Sell Your Photos Online: Money For Nothing – (shutter) Clicks for Free

You show your favorite photos to your friends, family and coworkers. They always tell you how good your images are. Every time someone says that you should sell your photos online. “You’ll make a lot of money!” There are a lot of POD (Print On Demand) sites that will allow you to upload your photos and offer them for sale. Most will do so for a nominal fee, sometimes even free! Sounds great doesn’t it? But lets be honest, there are a thousand, no ten-thousand, well actually millions of picture takers that hear the same comments when they share their photos with others! Lets take a look at what’s really involved.

I first started offering photo prints for sale as wall art in 2010. Before that I was doing event (mostly weddings) and portrait photography. I even owned a brick and mortar studio for a while. But that’s an entirely different game than selling photos as art online. I had a solid understanding of composition and using programs like PhotoShop to post-process my photography. I was well versed in the use of the equipment, exposure and lighting. I’d like to think I had an above average ability for finding and photographing interesting subjects or making mundane subjects seem interesting.

My first foray into selling fine art photography on line was with a company named Fineart America. They were, and continue to be, the largest POD businesses for artists and photographers. I took a pretty laid back approach. Basically I’d upload a photo I thought had potential from time to time. Mention the recent upload on my Facebook page and hope for the best. For this minimal effort I’d manage enough sales to cover the yearly membership fee and maybe enough extra to buy lunch! Big money!

Two years ago or so I had a particularly nice sale and though to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could have a sale or two like that every month.” Plus, my retirement years were fast approaching. An extra income stream surely couldn’t hurt. So I got more serious and started researching what it takes to successfully sell photography online. I sought the advice of artists that were enjoying success, and yes it is possible. Some enjoying 12, 20, even 40 sales a month! They all basically said the same thing. “You have to do a lot of marketing and put in the time.” “It can take several years to really start getting meaningful traction.” “It’s a lot of work.” 

So what does a typical day of marketing look like for me? I attempt to upload a new offering every day. That means I need to produce 365 quality images a year! Once I’ve uploaded the new image to my POD sites, it’s time to market them. That means uploading a version with my watermark to my Instagram account, adding a brief description and figuring out relevant hashtags. Next its off to Facebook. First an upload to my business page, then to my personal page. I then visit a dozen or two interest groups that match the photo’s subject matter. It typically takes about an half-hour or so posting to the groups. Now it’s off to Twitter. I create a tweet, complete with hashtags and pin it to my profile. Then I participate in a group promo thing on Twitter. We all retweet each others uploads to help get more eyes on our works. You can figure another half-hour or so on Twitter. Of course there are blog post, occasional uploads to Pinterest and LinkedIn as well as entering photo contests. Essentially anyway I can find to get my work in front of more eyes!

So what has this effort gotten me you might ask. So far an average of one sale a month. Now keep in mind, these aren’t always big, high dollar sales. For example, the sale of a greeting card bearing one of my images will net me a couple bucks. Not exactly “living the dream” money. 

Don’t get me wrong. It is possible to make money, even a lot of it, selling art online. I know people who make their livings doing so. But it is not a “build it and they will come” kind of proposition. It takes work. A lot of it. And it takes time. Possibly years. There are hundreds of thousands of photographers with a camera and a dream out there. All of which are trying to sell a few images. If you enjoy making the photos and don’t mind spending the time in social media trying to develop a following no is no reason for you not to give it a go.  However, if you’re not going to put in the work, upload some photos if you’d like and enjoy the occasional sale that might come your way. Just don’t set your expectations too high.

You may have noticed that earlier I mentioned POD sites… plural. I do have my photos offered for sale at multiple locations. The idea being to increase the visibility of my offerings. The following are links to my various online galleries. I will mention that my primary marketing efforts are directed at my Fineart America / Pixels account. They’re still the biggest and, in my mind, best.

Pixels/FineArtAmerica

Pictorem

PicFair

ArtPal

So here are a few recent photos I’ve uploaded.

English daises. It is early May in the Carolinas and these lovely white and yellow flowers grow wild along the roads. Soon mowing crews will manicure the roadsides, striking down these little patches of floral joy. In time they will reappear, reminding us that life will find a way. These were my late wife’s favorite flower. Whenever I’d go on an adventure to photograph them and other wildflowers, I’d pick a boquet to bring home to her. This meager offering would always bring a smile to her face. As such I have a special connection to this pretty little blooms. Forever they will remind me of her and the good times we shared. I created this image along Cahooque Creek Road at a spot where a forest access road meets the pavement. Perhaps the flower was growing on the roadway right of way. Perhaps on Croatan National Forest land. In all honesty I’m not really sure. Regardless of property rights, these blossoms bring me great joy and I can only hope they do the same for you.
Lifeguard tower #2 at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina flies red flags due to rough seas. No lifeguards are on duty this evening. The sun sets in the west along this south facing beach. It is a warm but windy April evening along the North Carolina shore. I wanted to capture an interesting image that took advantage of the distortion created with a fish-eye lens.
The Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, the bane of those seeking to maintain an emmaculate yard. Dispised by many, this common broadleaf weed actually has a number of medicinal and culinary uses! From top to bottom, flower to root, the lowly Dandelion is ediable. It can be used to make tea, as a coffee substitute and as a green side-dish. It is also used in traditional herbal medicine practices.
It is a warm, early Spring evening at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The sun is setting over this south facing shoreline. The ocean is choppy, sending its waves to wash well up onto the sandy shore. The sea side community of Atlantic Beach sits on the eastern end of a barrier island named Bogue Banks. One of several beach communities along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, this is the view from the public beach next to the town’s boardwalk.


This entry was posted in Business and Administration, General Photography, Landscape Photography, Macro Photography, Photo Tip.

4 Comments

  1. Jim Cook May 14, 2022 at 2:49 pm #

    Good post, reassuring that I seem to be on the right path. I will check out the other POD sites, but like you, I concentrate on FAA. I liked your photos, particularly the fisheye view of the Lifeguard tower.

  2. jim hughes May 14, 2022 at 4:33 pm #

    Over the years I’ve seen a pattern. Countless other photographers and artists will tell you, over and over, that you need to “market”. And not one of them can actually tell you how to do that. Some, I think, are significantly exaggerating their success. Others got started a long time ago and somehow built up a following. And some, I have to say, are doing well because they sell colorful, upbeat images of cats, flowers and magical ponies. 🙂

  3. Alexios May 15, 2022 at 6:52 am #

    Thanks for sharing Bob! I believe the second paragraph from the end says it all. Beautiful flower images btw!

  4. Steve Heap May 16, 2022 at 7:57 am #

    Thanks Bob. Very useful summary of the challenges and opportunities. There seems to be an issue with your pictorem link? Didn’t work just now. Do you sell much at Picfair? Your price is 5x mine at that site.

    Steve

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*