View Full Version : Selling your Photos

03-30-2008, 10:37 AM
I am really not surprised but there is a tendency of a lot of enthusiastic newbies to buy a DSLR with the intention of eventually selling some of their work.

The follow through is often that they go on a site where newbies are congratulating other newbies on their great shots when the truth is that no one knows what they are talking about and the work is weak and deficient.

They then procede to create a web site where the quality of the work is extremely inconsistent and amateurish and then wonder why their photos don't sell. To make matters worse, there is often an ego involved expressing the naive view that there are no rules in photography and everything is art. Making these mistakes is the perfect approach to becoming a perverbial "starving artist". Being successful in a business involes listening to what your market wants, NOT trying to dictate to your market what you think they should be buying.

First step should be ensuring that your shots are as close to technically excellent as possible. At the beginning it will be avoiding over or underexposure, harsh shadows with no detail or poor colour balance. With further learning and experience there should be more attention to smaller details such as the need for selective postprocessing to improve the rendition of detail in certain areas or getting the focus sharp rather than soft due to getting the depth of field less than perfect or moving the camera.

Along with this should be composition. There should be a strong centre of interest where the viewer's eye should be directed by the different elements in the photo. The problem in some landscapes is that the centre of interest is too weak. Perspective is also necessary in scenics or the result is a rather flat and dull image. This usually means a foreground with one or more "verticals" and some clouds or an interesting sky. There are several other composition guidelines that result in better photos.

When you think that you have got pretty good in both the technical side and the composition side, then you may benefit from critique. The big caveat however is the credibility of the comments. A newbie saying "great shot" may be flattering but it is not in the same league with detailed comments from someone with a great deal of varied experience. Bottom line is listen to good advice, try out any suggestion and see if they work. The flexibility and willingness to learn is an absolute necessity to being successful in any business.

When it comes to a web site, all photos should be at a certain level of technical excellence. This means NO shots that show obvious over or underexposure, NO soft images that should be sharp, NO extremely over-saturated colours etc. No shots should require postprocessing and any shots with postprocessing such as recovering old photographs should NOT require further work than what is displayed.

In venturing into any market, you need to take a hard look at your own work and how it stands up to the competition. That requires a good eye, as well as seeing past your own ego. Marketing your work is much easier when you are sufficiently confident to realize that your work genuinely is equal to, or better than the competition but that won't happen by magic, only by a lot of on-going hard work.


03-30-2008, 06:49 PM
Good post Tegan, this would be my thoughts to those who think using a forum is the way to getting into it as a business.

I think the criteria for critiquing differ depending on what the photographer wants. Although a bunch of "Newbies" may tell one another that their photos are good or a someone getting into photography is told they are doing a good job is a totally different aspect of photography then someone trying to sell prints. I assume unless a poster states otherwise that they are doing it as a hobby and not as a business. They should be critiqued in two totally different manners. IF your new and get off a few decent shots nothing wrong with encouraging them and telling them their photos are good, because they usually are for those getting into photography. If you are trying to sell them and want a critical eye from those who are or have been involved in the art world they should specify, they should be critiqued on two different levels.

I don't ask for critiques from anyone who I don't admire and or respect their work or I need to know they are in the art business as a buyer or gallery owner. Having owned and run an art gallery I know what sells in photography for the type gallery I ran and would be far harsher to a pro then a hobbyist, and yes they should be critiqued on two different levels as they are two far different objectives.

If someone takes a positive response from a critique of their photos to a huge leap in assumption that they can suddenly start selling photos they are just delusional. I have seen what I consider horrid photographers make a living in the field and have seen great photographers unable to sell a single print. It has at times nothing to do with ability as a photographer but their innate ability to market themselves. If you post photos and ask for critiques for your work on most forums you cannot really expect that as a guide to your photo abilities because probably 90% (Probably even far higher) are amateurs and lack the ability to have a critical eye or they are pros whose work is just sub par to what I would consider a good professional.

If your planning to get into photography as a profession going to a photo forum to garner critiques is not how you would go about it in my opinion anyway. You would find dealers, buyers and experienced photographers to give you and honest critique of your work. Forums are a great place for general opinions and critiques. They are not meant for deciding your going pro or not. I have belonged to a few forums and most I leave because they argue, trash new photographers or have over inflated egos of their own work. A forum for the most part is for learning and encouragement, because their are no qualifications to join a forum and so they have no right to judge outside of a hobbyist perspective (They may have the Right, just they shouldn't). There are a few people whom may be qualified but knowing which of those on a forum are may be hard to know. I like the photos I take, they are in no way good enough to sell, but I am a hobbyist and I would not expect to be held to the same standard as a pro, and that being said if I want true critiques a forum is not where I go. I sold numerous photos and had two what I would consider large exhibitions when I was into B&W film but that was a very long time ago and I am not that good anymore or just lack the confidence of my youth, but this is a hobby for me and plan and keeping it that way.

As always just my two cents worth and take it with a grain of salt.

04-01-2008, 11:50 AM
Both good posts!

The problem is that with today's digital cameras it's just so easy to take a good picture. An amateur often cannot tell the difference between a good photo and a great photo. This is especially true when they see their own work and their families and other newbies give them good feedback.

And at the end of the day, as sad as it is - many people are very happy to purchase mediocre or even poor quality photos, because to THEM the shot is amazing.

04-01-2008, 08:31 PM
Both good posts!

The problem is that with today's digital cameras it's just so easy to take a good picture. An amateur often cannot tell the difference between a good photo and a great photo. This is especially true when they see their own work and their families and other newbies give them good feedback.

And at the end of the day, as sad as it is - many people are very happy to purchase mediocre or even poor quality photos, because to THEM the shot is amazing.

It is easy to take an acceptable snapshot but it is not so easy to take a good picture. Print film gave the phtographer a lot of range and slide film created more contrast but still good detail in both bright and dark areas if it was exposed properly. Colours were well saturated if the exposure was correct.

With digital, the photographer has to look at colour more closely. Photos in the shade or on a cloudy day tend to be too cool and toward the blue side.
Night shots tend to be yellow or orange even if colour balance is set on automatic. Looking at a beige wall or a violet will indicate problems. The beige can have too much blue or orange in the colour and the violet can be missing the red component and become a totally blue flower. In under-exposed photos the colour de-saturates, which was true with many of the first video cameras. Shadows lose too much detail and require very precise exposure and/or approaches to compensation or improving tonal range. Skin colour is very sensitive to exposure and lighting. Try shooting some models and getting precisely the same skin colour in all shots. It can be quite a challenge. Postprocessing has become an absolute requirement for getting the colour right.

The question however is: How many pros when they get a new camera actually tweak the camera menus and use filters to get exactly the colour and saturation that they want out of a shot?

You are correct that mediocre shots or poor quality shots are purchased but in some cases that is because someone who recognizes the mediocrity has not had the courage to speak up, for fear of offending their friends or colleagues.