Allow customers to buy your photos

So you want to sell your photos, make some money, put it towards your next camera, but its not happening. You work hard on “Selling” trying to get people to buy them. Well I’m not going to tell you any techniques for selling your photos. You see, I think of “selling” photos differently to a lot of other people. To me, trying to persuade people to buy your photos is the wrong way of thinking about it. I think selling is about allowing people to buy your work.

Persuading someone to buy something they don’t want is hard work, often unsuccessful, and emotionally draining. Helping someone buy something they do want is much easier, more fun too! That is why when I head off to an event I start out by thinking what sort of photos I’m going to take, why I am going to take them and that leads onto who would want to buy those photos. If I do a good job of letting these people know about my photos, then I have a collection of photos, and a set of customers who want them. From here the act of selling is just a matter of helping the customers get their photos. It becomes a matter of working out why customers don’t buy you work when they want to, and solving those problems. I can’t give you a universal list to help you out, but I can cover some of the more common reasons customers end up not clicking on the “buy” button.


The first stumbling point is price. If your photos are priced wrong, they won’t sell. Simple!

Digital photography has changed the way pricing works, and many photographers haven’t accepted this. Before digital, a good photograph, the sort someone was likely to buy, was an artefact, a physical thing. Someone had taken the photo, and slaved over it in the darkroom making the print. Each print was unique, and would be proudly displayed. Now photos are on Facebook, they are on your iPhone. Unless you are intending your photos to be one of the very few works of art that a customer buys, you can’t charge like you are.

Setting the price of photos right is really tough, but I’m going to go out on a limb, and make myself unpopular with you guys, and say lower your price. Digital photography has brought down the costs of processing a photo, and if you deliver it digitally (see below) it also cuts down the cost of delivering it to the customer. For a simple event photo, that a customer is going to download and view on their computer, I don’t think you can go wrong charging a couple of bucks.

Convenience of showing photos

Have you seen those booths at theme-parks? The ones where as you start the fast drop, *snap*, a photograph is taken. The same photograph that is printed out, and put on display at the exit to the ride, for you to buy as a souvenir. I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity every time I see one of these stands. I remember the one time I brought a photo, and I remember the photo getting put in a pile of paper, and never looked at again!

When was the last time you sat down with to fill a photo album? I don’t remember the last time I got back from an event, brought a physical album, and filled it with photos.

If you want to sell photos, you have to understand how the buyer wants to use them. Then you can make that easier for them. If they want the photos to go on a website, they should receive digital photos. If they want to put them in a digital photo frame, they should receive digital photos. If they want a print as the end product, well then I think they should receive digital photos, and then they can have them printed and cropped exactly as they want.

Also, bear in mind that the most common ways of showing photos today seems to be loading them onto an iPhone, and passing it round over a cup of coffee. If its easy for your photos to get put onto an iPhone, they will sell more.

Unclear ownership (licence)

When shooting events, I find it’s not uncommon to have journalists (or dance performers in my case) want to buy commercial licence for photos. What they are looking for is photos they can put on their flyers, or their website. They won’t buy a photo if its not clear they can use it commercially (or for that matter if they can see that the price for a commercial licence is mega-expensive compared to the non-commercial licence)

Make it clear what licences you are selling, and make it possible to buy a commercial licence. Even if its just by emailing you to negotiate the rights. The clearer you can be about what they are buying, the more likely they are to read

Complicated delivery

This is a smaller point, but a personal bugbear of mine, so I’m going to tell you about it. Make sure it’s clear that delivering the photos will be smooth, painless, and easy. If you are selling digital photos (which you are, right?) tell the customer, as they are browsing, that their photos will be zipped up and emailed to them right away!

Like I said above, don’t think this list is going to be universal, or definitive in any way. The blocks you have to clear are going to be different for each and every type of event. So its up to you to work out what they are, and how to get them solved.

What other problems have you found prevent people from buying your photos. Let me know in the comments below.

One thought on “Allow customers to buy your photos”

  1. I must say, that is the best advice yet, thank you for that. I’ve been running my site for three months no and I was literally pulling my hair out. Thanks to your article I’m on the right track. You are a star!

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