Best photo hosting site for selling

Started Mar 27, 2010 | Discussions thread
Zane Paxton Veteran Member • Posts: 6,947
My 2 cents....

Jody Leonard wrote:

I've been contemplating using a photo sharing site such as Smugmug, Zenfolio or Flickr for displaying my photography. I would like to be able to sell photos and prints also.
What is the best and/or most popular among pros these days?

I did have a Smugmug account for a while but I wasn't crazy about the layout and that was a while ago. I would consider going back.
I don't like the look of the white background when I checked out Flickr.
For selling prints, I would expect to pay an annual fee.

Would building my own site be the better way to go? I have no clue how to get my own website up and running, although I do use a Mac and have iWeb.

Any thoughts on the subject from any of you using these various sites?

I have galleries at , http://www.SmugMug and

Pbase has yet to get their act together on print sales. As far as I can tell it's just Slug and his girlfriend. It took 6-8 weeks to recover from a server meltdown... Although I have 4 Million hits, I have only sold 4-5 prints.

I selected SmugMug because of its sophistication, eCommerce capabilities, etc. I've had brides request that the images be moved elsewhere because she found the interface insurmountable (she was a serious ludite but I have had many clients complain that it is just to damed confusing and complex). Promoting sales from there has been a dismal failure.

RedBubble is very interesting but I'm becoming quite annoyed with their system. To get things noticed requires that you submit to the various "Groups" that are subject and theme based and there are hundreds of them. The modirators either accept or reject your works and sometimes select one as a "featured" image that helps get more exposure. The cons are that you are one of tens of thousands of above average international artists and tend to get lost in the sea of above international average images. Sales since October 2009: 37 cents profit on two note cards. Seriously.

There is a serious flaw in taking the lazy person's approach and loading up images on the public galleries and it doesn't really mater which one you pick. The audience is 99.9% other photographers which has to be the absolute worst audience to sell photographs into. It's like trying to sell ice to Eskimos and sand to Arabs. Ultimately to sucessfully sell prints online requires a number of things in no particular order and feel free to add more:

1. Your own web gallery with all the bells and whistles. To present youself like a pro you must look like a pro. It's part of the business expense and the web audience's expectation. One needs to stand out from the internationsl millions out there on Flickr, Pbase, SmugMug, etc.

2. There is no substitute to the old fashioned personal relationships that marketing and sales are based on. Most pros have income based on personal relationships with editors, wealthy patrons, galleries, repeat clients. None of those relationships happen without all the usual personal relationship building. Sales from the internet while you sleep is not automatic.

3. As I believeThom Hogan quipped, your work must stand out from the crowd. Being merely above average and $2 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

4. There is something to the "social Media Networking" as a form of relationship building and exposure as a component of any contemporary marketing program. Disclaimer: I'm no expert but I believe that this is and will continue to be important part (but not the only part) of a good marketing and promotion strategy. Part of the expectation is that you are releasing new and fabulous images on a regular basis or your audience gets bored and wanders off. Theory: Critical mass occurs at about 700 fans that are following what you do. A blog is becoming part of the expectation and requires regular contributions that are actually useful. Sharing commerical tidbits is useful like Vincent Leforet does.

5. You must have a large portfolio to present. Thom Hogan I believe is working on a library of images that he will not release until he has been working on it for a total of ten years. I know a pro who was asked by National Geographic to submit a portfolio of 850 high quality images. Ponder that for a moment. When an editor calls their expectation is that you have whatever they will ask for in quantity and quality.

6. I'm fully expecting that video and multimedia is becoming fully part of the web's expectation and part of what will be required to stay in the forefront of what is considered desireable by our audiences. Like it ot not, agree or not it doesn't really matter in the face of what our cultures expect and like.

To get ahead will then requires good marketing skills as well and some developed web, graphics and other software and artistic skills. This is wehre one needs expend the efforts to be at the front of the parade or end up being a straggler at the back of the parade with the Tuba section. There is no lazy persons way to get online sales if for no other reason than there are millions doing that internationally allready. The standards of quality are extremely high with all the amazing camera gear and software out there.

Feel free to jump in and comment!

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