Selling your photography online has other options beyond the giant marketplaces like Etsy & eBay. In fact, the options are seemingly endless. Many formats, many styles, many targets. It’s difficult to be able to do all of them. With my constant research and attempts to connect with every conceivable avenue, I’ve found that the problem with so many choices follows that saying about being a “jack of all trades and master of none”. It’s hard to do any of it right.
One thing that is an absolute must these days for a photographer is a website. I agonized, plotted, schemed, and fretted about this site before making a decision to create it. Again with the choices available, you really have to take the time to read about what one gallery format site can do for you versus what another can do. Then you have to take all of that into consideration and envision YOUR images in there. Be cognizant of how YOU work. Recognize your limitations.
Me? I have none.
Yeah, right. My limitations are vast. I have commitments beyond the realm of this photography business. To give you a smidge of personal background, along with being a photographer and writer, I’m also – and more importantly – the mother of a great thirteen year old girl named Nola, the wife of a very supportive, funny, and thoughtful husband, the owner of a small suburban home that seems to require constant attention, the adopted parent to two Maine coon cats, a regional grant and marketing manager for an organization that promotes tourism in Maine, a forty seven year old woman who really needs to get out and get some more exercise, who also loves to read and travel and cook and sit outside on the deck and listen to the chickadee’s chick-a-dee-dee-dee song.
Perhaps you get the picture here.
I’m a busy woman and the time that I have to dedicate to this business seems to get more and more crunched each day. I’m great at exploring options and ideas. I love to learn new things. I’m not content to sit still with my successes. So my brain cranks away all day and well into the evening with ideas and to-do’s and don’t forgets and wow, that would be cools, and I find myself sitting at my desk in the morning facing the day with a load of possible achievements ahead and feeling pretty positive that I can do everything I set out for myself. Fast forward to late afternoon and not much is crossed of the day’s list and my familial obligations are crowding around me and by the time I go to bed, I’ve been able to convince myself that I can get it done tomorrow.
Maybe that explains a bit about why it’s been several weeks since I’ve posted here. I’ve had traveling to do for work – read my other blog: The View From Here and you’ll see where I went. The travel only explains away a few days and the rest somehow got sucked into that homework-housework-other job-do-everything-else rest of my life.
Okay I hugely digressed there and this post is turning into more of a confession/apology than I had planned but I think there’s something important in there. I think that as photographers, we’re not just photographers. If we intend to sell our work and take this beyond the hobby it may have started out as, we have to make room for it in our lives.
The same applies to creating our websites, blogs and online galleries. These pages are part of a WordPress site, using a theme from Graph Paper Press and integrated with Photoshelter for the gallery aspect and functionality. Easy to say this now but a year ago I had an online gallery on Smugmug with a link to a Blogspot blog (which became my travel writing blog The View From Here). My Smugmug site was overloaded, confusing, and I didn’t know enough about html and customization to make it look the way I wanted it to look. I read forums and asked questions and I now have the site you’re looking at.
My point in telling you all about my limitations and my experiences in the realm of selling photography is that you can sell your work through your own website, but before you decide on any particular hosting agency or gallery theme designer, you have to keep in mind your own time constraints, existing knowledge base, and the goal.
Yes, keep your long term plans in mind as you head down the path. Without a clear destination, it’s very easy to put a lot of work into a site and find that you’ve a). Outgrown it fast or b). have allowed it to run rampant without clear purpose and next year at this time, it’s a mess, too cumbersome for anyone to spend time on.
If they don’t stay, they won’t buy.
As a society with unfettered access to choices, a website that’s slow or confusing is a website they’ll jump off of fast. There are a million photographers out there with images better than yours or mine. You have to stand out and stand clear. Invite them in.
My plan for this site?
So you can see that I have big plans for this site, but that there are also big commitments involved. Yes, I can sell my work here. Yes, I can SELL my work here. The difference for me between selling and SELLING is that not only can buyers access my images, make a purchase of physical print or item as well as download a digital shot for their use, but by the interaction with my voice, style, and content, this site offers me that ability to highlight things other than the images. While of course you have to have good images, the rest of your website should be about you and give a potential client some sense of what it’s like to work with you. It should be your path to sharing yourself and letting people get to know you a bit. My hope is that by visiting my site, reading my words, feeling the overall sense and style, a reader, photographer, gallery owner, marketing department buyer, or other person who can potentially purchase one of my images for whatever reason, likes me.
That might sound trite.
The reality is that the most effective format for presenting your work and yourself to the buying public, whatever your photography might include, is your website. Finding one that you can work with, given your own limitations, is the key. No one wants to spend any time on a site that isn’t fresh and interesting. And no one wants to buy anything from someone they don’t like. This may be a global business and it’s a small world.
Whatever gallery site you use or choose – and the options are many – keep your goals in mind, your voice and style clearly defined, and your capabilities realistic. And giving someone an easy way to buy an image from a photographer they like is how to sell your photography online.
I’m not going to rehash the discussions that are already readily available for you about which gallery site is best or which has the most. I’m not going to try to validate my choices. The important thing for you to take away from this post is that you make it yours.
Here are a few of the gallery sites out there that allow for eCommerce on some level. These seem to be the big 3 that everyone talks about.
If you’re in the market for a portfolio style website, take a look at the sites you like and see who they’re using. You can usually find a link to the theme designer or gallery host somewhere on the site if you look for it. You can also contact the photographer or artist and see if they’re willing to share. For example, I love the work of nature photographer, Brenda Tharp. It was from her site that I found Graph Paper Press and Photoshelter.
Please feel free to contact me for more information about my website/blog/gallery experiences and recommendations.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about Selling Photography and my experiences, successes, and the challenges in doing so.
It started out with the basic question: Should I continue selling my photography products at art and craft shows?
To recap, part 1 was a discussion (a one sided discussion, yes) about what I have been doing to sell my work at shows, how I’ve been doing it, and what I’ve been selling (or not selling in some cases) and some resources I’ve used to create products.
Part 2 what have I done so far? What do I have invested in this? What have I learned?
Part 3 a continuation of “what I’ve learned” and a pros and cons list about continuing.
Part 4 dealt with some options for selling locally, with wholesale and consignment arrangements explained. By local I mean the old fashioned face to face relationships with your area’s retailers. You know, the kind of selling that has been around forever and is currently regaining favor in our “Buy Local” movements.
Part 5.25 steps away from the “local” scene, refocusing on global selling through online resources and marketplaces.
Part 5.5 compares my experiences selling on eBay vs. selling on Etsy.
Part 5.75 (or 5 ¾) This one – reviews the online gallery choices and questions to ask yourself.
As a bonus for your patience, use this coupon code 15OFFCARD to get 15% off your purchase at my Etsy shop www.ccotaphotocraft.etsy.com. Generous of me huh?
I’ll wrap up this series in my next post:
Part 6: The bottom line – it’s not sustainable unless you make money.