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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

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