How to Successfully Sell Your Photography on the Web

Marc Schenker by Marc Schenker on

Photography is fun as a hobby, but it takes on another rewarding twist when you start to explore clever ways of making money off of your art. The Internet is replete with many, different ways of allowing you to sell your photography. The key is understanding where to go and how to do it.

Even those of us who don’t currently sell their images online may be surprised at how easy it is to find opportunities to make a profit from their photography on the web. After all, when you’re already good at what you do, why not earn a little something from it, especially if there’s a market for it?

Here are various ways of successfully selling your photography on the web.

From Your Own Website

From Your Own Website

Of course, for this to work, you have to have the prerequisite of having your own photography portfolio site established first. If you don’t yet have your own site, there are many free or low-cost options available throughout the web. If you want to do it yourself for free, just set up your own WordPress site to display your photography. However, you’ll need to know how to use plugins as well as possibly code some html and css. If this isn’t appealing, there are also do-it-yourself models like Wix and Format to try, for a cost.

Once you have your own site, it’s relatively easy to install plugins to set up an interface to sell your own images. There’s the very popular WooCommerce platform for WordPress, or you could go the custom route and use a shopping cart and platform like SendOwl (which we love and use on the Contrastly Store), or Shopify.

Selling your images on your own site also allows you to bypass handing over a portion of each of your photograph sales to a third-party site! Generally, selling from your site is a good option if you’ve already built up a sizeable selection of your own images.

There are other solutions, like BlueMelon, where you can create photo albums, setup watermarks, choose your own pricing, and quickly and easily start selling photos on your own site. Photographers receive payments directly to their PayPal and/or 2Checkout accounts, and they pay annually for their storage plan and BlueMelon invoices them for 8% of their total sales.

From a Third-Party Website

There’s a tradeoff when you use a third-party site to sell your images. You give up a portion of the proceeds to the site (that’s how they make their money), but you get in return much, much more exposure than you would if you just sell your images on your own site. Huge sites like Shutterstock see an enormous amount of traffic each month, which makes your chances of successfully selling your images more likely within a reasonable period of time.

Let’s take a look at some of the best and most popular sites:

  • Shutterstock: As mentioned, it’s one of the biggest sites on the planet based on traffic, so this place is a superb contender for you to sell your pictures. Shutterstock allows you to retain your copyright when you upload content to its site. Plus, it also lets photographers earn as much as 30% of their image’s sale price, but the final amount is dependent on the size of your photo. The site, to date, has paid out approximately $350 million to its contributors. Not too shabby!
  • Fotolia (now part of Adobe Stock): Another huge site, Fotolia gives a fair deal to its photographer users with royalties somewhere between 20% and 46%. With more than 4 million active buyers, the site sees a lot of traffic, too, which is a godsend for any photographer who has pictures for sale. Another benefit of using this site to sell your images is that your payouts happen relatively quickly: Any royalties get put into your account immediately without the need to wait until you get to a certain threshold before payment commences (like with other sites!).
  • SmugMug: The thing about this site is that it has a unique way of empowering photographers to sell their images. At SmugMug, you’re able to display your photos on a very impressive storefront and manage all of your orders. Think of it as true, e-commerce integration with your venture to sell images online. Listen up: You’re allowed to keep 85% of your revenue here, which is very generous, to say the least.
  • PhotoMoolah: This site is one you have to see to believe. If you’re looking for a very unique way to sell your images and like having few competitors, then it may be worth checking out. Unlike the other featured sites, PhotoMoolah isn’t yet very well-known, but it makes up for this with its unique format. Basically, you submit your photos to different contests happening on the site, and, if you are chosen as the winner, you’re paid and retain your rights. The contests range from selfie shots to images of kids in different scenes and locations.

Selling Prints

Selling Prints

Instead of selling digital files of your images, you can also go to the trouble of actually selling prints. This means that you’d have to make your prints and then mail them out to buyers. In other words, you have a higher overhead than if you go with a microstock site like some of the aforementioned. It may also be a bit more challenging to sell prints than just the digital files on microstock sites. On the other hand, you have total control of how your prints appear online and your price point, of course.

A site that lets you sell prints is Etsy. There, you have to do a good amount of self-promotion to get noticed with your prints. The site also takes a 3.5% sales fee on every transaction you make, and it’ll cost you 20 cents to put up a listing.

Making Some Money Off of Something You Love

Thanks to the interconnectivity and innovation of the Internet, more and more photographers are figuring out that it’s perfectly doable for them to make some money by selling their images and prints on the web. In many cases, setting up your online marketplace (whether that’s your site or selling on a microstock site) is completely free, so you really only have to lose your time and a little bit of extra effort.

At the end of the day, though, by choosing the method of selling and site that’s right for you, you get to dabble in being an entrepreneur, selling your products to an adoring public. Because it’s so easy to do on the web, why not try it?

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