Why Some People Will Never Be Successful at Selling Photos


We like to think that anyone can be successful at selling photos. Well, maybe not everyone. If your photographic talent doesn’t stretch beyond taking your finger off the lens, then you might be in trouble. But most people who can frame a composition and know how to focus should be able to make money selling their images.

And yet not everyone is making money. There are a number of reasons for that.

First, they refuse to learn fast and adapt quickly.

Anyone who has been in the photography business for a while will be able to tell you how much the industry has changed in the last decade alone. Some of those changes have made life easier for photographers; others have made life harder. But all of them need to be understood and absorbed. If you think microstock is only for people willing to sell for a buck a piece, for example, you need to learn what it’s really about… and get yourself a piece of the action.

But it’s not just being a stick in the mud and clinging on to familiar ways of doing things that can hold you back. Photographers who aren’t prepared to take risks aren’t likely to earn much money either.

Fortunately, you don’t have to bet your house to sell your photos. But you do have to put them online where a skilled thief might be able to swipe them. You do have to license them and hope that the buyer follows the license restrictions. And you do have to invest time and sometimes subscription fees on sites like Flickr and PhotoShelter if you want to get in touch with potential buyers. The risks aren’t huge but if you aren’t prepared to take even the small ones, your income will be even smaller.

Perhaps the most common reason photographers fail to sell though, is that they take the wrong pictures.

Far too many photographers believe that if they’ve taken a beautiful picture, they can charge a beautiful price for it and someone out there will pay it. Someone might, but the photographers could wait a long time to find that someone.

Photographers who are successful at selling their pictures think about what the market wants and shoot the photos that supply it. They might not be the most interesting or artistic photos in the world. They might be highly commercial. But they sell, and that’s the point.

And finally, some photographers fail to sell their photos simply because they don’t market them effectively.

They might create an online portfolio… but do little to bring in traffic to see it.

They might submit images to microstock sites… but do nothing to promote them.

And they might create a Flickr page… but fail to use it to attract buyers or build a client base.

There are lots of ways to market your photos online and any one of them can bring in some very useful income. Choose not to use any of them, and you won’t be successful.

Spot new opportunities, take them, shoot the right photos and tell people you’ve got them, and you’ll get the sales.


3 comments for this post.

  1. Sean Cayton Said:

    What load of horse poo...

    I don't have a flickr page. I refuse to sell micro stock. And still I don't worry about selling photographs, ever. I guess I'm a stick in the mud.

    There are thousands of entries points into the market. You mention two.

    The real reason some people will never be successful at selling pictures? Because opening and operating a business is hard work.

    Whether you're a photographer or a dishwasher repairman, it's up to you to decide whether that's a risk worth taking.

  2. Jason S. Said:

    In response to the previous comment - yes, I think everybody understands why people who aren't in the business of selling photos are not successful at selling photos. This article covers those photographers who are in the business of selling photos, but not very good at it.

  3. DigirebelVA Said:

    "Photographers who are successful at selling their pictures think about what the market wants and shoot the photos that supply it. They might not be the most interesting or artistic photos in the world. They might be highly commercial. But they sell, and that’s the point".
    No, its not the only point..unless you like simply taking images strictly for the market (or stock sites)..then you are shooting for the market and not for what inspires you..might as well work for an agency...I shoot what I like, and put out what I consider to be my best works, and sell them...am I going to get rich, probably not, but...I enjoy going out and seeing what others don't and capturing that..and apparently others like what I see as well..

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