When you imagine a successful fine art and landscape photographer, what do you see? Huge exposure in magazines, blogs, billboards etc.? Or maybe it’s just large numbers of sales? Maybe it’s both?
As fine art and landscape photographers, we wish our photos will be seen by as many people as possible and hope it will lead to as many sales as possible.
For that reason, many of us go on every possible website that offers us an online store because we feel like it’s mandatory to flood the internet with our images. The more websites our photos are on, the better the chance people will buy them. Isn’t that so?
The truth is that it actually hurts us, because unless we’re the most organized people on the planet, things can get messy, complicated and very time consuming. Time that most of us don’t really have.
Let’s take Etsy for example. When you start listing your photos on their platform you have a few important steps to take in order for people to buy your pictures. You have to come up with a brilliant title, decide on a category, style, medium, variations of your image (if available), a good description, tags (keywords), prices, shipping costs etc.
Now, if you want the same photo to be on five other similar websites you’ll have to go through the same process. Yes, you can copy paste, but it’s still going to take a good amount of time. Especially if you have more photos to list.
Let’s face it, most of us won’t go through the process of putting the photos on all these websites all the time. We get lazy, we don’t have time, maybe the target audience on every site is different… and so on.
Let’s look at a few key decisions we should make.
One of the important things we as photographers must know when looking for websites like Etsy and Saatchi Art to sell our photos through, is who’s our target audience and we have to make sure the sites we choose cater to that specific target audience. Otherwise, it can be a waste of time to begin with.
Most of us (including myself) assume, due to these sites’ advertisements, that if they offer us the service of an online store it means they have plenty of clients that will buy our photos if we start listing them. Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that. Yes, they may have people that are interested in buying beautiful photos but we also have to consider what type of people are going to see our images.
Do we sell limited edition photos? That requires us to find people who want to display stunning high-quality photos are willing to invest a couple thousands of dollars. Or maybe we just want to sell a large quantity of open edition photographs for a much lower price that most people can afford?
Every demographic will have different communication skills, point of views and demands from us, the sellers, that we must take in consideration because maybe we don’t want to deal with all types of people.
For example, here is a summary of a recent conversation I had with a potential buyer through my Etsy store. A woman saw a photo I was offering in different sizes. Since she liked the photo she contacted me and asked if I can offer her the photo in a different (not standard) size. Since I wanted to make a sale I replied that it was possible. In my reply, I also sent her how the new photo will look after cropping to her desired size.
It’s important to mention that the photo was an open edition and I was selling a 24″ x 36″ for only $100. Most of you know how awesome the price is, for an original print that size.
The woman asked for 18″ x 48″ which makes the picture more expensive so I decided to quote her for only $200.
Her reply to that was: “thanks so much. That is just too pricey for a print. Thanks”
Hopefully, she had no bad intentions but that sentence was insulting to me. For that reason, I replied with a stinging comment (while still being nice). I wrote: “you mean it’s too pricey for you. No worries. Thank you.”
I have no idea if that woman was really interested, or a competitor who tried getting prices but I definitely don’t want to deal with such people that don’t really care about what their buying as long as it’s affordable for them.
That led me to the conversation with my friend, which led to closing my Etsy store and focus on Saatchi Art.
Often times when people go on Etsy they are looking for unique yet affordable gifts, gift ideas or just researching what they can make and sell on Etsy. Etsy is not focused on photography or paintings which makes being on their website a waste of time (for photographers) if you don’t have the means for proper marketing. You’ll just be another fish in the huge ocean of sellers.
This takes us to our next consideration – costs.
Etsy, and other websites, charges the seller $0.20 per item every four months or until the item is sold. On top of that they charge 3.5% transaction fee on the sale price plus other fees that may apply from third parties included, like PayPal for example.
Now let’s say you want all your photos listed on four other websites like Etsy and let’s also say you have 100 photos. A quick math will show you that you’ll spend at least $100 up front. That’s without any additional marketing and with the assumption that all these websites charge the same.
When you look at a website like Saatchi Art, that focuses on fine arts, you’ll find that there are no up-front costs and there are no transaction fees. What they do is mark up your items while asking you what profit you want to make.
My opinion about that method is that it gives your work a higher value and gives you more confidence as an artist who’s trying to sell his/her creations.
After we decide if we should spend money up front we have to look at the marketing options these websites offer.
In House Marketing
Big websites with millions of users, like Etsy, can easily take advantage of us, the sellers, by offering us paid promotional options for our items. These promotions bump our items to a dedicated placement at the top of the page when people search for keyword that we aimed for.
It sounds promising, but when thousands of competitors (other sellers) do the same thing it feels like it’s a big waste of money. I have paid $1,740.19 from the opening of my Etsy store until closing it and sold $1,358. Simple math shows a lost.
The Problem – My Biggest Mistake
Don’t get me wrong here, it may sound like I’m an Etsy hater but I’m not. There are photographers that somehow sell their photos and they sell lots of them.
It might be that my biggest mistake was a mistake most photographers make when it comes to selling online. I was trying to be everywhere all the time. Doing so exhausted most of my time and budget and slowly discouraged me from keep on going.
The Solution (and My Solution)
The solution is and was always in front of my eyes. More so, people kept giving me the solution but I ignored (in the form of agreeing with them). The solution is – staying focused. I’m taking off all of my photos from all the online stores I put them on and moving them to Saatchi Art.
Why I Chose Saatchi Art
Other than the fact that visually, Saatchi Art looks more professional than most (if not all) online stores that cater to photographers, their website is easy to navigate, they don’t have any up-front charges, they don’t have any item promotion tools, they are the world’s leading online art gallery and above it all they focus on fine art and photography for art collectors and people who really are interested in purchasing and investing in art. Bottom line: they cater to the target audience I’m looking for.