Selling Prints Online


Monetizing your Social Media Presence for Outdoor Photographers


Lesson Info

Selling Prints Online

All right. So selling prints online. Let's talk about this for a second. As I mentioned, selling prints is a challenging revenue stream in this day and age specifically because, a lot of aspects of the industry have changed. Not as many people are going into galleries and purchasing things. I know many people that have owned galleries and have closed them, because the overhead costs were too much. They weren't generating enough revenue to cover those costs. So, a lot of people are going online and they're going online to sell, which is great because it takes out that middleman and that middle cost. And that cost generally can be pretty big if it comes down to you having to pay rent for a gallery space in a place like Las Vegas. I personally would not want to do that, but it might be your cup of tea. And so, where can you host your prints? Let's start with that first. So, the number one place right now still to this day is your website. Now, I don't spend a ton of time talking about web...

sites in this class, because this is not a class about developing your website for photography. However, I will let you know that having a website in order to sell images is still something that is important. Now you can have your own website, you can create something out of something like WordPress, or have Squarespace, or SmugMug, or any of the other companies out there that have some sense of gallery and some sense of ability for you to have a financial transaction. People can order prints from you. You can also do online galleries. So, these online galleries are more so for display, less necessarily for sale for most of them. Places like 500px and Flickr allow you to have these big new relatively curated galleries and put them out there. Now, a lot of these places are certainly filled with other photographers. And if there's one thing I've said before it's that other photographers typically don't want to buy your prints, because they're trying to sell their own as well, but some people might. But I also know that some of these platforms also have interior designers and marketing firms looking at, or looking through, advertising agencies as well, looking through these galleries and eventually finding some stuff. I know some photographers that have made image licensing through these websites. And places like 500px actually offer licensing built-in. Generally, it's not super favorable to the photographer. Anytime you get a middleman involved, your money is being taken out. But, of course, the idea is that they're helping you find clients. I've never been a big fan of that myself, but it might be an opportunity for you guys to put your work out there and have just another place, you might not necessarily expect a ton of from it. But putting your photos up there, tagging them, making sure that they have the right captions, and things so that people can search if they're looking for certain kinds of things. It can be helpful, might not generate a ton, but it could do something. Instagram. A lot of photographers that I know, professionals, are actually using Instagram as their professional galleries. Now, they still have a website, but they're getting a ton of clients through Instagram. They're using Instagram to create interesting things like giveaways and other things we're going to talk about in just a second. But Instagram is a good place. Of course, that means that you need to have a fully professional curated feed. So, I can't tell you how many photographers that I've seen, four or five beautiful images in their stream and then the next one they're showing me what their coffee looks like. Don't recommend doing that. Maybe your dog or something like that, like have a separate account for your personal stuff. But Instagram like I said can be beneficial. Fine Art America, it's a great place if you actually want to sell prints. They have a lot of people, a lot of web traffic. It's really built for people to purchase art. Again, any time you are using middlemen, they will be taking a cut. But it's a place that you can essentially put stuff out there and people can find it organically, which means that you are not directing them there yourself, although you can absolutely do that. And other third-party options. There's other places out there where you can kind of host your work, put your images out there. Now, all these are important to understand because depending on how you want to necessarily fulfill print orders it's going to determine where you're going to start. So, if you don't mind fulfilling or having a transaction yourself, post it on your website. Most places like Squarespace, and SmugMug, and even WordPress give you the ability to essentially create your galleries and even charge people right there, and then the image will come through and then you'll have the work with someone to actually print your work. Places like SmugMug will actually fulfill orders for you. I used them for years. It was handy because I travel so much, so I'd be halfway across the world and a print order would come in and I would be like, "Sure. I'll send that to you next month when I'm home." That usually didn't bode too well for clients. So, I ended up going with SmugMug. But regardless, understanding kind of what you would like to be doing. Do you want to be responsible for those financial transactions, which generally means you also need to be taking out tax and other things, or do you want to work with someone like a SmugMug or happy doing things kind of more low-key or on the fly? Saying Instagram, send me an email if you want a print. Lots of options. So, using social media to actually boost sales. Let's talk about a couple of things really quickly. Print giveaways. Now I mentioned the idea of print giveaways to boost sales. Maybe that's a little ironic, right? But the challenge when it comes to most photographers, most nature landscape photographers, is that your social media audience, your social media followers for most of you are other photographers. For me, every single day, I look through Facebook and Instagram, these other places to see the people that have started following me in different places, and the vast majority of people are photographers. Now, for me that's great. Again, 40% of my revenue, photo education. I don't mind. But I know that all those people follow me, don't want to purchase my prints. They want to learn how to create images like I create. They want to come with me to places like Iceland or Patagonia on one of my workshops. So, they are my market demographic. But for most landscape photographers, you guys are out there connecting with other photographers and then you're turning around and offering prints. And then you're sending me emails complaining about the fact that no one's buying your prints. If you're surrounding yourself with other photographers, 99.9% of them don't want to purchase your work because they have their own. It's just this is reality. You guys have surrounded yourself with other people that are like you, understandably, the idea of community for photography is important, I get it, but don't be surprised that print sales aren't working for you, when all you have is photographers that are the ones that are following you. So, the idea of print giveaways is an interesting one, because what you