So You Want to Sell Your Art?
Do family and friends tell you that your photography is amazing and that you should sell your photos? Are you wanting to give it a try but not too sure how to get started?
Maybe it’s time to start selling your art. But how?
There are countless ways to “be a photographer.”
There’s commercial and artistic and documentary and travel and wedding photography. Within each of these pursuits, there are endless opportunities to sell photos. Think about magazines, books, calendars, greeting cards, private collections, museums, stock photo agencies, art galleries, advertising agencies, art fairs, and more.
There’s never been a better time to show your work to a wide audience, and there are specific ways that you can maximize the opportunity for others to see your work.
Opportunities for free exposure are boundless with the advent of social media. But, the market is saturated with photographers who want to sell their work for that same reason. The fine art market has always been tough to break into. It’s harder than ever to make money at it, as art is a luxury and not an easy sale in a tough economy. But, if you’re good, there is probably a market for you at the local level. Here are things to consider to test your market and see if your work will sell:
1. Create a few professional marketing tools.
A. Your Bio
To start, you should create a short biography telling who you are and what you’ve done. You’ll need an up-to-date resume. An artist’s statement is imperative in order to connect the viewer to the work – your pictures don’t always speak for themselves.
B. Your Portfolio
Build a portfolio of your work both online and offline. This portfolio should be curated carefully. Don’t pour a lifetime’s worth of photographs in front of someone. Instead, take your viewer on a journey. Think through the experience of your viewer from their perspective. Your photographic story should make sense. Leave them wanting more, not less.
Start by posting (only) your best work online in a gallery with an online shopping option.
- Fine Art America is free
- Smugmug is reasonably priced and more professional looking
- Etsy has a nice photography section and touts itself as being the place where you can shop for “anything from creative people everywhere”
- Many other options exist – ask your friends where they find and buy their art
- Print a few of your very best images in a large format, then matte and frame them.
- You can also order good quality canvas prints so you don’t have to worry about framing.
C. Your Calling Card
Design and print some business cards with your contact info, gallery and/or website links, etc. If you want to include a logo mark, go for it. This simple act and small investment can do wonders for your sense of being an established photographer with real art to sell.
2. Start Selling.
Now that you have created your online presence and a printed small inventory, it’s time to out there and sell.
- Go local. Unless you have amazing images from your last trip to India that would be a great fit in your local Indian restaurant, think locally. People like to buy images of places they know. This is especially true if you photograph those familiar places with a unique vision that make them even more interesting. They also make great gift items for visiting guests.
- Visit your neighborhood coffee shops and restaurants and ask if they would display your work for a few weeks (keep it under a month, no one will notice it after two or three weeks anyway). Most coffee shops welcome the free wall decoration and will not ask for a commission. If they do, figure it out in your price. You can also offer them a print of their choice to keep as a thank you. Make sure you leave plenty of business cards near your work so people can contact you if they are not ready to buy on the spot.
- Ask at local businesses with blank walls if they might be interested in displaying your artwork. Think about the places you go…your doctor’s office, dentist, community library, and even your local grocery store. Ask for the office manager and present a few of your images of local scenes to see if they might be interested in showing your photography.
Shoot in your own community to create images that will sell in your hometown. These Delaware photos, shot last year, are more likely to sell here in Delaware than my images of Amsterdam. Why? They appeal to a larger audience locally.
3. Share the love.
Donate a framed print to a silent auction to benefit a good cause. You will help them with your contribution, get some exposure and feel really good about yourself for your donation.
B. Host a Show
Host your own show at your house or local spot! Team up with two or three other artists (jewelry artists, painters, etc.) for a fun evening. Share the cost of the beverages and snacks, combine your contact lists and have your own art show. Make sure to have a lot of ‘cash and carry’ items to sell, display some of your large prints as well. Those shows are great because the competition is minimal and people are here to shop and have a good time. Your guests will enjoy visiting with the artists and meet new friends. You can potentially make hundreds of dollars in a short period of time while having fun!
C. Join a Fair
Considering selling your photos at art fairs? Think carefully. These are often expensive to join and photography is not usually a best seller. If you go for it, make sure you have plenty of inexpensive items such as greeting cards, small matted prints, etc. Be prepared for a long day or weekend sitting around and not selling much (when you could be out there taking more pictures).
