get [yourtown]childphotos.com, lower your name and focus your marketing on what you shoot.
And of course, you should market it carefully on a well-designed site. Mark has found that own skills as a designer and Web expert are at least as important as his chosen genre when marketing online. His advice?
[S]tep back and take a look at your own strengths outside of photography. Hopefully by utilizing those strengths you can help increase your exposure and brand recognition.
For me it was my background in website design and search engine optimization that enabled me to create an eye-catching website to showcase my work [that] also ranked highly in the three major search engines. This has resulted in a large global audience viewing my work on a visually pleasing platform.
4. Sell Stock
The advantage of selling through a stock site is that you can concentrate on the shooting and leave the marketing to the company. Of course, you pay for that when the stock company takes the lion’s share of the licensing fee and sets the price for you.
Cleverly though, Mark focuses each site on just one niche each. These include sports photography, lifestyle and his most popular genre, Park City, Utah. That makes it very easy for buyers who need specific images to find exactly what they need without searching through a general stock site. Mark told us:
My biggest piece of advice regarding selling stock images from a website would be to specialize. In general, the tighter you specialize, the better.
If you follow that strategy, you might well find that not only are you able to sell your own stock, but that you build a loyal customer base too.
Selling from your own site isn’t easy. It will always be easier to upload to a stock site or put your photos for sale somewhere that already has browsers. But if you get the approach — and your marketing — right, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work for you.
Tell us how you sell your images through your own website.