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12-28-2018, 05:44 PM   #1
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Do Photographers Make Good Money Selling Prints On The Internet??

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Help me settle a bet. I bet my wife that no one makes good money selling photographic prints on the Internet. She believes just the opposite, that indeed there are lots of photographers are out there making good money by selling their photographic prints on the Internet.

I have friends with SmugMug websites. They tell me that they don't sell enough prints to even pay for their SmugMug fees. Go to SmugMug and do a search for any type of photo. You'll get tens of thousands of hits and you'll see a seemingly endless number of tiny thumbnail images. The chances of your image standing out and being selected for viewing (let alone resulting in a sale) are pretty low.

From a personal standpoint, I've developed and maintained two websites that sold my prints. Neither website came close to selling enough prints to even paying for my websites' hosting costs.

Based on your experience, do you think there are photographers out there who make good money selling prints on the Internet? Who are they? And what's been your experience - do you make good money selling your prints on the Internet?



Good money definition = enough money to pay for gear/hosting/printing expenses, AND at least minimum wage for your time spent on capture/processing/promotion/printing/distribution.


Last edited by Fenwoodian; 12-28-2018 at 05:52 PM.
12-28-2018, 05:50 PM - 1 Like   #2
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If there are I am not one of them.
12-28-2018, 05:51 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I think the internet is an adjunct to other techniques for selling items. I don't think you can make a lot of money selling over the internet, but using Instagram and other sites can let you reach people who might want to use your services.
12-28-2018, 05:55 PM - 1 Like   #4
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You're not going to see many people sell prints on something like smugmug because people will generally put their pictures up and hope something happens. It's a business like any other, and those who manage to reach the clients who would buy are going to be successful. Even though I don't sell prints I'm sure there are photographers who make money doing it online.

12-28-2018, 06:00 PM - 1 Like   #5
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I guess my perception is that a lot more people make money contracting with people for photo services -- portraiture, weddings, etc. I doubt most folks (like myself) who dabble in landscape photography ever sell many images. If you provide photographic services for a fee, photo sharing sites can help you reach people who like your style of photography and are willing to pay for it. But as for posting a landscape on Instagram and saying "What'll you offer me for this?" It doubt that happens much.

When people pay for art, they are paying as much for the name on the painting or photograph as they are for the image itself. A photo by Art Wolfe or Ansel Adams will be worth thousands, while my, somewhat similar photo, is not worth much at all. Ansel Adams isn't alive today, but if he was and had a web site, I am sure he could sell them -- because he is pretty famous, before he was on the internet.
12-28-2018, 06:56 PM - 2 Likes   #6
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I think there might be one or two photographers over at pixels.com (aka fineartamerica.com) that make some money, but it's pretty rare. I make three to four hundred a year selling online, which is obviously not that much. However, my online stuff has allowed me to get contacted that resulted in more lucrative sales, including a sale of large prints (~$400) for a Visitor Center in Klamath, CA and selling a couple of images to Ranger Rick magazine (~$1,800). These sales would not have happened without my fineartamerica.com account (and all the keyworded images I've uploaded there).
12-28-2018, 07:25 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Most of my print sales are largely incidental, the hand made pure Platinum prints I produce are very expensive - most opt for the carbon piezograph reproductions of platinum prints that are a fraction of the cost, and will under optimal display conditions last as long ( In theory).

I personally don't know of anyone who makes a living solely from print sales.

Last edited by Digitalis; 12-28-2018 at 07:45 PM.
12-28-2018, 08:52 PM - 2 Likes   #8
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Yes, there are people who make a living off selling prints, most of them print other peoples work. (like the people who set up smug mug).

I know quite a few people who make a living from photography and other arts and the thing I'd say they almost all have in common is that they do lots of stuff.

Ignoring academics, most of the people I know will make a bit from prints, some from stock, advertising, weddings, product photography, running workshops, public speaking, writing, social media, running a gallery, and a bunch of other things. I don't personally know any artists who make a living from just one thing like selling prints, even the painters I know diversify their incomes.

The person who taught me antique process photography actually studied at Ansel Adam's workshops and she drummed into us really early on the fact that we needed to grab opportunities whenever and wherever they came along - as she put it, Ansel Adams photographed school photographs and real estate to get by, alongside writing, public speaking, teaching, and suchlike. Most financially successful artists either diversify their income or work for someone else, there's a few exceptions, but that's not the reality for most people.

