If you think you can sell more photos by opening an online store, you may be in for a surprise. That store is a small part of your journey to sell photo prints to delighted customers. Here are my top ten ways to sell more photos and increase your earnings.
10: Create Art Other People Want To Buy
OK, the first one is a bit of a “gimme.” It should be. I see plenty of SmugMug or ZenFolio sites with photos for sale, yet there is nothing that I would want to buy. Endless boring landscapes, animals and other subjects that don't resonate litter the Internet with buttons to “buy.”
It's not going to happen that way.
The best way to sell art is to sell yourself. People buy the artist more than they buy the art.
You need to find interesting subjects and capture them in your unique style. A body of work shows who you are as an artist. Potential buyers are evaluating your body of work. Your chances of making a sale are much greater if you can show that you have a repeatable style.
There's something else to keep in mind. People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.
9: Find Your Market
You want to shoot what you love. That's nice. I do it and find a lot of satisfaction in shooting the subjects I enjoy.
That doesn't mean people are knocking down my door to buy my photos. If you want to sell photos, you have to understand your customer and what she wants.
Your subject may have broad or narrow appeal. If you're shooting Little League kids, then your market per photo is pretty slim. Most people don't buy photos of someone else's kid, because that's just creepy.
The market for those photos are for the child's family and perhaps close friends. You may do a few shots for them and make a sale. Since there are plenty of kids playing Little League, you have an opportunity to make a lot of different sales, each with a small market per photo.
At the other end of the market, you can go for the art buyers. You'll have broader appeal with general photos, but perhaps more people who will look instead of buy.
Now this is where you need to concentrate. The people who like your photos on social media are useful. Treat them well and they'll help you promote your art. Most of them aren't going to buy, though.
The people who will buy art from you are different. They aren't trying to stumble across something to buy. Instead, they have a purpose.
These buyers have a relationship with you or your subject. They're looking at something very different than a pretty photo. At the heart of their motivation, they're looking for art that helps them make a statement or promote their own status.
And they're willing to pay for that art.
8: Promote Your Art
Photographers are a funny collection of people when it comes to promotion. The first place they go to promote a piece of art for sale is to other photographers.
For the most part, this is not your market. Some photographers like to decorate their home with another artist's work, but most seem to show their own work.
Why shouldn't they? It's satisfying. It makes a statement. They have a personal and emotional connection with each of their photos.
When it's time to promote your art, you need to go outside of the photography community. This is why you need to understand your customer.
When you take a look at your photo, who would want to buy it? What does it symbolize and why is that important to your perfect customer?
Take that insight and go where they live. If I want to sell my photos of Washington, D.C. to a potential buyer, I have to imagine who wants something like that hanging on their wall.
How about most of the offices in Washington, D.C.? There are bankers, lobbyists, architects, attorneys and countless other professionals who do business in and around the city.
These are the people who have a desire to buy art to help them promote themselves, and they're the ones who have a budget to go with that desire.
7: Go Big Or Go Home
Have you ever spent time in a corporate lobby or a museum? Take some time to think about the size of the art on display. It's mostly much larger than what we hang on our own walls.
Corporate buyers need something to make a grand statement.
People who want 4×5 prints will go to the corner drug store. The way to sell more photos is to create an impact.
How large of a print can you sell on SmugMug? I just checked the site of a well-known photographer and the largest print I could buy was 36″ on the long end.
That's not going to make much of an impact in a large space.
The last print I sold was 60″ on the long end and that's not big enough. My client wants a larger image and I had to go to an industrial graphic shop to get something 96″ long. I have a feeling that my client would go even bigger if we could.
Your resolution may be a limiting factor for larger print sizes. If you have an eye toward print sales for higher end clients, you should consider a higher resolution camera. It doesn't make your art any better, but it gives you the flexibility to satisfy your client's desires.
I'm not advocating buying gear if you don't have a need. Just think about your perfect client and eliminate any obstacles that would get in the way of your ability to sell more photos.
6: Make Your Art Easy To Find
Nobody will buy your art if they don't know it exists.
How are you going to make your art easy to find? Once again, think about your perfect customer. How is she going to search for something?
It could be Flickr. It could be 500px. It may also be through a Google Image search. My best luck has come from people using a search engine to find my photos on my web site.
That's partly because I have an advantage with a blog over services like Flickr or 500px.
