Has anyone here sold any of their pictures?

Started Nov 28, 2016 | Questions thread
mreynolds767 Senior Member • Posts: 2,394
Re: Has anyone here sold any of their pictures?

Different ways to sell a picture and usually what might sell on a stock imagery site may not work as wall art and vice versa.

Excuse the long post. Welcome to the worst way to make money in photography and maybe lowest per hour way to make money you can think of regardless of which avenue you pursue (I am sure Peter Lik would disagree)

Portrait photography, event photography, product photography basically any other form of photography is more lucrative.

As far as 500px, that site unfortunately that site has changed greatly over the past 12 months. Your images are quite good but you have a tiny number of followers which is a real shame and not the way things used to be. It has embraced the Instagram social media philosophy and is now a rigged pulse which someone with 20,000 followers can reach the top page without doing much more than uploading any new photo but you even with the best photo in the world at your current follower count could never reach the top page of popular when it could have or at least gotten close a year or two ago (I don't mean this to be rude or a knock on you, I am bad mouthing the site not your talent ; which is quite good, I really like the Italy scenes). People rarely follow now cause they like your work, if you interact, comment on posts, loyally like other posters work, etc... you can slowly build followers but would take an awful long time this old fashioned way to get enough to make a really big impact.

The site now cares more about eyeballs and stock sales than actually being what it used to be. The more unfortunate thing is I still think it is the best site for photographers and I spend more time on their then I should. I do for inspiration though, I don't think I will ever make money selling something on 500px or getting any sales leads for prints or licensing from 500px. Your work is being seen by other photographers not customers unless you are selling something to photographers.

What I find funny is there are now 2 types of top talent photographers there:

1.) The original amazing top of the world landscape and fashion photographers who exist there not to sell imagery or get clients BUT to sell amateur photographers on their tutorials, travel photo tours, Skype processing sessions, in person lessons, etc... There are many ways a photographer can market things like this to other aspiring photographers and 500px is a great resource for that. They usually only post their best work so may post once a week or less.

500px doesn't like it since they see none of that money, but they live with it since it keeps the top talent around and that attracts the newbies and aspiring types. This fact will keep 500px at the top of the food chain since it would take these top 1%er's to leave to make a change and there is no reason for them to leave. I hope 500px cracks down on these 3rd party transactions because then a new home will emerge that is more about photography and less about stock and social media.

2.) The new "famous" Instagrammers. They have overnight 50,000 plus followers, due to either them personally attracting people from their own Instgram feed (unlikely) or 500px promoting them and feeding them new users as automatic followers (very likely)

They are in a nice position and in most cases fine making the $20 or so per license since they will get so many eyeballs on their work, they post good not great images but reach the top page of popular without any work on their part due to that huge following. This type posts very often, likely every day. The look is more travel/tourism photography that when done well puts the viewer in the scene but are not really wall art. People are usually in the landscape scene for example which is big no no for wall art. It is very trendy and appeals to marketers/advertisers. The current trends are crushed blacks or blown out highlights so skies are totally white. In my opinion they have changed/ruined 500px but since they actually make the site money 500px caters to them and not you or me. I believe Advertising Agencies are now using 500px for stock but are not going to be digging deep, if you work is not on the top page of popular or top images under a keyword it is not going to be seen by advertising agencies and other creative actually buying images on 500px.

Crazy thing is the only sales I have gotten from 500px was from a customer that went to my website, emailed me for a licensing opportunity for a couple of images and then when I didn't yet email her back in 10 minutes went and googled the image names and bought 2 of my photos on 500px!!! I believe I made $60 profit selling the 2 licenses BUT get this they don't pay until you reach $100 or something similar so I would need to sell more to actually ever get paid.

That really blank me off so I immediately removed my images there from their marketplace, I should not have had them in the marketplace to begin with but did have some in and therefore lost a sale. That was a local magazine and they bought the cheapest license/size from 500px too which also blank me off. I would have charged more for their usage and made 100% of the profit in the end they are using my images in magazines and I make zero. If they want more local images I know they will now search 500px and not contact me. I still post and keep images on 500px just not in their marketplace.

Since you mentioned the Eiffel Tower, it is worth noting that you can sell images of the Eiffel Tower during the day but not when it is lit. Oddly somehow the lighting is copyrighting making any nighttime image of it illegal to sell. Not sure how enforced this is but something that is interesting.

Know this from the start: Stock imagery and related travel/tourism type imagery (think Instagram to understand what I mean by them being different) you can make some money ; never enough to live off of ; it is extremely competitive and a numbers game but with enough time spent you could make money and have it be residual income.

I think it can help people supplement your income. Stock is totally a numbers game and often involves downloading most of your processed camera roll from a shoot not just your best image from the day which might be what you would post on 500px, facebook, instagram, etc...

Stock as mentioned is a numbers game, make pennies off your photos on stock websites and if you upload thousands of images maybe you can make $50 per month for the next 10 years which adds up if just side income/money for new lens. Now with the main stock sites so saturated with work, you probably have to research to see what type of images are underserved and shoot and post those to be seen. I sold a few photos for $.25 each on another site a couple of years back before I decided I didn't want to be in that business.

Premium Stock exists for a select few and I imagine one could make money off of that but very hard to get accepted, Getty used to be this but they went the way of cheap stock now. Adobe who is brand new in the stock world and has the brand name and fact that creative types are already using their software ; that they could easily take over the stock industry ; unfortunately could have gone higher end but also choose for the cheap stock option paying peanuts to photographers for sold images. Offset is the name of one premium place that still exists but is very hard to get accepted by them, they are the premium side of Shutterstock.

