Selling artwork online can seem like a dream for many artists. For photographers, in particular, the sheer abundance of photos online can feel like oversaturation. But there’s another way to spin this: There are tons of photos and photographers on the internet because people love photography.
Selling photography, online or offline, is all about connecting with audiences. Why not meet them where they are by building a photography website? Whether your aspirations are to sell your images to Adobe Stock (or similar stock photography websites), or simply to upload client imagery and make money on the downloads, website builders have made it easier than ever to make your dreams a reality. Keep reading and start taking the first steps toward selling photos online:
To help you turn your creativity into prosperity, this guide breaks down how to sell photography online by focusing on a few important questions:
- What is your art?
- Who is your audience?
- Where can people find your work?
- How can people buy your work?
While these questions might seem simple, the answers can be pretty complex. That’s why this guide will take you through everything from what kind of sales you’ll make to building a fully-fleshed ecommerce-focused website.
What a photography website can do for you
Since the internet is made up of websites, everything you’re doing online is being done on a website. Why shouldn’t you then have one of your own? Once you learn how to start a photography website, you will be able to:
- Showcase your work
- Reach and grow your audience more easily
- Ultimately, sell your art
But selling your art doesn’t come automatically with having a website and photographer domain. You need to know what you’re selling to whom and how. Let’s start at square one:
Question 1: What is your art?
This is the most important question any artist can ask themselves. You might think the answer is simple: your art is photography; you’re a photographer. And you’d be right… But an even better answer is one that’s more specific.
The way you describe your art, to yourself and to your audience, is extremely important. Here’s some language you or others might use to describe your area of focus:
- Fine art
- Portraits, portraiture
- Landscapes, wildlife
- Social Media (Facebook/Instagram photos)
- Food, fashion
- Documentary, photojournalism
Art as business
Another way of describing your art is answering: what are you selling?
You might not be thinking about just how to sell photos online. You might also be thinking about how to sell photography itself.
As a photographer, you’ve worked on tons of images. You’ve diligently taken them, edited them, collected them, and stored them. One way to capitalize on that labor is to sell the fruits of your labor as products, such as:
- Photo Essays
- Stock Images / Microstock sites
- iStock, Adobe Stock, Stockimo app, Dreamstime, Envato marketplace, Alamy, Envira Gallery, etc.
- And so much more!
The product model entails selling individual objects as units. However, also consider selling your work as a photographer.
Another approach to selling photography is to sell the labor itself, as well as related skills. For instance, you have the ability to:
- Cover live events
- Conduct photo shoots for families, such as lifestyle, maternity, and newborn
- Edit your own or others’ photos
- Teach or tutor photography skills
- Advise or consult on photography-related matters
- Set up equipment
- Review submissions for magazines
Here, your audience is paying for a service measured in units of time. But these services may also involve or include products. Which brings us to…
Chances are you do a bit (or a lot) of all of the above. In that case, sell combinations or variations, such as:
- Packages: Bundled deals that combine a bit of product and service.
- For example, live wedding photography for a negotiated amount of hours, plus a negotiated sum of edited photos, for the newlyweds and respective families.
- Subscriptions: Delivery of, or access to, some combination of goods and services that depends upon recurring payments at regular intervals.
- For example, if you offer product photography for small businesses or creators to use the images on their own websites to sell their goods.
- Hybrid: Mixed-mode combination of photography with other products and services.
- For example, a crash course in digital editing that includes a photo shoot, editing, and consultation service.
Whatever it is you’re selling, it’s important to also have a sense of who you’re selling it to. As an artist, that has a lot to do with who your audience is.
Question 2: Who is your audience?
Artists feed off of audiences. Their audiences support them; their artwork is a way of communicating with and giving back to their audiences. It’s also a way of meeting the audiences’ needs, providing inspiration, education, or even escape. Every artist needs to think about who their audience is — or, put differently, who their art is for.
At a base level, your audience includes everyone who comes in contact with your work. It is anyone who is aware of your work and who consumes it:
- People who buy your work
- People who come in contact with your work, intentionally or not
- People with whom you’ve shared your work
- Anyone involved in the making of your work
- Peers and competitors
- Fans and detractors
Ideally, your audience would include everyone. But realistically, your target audience is who you intend to reach with your work. That’s who it’s for.
Who are your buyers?
If you’re thinking about selling photography, the question about audience also has another, more specific, and more important version: Who are your buyers?
Your buyers are the segment of your audience that pays you for your work.
It’s important to track who is buying your work, and how. Knowing what works will help you to maintain and build that existing relationship with your buyers. It’s also important to track, and actively court, those who could be buying it — your potential buyers.
For any potential buyer, your online presence can be the difference between you getting their support or losing it.
Question 3: Where can people find your work?