Search engines can't evaluate a photo, so they have to rely upon text put in SEO fields for the photo and text on the same web page as the photo. All of that text helps my images rank well for the subject matter.
Here's an example. I did a search for “US Capitol Building” on a Google Image search. While my image wasn't at the very top, it was on the front page.
There are people who enjoy this photo and contact me to buy it.
However, I've realized that I'm not doing all I can to help potential buyers. People who want to buy this image may have an interest in my other photos of the U.S. Capitol building or other photos in Washington, D.C.
I've taken a step to make it easy to find the first image, but the next step is to build galleries based upon related photos and interests. In a way, it's the same thing you see on shopping sites like Amazon. People who viewed this photo also viewed these other images.
Make it easy for potential customers to find your art. A motivated customer will slog through your site searching for more, but you can increase your odds of making additional sales if you can help them easily find your best work.
5: Make It Easy To Buy Your Art
Most of us are spoiled. We're used to one-click shopping and checking out of an online store.
I discovered that I need to improve here. My past sales used Paypal. That works for selling your old underwear on eBay, but it doesn't create a professional experience with someone spending thousands of dollars on your photos.
In order to use the regular Paypal account, your customer has to sign up for her own PayPal account. That extra step may be enough of a hassle to turn off your buyer.
They want to whip out their credit card and have a smooth transaction. PayPal standard doesn't live up to that expectation.
If you want to stay with PayPal, you can step up to PayPal Pro for $30 per month. That gives your customers a better shopping experience without the hassle of creating an account just to do business with you.
There are plenty of other merchant services available at different pricing points. I don't want to tell you which one to use, except to say this much.
Use the merchant service that provides the best experience for your customer.
You need to accept the card in her hand and provide a quick, painless experience of transferring money from your customer to your bank. Anything else may result in a lost sale.
4: Price Your Art For Your Customer
There is a lot of advice out there to price your photos. Some of the calculations get pretty convoluted, taking into account your daily cost of doing business and other expenses.
Your customer doesn't really care about any of that stuff.
Whether you're selling photos of someone's darling child or an enormous print to a corporate client, everyone has a line.
Again, think about their experience. You have a photo they love. They want it. It's going to enhance their lives, improve their business, or just make them feel good. They expect to pay for it because this is a business transaction.
However, everyone has a budget.
To be honest, a lot of people will cross their line. At least a little bit. That's because the value of your image changes from one person to the next.
You probably won't know their budget and I think it's in very poor taste to ask. So it's up to you.
My advice is to let your customer go home feeling good about the deal. That doesn't mean you should undercut yourself, but rather than you shouldn't try to squeeze every nickel out of their pocket.
Don't just think about the sale you make today. A happy customer will probably come back for more.
3: Build Relationships With Art Buyers
Once you've made a sale, don't let the relationship end. Find out everything you can about your customer.
- How did she find you?
- Where will she use the art?
- What else does she need?
This is the main reason why I will not sell my photos on sites like SmugMug. It doesn't help you develop a relationship with your customer. It's just an automated check-out service.
If you're shooting photos of kids in Little League, think down the road. That little booger is going to grow up and have a need for plenty of other photos. More games, senior portraits, etc.
Think beyond the sale today. How can you provide more service to your client? You'll never know if you don't take the time to develop a relationship.
A big part of that is trying to make your client feel good about the experience so she's happy to come back when she needs something else. It's good for you to be prepared to help with services when she needs them.
2: Ask for Referrals
If your client is happy, then you have an opportunity to do one of the simplest things that can help to sell more photos.
Ask for a referral.
It's that simple. People who buy art generally know other people who buy art. Someone may come over to their home or office and love your photo. If you've provided a good customer experience, they'll gladly tell them all about you and how to get in touch.
Create a bad impression and they may not stop talking about how far away their friends should stay from your business.
A good relationship with your customer who is willing to provide a referral is perhaps the most powerful and inexpensive marketing efforts you can have to sell your photos.
Did SmugMug ever give you a referral?
1: Do It Over Again!
One of my favorite quotes in photography comes from Joel Grimes. Someone proudly shows him a photo they've taken using a technique he taught. He'll say, “Good. Now go do it 200 more times.”
Repetition enhances your craft. Learning to sell more photos is as much of a craft as creating the photo. With each iteration, you'll learn more about what makes the entire process better.
You'll end up with better photos, happier customers, and more money in your pocket.