One of the most common questions I am asked via email from photographers wanting to turn professional (or even just earn a bit of extra income from licensed images or print sales) is ‘How do I start to sell my photographs?’
Well, its a good question to which I think a great many photographers would like a simple, easy to implement (and free) answer. The realistic truth though is that there simply isn’t a quick and simple fix; but I am going to give some advice and a point from which you can start based on my own experience and from mistakes I see others regularly making on the internet. I will caveat my comments below that they apply to someone looking to either turn professional, or at the very least compete in the professional space.
First impressions count in the world of photography. Wether you are a wedding photographer, portrait, commercial, pet, baby, children, photojournalist, documentary or a Nature photographer like myself; when it comes to a potential clients first viewing of your work nothing is more important than the opening impression. Make the wrong opening statement about your work and you will loose your client; or at best, leave yourself in a position that is virtually unrecoverable.
In this digital age the first impression a potential client is likely to have of your work is via your website. And whilst it is true to say that a photographers website is nothing more than ‘glossy brochure’, it is also true to say that when it comes to first impressions your website is the key to your client’s decision making process. Quite honestly one of the biggest problems I see with many photographers online work is poor presentation with too many photographs and a confused message that is spread across a badly designed amateurish looking website.
I am going to go out on a limb here as I have some experience in this area. If you are at all interested in being taken seriously by a potential client then you absolutely must avoid free website hosting services (I wont name them, but there are a great many of which I am sure you are aware of at least some of them) that are jam packed with a multitude of banal websites full of even more banal photography. Such websites send an immediate message that not only are you not serious about your work, but that you also don’t consider it important to make a good first impression. Make no mistake – Your potential clients are very smart people. They know how serious you are about your photography in just a few seconds after they load your website. If their experience is ‘yet another free templated site’ you can expect them to change channels faster than you can blink.
If you want to make the right impression (the first step to making a sale) you need a professionally designed custom website (it is ok to be based off a template as long as its customised to your genre and style and as long as its not a mass market hosting site that is dominated by amateurs) that has been carefully crafted with thought and attention to detail to match your photographic genre and style. If you take the time and make the effort to create a site such as this you will already be head and shoulders above most photographers out there. You will be creating a professional polished platform for your best work that makes it stand out from the crowd. Not only that, you will make the right first impression with your potential new client and give yourself the best opportunity to make a sale. To accomplish this you need to not only grab your clients attention in the first few seconds with your site, but encourage them to stay and purchase.
In my own case, I used liveBooks * who worked with me to build a custom designed site based off an initial brief I gave them for the look I wanted. We then worked together as a team to develop and refine the site until it matched my hope and vision. This approach isn’t free (but nothing good in photography is), but it is guaranteed to make the right first impression and present a coherent professionally designed front and that is the very first step to winning your next client and making a sale.
* By way of full disclosure I have been working with liveBooks for more than ten years now. I purchased and paid for my own professional liveBooks website and pay my annual subscription hosting fee with them.