12-28-2018, 10:42 PM - 2 Likes   #9
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My son has made about $250 in the past 2.5 years selling photos through an online artists' marketplace hosted by Ontario College of Art and Design. Apparently he is doing better than average. Paid his baggage fee when we flew him home for Christmas last year and paid for a burger and beer on another occasion. Made $100 for an HDR image of downtown Toronto that was used for a commercial website. He has a short-term contract as a communications officer (doing graphic design and posting social media content) for the government which pays well enough that his creditors no longer call us, we don't have to send him grocery gift cards and he has started paying back his student loans. As long as his contract gets renewed, he will never complete his degree (realistically, based on his past history, he wouldn't complete it anyway, but that's a different story). This isn't a direct answer to the original question posted, but I think it suggests that selling prints online isn't a fast track to fame and riches.
12-29-2018, 12:09 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fenwoodian Quote
Do Photographers Make Good Money Selling Prints On The Internet??
I know a former journalist / editor , who is making money via selling on stock sites. But he has make this activity his main job, he is out photographing almost everyday and he knows what sells and what doesn't. He is also editing books, books sell quite well. It's like everything, you can't wake up one morning, give it a try and make money immediately, you have to produce excellent images and invest a lot of time into marketing them, because there is a lot of mediocre material out there, excellence is what makes stand out. But there is definitely a market, and it's no small tiny market like hobbyists say. The WW market for photograph counts in $ billion units, it's just that most hobbyists have no clue.
12-29-2018, 07:52 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michaelina2 Quote
The only sure way to earn a living doing photography is to really know your stuff and teach at your local community college, or university.
Or work in the PR department on a large company, be paid to take photographs and also buy photographs of others. And that market is huge. And go to you nearest kiosk selling newspapers and magazines, guess who took all those fashion and other images? Go to your nearest city train station or airport , go to magazines , check it out. In my area, next train station, there is a book shop, they have several hundred magazines, each magazine contains something between 20 and 50 images.

Last edited by biz-engineer; 12-29-2018 at 07:58 AM.
12-29-2018, 08:01 AM - 1 Like   #12
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During the past two years, I have made about $600 US selling my images through Eyeem. Not a lot of money, but each month i receive a payment into my Paypal Account. I upload the images and Eyeem markets them. I get 50% of the sale. I tried selling my images online via other systems in the past and was very disappointed with almost zero sales. At least with the system I'm using now, I do get a small money stream. I use the money to upgrade my software.
12-29-2018, 11:12 AM - 1 Like   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fenwoodian Quote
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Help me settle a bet. I bet my wife that no one makes good money selling photographic prints on the Internet. She believes just the opposite, that indeed there are lots of photographers are out there making good money by selling their photographic prints on the Internet.

Based on your experience, do you think there are photographers out there who make good money selling prints on the Internet? Who are they? And what's been your experience - do you make good money selling your prints on the Internet?
First, it's a trap to say absolutes such as "no one" (never) or "everyone" (always). But then what is the definition of "there are lots"? Is 30 'lots' if that represents less than 1% of photographers selling on the internet? I'd say using those words, neither of you should win the bet because the facts are somewhere in-between.

I would agree with earlier posts that most photographers use the internet to supplement and support their income, but their internet site does not solely provide 'good money'. Photographers that do well often are cashing in on decades of their past work such as Steve McCurry and Annie Leibovitz. Note: These are famous photographers at the top of their game and their work is priced that selling one print probably recoups the cost of the hosting site.

Steve McCurry | Photographer
Annie Leibovitz | artnet

My daughter is an artist and has used Etsy and SquareSpace to sell her work (not photography) as well as Instagram. For sure their fees cut into her income, but until recently where her work is now in 3 retail brick and mortar shops, she was making at least a minimum wage from her internet sales alone....which I consider a success considering she's only been at it for less than 2 years.
12-29-2018, 07:03 PM   #14
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We (wife & I) only sell on the internet, and we make ok money (actual profit), enough to keep doing it, but not GOOD money. But we don't try very hard either. I'm sure we could at least double our sales with some sustained concentrated effort to make more saleable images, but that would still be a far cry from quitting my day job. (If I increased my sales by 5x-6x, then I could.)
12-29-2018, 07:27 PM - 3 Likes   #15
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Two of the best known Australian photographers Ken Duncan and Trent Parke [at any point in their careers] did not rely much on print sales [ Ken Duncan being by far the most prolific print-maker, Trent Parke is with with magnum now] They both started off reasonably small, they both have a fair amount of print work for sale - but it is instruction,workshops and masterclasses that pay their bills [as well as grant money from the government, and photo agencies...magnum pays pretty damn well]


QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
My daughter is an artist and has used Etsy and SquareSpace to sell her work (not photography) as well as Instagram. For sure their fees cut into her income, but until recently where her work is now in 3 retail brick and mortar shops, she was making at least a minimum wage from her internet sales alone....which I consider a success considering she's only been at it for less than 2 years.
Not a bad way to start. But she will have to balance her devotion to creating new material and preparing prints for sale - keeping your work fresh and engaging, not an easy thing to do.

Last edited by Digitalis; 12-30-2018 at 03:57 AM.
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