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Tips on how to sell photography online in the new economy

Updated on January 12, 2014
Art Institute Lions wearing Chicago Bears helmets
Art Institute Lions wearing Chicago Bears helmets | Source

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How to sell your fine art photography online.



Selling your Fine art photography work online can be an exciting way to show your work and get feedback about it, The feedback I mean is sometimes the best kind. It is in the form of money, The fact that people will pay your for your work is a good indication that they liked it. so you learn something and at the same time add money to your bank account. 

There are many ways to sell photography online. And they type of photography sold can be very different. You can find tons of sites that let you sell photos to wedding guests or event goers. I want focus selling “ fine art” large print on websites built for selling your artistic photography, i will cover the ones I use and that has worked for me.

I feel I need to mention that by “fine art” I am referring to photos that many people can relate to and can hang in any office or living room. It is not stock photos of products and it is not wedding photos of a complete stranger. Things like trains, nature scenes, skylines, iconic places, abstract designs… thing like that are what I am referring to as “ fine art”.

If you are completely new at this, It can be helpful to work backwards. Find where you want to sell your work, then check their FAQ section for the best way they want files saved then edit your photos to meet their guidelines. Please check a few sites before you start editing, It is not as big of a problem as it was years ago but the desired finished file might work for one but not the other. Better to know that as early as possible.

Editing basics for photographers


Always work on a copy of the original image. Keep your raw files backed up on disk and hard drive in multiple places.

  • A bank vault
  • A family member's home (one that does not live with you!)

A good start is to have all your work that you currently want to sell all together and usually converted to a RGB jpeg file type. 

Like any industry created by guys, you will find a million different opinions about the color space you should use RBG, 1998, Srgb etc.. Honestly, If you research it too much you will be frozen with conflicting viewpoints. Start with one. If you use Photoshop or Gimp, iphoto or Corel,the default PRINT RGB will be fine to get you started. Remember you can always pull the original file and convert a copy if you decide on a specific color space at a later date. the goal is to sell your work.

Chicago White Sox in skyline lights after winning the World Series
Chicago White Sox in skyline lights after winning the World Series | Source

Remember you are making prints


 This is important! When you edit any photo that you want to sell online, do not use the “ save for web” setting. Yes, it will be displayed on the web but that is not its final destination. Every single image you choose to sell will have to be printed by you, a lab, or the company selling your work for you. Either way, the file will be printed so NEVER use the “save for web setting. The rule of thumb I use is the default 300 dpi setting. If you have to set it yourself, don’t go below 250 dpi.

First step



You have to decide how much of the work you want to do and how much profit you want to keep. This is an important step. I won’t go too deep but just about every decision in life is based on time or money. You either have a lot of money and no time or you have a lot of time and no money...and this is no different.

You can choose to fill your own orders. By doing so, you can keep a larger share of money. but it also involves keeping some amount of inventory. It also will cut into your time that you would usually use to go out and photograph more subjects and market your work so far. Make sure you know all that is involved in this method.



Here is a helpful check list of items you would need to consider

  • 

Finished Prints - How many?
  • 
Black & White versions?
  • Offer different sizes?

  • Payment Methods?
  • 
Tubes or flat boxes for shipping?
  • 
Ways to Contact you?
  • 
Returns- How to process them?

  • Frames or Canvas or matts?

    

As you can see, This method can be done but it also looks like you are starting a new career in warehousing and customer service. If you have the space, money and even the help, this might work for you. But here is t
he other option. The one I went with, is to allow an online gallery or site to sell my works and fulfill the orders.
  • They offer them in poster, print and canvas versions
  • They process the payment
  • They print the item
  • They offer online stats on my sales
  • they answer questions and in some cases deal with returns

    This is all done while I create more work, market my photography company and write about it.

All websites are NOT the same

Companies are all in this market to make money. That is fair and should be that way. Years ago, there seemed to be two camps. One camp had companies that wanted to pay you, the photographer who created the image, almost nothing. Very little respect was given to people submitting because “ everyone had a camera” was the mentality so they figured the work was all the same.They also wanted to take the largest amount of money from any item sold. 


