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How to Sell Photos Online: 7 Tips and Best Practices

Have a knack for photography but don’t know how to turn it into a business? Check out this guide to learn how to sell photos online.

You've discovered that you have a skill and talent for taking interesting pictures that have the potential to earn some money. Maybe you've put off the thought of selling photos online because the internet is full of free, high-quality images. The fact is, there is nothing that says you can't sell photos online and generate revenue from your images. Buyers are willing to pay money to content creators, and they'll be willing to pay you money for your photos.

Earning income from selling photos online is a great way to generate passive income for yourself, and also build your brand as a photographer. If you've been hesitating about selling your photos, or aren't sure if it's worth investing time on, there's no time like the present to start.

Putting photos online for sale doesn't take a lot of time, even with post-processing work, and you can grow your sales portfolio of pictures at your own pace. The following is a look at how to sell online photos and turn what was something you did for fun into something bigger for yourself.

Decide on a photography specialty

Photography, just like any other type of art, has areas of specialty. The reason behind specializing in a particular area of photography is that the more you focus on creating a certain type of imagery, the better you get. As your skills improve or you hone them further, you'll be able to build your reputation as a photographer that can create stellar pictures of a certain type. Even though you're focusing on a specific area of photography, it doesn't restrict your potential sales audience. Specializing also helps you learn how to sell to any audience who's looking for quality photos for their own needs.

Certain areas of photography are more lucrative than others, and the ones that pay good money aren't always obvious. Stock photography is frequently a bread-and-butter type of income for photographers, as customers want certain kinds of imagery that represent their values.

Taking pictures of people in various settings, such as an office, a picnic, strolling on the sidewalk, etc. are ones that find their way into brochures and promotional literature. Alternatively, pictures of nature can be hit-or-miss because a popular location is photographed repeatedly and is of limited use. You may want to look into mastering product photography due to the fact that products need pictures, and even generic product images can sell well.

Finding your specialty not only helps you improve your photography skills, you also start building your brand as a photographer that does excellent work in your chosen specialty. Over time, you can use what you've learned and branch out into other areas that are similar, but different enough that you can show you're capable of more than one style.

Build a brand

Building your brand helps you gain recognition from customers and improve your sales. Over time, people who find your name learn to associate you with producing a certain type of imagery. Consistency is key to building your brand, and it's especially beneficial if you're selling across multiple platforms. Over time, you'll find that it's easy to sell online because you've built up an audience who understands and appreciates what you have to offer.

Don't overlook building your own website to promote images that you don't want to put up for sale in other venues. Exclusivity also helps you build your brand because customers will come to your website to check out your latest work. They'll also look for your accounts on various photo sharing sites, but they come to your website in order to connect with you directly.

Choose a platform to sell your photos

The internet is full of websites that are designed around the hosting and sale of photos. You create an account on any one of these sites, upload your image, and collect income as each image is sold. How much you earn per sale depends on the site itself.

For example, Shutterstock pays 25 cents per download, with the amount increasing as your sales increase. In contrast, iStockPhoto pays a 15% commission on each image sold and also increases the amount of commission for more popular pictures.

One of the best image hosting sites is Getty Images, but you have to be an established photographer to sell on the site. You'll need to establish your brand and have a track record of creating high-quality imagery to get picked up by Getty. On the flip side, you may prefer to sell it on Alamy as the site offers a 50% commission on all sales.

Expand your revenue streams

The internet is full of opportunities for you to sell your images, and they include more than stock photo websites. You should, of course, create accounts for selling your photos on more than one or two stock photo sites, but you should also explore other sites where you can sell photos online and also sell merchandise. This greatly increases the amount of money you can realize from a single image.

There are times when a photo works well as a wall hanging, poster print, or on a t-shirt. These outlets enable you to expand your revenue streams and make more money than you would by restricting yourself to stock photos. Websites like Etsy let you put up an image file for a customer to download, and Teespring lets you pick the type of merchandise you want to place your image onto.

How to price your photos

Pricing your photos for selling online is different from pricing what you would sell them for to a customer. Selling directly to a customer involves transferring ownership and rights, an hourly price with a set number of finished photographs, or a package deal that covers all costs. In contrast, selling photos online comes with different variables that need to be taken into consideration as you set your price.

Create a formula for break-even and profit

As a photographer, you're creating a good to sell in the form of a photograph. You need to set an hourly rate for your services, regardless of how you intend to sell photos online. This matters even if you're simply going to locations to take interesting pictures for no other reason than to put them up on a stock photo website for residual income. You want to be able to generate enough revenue from all sales outlets to cover your base rate at the very least.

A professional photographer usually has multiple rates for the different services they provide. That can include travel time to a site, the time spent on site and taking photographs, along with the amount of effort needed to capture the images, and post-processing to clean up the pictures for presentation. All of these rates get combined together for a final cost. You can set yourself a flat hourly rate for all of these if you're planning on selling photos online only, or you can use the different cost variables if they apply to the type of photography you're engaging in.

The final dollar amount you come to that covers the cost of your services can be considered your break-even amount for your finished work. That is, any money you earn above that final amount is profit, while any amount you earn that's under is loss. This also guides you when you're pricing your pictures for a stock photo site or a private sale.

Selling stock photos

A stock photo is one that can be sold a number of times and accompanied by a limited use license. You can set the amount of sales to unlimited and put a price on it that encourages more people to buy.

For example, you have a picture that's similar to a lot of other pictures you or someone else has taken. The commonality of the setting in the picture is such that it has little intrinsic value. However, there's still some value in the image and it's a value you should collect through sales. You may want to set your price low in order to compete with similar photographs and earn money through sales volume.

Each sale contributes toward your break-even amount for the photo. That means it can take some time to reach the point where the photo has paid for itself, but a photo that has consistent sales can generate a profit after reaching break-even. You'll have to use your best judgment as to how much time you want to put into processing a picture for this type of sale.

Turning a photo into a limited edition

Let's say you've taken a photo that represents some of the best work you've ever done with photography. It took time to capture the image, and it took even more time to correct minor details during post-processing. You want to share it with the world, but retain ownership of the publishing rights. A limited edition lets you earn money on the picture and your efforts while enabling you to keep control over its use.

Make money on your photography

Selling photos online can be something you do at any level of experience. You may prefer to do it on the side, or start building your reputation as a professional photographer and make it your career. The above tips are designed to help you do your best, no matter how you decide to sell your photos online.

For more insight, check out Mailchimp's photography resources. Mailchimp features an in-depth look at how to use various photography tools as well as creating emails using your images. You can learn how to improve your editing skills and how to make an email campaign that increases sales of your images.

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