How to Start Selling Your Photographic Art

Here are eleven steps to get you started with selling your photographic art business to business.  If you are serious about expanding your business and gaining respect and exposure, you should definitely give this post a read.

1.  Be honest with yourself.  Are the photographs you take of the same quality as you see published in magazines and newspapers?  If so, you may be able to sell your photos.

2.  Get someone else to be honest with you.  If you know a professional photographer, ask him or her to critique your work!  You could also join a photography club or Meetup or attend a seminar, conference, or workshop where they offer daily critiques.

3.  Get organized.  Create a list of subjects you can have photographed and organize your images into subject groups.  Make sure you can quickly find specific images and keep track of any sample images you send out.  Two books to check out would be Photo Portfolio Success by John Kaplan (Writer’s Digest Books) and Sell and Re-Sell Your Photos by Rohn Engh (Writer’s Digest Books).

4.  Consider the format.  Are your pictures color snapshots, black and white prints, color slides, or digital captures?  The format of your work will determine, in part, which markets you can approach.  Below are some general guidelines.

  • digital – nearly all newspapers, magazines, stock agencies, ad agencies, book and greeting card publishers
  • black and white prints – some galleries, art fairs, private collectors, literary/art magazines, trade magazines, newspapers, book publishers
  • color prints – some newsletters, very small trade or club magazines
  • large color prints – some galleries, art fairs, private collectors
  • color slides (35mm) – a few magazines, newspapers, some greeting card and calendar publishers, a very few book publishers, textbook publishers, stock agencies
  • color transparencies (2 1/4×2 1/4 and 4×5) – a few magazines, book publishers, calender publishers, ad agencies, stock agencies.  Many of these photo buyers have begun to only accept digital photos…especially stock agencies.

5.  Do you want to sell stock images or accept assignments?  A stock image is a photograph you create on your own and then sell to a publisher.  An assignment is a photograph created at the request of a specific buyer.

6.  Start researching.  Generate a list of the publishers that might buy your images.  Check the newsstand, go to the library, and search the web to find publishers.  Don’t forget to look at greeting cards, stationary, calendars, and CD covers.  Anything you see with a photograph on it is a potential market.

7.   Check the publisher’s guidelines.  Do you know exactly how the publisher you choose wants to be approached?  Check the listings in this book first.  If you don’t know the format, subject, and number of images a publisher wants in a submission, you should check their website first.  Often, guidelines are posted there.  Alternatively, you can send a short letter with a  self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) or email asking those questions.  A quick call to the receptionist might also yield the answers. 

8.  Check out the market.  Get in the habit of reading industry magazines.

9.  Prepare yourself.  Before you send your first submission, make sure you know how to respond when a publisher agrees to buy your work.  Click HERE to learn what you need to know and research to achieve full preparation.

10.  Prepare your submission.  The number one rule when mailing submissions is:  “Follow the directions.”  Always address letters to specific photo buyers.  Always include a SASE of sufficient size and with sufficient postage for your work to be safely returned to you.  Never send originals when you are first approaching a potential buyer.  Try to include something in your submission that the potential buyer can keep on file, such as a tear sheet and your resume.  In fact, photo buyers prefer that you send something they don’t have to return to you.  Plus, it saves you the time and expense of preparing a SASE.

11.  Continue to promote yourself and your work.  After you’ve made that first sale (and even before), it is important to promote yourself.  Success in selling your work depends in part on how well and how often you let photo buyers know what you have to offer.  



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