There is one fundamental truth when trying to sell photos. No-one can ever buy your photos if they don’t know they exist. Wow, great insight there huh ;-). It sounds simple, maybe even silly to write something quite so obvious, but at the same time, it is one of the hardest problems we face when trying to see the photos we take at an event. How do we make sure that those people who may be interested in buying photos, know that they are for sale.
I like to think in terms of there being 6 different ways of spreading the word:
Stall at event
The most traditional way is to have a stall at the event. Buying space from an event organiser is normally easy, though sometimes expensive. You then set up a table, showing some albums you have from previous event as samples of what you are likely to produce. You should also set up a computer to show photos you take on the day. You can use a software program like EVS for this
However with stalls you have to deal with several drawbacks. Firstly you need to be sure of covering the costs, after that you have to keep updating the selection of photos on display with todays photos, and there is rarely time to make a good selection. If you want to sell photos at the stall you have to have a photo quality printer on hand, along with all the logistic problems of fresh ink, paper supply and so on, while if you plan to take orders, and post the photos later you need to make sure you can keep track of all the orders. Personally I find stalls to be a lot of trouble
With the increase of online photo sales, it is becoming more popular to set up a website before you go to the event, with a nice short URL (address) and print of a bunch of flyers to hand out at the event. PhotoStockPlus does a good job of this. After you get home from the event you go though your shots, select the best ones, and upload them to the website. Over the next few days you hope that people will go to the address on the flyers you gave out, and see your photos, and buy them online.
This approach works very well apart from one major drawback. The conversion rate (number of people who actually visit your website) is typically pitiful.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth can be one of the most effective ways of getting word of your photos into the minds of your customers. You show the photos to a few people at the event, and they then tell everyone else how great your photos are (they do need to be great photos though). It requires a strong social connection among the participants, which isn’t always there. Ideally you would combine this with a website similar the one when handing out flyers. This is what I used when I was selling photos of student dance competition, and I never lacked for customers.
If you can make friends with the event organiser, you can ask them nicely to include a link to your website in their email newsletter.They might ask you to pay to advertise in their list (after all, this is pure advertising at this point), in which case you can either take a risk, pay their fee and try and work out later if you made enough profit to cover the costs, or you can ask them for some numbers. They maybe be able to tell you how many people regularly open/read their newsletter (mailing list sites like Mailchimp record this information), giving you some idea how many hits you can expect to on your site. This gives you a chance to make an educated guess as to whether or not its a good financial decision.
More and more events have a twitter hashtag. It serves as a way to broadcast small snippets about an event to anyone interested enough to look up the hashtag on twitter, which is great for two reasons, one it only sends the message to those people interested in the event, and two these are exactly the people most likely to want to buy some photos. Just like with flyers, word of mouth and email lists, you need to have a website setup that can sell your photos.
Facebook, and its idea of tagging people in photos can work wonders for telling people your pictures exist. It is very similar to word of mouth, as it requires the people from the event to do some of the work. You upload some of your photos to Facebook (with a suitable watermark of course), and tag some of the more well known participants. If this works right something almost magical starts to happen. Each person who sees the photos, tags everyone they know. These people then get notified, look at the photos and add tags for more people. Before long every photo is tagged, and everyone has a list of notifications telling them exactly what photos they are in. As long the watermark on the photo shows where they can go to get copies of the photos, this can be an amazing way to drive visits to your site.
So there you have it, 6 different ways to make sure that your photos are known about. Hopefully this will get you one step closer to being able to sell your photos. Do you have any other ways of spreading the word about your photos? If so, let me know in the comments below…