Tag Archives: business

How to start selling your photos

Photo Credit: Charles Smith

Photography can be a very expensive hobby. Lenses, strobes, tripods, it all adds up. Like many other photographers, you are probably thinking of covering some of these costs by selling your photos. It’s simple, risk free, and can be very effective. Not only do you earn some cash, but the fact that people are parting with their hard earned money for something you created gives you a great feeling of doing something worth while.

However not everyone knows how to get started selling their photos. In this post, I’m going to explain one approach to selling your first photos. It’s by no means the only option, and I suspect I will write about other options in the future, so be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss that. In fact, if you started selling photos via another path, let me know in the comments below.

The approach I’m going to cover is how I first got started. It doesn’t require any special equipment (though that always helps*) and there is almost certainly a chance to do this in your local area: photographing amateur sporting events and then selling individual photos online.

(* for some action shots, especially indoor ones, fast lenses do make a big difference, but there are plenty of other photos you can go for)

Step 1 – Take some photos

Obviously you need to start with taking some photos to sell. Local amateur sports events make a great starting place, for several reasons:

  • They are generally public, so there are no issues with being allowed to take photos.
  • They are often uncrowded, so getting close enough to take photos is easy.
  • Most players/athletes, or the friends and family, are really keen to get good photos of themselves, so they make good customers.

I suggest you visit the local weekend league of whatever amateur sport is near you, and spend a few hours taking photos. Hopefully you are comfortable with your camera’s autofocus, and autoexposure. That means you can concentrate on trying to get well composed photos, and capture any emotion; there is normally plenty of emotion at any sporting event.  The first time you try this, expect to take something of the order of a thousand photos, and don’t worry if not many of them are good.

Do this a few times, you will find that you feel confident that you can always get a few good photos for any game you go to.

Step 2 – Talk to potential customers

After the game (or match/race/whatever) it’s quite likely that some of the players will approach you, and ask if you got any good photos. If they don’t, pick one or two of the good photos and approach the players in the photo. Don’t try and sell them the photos, just show them the camera and say “Hey, I got a good photo of you”.

Listen to what they think of the photo. It’s probably different to what you think of it. While you will be judging the photo by checking to see if it is sharp, well exposed and so on, they will be judging it based on how good they look, and if the photo shows them doing the right thing.

After you talk to a few people, you will feel comfortable showing people, even strangers, your work. You should start to have an idea what constitutes a good photo for whatever sport you are shooting.

Step 3 – Start to distribute your photos

It won’t be long before you start getting photos that both you and the subject agree are good. At this point you can offer to send them a copy of it. There are a few different approaches here, but I am a fan of giving them a small size JPEG, with your logo discreetly in one corner. Tell them you would normally charge $10 or so (or £10 / whatever local currency works for you), but as your still experimenting you are not charging yet.They will probably use it as Facebook profile picture, and if the logo isn’t too overbearing, there is no reason for them to crop it out. This establishes you in their mind, and in the minds of everyone who sees your photos, as a photographer.

Once you have done this, you will feel comfortable describing yourself as a “real” photographer (whatever that means to you).

Step 4 – Start selling your photos

Now is the time to start making your photos available for sale. No surprise that I’m going to recommend you use FrozenEvent for this. Just set your prices, upload some photos, and they will be ready for sale.

You will need to market your photos. It’s not an evil thing to do, it’s simply a fact that no-one will buy a photo if they don’t know its for sale. Tell the players about your album, send them a link, and use the Facebook Push feature in FrozenEvent. This will get visitors coming to your album, and some of them will start to buy.

Once you get a few emails telling you that your photos are selling,  you can start thinking about what lens to buy next.

That’s it. I’ve kept each step as brief as I can, though I could go into more detail in a number of places. I’m a big fan of learning by doing. The best way for you to learn more is to try and follow these steps, and see what you learn in the process. So pick up your camera, and  get started. Then come back and let us know in the comments how it worked for you.


Starting out photographing events

When I was at university I was running the photography society, and there was something I was lusting after, I wanted a digital camera. A shiny digital SLR. There was just one problem, money! They were the newest, latest thing and were expensive. Canon’s D30, was the only option (this was back in 2000 or thereabouts), and was retailing for about £3,500 in the UK at the time. Way way beyond the means of a poor student. But there are always options :-)

My lab partner from a previous year had got himself the job of editor of the student newspaper, and was being very successful. He was simplifying a lot of the slower, time consuming ways the newspaper was put together (mostly that meant getting more volunteers in so he had to write less), but one thing that was still really slowing them down was putting photos in the news paper – taking the photos, getting them developed in a 24 hour lab, choosing the right photos, scanning them etc. He also had one other issue, as a result of being so successful they had quite a large surplus of cash and limited options on what they could spend it on, as there were strict rules imposed by the university.

It really did make a lot of sense for them to switch to doing their photography digitally, so it wasn’t at all difficult to persuade him to invest some of their cash into a new shiny D30. We agreed that the photography society would help out getting good photos for the newspaper (including a brief series of semi-naked portraits - but that is another story). In return, trusted members of the photography society would have the option of borrowing the camera from time to time.

At the same time that this was happening. I also met the captain of the university dance team, he was a keen photographer and had been taking photos (on film) at dance competitions. A thankless task as so few photos come out as keepers. He talked me into coming and taking photos of his team. So I grabbed the new D30, and hopped on a coach (leaving a 4am) to get to the dance competition, and start taking photos.

I shot over 600 photos that day (that would have cost £200 in film and processing costs had I been using film), and threw away almost all of them. I think I found 5 or 6 I liked!

The next day I got an email from the team captain. Could the people on the team get hold of the photos, it didn’t matter how good they photos were! They wanted to use them as training aids, to look at their technique etc. So I went back to the full set of 600, and cut it down to the 150 or so I was willing (begrudgingly) to let other people see.

There were no websites for sharing photos back then. Flickr didn’t exist, Facebook hadn’t even launched. So I went out and brought 60 blank CDs, and sat at my computer, for hours burning a copy of the photos onto each CD. I then asked people to pay me £1 for a CD, to cover the cost of the blank CD. One or two people refused to give me just £1, instead giving me £3 or so. I started to realise that there might be a way to make a bit of spending money doing this.

Over the next few years, I raised my prices to £3 per CD, and repeated this many many times (I built an archive of 10s of thousands of dance photos). Slowly I put all the profits I made into a fund and watched it grow, slowly, as my time at university passed.

As the time went on, new cameras came out, and the prices started to drop. It took me 3 years, but at the end of it – I had enough money in my fund to afford the newest, latest SLR :-)

So that’s the story of how I got started in event photography. I began to understand that there is a demand for these photos. When someone puts a huge amount of time, and energy and effort into training for something (as the student dancers were), they want photos. They want them for training, they want them for memories.

How did you get started taking photos of events? Or are you just looking to get started? Tell me your story in the comments below…