D. Pick a Card
Greeting cards sell! As paper becomes more and more a thing of the past, a beautiful greeting card becomes even more special. Create cards for different occasions. You can go on ‘greeting card photo walks’ where you capture specific subjects for different occasions (balloons for birthdays, flowers for Mother’s Day, lighted trees for Christmas, or even find heart shapes in nature for love and Valentine’s Day cards).
4. Keep Learning and Growing.
You will have unique challenges to face with your art, which will be influenced by your potential market, your own personal challenges, and your audience. If you’ve been making photographs as a hobby and want to begin selling, check out a good book or website or blog to see how others have made the journey. Here are a few to consider:
- Selling Fine Art Photography: How To Market Your Fine Art Photography Online To Create A Consistent Flow Of Excited Art Buyers Who Love What You Do, by
- Sell & Re-Sell Your Photos: Learn How to Sell Your Photographs Worldwide 6th Edition, by
- Marketing Fine Art Photography 1st Edition, by Central
After making the decision to sell your photography—full-time or part-time or just once a year with a holiday calendar—be a professional photographer. Carry your business cards. Update your website. Seize the right opportunities when they present themselves. And for goodness sake, carry your camera with you. Only share work that you are truly proud of. Organize your materials and be ready to share them at a moment’s notice. Opportunity windows can be tiny.
Speak with confidence about your work. Know what you stand for and what makes your work different.
Join a creative community. Fellow artists can be your best resource and your most knowledgeable support, and most will share what works for them. Connect.
5. Repeat this line: “I can do this.”
Being a photographer is not a simple journey. When choosing this path, many do so because they have something to say, it’s a mode of expression. But fear often drives a photographer to steer their work toward the market and away from their heart. A form of success may come from this veering, but you may fulfill your need to grow and evolve as an artist. It is important to continuously pay attention to your authentic self.
What do you want your work to say? Decide what you want to capture. What do you hope to explore? Even when shooting commercial photography, you must still have your own voice. This authentically-you perspective separate you from the pack. And don’t worry if you stray for a while, if you discipline yourself to keep asking, “Where do I really want to go with this?” Your inner guide will help you get there.
Is it possible to be more beautiful in the broken places?
Recently, I sent a message to my friend who was struggling, in hopes of lifting her spirits.
My friend had been feeling down. Defeated. Convinced that she wasn’t capable or deserving of success. I knew better, of course. I’ve known her more than half my life. I’ve watched her rise from an aspiring writer to international best selling author. Countless reasons, I could offer, as to why she’s more than capable and perfectly deserving of success. With indignance, I wanted to shout at her, “You’re already successful! Do you know how many people would dream to live your life for even just one day?”
I had really good intentions that day. It was a thrill, in fact, to think that I could be of help to a hero. Here was little old regular me, being asked to Help…Fix…Repair…Heal…this amazing role model of mine, who happened to be struggling. Being able to nurture and support this person who has served as a model of excellence for me for decades. Here was my chance to make a difference!
And the way I chose to help this supersuccessful person to feel better? I denied her feelings. Not a good thing, turns out.
I countered every single negative thought she was having with a reason why she was wrong and “should feel great” or “ought to forgive” herself or “was being too hard” on herself.
Thinking I was helping, actually I was making it worse. I took away her right to suffer. In fact, I teetered on the cusp of shaming her for feeling down.
With all the best intentions, I missed the whole point. She was feeling broken and needed to let the pieces fall on the floor in front of her.
Realizing that I was making things worse by only focusing on the sunny side and by denying her need to feel broken and fall apart, I suddenly remembered a concept I once heard about the importance of being able to “fall into” pain rather than simply denying it. This concept, I was now remembering, was about honoring and highlighting the broken parts. Drawing attention to the damage, even!
So, what is this radical-acceptance-like process of honoring and even highlighting our failures and broken parts?
It’s called Kintsugi, and it’s a beautiful way of turning damage into beauty.
The Japanese practice of “kintsugi” is the art of embracing damage. Check out this Kintsugi video:
“Now you shall transform to a new level, my friend. Think wabi-sabi and kintsugi: the art of embracing damage!”
