It’s easier than ever to sell photos online. But how do you compete with smartphones, or the 1.5 trillion digital images taken each year? Fear not, we’re going to give you a flash course in how to cut through the noise and sell your captured moments.
In this ‘Visual Age’, images are everywhere. Thanks to the rise of smart devices, beautiful photos can be taken with the tap of a thumb. Sharing photos is easy thanks to apps like Instagram, with over 1 billion users showcasing their holidays, business products, and cats every day.
These smartphone pictures don’t just look good – they’re being noticed. Apps like Tumblr and Instagram have let users build a large online audience quicker than you can say ‘cheese’.
Now, it’s great that people are getting more creative. But what does that mean for ‘proper’ photographers who don’t want to just use social media? It’s hard to stand out from the crowd, sure, but there are simple ways to sell your photos online and make sure people find them.
So where to begin? Many photographers think selling through stock websites is the only way to make money. But you can easily create a website to showcase and sell your photos, without breaking the bank.
By the end of this article, you’ll be able to decide not only how you want to sell your photos online, but also how to grow your audience. We’ve done our research and found the easiest, most cost effective ways of doing so.
So follow our four easy steps and you’ll be selling your snaps in no time…
Finding your niche is important for any business. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors – after all, you can’t be the best in every industry, category, or genre. Well, maybe you can, but it’s certainly easier to focus on one. In photography, consistency is key.
Already have your niche? Great – skip to Step 2.
So how does that work? Put simply, you need to find a core theme for your images. This may come to you easily, given your passions or personal interests, or it may take some research.
For example, if you spend your weekends walking through woodlands, you should think about wildlife photography. Mother Nature provides some truly stunning scenery, so there’s plenty of opportunities for inspiration.
On the other hand, you may love human relationships and interactions. So you’re likely to enjoy taking portraits. And you can choose many avenues from here: do you want to photograph weddings or take corporate headshots? It’s up to you.
Finally, if nothing jumps to mind, then do some digging. Search around for the latest trends, or find a gap in the genre market. Is there a lack of photos of your favorite food? Or an up and coming fashion no one has shared yet? There’s a niche for everyone, so make sure you express yourself!
Also, don’t forget to do some keyword research. With tools like Google Ads, you can see what people are searching for online. As a rule of thumb: anything with more than a thousand average monthly searches is worth exploring.
Now you’ve decided on your niche, it’s time to start sharing. No, we’re not talking about a new Tumblr page – your beautiful photos will need a portfolio to match. With website builders, creating a portfolio is easy, and doesn’t require much tech, or even any coding experience.
So why build it yourself? For one, it’s an affordable way of showcasing your skills online, saving you from spending big bucks on a web designer. It also saves time, letting you sort and send client emails.
So how do you choose which builder is for you? And most importantly, for your images? The market is home to dedicated photography website builders like SmugMug, as well as all-round constructors like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace. Here’s how we rate them:
However, which one you should pick depends on your speciality, and how you intend to actually sell your images. Essentially, make sure the builder works for you. We’re giving you more detail on each below:
Best for: Creative control and ease of use
Wix is our easiest to use website builder and best all-rounder. It gives you lots of creative control with its drag-and-drop function, and can even create a website bespoke to you using artificial design intelligence (ADI).
For photographers, it only takes a few clicks to create a gallery, plus the platform offers pre-made templates made specifically for portfolios.
To be able to sell, you need to pick Wix’s Ecommerce Price Plan, which comes to $17 per month. Compared to other builders, this is good value for money, and all sales are commission free.
Read our Wix Pricing Plan review here.
There is a Free Plan, but it doesn’t let you sell. However, if you just want a portfolio – or want to give it a try before you buy – the free plan is no-strings, so you have nothing to lose!
Best for: A beautiful looking portfolio
Squarespace is great if you want a smaller amount of detailed photos to match a well-polished gallery. When it comes to creating a portfolio, it’s slightly more creatively challenging than the all-round builders – but the results are stunning.
It’s affordable, too, with even the cheapest plan ($12 per month) offering unlimited bandwidth and storage. Perfect for prolific photographers!
Can’t decide? Read our Squarespace vs Wix Review here.
Best for: Easily monetizing your portfolio
Our recommended dedicated photography website builder is SmugMug. With unlimited upload space and bandwidth, it’s one of the fastest for uploading images, making it ideal for fast-paced photographers. You can also charge per photo download, so the monetizing process is quick and painless.
Best for: Quickly setting up a website
Very simple to use, Weebly offers a decent Free Plan. However, it does auto-optimize images when uploading, which means you can lose precious pixels and harm picture quality. Overall, though, it’s a great choice for selling photos. Also, like Wix, it’s best for photographers with little time for – or knowledge of – web design.
For selling photos with Weebly, you need to pick the Photo Store price plan and choose from one of three different prices. These options cost:
- $0 p/m
- $4.99 p/m
- $49.99 p/y
So, you can run your portfolio for free, but, unlike the free plan, the two premium options offer dashboard analytics, provide additional customization features, and allow you to upload the highest quality photos.
The builder you should choose, then, depends on your business needs. Do you need your portfolio out there quickly? Or do you have time to invest in some design? Make your website work for your work.
Want a Weebly website? Read our Weebly pricing review here.