can do is you can use a print giveaway an opportunity to create something unique on your page that then you can create an ad, or promote it, which we'll talk about later in this class. And then you can push it out there, and you can push it out there beyond your followers, and you can see who's interested. Maybe you can tie in a print giveaway for new people following you, so you push it out there to people that don't follow your account. And you say, "Hey, you have to follow me back, or send a like, or put a comment and tag someone else," whatever you want to do. You will start generating people that are interested, potentially, in actually purchasing art, because they want to print. It's opportunity, you're not necessarily going to get high target market audience for that, for people that are print aficionado, or image print aficionados. But it gives you a higher chance, it gives you an opportunity at least. Print auctions, this is something I've seen a good amount of success with a handful photographers. So, what you do is you print one of your images off, generally in a decent size, and then once you've built up a following, I see people doing this on Instagram quite a bit, where you sit there, and you take a picture of like you holding your beautiful print, and then you sit there and say, "We're going to have a print auction, let's start it off at $25, $50." Make sure you know that you're going to kind of cover your bases at least. I'm pushing it out there and then depending on how involved your followers are, that might rise up and you might get some print sales out of it. You can do like, you can do a series of them tied into specific timely events, or holidays, or something like that. It's an opportunity to boost sales to give a reason to show that you are selling prints, this is what you do. And you're given the ability for people to engage with you which helps you algorithmically from a social media standpoint so people are going to jump in there and say, "Yeah, $25 here," "Oh, $35 here, $55, $100." I know a few people that have decent followings, absolutely, but they do this, and they making some extra money. It's pretty good. Name your price promotions, this is something that I actually learned about relatively recently. What you do is, you have some sense of a print sale, and you sit there and say, "Hey, for any of these ten images, send me a message with your best offer." And they send it to you, it's private so none of this conversation's happening publicly, and you might sit there and people will say, "Oh hey, $75, $150," and you can say no. It's your ability to say, "Hey, I can't offer it for that low," and maybe they'll come back. But again, it starts a conversation, a little give and take, starts the dance. Using Facebook ads, again the idea that you're creating ads wrapped around the idea that maybe you're creating limited edition prints, or you have some sense of unique interesting sale, or whatever it is, you create ads, and you target those ads towards people that have a higher propensity to be attached to your subject matter. So, sometimes that can be a location, a specific place, a national park. I take some beautiful images of Yosemite. Create a small Facebook ad, tie it to people that like the Yosemite National Park Facebook page. It's an opportunity. It's worth trying. You at least have a higher propensity of actually selling those images than if you just pushed them out randomly to your followers, or other photographers they want to Yosemite national park and took the same image you did. Including print information in your post, pretty self-explanatory. Most photographers are out there pushing stuff out there, but most people don't even know that there is an opportunity to sell prints. I get this all the time, because I don't include any information. So, people will reach out to me and say, "Hey, do you even sell prints?" I'll be like, "Sure, which one do you want?" Include it in there, every once in a while, put it in your posts, "Prints are available for sale." Well, I admit I won't use the word sale on some of the social platforms because keywords are important but, figure out ways, creative ways to let people know that you do have something unique to offer. Don't market all the time, but just let it be known. Connecting with interior designers and art decorators. Also, I recommend probably maybe publications but, that's a little bit of a different story. Either way, the idea of reaching out to professionals that essentially are in the field of purchasing larger prints. I know a photographer recently that made a massive sale, close to the six-figure range from a single buyer, which is actually a private owner. And it was through his network connections of other people that he had worked with and people had heard of his work. And he does make a living selling prints, he's one of the few people I know that make extremely good money selling prints. Probably one out of, well I actually know probably two or three people that do it. But overall, of all the people I know in the industry, it's a small number. But either way, these individuals have purchasing power, have clients that need content, and it could be advantageous for you to pursue them. We'll talk about how to pursue them a little bit later. - So, this user specializes in high resolution mountain panoramas, which Instagram doesn't really do justice. So, as we're talking about using Instagram and selling your prints via Instagram, any suggestions for how to show panorama's better in social media? - Well, for Instagram specifically, what he could do, which can be risky, but what he can do is essentially the idea of creating what's called a tryptograph. So, a tryptograph is essentially a single panorama, a single image that you're cutting up into three different pieces. Instagram profiles display images in rows of three, or columns of three. So, those columns of three, if you put three in succession, and you look at your profile then it looks like a panorama. And I know a few photographers that do that, have fun with it. Now the challenge is, is that once you create a few of those, whenever you're not in your third image that you've uploaded, the rest of your profiles, or the rest of your images in your stream on your profile are going to look off. But, it can be something, I mean people are going to realize what it is anyway, or they should. So, anyone interested in purchasing that might help. Now, Facebook is actually not too bad if you uploaded the max resolution which is 2048, but it depends on how wide he's going. If he's going, like, 24 images wide, then you're never going to see anything because it's so small, the resolution is too big. But if you have a decent panorama that is large megapixel, but that doesn't have a too crazy of a ratio, then Facebook actually still can look nice. People can always turn their phones over to the side. But, most of the networks just aren't going to be great spaces, and that's, again, a great place to have your website, cut up those images a little bit maybe, and then put them out there in other places and say, "Hey this is the big panorama. Check out the link for more the full image," things like that. But it's just the limitation on... most people are viewing social media this way, and this way isn't great for something that ends up being a 30-inch or 30-foot panoramic image that you're trying to sell. So...

