As a new photographer in an environment where everyone with a smart phone can potentially take great photos for use online, it’s difficult to know how to proceed if, like me, you aim to sell your work. Over the last couple of years I have experimented with a few different platforms for showcasing my photographs. While each platform has its use, I don’t think any of them were ideal – at least, not the way I have used them.
The key, of course, is self promotion. Perhaps if you get that part right, it doesn’t matter what platform you use. When it comes to promoting my work I’m a novice. So it was with great delight I recently enrolled in a unit at the University of Tasmania which can help me to improve my online presence. I will be using this blog as a a digital journal to document my explorations with the concepts presented to me.
For myself, and for anyone who wants to follow along, I thought it would be useful to pinpoint my starting point. At the end of my course, I will be interested to look back at this post to reflect on any new insights. If you’ve had different experiences than I have, I’m interested to know your thoughts, so please leave a comment.
What to Photograph?
This was the most straight forward part of the process for me. My interest in photography grew from trying to identify species of plants, birds and animals when we moved to a property with bushland just over three years ago. Most of my photographs fall into the category of nature photography. However, as I learn new techniques, enter into fun photo challenges, and respond to requests from friends and family, I find my subject matter is broadening.
At first, I tried to sell physical objects. I paid to get photographs printed and framed. Most of these prints are still sitting in my storeroom. While there are exceptions, most of the ones sold were to friends and family trying to help me out. I contracted a local printer to produce a set of six gift cards which I designed myself. The quality was good and price was reasonable on a per card basis, but of course there was a minimum print run of 300 cards. Another addition to the storeroom. The expense was too great to continue down this track, so I looked to online solutions.
There were no shortages when it came to online options. The tricky part was to select one that would work for me. My first foray into an online shop was on Etsy.com which had a great way of selling digital downloads of photographs and I could also showcase the cards I designed. The digital photographs all timed out without a sale, so I didn’t renew them. The gift cards are still there, but only a couple of sales. Among the online shops I have tried are Facebook, Redbubble, Fine Art America and ViewBug – all without sales.
Platform for Purpose
Many online sales platforms are based in the USA or have USA currency. The current exchange rates make it difficult for those of us in Australia. The base price for a photographic purchase is beyond the control of users, and by the time a small (often tiny) margin is placed on photographs or products featuring photographs, the retail price is exorbitant compared with items which can be purchased through local shops. So I began looking at how each of the sites I used helped me. Doing this, I became quite fond of ViewBug.com – more of my photographs can be found on ViewBug than on any other platform for the following reasons:
- As much as is possible, my photographs are protected from copyright infringes. Despite the lack of sales, I feel secure in using this platform as my portfolio.
- Regular photographic challenges in a range of different fields inspire me to try new things. Some things work, others don’t, but each time I try something new I learn.
- Through participating in competitions, I can get a general idea of which photographs are looked upon favourably. This helps me to know which ones to print in a physical form if ever I decide to try my hand at local markets.
- While I find the ‘Peer Awards’ (akin to a Facebook ‘Like”) a bit overblown on occasion, it can also lift the spirits to come home to a new ‘Award”
- Although I have never won a competition, the prizes for those who do are quite good – mostly photographic equipment.
I may expand on online sales platforms in a future post.
I’ve struggled enormously with a clear online identity. Initially I wanted to separate my personal identity from my brand identity and from my professional identity, so I set up three blogs, three Facebook Pages, two Twitter accounts and more, more, more. Of course this was not as clear cut as I had imagined. I now have bits and pieces of each identity on all three accounts and no one account or platform is a comprehensive overview of my creative work or my personal profile. I tried to tie all of these together on my brand blog Musing Meanders with limited success. By the end of the course, I am expecting the Musing Meanders site to look quite different.
Our first project is to look at ourselves and to produce ‘selfie’ portraits which demonstrate who we are. For me, this is both extremely challenging and also exactly what is needed. I look forward to working through the next few weeks and achieving something I am happy with.
While I realise it will probably take more than one online study unit to find the best way of marketing my products, I am hoping to improve the way I present my work and myself online.