Now remembering this concept of being stronger in the broken places, I stopped my barrage of “happy thoughts” and apologized mid-conversation to my friend. I acknowledged that I’d been trying to deny the fact that she felt broken. I was trying to pretend the cracks weren’t there. I told her that I’d suddenly remembered this Japanese art of Kintsugi, and that I would send her a video to illustrate the concept right away. We ended the conversation awkardly, and I seriously questioned whether I knew how to be a good friend.
Pushing past my disappointment in myself, I sent her the Kintsugi video, hoping that she was still open to my support, even after I’d botched and Pollyanna’d my way through our earlier conversation. After I sent the note and video link, I started to question myself.
“Who am I to tell this highly successful and internationally recognized thought leader how to live?”
“Why do I always appoint myself as the ambassador of all that is positive?”
“What if she resents my message and sees it as patronizing?”
There I was, spiraling to all my places in my head where my own brokenness lurks.
Worrying about how my friend might feel after I’d missed the point with her suffering, I was spinning in my own broken parts, thinking…
I’ve spent my whole life embracing the broken, the not quite, and the almost…
- Saving birds with broken wings
- Fixing toys with broken parts
- Cheering for the underdog
- Coaching those who don’t yet believe in themselves
- Coaxing sunshine from clouds
Just as my negative self-talk was reaching a fervent pitch in my head, the phone rang.
There was my friend, laugh-crying through the phone line, telling me how she finally felt understood. The video just spoke to her. Captured her. She told me how she felt connected to this concept of embracing damage. How she IS kintsugi. How this concept of mending the broken pieces with gold and proudly displaying them was exactly what she’d needed. It was a great moment, and not just because my friend was feeling better or because I’d been able to help her. It was a great moment because she and I were creating Kintsugi in real time. We were piecing back together a set of broken shards of a conversation and making the resulting product even better than when we’d started.
I knew on that day that I would never look at broken pottery in the same way again.
Now, whenever either of us faces a rough patch in life, or when things fall apart altogether, a single word helps us both begin to put the pieces back together and to anticipate an even more beautiful outcome than the original situation could have intended.
Embracing the damage. More beautiful in the broken places.
“I could be so successful, if only I had more time…”
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “If only I had more time…” then finishing that sentence in your head with a sad realization that if you had more time you’d probably fill that gifted time with more harried, hassled, stressful tasks that would leave you even more exhausted than you already are?
Time, precious time
As author Harvey Mackay taught us, time is the one commodity that we can’t reproduce, alter, capture or revisit. Each of us is afforded the same quantity of time on a given day, day after day. Yet how we use that time makes all the difference.
Think about the Food Network television show, “Chopped,” where several chefs are presented with a mystery box and a tiny window of time with a mission to create fabulous food fare. Invariably, one of the contestants groans after the clock runs out and Chef Ted marks “Time’s up!” The contestant stares at the unfinished dish below and states as if it’s the first time this has ever happened, “I ran out of time” as their reason for not including all of the required ingredients on their plate, or for not cooking their dish to the judges’ satisfaction. But remember, each chef had the same ingredients, the same cooking station, the same pantry, and the same amount of time. Why were the other chefs able to finish on time with the intended delicious outcome, while Joe Too-Late is still standing there with a raw slab of pork on his station?
So how can we make the most of this precious, limited resource? How do the super-successful time managers seem to breeze through their tasks and still have time to show up at the kids’ soccer games or catch a concert in the park?
One way to optimize your moments, days, weeks and months, is to make time work for you by transforming your time into a force multiplier by harnessing its power in an intentional direction. I’m talking about creating and sustaining momentum.
What is momentum?
While considering the recent passing of my favorite sports writer, Frank Deford, I recalled what I consider to be his most poignant commentary, a short NPR radio article on “momentum.” It talked of the power of perceived momentum in a competitive sports game. Momentum can be so powerful that it’s like having an extra player on the field. An extra player on the field? Hmmmn, I thought…like having more of you…or more time…or both! So I decided to look up the definition of this momentum, ’cause I needed to get me some. Then good ol’ Merriam Webster did it again. Dishing out inspiration from the dictionary. Check out the definition of momentum:
- Physics. The quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.