Class Description

Social Media is a powerful marketing tool, but how do you leverage yourself to gain the attention of new clients or potential sponsors? Colby Brown covers how you can find ways to monetize using various networking platforms. Whether you’re interested in finding clients, becoming a brand ambassador, or selling prints this class will give you the tools needed to make strides in getting your network to work for you. You’ll learn: 

  • The significance of getting verified and how to find the right target markets for your business 
  • How to use ads to expand your business on Facebook 
  • The hidden value of LinkedIn and how to utilize it for sponsorship or brand influencer work 
  • How and when to pay to expand your reach


Linea Broadus

Colby's class was packed with great information for landscape photographers! From writing pitches to marketing with social media, he clearly explains how to achieve personal business goals. Thanks, Colby!

Beatriz Stollnitz

I was fortunate to be in the live audience for this course. If you (and I !!!) take the time to truly absorb the content presented and put it in practice, this course will pay for itself over and over and over. It is rare for someone at Colby's success level to be so open about the financial aspects of what they do, and the details of how they do it. Highly recommended!

Esther Beaton

There were 2 benefits from this course. First was the straight info from Colby - very specific - on how to write cold emails and pitches, how to find prospective clients, where to sell work, etc. Second BIG benefit was his stress on our individual creativity to achieve new revenue in this new age of the photography boom. Oh, and there's a 3rd: use social media; you almost can't go wrong.