For people who know and consume your work already, how did they find out about it? Chances are, at least some of these connections happened offline. Your existing audience, or market, probably includes connections that began offline, such as:
- Family and Friends
- Coworkers and other professional relationships
- People you met at social gatherings, gallery showings, exhibit openings (whether yours or someone else’s)
- And any other place or time where you had a chance to meet people and discuss your work
For people who don’t yet know about your work, how can they find out about it?
Having an online presence
To sell your artwork online, it’s important to increase and leverage your online presence.
The bigger and more impactful your presence is online, the more likely you are to get people interested in your work. Even if you aren’t directly selling or promoting your work online, it’s important for people to be able to access it via the internet. They need to be able to find your work, so it needs to be there.
You need to be there.
But where, exactly? It’s important to be aware of, and exert some control over, what your online presence looks like.
In the wild
You and your work may appear in various places online, with or without your knowledge or consent. For example, you may have cleared a usage of your image by selling or authorizing it for use in:
- A personal or commercial site
- An ecommerce platform
- A gallery or other showcasing site
- A review or other art publication
In these cases, you are credited by name, or with additional information, including links to other parts of your digital presence. Or you might not! In either case, you (or your agent) are in control of where, when, and how this work appears.
On the other hand, your work may be appropriated without your permission on platforms you are not aware of. For instance, it may appear:
- On an illicit site
- As a background, header image, avatar, or post on a website or social media account
- Integrated into another’s artwork
- In a bad-faith review
In any of these cases, the work may be a copy of your original or a version edited by the appropriator or any other mediator. You may or may not be credited or miscredited; your likeness and information may not appear alongside your artwork or may appear alongside artwork that is not your original creation.
In every case, a person who encounters your work “in the wild” will have only the context that the given third party provides. They may misinterpret your work or be dissuaded from pursuing it further. That’s why it’s important to be aware of that presence and, ideally, provide a counterbalance of presence that you yourself have control over.
One kind of online presence you have control over is your own profiles and posts on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media sites enable users to:
- Create profiles: present themselves via biographical description, photographs, etc.
- Post and consume content: draft and publish media like status updates, lists, images, and videos.
- Communicate directly: message individuals or groups privately
- Interact with content: react to others’ content with likes, favorites, comments, or even…
- Share content: repost other users’ content, publicly or privately, including across different platforms
These sites rely on this user-generated content, which the sites run ads against, to generate profit. In some cases, users can monetize their content, or even sell products and services directly through the platform itself.
A social media platform is a great step toward establishing a strong online presence and a place you upload your photos. But, the best way to secure that presence is with a website of your own.
Your website, your home base
While social media can be a great starting point, look to maximize your control over your online presence with a website of your own. After all, you’re only renting space on social media sites but you own your website. The best and easiest way to build one, for most artists, is with a website builder like the one at Constant Contact.
Your photography website is a place to host your work. Like a gallery or museum that you have complete control over. You can exert as much (or as little) control over your audience’s interactions with your site as you want.
Your own website is your home base online.
Your portfolio: owned and operated by you
Your website is the place where your audience can come to see your work, as you intend it to be seen. It also works with other platforms to:
- Amplify the positive effects of a supportive online presence elsewhere.
- Other sites will link to your page, and link to other sites you believe reflect positively on you and your work.
- Counteract impact of negative presence elsewhere.
- The stronger your website, the more your audience will trust your authority.
Question 4: How can people buy your work?
The flip-side of how to sell photography online is how to buy it online.
Art is unique among things people buy and sell. As detailed above, your art can take many forms, and selling photography can mean many different things. Whatever it is you’re selling, your buyers want an easy place to buy it.
This comes in the form of having your own ecommerce store.
Keep it in house: Build a store into your website
The best way to get your art to your audience is to sell it to them directly. The easiest way to do that is to build your store directly into your website. Additionally, learning how to drive traffic to your photography website is a great idea.
Building a store will allow you to streamline tasks like:
- Listing: Products are easily visible and searchable.
- Promotions and discounts: Markdowns and other offers are easy for you to integrate, and for buyers to access, when available.
- Selling: Customer payments are secure, with numerous options and features like automatic tax estimates
- Shipping: Orders are easily managed; multiple options are offered.
- Analytics: Data tracking and processing empower you to tailor your work and marketplace to trends established by your audience.
- And many more: Mobile-responsiveness, tax management, website SEO, etc. –– these can all be streamlined through Constant Contact’s ecommerce platform.
Building your own store, on your own website: that is, ultimately, how to sell photography online.
Sell your art like a pro
Selling your art comes down to a series of simple questions with complex answers. Having your own website is the best way to answer all these questions — all at once, all in one place. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to build or upload photos to one:
- Start with Constant Contact’s website builder
- Use the A.I. smart tools to create the template
- Customize every bit to your liking
- Decide on your business plan to sell your photos online
Whether you are an Instagram photographer or a professional photographer, Constant Contact makes it easy to get started on your business goals today. What are you waiting for? Photo sharing has never been so easy – start selling today!