Taking Your Photographs to Market
So you have taken all these great photographs, you have performed all the post editing
and added the appropriate captions, descriptions and keywords. Now comes the next question,
what do I do to sell these images?
There are a couple issues you will need to decide first, are you going to sell to the
consumer or go B2B?
Let's first deal with the consumer marketplace, since to me this is easiest and least
costly to address. Many aspiring stock photographers will almost immediately sign up for some
form of photo sharing service. These are good services to get started, the only problem, no
way to sell images - so if you are happy just letting everyone view your images then there
you go - additionally, since these sites aren't in the business to sell images, there is very
little protection of your hard work.
The next place - microstock agencies. I'm not a big fan of these sites, but they do address
a market - providing mainly Royalty-Free images to people who do not want to or have a limited
budget for their projects. Many pay a monthly amount that allows them to download a certain
number of images a month. My major issue with these companies is that you as the photographer
receive a very small amount per download for your hard work. So for you to have any real chance
at making any money, plan on uploading hundreds of images and hope that the downloads start
to add up.
At $0.25 - $0.50 per download it's going to take just a few of these to make anything
at all. A lot of effort for not a whole lot of money. Each agency has its own guidelines and
criteria for submissions and their image approval process seems to vary greatly, one image
may get approved the next may not. They seem to want clean, noiseless and generic images.
Here's an example, myself and couple of my counterparts thought that we would do a little
experiment. Each of us picked a few images that had been published nationally and submitted
them to couple of these sites. Each were rejected - reasons from too noisy to the DOF was off.
Amazing, I thought, you would think that if a national publication was willing to license that
same image for a couple of hundred of dollars that someone licensing images for a couple of
dollars would find it acceptable.
So don't get disappointed if you have images that you believe are fantastic get rejected
with a reason you can't quite understand. The good thing about these sites, you can submit
the same image to as many as you want, after all they are RF in nature so there no exclusive
rights, although a couple will provide you a little more if you only submit to them.
If you do decide to go this route, make sure the keywords are dead on or your images
will get lost in the millions of images these sites tout. Also, since the majority of these
sites deal in the commercial space, be prepared to provide the proper releases.
If you plan to go the agency route, I would suggest that you attempt to get approved
for one of the traditional players in the market they keep the value of the images at a reasonable
rate and pay a fair percentage back to the photographer. After all, you are getting into the
business to make a few dollars aren't you?
Also, have some patience, unless you get real lucky don't expect the money to immediately
start rolling in. It does take a little time for your images to be found and reviewed.
Now let's talk about prints. Here's where you can more creative and have more control
of what you plan to charge for your efforts. You can go directly to market with your prints
by attending art shows or use one of the online services.
First you've got to find a lab or service that you trust is going to do justice to your
work or you'll have to invest in a professional printer, editing software and do it yourself.
Myself, I do my own printing, matting, framing and normally attend several large art
shows during the spring and fall. This does take a little more time and effort and there is
cost involved in participating in these shows. But is a great way to meet people and it has
provided me with many opportunities to provide my prints to individuals and companies alike.
I offer my prints in various sizes and in two formats, matted on museum archival mattes or
framed and ready for hanging. Each print is signed and numbered, my normal run of a print is
100, each has a copyright notice on the back and business card attached.
Many folks are using online services to provide prints. The nice thing here is that do
have ecommerce capabilities and since there is no image approval process, you can be as creative
as you want. Some offer this as a free service, they take percentage of the sell or you can
pay a few dollars for more flexibility and a greater portion of the sale.
Murray Edwards is a freelance photographer covering the Southern United States. Website:
Edwards FreeLance Photography