Ok, so now to wall art. Which I do because it gives me satisfaction and I get very excited when I get a sale, so much so that I can overlook the fact that hourly I would make far more flipping burgers at McD's

Unless you somehow develop a name that commands a premium (Peter Lik for example) but in today's Internet world may never be achieved again... than selling wall art is more about personal communication/relationships than anything else. it is also about eyeballs which are very hard to attract when trying to sell images. You need to reach people with disposable income that what to buy your picture for their wall because they can tell a story when a visitor comes over or reminds them of something. Without talking/emailing to the buyer directly this type of sale is hard but friend of a friend or family tie also serves to make the same bond. Point is if they don't know you from Adam they are unlikely to buy your image.

As to what sells usually it has to be of personal interest to them so often local images are best but could also be somewhere they traveled and loved the city of Florence let's say and you happen to have a great image of the Florence skyline. Now this alone wouldn't be a sale because they could likely find a similar or maybe ever better image online cheaper nowadays but because they know you or want to support a local artist they heard about or met, it can be a sale. An amazing travel image of a place they have never been to is probably going to be a hard sell. Anything could be a tie in though, I have sold some Milky Way wall art for folks that have fond memories of star gazing with their kids so my milky way photo even though a completely different location and not what they saw gives them a memory and a story they can explain.

Local fairs, city sponsored artist days, gallery exhibits, etc... are likely your best revenue channels since you can attend and meet customers and give a personal story and face behind your photo. I have lost sales because I didn't sell a backstory well in person so in the future I plan on trying to in advance right a couple of sentences about the photo or about the day leading to the photo for each of my images and adding them to my site and knowing them so can mention it if someone has interest. I think this is the type of little touch that can make or break a sale. When I have done exhibits and fair type things I have never sold one when I personally was not there, I know others have but I have not.

In general for this market price on the higher end, since sales are going to be infrequent you need to make something off each transaction AND choose quality materials this increases your costs but you will be selling to those with disposable money who want quality ; hopefully they are the type that will pay for it.

Hanging your work at local places restaurants / breweries / wineries can definitely work but need to choose wisely and unfortunately is extremely expensive. You might spend out of pocket $600 to hang 3 nice pieces if you make $75 profit per piece you sell you would need to sell 8 pieces to actually break even if you leave 3 on the wall always. 8 pieces from one location is extremely optimistic. Finding one place to partner with and do this makes sense, doing it in 10 locations you will be in the poor house.

When choosing a place you want somewhere very busy, good size your art has area to be seen and where people are spending disposable money so a little higher end than the sandwich shop. Since your trying to sell wall art to someone that was not shopping for wall art don't have hopes of high number of sales and it helps to be in a place where they stay for awhile and/or drink alcohol hence my theory of restaurants/bars/breweries/wineries over say a bank or doctor's office.

I used to display at 3 places, honestly had I not had money to invest (foolishly) I could have never made enough money to display in 3 places at once. Now I do a rotating display at only 1 place which has resulted in only 1 physical piece off the wall sale but as a referral sale to a very profitable job from someone that saw my work there and other sales from people that similarly saw work there and inquire about what else was available.  I rotate 3 pieces each quarter to keep the art fresh on their walls and keep the other pieces on hand in case I need to do any gallery exhibits, local fairs, etc... so at least I have enough work to display without having to ask for pieces back from their walls which would be unprofessional.

The place I display at now does not charge me any commission or get anything from me, they are delighted that I change out the art and give them free loaner wall art ; not enough to actually pay me but enough that they are very complimentary to me. The other places I was displaying were selling on a commission basis and with their added markup print costs were high to the buyer and one had 1 sale the other location none after a year I pulled the plug and went to the single location theory.

A gallery type exhibit will have a commission and one thing I have done if selling a larger size print there if in person at the showing is offer anyone already close to buying the offer/extension for me to deliver and hang the piece free of charge. I do this to offset the higher price of the gallery markup but it also serves as a good closer on the sale, very personal and no one likes hanging anything in their house. More hours for me but as I said on an hourly basis this is a losing proposition, and I like seeing exactly where the print hangs and talking to the buyer. I hope they will give my name and website out to their guests which may result in more sales for me down the road. The other reason I do this is gallery exhibits when someone buys a print, depending on the gallery it either is removed immediately for the sale preventing you from selling it more than once and your work being displayed further or they require sold pieces to remain until show end which means your customer now has to return a second time to pickup what they bought. I have seen lost sales over this where a customer did not want to return.

I hope personally at some point down the road to improve to the point where a larger gallery may be attracted to my work and want to display it, prices would be much higher but maybe they can sell higher end clientele than I would otherwise reach. Not sure how realistic this is, since the gallery business has been in decline most galleries want new potential talent to bring with them a large follower base. Dealing with the world of fine art can be quite different.

Would be even better of course to land a lucrative licensing deal someway/somehow or brand partnership.

In your town/city there may be artist events and a gallery at a hotel or something like that so it wise to do some homework and figure out what might make sense.

So mine is a tale of mixed satisfaction and one of partial regret I ever got the thought (like you from friends and family) to start selling images. Funny I had "friends", FB friends now and partial acquaintances back then that really pushed me and wanted to buy something. I didn't feel comfortable charging for something unless I was happy with the quality so that meant testing various prints which cost me money upfront. They wanted a nice website to see my available images and buy from and now I have one neither of them have ordered anything so be careful before you jump in the water.

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