In our ever-changing world, some industries will die if they do not change with it. What kind of change am I talking about? The shift to digital. If you are a photographer, this especially applies to your work and livelihood. Think back 30 years ago. Mobile phones were not part of everyday life. Back then we only had home phones, and if you were not at home, you had to find a phone box to make a call.
Where are all the phone box's today? They are rarely seen because nearly everyone has a mobile phone and the need for the phone box has died out and there are not too many people making a living from the maintenance of phone boxes today.
The same is true of printed photographs. Most people are using their devices to take photos, and how many of those ever get put into print? Not many. Photo albums, for many people, exist in the cloud or on a hard drive.
The role of the traditional photographer is now in an awkward transitional phase. There is more demand for digital-photography then ever before, and unless you keep up with that market, you may find your livelihood diminishing. But that does not have to be the case.
Making the transition to selling digital images is not difficult or complicated, nor does it make you less of a photographer for doing so. It's a digital world, and photographers need to step up their business to meet the needs of a digital age.
Consider the benefits
Digital files are easily shared on the Internet through social media, email, and blogs, resulting in more people seeing your photos. Think of it as free advertising for your business, and it builds your brand in the process.
But many photographers are still under the impression that selling digital files won’t bring in much profit. Others might not know how to market or sell digital prints.
There are many options to choose from when it comes to selling images online. Some photographers use stock photography sites such as Bigstock or Getty Images to sell their digital images and graphics. And if you know what you want to earn for each image, then selling via your own channels is the way to go as you will have more control over pricing.
Want to go DIY?
If you want to do it yourself successfully, there are three things you need to do.
1. Find your style. What type of photography do you capture best? What is your brand? To be a successful digital photographer, you must have a consistent style or theme that runs through the entire body of your work that makes you identifiable. For example, if I said the name Anne Geddes, you would automatically think babies because she has made it her trademark. Whether it's travel, skylines, nature or any other subject you can think of; consistency is the key.
2. Build your audience & Promote your Work. With so many people on social media these days, you can quickly build your audience using sites such as Instagram. Instagram is especially useful for photographers because of its simple layout and the ability for you to connect with people from around the world using hashtags.
You can even create your own hashtag that identifies you.
There are tools you can use such as Hashtagify to increase the visibility of your page and get more likes, comments, and followers. Once you have those followers, you have a ready marketplace for buyers of your product.
And just as you have a physical store location for your studio, you should have a digital location to showcase your work online. Having an online portfolio makes it easy for people to find you, and a place for your social followers to come and buy from you. You can make great looking portfolios for free on content management systems such as Wix. I have been using Wix for several years and it has some great options for visual sites with high resolution galleries. And of course you can integrate selling capabilities into your wix site.
3. Create your income stream.
Once you have a digital space showcasing your work, you will want to add the ability for people to buy from you. This is where it can get tricky. Some ecommerce sites are quite simple while others are a little more complicated. There will always be some degree of backend administration that needs to be done, so if that is not something you are good at, or want to do, then you either need to get someone to help you with it, or find a system that takes care of all the backend for you.
You also have to ensure whatever tools you use include the 'download' functionality. When someone buys an image, they want it immediately, so ensure your tools carry that function.
We've been working on a platform that takes care of all those complicated tasks. It is still being developed, but when it is ready, it will make selling downloads extremely easy.
Our system will allow you to upload your file in any format.
Set your selling preferences, price, description and add a thumbnail image.
Once you click save, Docsuey generates a link that you can then share on your social sites. If you want to embed the link on a button on your website, you can do that by clicking on the 'copy link' button and pasting the URL into a button on you site.
When you share it to social pages, the preview shows the thumbnail and description of your product.
And then when someone clicks your preview, they can purchase your product and pay online with their credit card. The credit card form asks them for their email address so that Docsuey can send them the download link immediately upon purchase.
All sales and downloads are recorded in your personal Stripe Dashboard accessible through your Docsuey console. The Stripe Dashboard lets you see all your sales and customers in one place.
The beauty of Docsuey is that you don't have to integrate a payment or delivery system into your website. Those two essential features are built into the Docsuey framework. All you really need to do is link your Stripe account to your bank account and validate it.
You can find the landing page at www.docsuey.com for now. And feel free to subscribe if you want to be kept updated on its progress and launch date.
There is also another option for you though. If you don't have a website, or don't want to sell on your website, you can choose to sell on a Stock Photography site. Here is a list compiled by Shopify complete with the details for selling on these sites.
1. Getty Images
On the higher-end of stock photography sites, Getty Images attracts brands and publishers looking for high quality or hard-to-find exclusive images to license. The photos here net higher prices, but royalties vary (20% for many) depending on your standing as a photographer. The standards for becoming a contributor are also higher.
A micro-stock site where photos are cheaper, non-exclusive and where the way to get more downloads is by contributing a lot of images that can be used as visual metaphors. Don't expect to earn as much here, but it's a good place if you're just starting out. Payouts are based on your earnings over time, but there is also an affiliate program where you can also earn money if you refer new photographers or customers.
iStock is the micro-stock offshoot owned by Getty Images. Commission ranges from 15% to 40% depending on whether the photos are exclusive or non-exclusive.
500px isn't just a stock photo site, but a community-based platform for photographers. You can follow other photographers, list your photos in their marketplace, and participate in Photo Quest competitions for prizes. The community is full of stunning, creative shots with a 30% commission payout.
Stocksy is a popular mid-range stock photography site, especially among publishers (it's where I bought a license for the photo in the header of this post). The standards to be accepted are higher, but it also generally pays out a 50% commission.
If you keep things simple, you can earn good money selling digital-photography either way. Write out a plan of action as to what tools you will use, ask other photographers what has enabled them to sell online and consider all your options.
Remember, there is a market for your work in the digital world, but to find it, you have to embrace it.