There are no “easy” ways to generate regular photo sales. Selling photography always requires a knowledge of craft, the talent to use it creatively and the willingness to push those images ahead of competitors’ works and into the hands of buyers. There are however a few methods that are easier than others, not necessarily because they deliver more sales or because they generate higher prices but because offering the images is more fun – and feels less like work – than other channels.
Art fairs, for example, are held at regular intervals and provide an opportunity for photographers (as well as other artists) to show their work and make sales. The value of those sales will vary from fair to fair, and will also depend on the prices you put on your images. One of the most important strategies for success at art fairs is to offer a broad range of rates and image sizes that allow buyers with different budgets to make purchases. It’s not unusual for a photographer to end up with profits of between $1,000 and $2,000 at the end of an art fair.
Those profits cost money to generate though and they aren’t available to everyone who wants them. Selling at an art fair means investing in display materials, a tent, and prints and frames that you’ll be hoping to sell. Like any professional venture, it’s an investment that always carries an element of risk.
Art Fairs Let You Sell the Photos You Love
And that’s if you’re accepted. Most applicants to art fairs aren’t. At the Evergreen Arts Festival, for example, one of the top 300 fairs in the US, only one photographer in nine who applies to sell their work makes it to the fair. All the applicants produce good images but space is always limited and there are no preferences to photographers who were accepted the previous year, forcing everyone to compete from scratch.
The need to invest and the requirement to compete then make selling at art fairs difficult. But what makes them an easy way to make sales is that you’ll be selling art. You won’t be shooting for clients who want their products shot in a particular way or for brides who challenge you to make them look their best even as their tears smudge their mascara and their families refuse to stand in a straight line for the formals. You’ll be shooting the images that make you proud and happy, and you’ll be enjoying the thrill that comes from having your own satisfaction endorsed by admirers willing to pay for your images.
You’ll also be spending time with other photographers, a benefit that’s underrated but hugely valuable. They’ll tell you about other fairs that have proved successful for them, give tips about sales strategies and generally provide the kind of camaraderie that’s not always easy for photographers used to shooting alone to find.
Art fairs then take effort to break into. You’ll need to be willing to risk some cash and accept plenty of rejection. But once you’re on the circuit, you should find that it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to sell the photos you had the most fun creating.
Like art fairs, Flickr too provides an element of camaraderie. One of the biggest benefits of the site is its ability to bring photographers together, initially in an online environment and, for dedicated members, in local meet-ups and photography tours. There is a difference between the kind of relationships that grow in online groups and those enjoyed by photographers who spend several hours standing next to each other art fairs every few months, but the shared advice and compliments on Flickr can do much to boost a photographer’s skill levels and confidence.
Flickr Sells Creative Images
And like art fairs too, the kinds of images that sell on Flickr also tend to be the more creative types that buyers can’t find on stock sites, that photographers most enjoy shooting — and which they usually struggle the most to sell. Vanessa Dualib’s pictures of vegetable animals, for example, weren’t just picked up Getty, which now scours the site looking for sellable photos; they also picked up real sales on Getty’s Flickr collection.
For most Flickr photographers though, sales won’t happen through Getty. The stock company might be actively searching for images on Flickr but it’s still selective about the photos and photographers it accepts. Instead, those sales will happen occasionally after a buyer has stumbled upon one of their images and decided it’s something that they want to buy. Usually, that’s a chance event, a combination of good keywording and even better shooting. Turning those sales into regular occurrences tends to mean tracking the stats available to Pro members, ensuring that all images are keyworded properly, only displaying the best photos and organizing them into easily browsable collections, and indicating in the description that photos are available for licensing and sales. It also means networking constantly so that your name spreads across the site — as well as across the blogosphere. None of that is easy. But it is all enjoyable.
And it’s also possible to make sales regularly on microstock sites, a channel which can bring the benefits of regular revenue but which also provides the challenge of shooting commercial rather than creative images, and of building a large enough portfolio to keep those sales coming in. That’s always going to feel more like work than a hobby, and the small payments for each sale mean that it can feel like low-paid work too.
The advantage though is that the selling itself consists of doing nothing more than uploading the images and leaving the site to do its own marketing. While art fairs and Flickr will both demand some form of marketing, microstock requires only that the photographer shoots the right kind of images and in the right quantities. If you can enjoy doing that, you’ll have found another easy to make regular sales.
There are other ways of generating regular, enjoyable photography sales too, of course. Pet photography can be fun and is often practiced — at least initially — by part-time photographers happy to indulge in two weekend hobbies: photography and pets. Designing photography products can be fun but marketing them requires a giant push. And selling through your own website will let you shoot anything you want and keep all of the proceeds but you’ll be spending a large amount of time on SEO and offline marketing, activities which are rarely enjoyable at all.
Whichever method you use though, find a channel that you enjoy using and which lets you sell images that you like creating, and you’ll find that your sales, however occasional and however they’re priced, are always easy.