The Photographer’s Guide to Selling Their Art Online

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

For those of us who have been bitten by the photography bug, there is no joy in life that is quite the same as the feeling you get when you line up the perfect shot. Nothing can compare to the excitement you feel in those few moments between snapping what you are sure is a once-in-a–

lifetime shot and loading the image on your camera to confirm that is the case. But while the act of actually taking photographs is an unbridled pleasure, it is working out what to do with the images afterward that leaves many photographers unsure.

Portfolios for artists, whether photographers, painters, or anything else, are a concept that we are all familiar with. Yet, while many of us do keep our photos organized in some way on our hard drives, there are still a surprising number of photographers who haven’t thought to take things one step further and produce a professional portfolio. Given that the tools to accomplish this and to sell your work in other ways are now easily accessible to anyone, there is no reason not to sell your work online.

Preparing Your Images

Before we begin to look in detail at how you can best go about selling your photography online, we first need to get the images ready to be uploaded. The reason that we suggest taking this step before doing anything else is that, aside from the practicalities of having your work already in the right file formats when the time to upload comes, it will encourage you to think about your existing portfolio. And yes, even if your images are currently sitting in an unorganized bundle on your hard drive, that still counts as a portfolio!

The current state of your portfolio, at least in terms of file types and size, will depend on your shooting setup. If you are looking at selling your photography, you need to take photos of a good enough quality to sell. This doesn’t just refer to the scene that you capture, as two different cameras might capture the same moment and produce two photographs of completely different quality. You should set your camera to take the highest quality images possible. If you can shoot in a RAW image format, then do so.

RAW images can be thought of as the digital photography equivalent of a negative. A RAW image file doesn’t contain an image. Instead, it contains information about the light captured by the camera’s sensor during shooting. RAW images can, therefore, be altered and retouched without suffering any loss in quality. Even if you only make minor adjustments to your shots in the post, you should always work from a RAW image when possible.

Photo by Jye B on Unsplash

However, RAW images aren’t very good at all for sharing your work. They might produce excellent-quality images, but they are large files that require special software to decode the light information and return an image. There are 4 common file formats that photographers need to know about, each with their advantages and drawbacks.

First of all, there are JPEGs. JPEGs are ubiquitous and have very high compatibility. This means that if you have a device that displays images, it is almost definitely capable of handling JPEGs. This makes JPEGs excellent for sharing your photos.

Unfortunately, JPEGs also come with a few drawbacks. Unless you save your JPEG at the maximum quality, and therefore the maximum file size, your image won’t look as good as it can. Also, be aware that every time you save a JPEG file, it loses quality.

The two image formats most important to a photographer are the PNG and TIFF formats. Both of these image types are lossless, meaning that they are not compressed and can, therefore, offer the highest quality images. However, they also result in much larger files than other image formats.

Our advice would be to convert your entire portfolio or at least the photos that you intend to upload, into TIFF format. This may seem daunting but there are many guides online that can help you prepare your images to ensure they’re web-friendly for example this guide here. That way, they will be ready to upload at the maximum quality when the time comes.

Build a Website

There are many ways you can sell photography and artwork online, but none will ever be quite as good as having your dedicated website. If you happen to have the skills and knowledge needed to build your website from scratch, you may want to take that route. You should remain mindful of the purpose of your website when you are designing it, — it’s about selling your photography, not your web design skills.

Whether you simply don’t know how to make a website on your own, or you want to give yourself the space to focus purely on the photography side of it, using a website builder like Format will enable you to produce a high-quality, professional-looking website without the need for any coding knowledge. The format is a service that enables creative people to showcase their work in the best possible manner by providing the tools needed to build a portfolio for artists or photographers.

Photo by Le Buzz on Unsplash

When it comes to selling your art through your website, you have a few choices. You can use a service like Deviant Art to both showcase your work and to sell it. Services like Deviant Art will handle the production and shipping of merchandise with your artwork, on an on-demand basis. Naturally, they take a reasonable chunk of the profits for doing this, but it makes it easy for you to get your artwork out there and available to as many people as possible.

Get Yourself Out There

Once you have organized your portfolio, prepared the images to be uploaded, and finally got them onto your brand-new website, your next challenge will be to get people to come to your website and buy your stuff. You might be the most amazing photographer in the world with an impressive gallery that has visitors positively salivating at your skills. Still, if people don’t know about your website, they cannot frequent it. More importantly, they can’t buy your stuff!

Social media is an essential advertising platform for any artist or photographer working today. While portfolios for artists are usually kept away from social media, sharing some of your work on these sites and getting involved with relevant communities will supplement an external portfolio effectively. The caveat to using social media is that you need a good understanding of how the various platforms work and what their respective user bases are like.

Take Instagram as an example. This is a social media site that revolves around sharing images, clearly an excellent match for aspiring photographers. Sharing your work on Instagram opens you up to new audiences, and also facilitates your interactions with them. When they comment on, like, or share your work, you will be notified and have the opportunity to reach out and respond. This is an excellent way of generating sales. However, if you limit yourself just to Instagram, you are also limiting the demographic that you are reaching with your work. You should, therefore, maintain accounts across the different platforms.

Selling photography online is not easy, but neither is it as difficult as many people believe. With a carefully curated portfolio, a professional website, and the right attitude, all you need to add is a little patience and you will be well on your way to your first sale.