Can you make money selling your photos, check this out

Posted: November 28, 2016 in Uncategorized
Here is a quote from Pop Photo.
“The advent of digital cameras brought on a new era in photography and it’s a prolific one. The number of photos we take each year has sky rocketed. In fact, in a recent presentation by Yahoo!, it was claimed that as many as 880 BILLION photos will be taken in 2014 if we continue on the current trend. That’s a lot.”
880 Billion photos taken, wow, is it any wonder why we have a hard time selling our photos. Or if we are able to sell, it’s less then what we may have sold in the past.
Everyone has a camera or a camera phone, and with digital the ability to take better quality pictures has been possible with the easy to use equipment, and the amazing tools for processing the images.
So many people into photography now trying to sell their images through a websites, galleries, art shows, on the walls of coffee houses, restaurants, banks, hospitals, and these are just some of the places we see people trying to sell their photos. Some use online sites, like Fine Art America, Smugmug, Etsy, and other sites that provide a place to display and sell your images.
I’ve been in the business of selling my images in many of these ways over the last 12 years, and have gotten away from selling my photos as it takes a lot of effort for the little bit of sales.
I’ve always said that if you want to sell volumes of your photos, it happens best in the art show business. But my last two years that I attended art shows I had seen a big drop in sales, and dropped out because the efforts were not worth the sales I was making. Photographers in that business I know still work at it and get by, but it’s a tough business these days.
Some say it’s the economy, and there is some of that going on, but I think there are a few other reasons.  a few years ago when I was in the art shows, most photographers were selling large sized gallery wraps for $400 to $600 and our customers could go to Ikea, Kirkland, Home Goods, Marshall, Walmart, and buy the same size gallery wraps for $150 and less, and when that started to happen I saw a drop in our sales.  You may say what those stores are selling are not as good image wise as the photographers are producing in the art shows, and they may not be quite as good, but for most people that are spending their hard earned dollars they’re good enough.    Everyone has a camera now a days and since digital, they can take some good quality images, so they may be saying my images look good enough to hang on the walls.   When families would buy new homes they typically were buying a larger home, so they had more wall space to fill, so they bought wall art.  For many years in the midwest, home sales dropped and no one was buying new homes and builders stopped building new subdivisions, so we saw a drop in sales when that was happening. So it may be a combination of these things that has cause the drop in sales.  It’s also supply and demand, to much supply being offered and lower demand to purchase.
In the art show business it has always been that jewelry had the most applicants applying to each art show. Photography now draws about the same applicants as jewelry, and the shows offer less spaces for photography than jewelry, so harder to get into the shows with more competition.
Selling online through a website has been a big bust. In the first few years on my website I had a cart system to sell my images and after a few years of basically no sales, I disabled the cart system, and just let people know if they wanted to buy, contact me. This year I have not sold one  photo from my website.
You hear photographers saying to hang your photos on the walls of coffee houses, restaurants, banks, hospitals, offices, in hopes of making sales. I have tried all these and the sales were pretty non existences. You might get lucky and sell a couple, but you’re not going to make big money this way.
On a daily basis someone asks me about getting into the business of selling their photos, and I tell them of my experiences and say not to get your hopes to high.
Sometimes people will think that they are not good photographers because they are not selling, and that is just not the case, as very few people I know that are great photographers are making much selling their photos.
As a pro photographer if selling my images was doing well, I would still be into it.
If you sell stock photography you have also seen your sales drastically reduced due to the lower cost micro stock sites. And why has the prices been reduced to such low costs, because everyone has a camera and can produce quality images and can easily upload them to these stock sites, and they are willing to sell at a lower cost. So as photography has become easier to do, and easier to get the images out there, the supply of images has gone way up and the prices going downward, making it harder to justify the time for the return.
Now of course as in all things in life there are exception to the rule, and I’m sure there are still a few photographers doing well selling their photos or selling in the stock photography business, but they are rare in comparison to the ones that tried and failed.
Good luck if you attempt it, but as I said, don’t get your hopes to high. Be realistic.
Check it out.


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  1. Thanks for the reality check!

  2. FULLSPECTRA says:

    Sad but true. Great post Mike.

  3. Randall Shedd says:

    Mike we’ve seen each other at many shows over the years. After doing shows for 32 years, last year was my last. Until the past 3 years I’ve made decent money doing art shows but things came to the end last year. People don’t realize how much you have to make or sell at each show just to make ends meet. For example, each show expenses consist of : $25- $50 jury fee, $300-$500 entry fee, motel expenses $200-$500, gas and mileage expenses $100-$300, meals, insurance for each show or for the year $400-$500, loss or damage of photos, cost of booth equipment and more. I think that for most shows I had to sell about &1000-$1200 of photos just to break even. There was few shows that I lost money on but there was lots of shows I made very little money on. I quit doing shows because half of them I barely made expenses. To much work for very little money. Randall Shedd

    • Mike Moats says:

      Thanks for replying Randall, I also made really good money early when I started and went well for about six years and than it spiraled down hill and after a couple bad years I cried uncle.

  4. Pierre P. says:

    Thanks for this very realistic article. I’d say you could also tell that the market isn’t great and will never get back to what it used to be when even professionals using photos for their work (newspapers, communication, edition) don’t want to pay you anymore, and might even be shocked that as not a pro, you ask for something (“what ? sir, you should feel honored we use your photo”). I don’t do this for a living, but if I were, I’d go to the church every day to pray for Saint Rita to give me some help.

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