It may seem obvious, but one of the most important factors for selling photos online is making sure your photos are available to buy. But why stop with just images? Think about personalized products like mugs, books, pillows – anything. After all, a wider choice for your customers should mean more money in the bank.
As you’d expect, then, each website builder lets you sell in different ways. The all rounders require add-ons, while the photography-specific builders have inbuilt features. To make things easy, we’ve highlighted the easiest ways to sell your photos with each builder.
Need some advice? Read our ‘How to Build an Online Store’ article here.
Or check out our top rated ecommerce website builders.
Wix Photography Add-ons
The Wix App Market is huge, serving up many excellent features for improving your ecommerce site. While you can sell without apps, they will help streamline your business – plus they’re really easy to integrate.
The best FREE apps include:
- Wix Pro Gallery – provides the ‘most professional looking gallery on the web’
- Wix Photo Albums – essential for event photographers
- Instagram Pro – links your social media images
We’ll go over the importance of Instagram later.
Want to know more about the Wix App Market? Read our review here.
Squarespace Photography Add-ons
Because of its design-led reputation, Squarespace’s ecommerce skills are often somewhat unfairly overlooked. It may not be a pure online store builder, but it has some great tools to offer you and your snaps.
To sell on Squarespace, you need to choose the Business Price Plan (at the very least), then integrate ‘Squarespace Commerce’. This lets you upload unlimited photos, sell digital and print products, generate coupons, and accept multiple payment types.
And remember, managing a portfolio inventory is relatively simple. Despite its more basic ecommerce tools, Squarespace is best for photographers with fewer shots, but a keen eye for design.
Like the look of Squarespace? Read our pricing plan review.
SmugMug Photography Add-ons
A photography-specific builder, SmugMug has ecommerce functions built in, so you can snap, upload, and sell in one smooth motion. As mentioned before, you can charge per download, while the site takes care of billing, shipping, and processing.
On top of that, you can create custom price lists and sell prints easily without any other integrations – and you keep 85% of the profits. Overall, it’s best for those who already have a portfolio and are looking to monetize quickly.
Weebly Photography Add-ons
Weebly is one of the easiest to use website builders, but how simple is selling photos? The answer is very – you just need to add the ‘Photo Store’ app.
The Photo Store features a ‘Buy Now’ button, which is integrated with CanvasPop’s printing services. This takes care of all printing, shipping and customer services, so you can focus on your camera.
However, to actually make money on your printed products, you have to sign up with a CanvasPop developers account and paste the access key into the app settings. This doesn’t take long, though.
In a nutshell, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace all require ecommerce integration – but don’t worry, they’ve still made selling pretty seamless. With these builders, you can make money with a just a few added clicks.
Need some inspo? Check out our ‘Weebly for Photographers’ article here.
So now you have a chosen specialty, a set of beautiful photos, and a professional-looking portfolio, but who’s going to buy your photos? You need to spread the word, and we can show you how.
Firstly, utilizing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will help customers find your website online. After all, what use is a stunning portfolio if no one can find it?
Most website builders let you add ‘alt tags’ to each photo. These are simple captions, such as ‘soccer ball chocolate cake’, that allow Google to index (find) the image and bring paying eyes to your site. You can also find keywords using the Google Ads tool we mentioned earlier, then add these to each product tag.
Finally, adding Meta Data will allow search engines to categorize your website. This is nothing to be scared of – it’s really just a short description of your website.
When it comes to making a name for yourself, social media is your friend. Thanks to these ready-made networks of sharing tools with in-built audiences, you can tweet your website, share it on Facebook, or blog it on LinkedIn – but best of all, for photographers, you can link it to Instagram.
Designed purely for photo sharing, Instagram is perfect. It’s also free, so you’d be wise to join the 1 billion monthly users.
Linking your work to platforms like Instagram and Tumblr will increase your visibility. You’ll have access to a much wider audience, while tools like Hashtagify will build your online presence by letting you follow current trends.
Need some inspiration? Take a look at some photography accounts that are using Instagram to their advantage:
These accounts have gained millions of followers by using social media well. How? They’ve remembered it’s not just a portfolio: it’s there for interacting with users, and provides a relaxed way of showcasing your skills.
Some tips from us? Keep your bio short, with a link to your website; use popular hashtags to stay in the loop; stay consistent across all your channels; and don’t forget to reply to questions! Also, don’t become fully dependent on Instagram – it’s simply someone else’s platform for your photos.
By now, you should have a good idea of how best to sell your photos online. But let’s recap the steps…
- Settle on your photography style and specialty
- Choose a website builder to suit your needs
- Build a beautiful portfolio
- Integrate ecommerce
- Grow your audience
But which builder is right for you? Well, let’s go over what each builder is best for…
- Wix is the easiest to use and offers the most creative control
- Squarespace is best for fewer photos within stunning templates
- SmugMug lets you sell immediately
- Weebly is quick to set up and simple to run
While you can’t sell photos with any of their Free Price Plans, each builder does offer a trial period, so why not try one today?
In summary, website builders have made selling photos online as easy as ever, saving you money in the process. Camera equipment is expensive enough, so why fork out hundreds on a web designer? Website builders also let you reach more prospective customers than ever, so get snapping!