Taking On The Big Boys – Create Your Own Website & Sell Your Photos Online

This is a Guest post by Andrew Gibson of Magical Places Fine Art Photography

So, you’ve taken some nice photos and added them to Imagekind or iStockphoto, and now you’re wondering how to promote them. The obvious answer is to make your own website or blog to promote your work.

Blogs are very easy to put together, just go to Blogger or WordPress to sign up for some free webspace and get started. But what if you want more than what a blog can offer? Then you need to put together your own website.

If you don’t know how to this yourself, one option is to pay someone to do it. Another is to do what my friend Christian did and use Clikpic, a relatively quick way to put together a nice professional looking site. Take a look at the websites of Eugene Donohoe and Tom Forrest for more examples.

Blogs and site building solutions like Clikpic use templates, so if you want your website to look unique (and don’t want to pay someone to build it) then you’re going to have to learn to do it yourself. This takes time but can be very rewarding. Web Design From Scratch is a great place to start learning. Take a look at my website, Magical Places Fine Art Photography, to see what can be done with some basic knowledge.

Now, if you’re into large-scale thinking and want to take on the big boys, you can take it a step further and do what Jason Wickens of Fotoviva did. After selling a few photos through microstock sites he decided that he wanted to sell some fine art prints. He runs his own web design company and he told me that he saw no reason why he shouldn’t create his own website to sell his photos.

That way he not only gets to keep all the profit but has the satisfaction of creating and growing his own business.

So, what does it take to create your own, all-inclusive, photo-selling website?

With any new business venture it’s important to stand out from the crowd in some way, to not only be different but better. One way that Fotoviva does this is through the excellence of the site’s design.

A programming friend helped Jason build the shopping part of the site and it took around three months, working in his spare time, to get it up and running. Of course, not all of us are web professionals but these services can be hired, relatively cheaply, from sites like elance.com.

SEO (search engine optimisation) is also essential, so that a website can rank highly in search engines like Google. This takes time, especially in a competitive market like photography. Jason told me that he has been learning about SEO techniques and that Fotoviva is performing well for it’s main keywords.

Once Fotoviva was up and running the next step was to invite other photographers to sell their work. Adding the work of more photographers means the site can grow exponentially. Not only are there more photos to choose from but as the photographers promote their work on Fotoviva this will bring more traffic and more customers. Then, as revenue increases, some of that money can be used for advertising and promotion.

I asked Jason at what point he realised the potential of adding other photographer’s work to Fotoviva:

‘I realised there were some exceptional photographers out there who did not have the time or understanding of how to sell their images online. With a pre-built shop ready to sell their work it seemed like an ideal solution for them. It also helps to increase the collection with art being so subjective “one man’s gold is another man’s poison”.’

So, where is the business going? There’s a relatively small amount of photos on Fotoviva at the moment, but unlike a lot of websites that sell photography, all the images are high quality. Jason intends to keep expanding and developing. At the moment there are over 170 photos available to buy at Fotoviva, and he’s looking to add to the photo collection. He has the following advice for potential contributors:

‘We are always looking to expand the photo collection to help customers find the image they want. Prospective contributors need to think if their work can match or exceed the work we already have. It needs to be art for walls rather than stock photography. The general rule would be ‘would someone want this picture on their walls?’ Potential photographic contributors should use the contact form and supply a link to their portfolio.’

Fotoviva is a great example of someone setting up their own website to sell their photography. What ideas do you have? One of them could be a winner.

Read my interview with Jason here.

10 comments for this post.

  1. Dan Bannister Said:

    I started doing this at the beginning of this year simply because of all the turmoil in the stock business. Since then, I've had tremendous success with clients placing orders for imagery directly off my site. And because my work is fairly versatile, I've picked up new corporate clients based on the strengths of my travel stock so, I definitely think clients are running from the mess that is the stock industry as fast as many pros are.

    Case in point, Alamy now boasts over 10 million images! Do photo eds actually have the kind of time it takes to browse through thousands of images online for an image that is suitable?

  2. Chuck Staley Said:

    I built my own website and got the domain name I wanted, all for free! Actually, Microsoft paid for everything because I signed up for their Office Live promotions. Building the website was as easy as using a word processing program. No HTML language to learn. Last month I had over a thousand hits!

    If you'd like to give it a try you can log onto my web page, see what YOU can do to display your work, then go to the bottom and click on their logo over to the right.

    Not only is it free, it's fun!


  3. Andrew Gibson Said:

    Chuck, you make an interesting point. How did you achieve a thousand hits in the first month? Did Microsoft help you with SEO?

  4. Chuck Staley Said:

    Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, Andrew. In answer to your question: No Microsoft only provides the site. And as for the thousand hits, they didn't happen the first month. It took a lot of promoting to get up to the thousand hits for last month. (I got 37 hits from this website so far.)

    That's another nice feature -- getting daily site reports so that you can tell what is working for you.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Jacob Maentz Said:

    I have also recently went live with my own personal photography website. I was debating whether to try one of the many micro stock agencies or just try doing it on my own. I'm very happy with the decision I have made to create my own site. Although, I must say I have put many hours into working on the site and many more to go as the site evolves.

    I do believe in the long run, however, that having your own site will be more profitable and can open up many more leads with magazines, companies, etc. We shall see how everything goes.

    Selling photos is a hard business, but like anything, with time and dedication (and good images) you can be successful.


  6. Andrea Matone Said:

    I have also been thinking about setting-up my own website for some time now. I have tried many routes, including flashy portfolio sites which were great to look at but remained in the circle domain of just friends and colleagues. I finally decided to go back to a simple html site losing on image and graphical impact but gaining on SEO. It is all recent as I am still working on this. I also contribute to various photo agencies on a non-exclusive basis but I wanted to give it shot to see if I could market images on my own. Don’t know where it will lead. Like you Jakcob I’ve put in endless hours into this, perhaps with consistency, optimizations and good photography , results may come! http://www.andreamatone.com

  7. Frederic Sune Said:

    I have my stock website up and running since January 2008. Here is the link: http://www.torontostockphoto.com
    Everything is working perfectly. I can send directly to my clients any portfolio (lightbox) I have created online with my website. Very easy to use and ecofriendly too.

  8. Sameer Jain Said:

    I organise Photography Tours and Workshops in India and will use some of the tips given in the post. I could market the photographs clicked by participants and these could be good for publishers who are looking for related photographs. http://www.18mm.in is the link to my website which is currently built on existing templates, the total cost of domain, hosting and templates put together was less than $35.

  9. Dean Outlaw Said:

    Buyaphoto has just finished creating new photographer websites. You can now have your very own website such as http://www.buyaphoto.net/nickmiltonphotography/. Nicks website took about 20 minutes to create. We even have a 30 day FREE Trial period where you can have full access to all options. If you like it you can even register your own domain and link it to your Buyaphoto site.
    We do all the hard work so that you can concentrate on your photography.
    Registration page for photographers wishing to have their own website is http://www.buyaphoto.net/Photographer-Registration/

  10. Dan Said:

    I've created a website package specifically for artists (including photographers) - Artist Site Builder.

    It costs a bit more than Clikpic, but it also has way more benefits, both from an SEO point of view, and design-wise. To find out more read what to look for in an art portfolio site.

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