The other camp treated photographers as artists who they wanted to work “with” to bring their work to the web, and for doing so, they split the take on the works sold. 

Now-a-days I would say that 99% of the companies out there are from the second camp, but you should always read the fine print and check reviews about them on other sites. Companies change just like the brick and mortar stores do.

Let’s make some money.

Keep in mind that certain subject matter sells better than others and depending on the times of the year, so when you put photo up for print sales, you need to monitor what is selling for you and others and apply what you learn toward future photos that you upload. I will cover exactly what sells even better why it sells so you can apply that towards your own photography.

Art.com

art.com /artistrising.com

A site that is easy to spell but a little hard to grasp for artists. To get your work on art.com you need to sign up on artistrising.com. Once you do they decide what work will go up on art.com’s website. To my knowledge nobody can game that system, so relax and don't take it personally.

While that process is happening, you can still sell your works on artist rising’s (AR) website. Over the years traffic has picked up quite a bit so it can be almost 2 for the price of one. If your work ends up in art.com think of it as an added bonus. 

AR is a very good site to work with. they market the heck out of their site. They tend to run deals and specials to bring people in all the time while not effecting your percentage of the sale. Along with marketing they also print and ship your work. Perfect for most people. Again you want to multiply your efforts, not work to market someone else’s site.As the photographer, you get a percent of the sale, and additional percentages for frames etc… In the early 2000’s they did not pay as much and it was only posters. Now with canvas sales out there they had raised the percentage paid over all and cut back on the add ons.




Now here is something NO other article about print sales will tell you. How it really works.

 I have received a monthly check from them every month since 2005. My sales are just a little above $49,000 in total. Most of that was done with a total number of 34 prints. I know have about 120 active prints there.



Put the calculator down for a moment. That is not the best part. art.com /Artistrising is basically the “Granddaddy” of the industry. Interior designers use it daily for trends, colors, and to get an idea of what is out on the market. They also send their clients to the site. Think about it. What does “ edgy” look like? what about Modern? Classic? or even “ trendy”? They send the clients there to show them photos of what they like to better understand the goal. A by-product of the client seeing your work, is if they like it, nothing else will live up to it. Your work becomes exactly what they want. If you sign upon ArtistRising.com , make sure to put your contact info there.

I have sold over 900 pieces directly to interior designers. One was redoing a Hotel with 60 rooms. One was designing a corporate office in Dubai U.A.E. One needed a 9 ft high print. These were all direct sales. 100% going to me. they might not have ever found me. They found me through the (AR) site and contacted me directly.

Union Station NYC, NY
Union Station NYC, NY | Source

On to Part II

OK, that was only one website. I use 3 others if you are still interested.

I will have to do this in 2 parts. If you liked or are interested in what I have told you so far, please comment below. I hope this gives you some insight into what is possible on the web. I really would like your feedback so I know I am going in the right direction. Please share this with the photographer in your life!

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    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      I'm not sure why the line is through my name..

    • profile image

      Kapil 2 years ago

      Hi Patrick, a very insightful article indeed. Thanks for that! Just a quick question, why did you strike-through your name under the first photo of this article?

    • ChicagoPhotos profile image
      Author

      Patrick John Warneka 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois U.S.A.

      Nadine May,

      Thank you for reading my Post! The same rules ( and benefits) apply to selling graphic work online also. Things created in Photoshop can sell just as well. Graphic art is a numbers game online. The more you put up, the more they get to see and understand your style. When given many choices, people mentally select the "one' they like the most. Then some take the next step and buy the one they have selected. So the more you load up online the more choices they have and you have a higher chance of selling one of your works.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Welcome to Hubpages. Thank you for your interesting article. I have never sold my photos or other images I created by using Photoshop on line. Usually I start with a photo and manipulate part of the photo, but I'm not really a photographer. I have several oil paintings on my website that I did, but again never gave them a price. I love creating images for my articles, and I do use Pinterest to network my hub. What I do get paid for is designing book covers, posters and banners, but that all has to do with books. Looking forward to read more of your articles.