Nov 30, 2004

Selling Digital Photos

Interested in becoming a professional digital photographer? These tips may get you on the right track.

Create an Attractive Portfolio

Display your photography skills in the best way possible.

Before starting out trying to sell your digital photos or digital photography services, it is a must to create a portfolio sample of your work. This will give you practice taking photos, but more importantly, customers will demand first seeing how good you are before spending money. This is especially important at the beginning when you may not have many testimonials or references.

Be sure to purchase a nice photo album or portfolio book, not just something you pick up at a local drugstore. Also, ensure your photograph prints are of high quality with accurate color representation. This may require getting your photos printed professionally, such as at a camera store or online service catering to pro photographers.

Take Plenty of Photos

Increase your chances of taking great photos by snapping away more often.

Sometimes the main difference between a hobby photographer and a professional is the amount of pictures they take. Remember, you are using digital media, not film, so you are not wasting any money if photos turn out bad; you can always delete them later and reuse the media!

Take lots and lots of photos, with your subject's blessing and patience, of course. Bracket your photos. Experiment with lighting. The more photos you take, the greater the chance that one 'winner' will come out of the bunch, pleasing your client and possibly giving you a recommendation to others for future business.

Include a Contact Sheet

Print a hard copy of your digital photo collection with thumbnail pictures.

Whenever you are mailing or distributing sample digital photos to attract, for example, a magazine, book, or newspaper editor, always include a hardcopy contact sheet with your digital CD or DVD distribution.

Each contact sheet should contain four or six photo thumbnails (no more or not enough photo detail will be represented). Each photo should be labeled and cross-referenced with the actual filename, plus the CD/DVD name if you are including more than one CD or DVD with your package. This makes it easier for someone to spot at-a-glance whether or not your photos may be useful for their business. Some editors may not even bother looking through the digital media without this hardcopy!

Consider a Photo Business Card

A photograph on a business card may stand out from others'.

Full-color business cards can be much more expensive than black & white cards and they should not be handed out to just anyone (unless you have lots of dough!), but they can definitely attract attention.

You should consider making a few for important potential clients of your photography services, and be sure to place one of your best works on the card. This way, besides providing contact information, you are giving potential clients an easy-to-find sample of your work. If you have the time and money, consider changing photos every couple of months or so for variety, though this may increase printing costs (usually the more of something you print, the cheaper you can negotiate the cost per unit).

Consider Stock Agencies

You may be able to make a little extra cash by selling digital photos to stock agencies.

Need a little extra cash? Consider selling your digital photos to stock agencies. This won't make you rich beyond your wildest imaginations, but it can nicely supplement your income. Usually you only get to keep 40% or 50% of the proceeds when signing a contract, but realize how much money these companies are spending in advertisements and understand it would be hard for you to do that kind of marketing alone.

Before contacting an agency, first get a feel of what types of photos they sell. Also, make sure your photos are in the correct format, both resolution and image format (TIF, JPG, etc.). Do your homework before you send over your collection for possible inclusion in stock libraries. Also, if possible, and if you are not forced to sign a non-exclusive contract, ask more than one stock agency to sell a particular photo.

Separate Your Portfolio By Theme

Categorize your photos to make it easier for your potential customers to find what they want.

When creating a physical portfolio or an online version of your portfolio, you may want to consider separating your photographs by theme.

For example, instead of placing thumbnails of all your photographs on one webpage, instead have your main page contain a sample of a few photos, then links to other webpages that each contain one type of photograph, such as wedding, portrait, animal, commercial real estate, etc.

While this makes your site more user-friendly (viewers can quickly find what they want instead of looking through a potpourri of photos), it also may help with search engines. The targeted pages, if designed and written correctly, have more of a chance of getting higher rankings for a particular type of photography than an all-inclusive page.

Always Have Your Business Card

Business opportunities can happen almost anywhere - keep your business cards on you at all times.

Always, always, ALWAYS bring your business cards along, especially when you travel! You never know when you might strike up a conversation with a potential client, especially if you are at a tourist location and shooting photos with a high-end professional digital camera. If you look like you know what you are doing, there is a chance someone may drop by to ask a question about what you do.

Don't Overwhelm Potential Clients

Only show your best work to potential clients and not hundreds of photos.

It may not be wise to show your potential clients dozens or hundreds of sample photos. Show a collection representative of your skills and subject areas, but try not to overwhelm people. Pick and choose your best works and use them as samples. If you show too many photos to clients right off the bat, they might get bored looking through your compilation, and it may show a lack of professionalism; they may think you are unsure which of your own photos are of the highest quality.

Don't Assume a Computer or Media Format!

Always distribute digital photos in media formats others can use.

Planning on distributing samples of your digital photography to a potential client for review? Save time and aggravation - do not assume others use the same computer and media devices that you do!

While the majority of computer users run Windows for their desktop, many graphics professionals use Macintosh. Others may use Linux or another Unix-based system.

If possible, create multi-format CDs to help ensure you don't embarrass yourself by distributing media that a client cannot use. Good CD creation software should help in this process.

Avoid proprietary media - I would even recommend NOT using Zip disks unless you know the client has them. As for DVDs, even though this is a format growing in popularity, I would ask first before distributing content this way.