- The impetus gained by a moving object. “The vehicle gained momentum as the road dipped“
Momentum – How to get it
If you’re looking for momentum in your life, you can achieve it in two ways:
- LAUNCH FORWARD FROM THE BAD: Transform negative energy into positive momentum
- HARNESS AND MULTIPLY THE GOOD: Capitalize on positive energy, making it a force multiplier
Tip #1: LAUNCH FORWARD FROM THE BAD: Transform negative energy into positive momentum
Gaining momentum from the dip in the road
The first way to bring momentum into your life is by turning a “downturn” into positive energy toward a better situation.
Recall the above example from the dictionary that illustrated the use of the word momentum: “The vehichle gained momentum as the road dipped.” Positive energy from a negative downturn. That’s it! As life has its ups and downs, we can actually use the negative, uncomfortable road-dipping experiences and energy to generate momentum! Impetus, gained by moving forward!
So, positive momentum can be generated by transforming negative energy and experiences into a force multiplier, propelling us forward toward our next goal. “Use the pain!” as my exasperated physical trainer might say to me as I whine through yet another set of 20s.
This concept of using the power of a negative experience to generate positive life force is a familiar one to me. It brings me back to an old addage I used when I was a clinical psychologist trying to help patients find hope when they felt like they were drowning in life’s troubles…”Sometimes, hitting bottom provides you a solid base to push off from, and allows you to gain upward momentum to fresh air above the water’s surface.”
Tip #2: HARNESS AND MULTIPLY THE GOOD: Capitalize on positive energy, making it a force multiplier
momentum by adding fuel to your positive fire
The second way to harness momentum in your life is by taking a positive expeirence, moment, feeling, achievement, relationship forward with additional positive energy. I’m sure you remember the junior high school gym teacher explaining that “energy begets energy,” and that the more you exercise, the more energy you will feel.”
That’s the power of a force multiplier. It’s like adding a gentle push to a child on a swing as they are moving forward. Just enough added energy, and the child is beaming with delight as the swing reaches higher toward the sky.
Take a positive element of your life, say a successful workout session or a well-received presentation at work. Multiply that energy by sharing your success with a loved one. Journal it. Get in your car and jam to your favorite tune in celebration of that success. Take a selfie to show your progress from your workout. Place a memento of your success into an “emotional bank account” folder that you can dip into on rainy days when you aren’t feeling so great. Take that positive momentum and make it last longer by sharing it, celebrating it, crystallizing it and honoring it.
What the Experts Say
Consider these thoughts on Momentum from Thrive Global’s Benjamin P. Hardy in his article, “The 2 Mental Shifts Highly Successful People Make:“
Momentum is essential
“When you experience positive momentum, you’ll never want it to stop.” — Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach
Finally, people who have experienced this first mental shift really care about momentum. They’ve worked hard to develop their momentum and know what it feels like to not have momentum.
Being without momentum is rough. It’s how most people live their lives. And without momentum, results are minimal, even with lots of effort.
Consistency is key to developing momentum. You get it by putting intentional effort toward a singular goal or vision, and eventually the compound effect takes over. It’s as though several outside sources are working for your good. Because, they are.
Keeping momentum once you have it, then, becomes very important. Hence, you must maintain a thirst for continual learning and growth.
Okay, now it’s your turn. It’s your opportunity to make the most of the precious, limited time we have. Enter a comment below to share how you will create and sustain momentum in your life.
Susan E. Hendrich
Driving along Route 202 on Concord Pike in Wilmington, Delaware in November 2016, I noticed a lone man standing in a normally-empty field, surrounded by dozens of American flags. It was a windy day. I rolled down my window as I inched along, which allowed me to hear the flags all flapping and whacking in the strong Fall wind. The scene reminded me of a group of young soldiers gathered proudly in line to serve their country. The sound of the waving flags seemed to mimic the click-clack of boots smacking together as soliders bring their feet to attention at the command of an officer.
I pulled into a nearby parking lot walked toward the field with my Canon 80D, approaching the lone man, who was busy adjusting a large spotlight onto the vast field of flags, all while the sun was hurriedly setting in the cool autumn sky. Hi, I’m Jim McBride,” the man said, and I immediately recognized him as the co-owner of our area’s premiere heating company. Jim explained that he was helping to prepare for a Flag Dedication Ceremony – in support of the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans and Suiting Warriors.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” -Winston Churchill
It was a lovely moment, witnessing a busy, successful local businessperson taking personal time to create such a beautiful tribute of patriotism, respect, art and community support. Jim’s quiet contribution amplified loudly in my heart.