With the proliferation of digital cameras, it is essential to be able to find the proper way to attract new and engage existing customers.
Below, I provide the most important criteria that a photographer needs to consider when publishing his/her work on-line.
In the second part I take a closer look at the features required from photo sharing and selling platforms so they can act as the hubs of your marketing and selling and save your time.
Presenting Photos Online
Put simply, photo organizers screen your drives for photographic content, allow you to add keywords and manage other aspects of your photos or sort them. If you want to actually see all the photos that you have on your drive, you are already using them or their brethren.
Whether or not to use a photo organizing software may depend on the publishing space a photographer wants to use for displaying photos. The primary reason for using a photo organizer for presenting photos on-line is the synchronization of your hard-drive with the on-line space.
Two applications worth mentioning are Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or Apple Photos. Their downside is their limited sharing capability when taken individually.
The criterion for judging their suitability is the complexity of your photo orientation, in which case the need rises with each device – both camera and computer – used.
Selling, privacy and advertising are the three criteria that influence the choice of publishing spaces. These include social networks, blogs, through on-line galleries and ending with photo-sharing & selling portals and own websites.
If all you need to do is to show some of your work and receive a feedback from the community, specific (deviantArt) or non-specific networks (Facebook, 500px of flickr) should be sufficient. But the combination of the two is advised not only because specific networks usually allow you to influence the advertisements that can be displayed next to your content.
If you require control over the access to your photos and dislike advertising, there is a large number of galleries and portals to suit your needs. But there are few that offer such services for free without too many limitations.
What is the use of 50 MBs of space or even 2 GBs of space when the maximum size is 1 MB per photo? Surprisingly, in that same 2GBs space ad-free and free category is also BlueMelon, limiting the size to reasonable 48 MB per photo.
Alternatively, many photographers create websites at wordpress with many plugins available.
If you want to sell your photos, you can either display your photos and then prepare every order individually or use a suitable selling platform or your own site which can process payments automatically.
As for blogs, these are especially useful to support your work. But a photographer should consider every marketing venue and, as I will show, photo platforms do not necessarily rely on their own sharing capabilities making marketing that much simpler.
Photo sharing and selling sites
What are the features to look for?
1. Quality. The size and resolution limitations allow for high-quality photographs (exceeding 20 Mpx) to be displayed or sold.
2. Safety. The displayed and uploaded files are different making any corruption to your original files almost impossible.
3. Access. A range of access modes resulting in a diversity of viewing and searching privileges more nuanced than your usual network access.
4. Sharing. Sharing capabilities rely on own methods as much as on sharing via 3rd party services the like of Facebook, Twitter or blogs.
5. Search optimization. The bulk management of keywords, text-image associations, geolocation data and the access to traffic analytics are integrated.
6.Selling. Simple price management. The option to provide both free (promotional) and paid downloads. The inclusion of a license with every order aka the terms of purchase.
Quality & Safety
It is not worth considering a site that changes your uploaded photos to “make them better”. Changes like downsizing are most easy to detect but there are less obvious ways like forgetting the EXIF data or automatically changing the color space to sRGB.
Organization & Access
Photo sites differ in their organization significantly. Consequently, they also differ in the access modes. If you want to avoid confusion or dealing with a never-ending sorting by date and size, you need at least two layers of organization.
The basic unit holds photos and can be used to restrict access to a single such unit, whether an album, collection or photo folder. The secondary layer serves as the containing folders allowing you to create a system almost identical to the one you use on your Windows, Linux or MacOS.
Ideally, you can also restrict access to any of these ‘folders’ (categories, etc.) with a different set of privileges. One such example is to create an unlisted category containing password-protected albums. You can then invite e.g. the whole school to view the category but different classes will use a different password to access their photos.
Providing a comprehensible and enjoyable access to your photos is more necessary than simply attracting attention. While social networks excel in the latter, returning to a content once viewed, let’s say once a customer has decided to purchase it, is a different story.
When it comes to targeting a specific audience, you may do your own research and invite them to see your work or leave that to algorithms. But when it comes to your existing clients, you know them better and can notify them of your work without marketing expenses on your part.
Photo sharing sites that do not integrate email invitations or related instruments can only be used to attract attention, not to retain it.
The variations between photo portals in terms of selling are most notable. As a seller, always take a look whether you can actually comprehend the selling from a customer’s viewpoint. If it takes you longer than ten seconds to determine the price of a photo that is for sale than run to another site.
The basic principle in pricing management is time-economy. As a photographer, you don’t want to spend time setting prices with a system that can’t even display them. What you need is the combination of micro and macro-management, e.g. setting the same mark-up for all photos in the first step and then altering the prices of selected photos manually.
From the marketing perspective, you want to start with some of the best photos for equally interesting prices and provide discounts for let’s say whole-album purchases. But applying a good marketing perspective doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes.
Secondly, not everything must be sold. A system that allows your customers to download watermarked and/or low-resolution photos for free may become important part of your marketing strategy. But in case you don’t want your customers to use it, they shouldn’t even be able to see such an option.
Finally, one of the most overlooked points – license (also terms of purchase, contract, copyright, etc.). Rarely do customers expect to purchase a product and receive it without knowing their rights and obligations when it comes to conveniences.
For photographic content, buyer’s rights and obligations are even more important because they relate to your intellectual property. If you wish to sell photos, find out whether an actual license is included with the purchase and whether you need to be a lawyer to assign one of the basic licenses to your photographs together with the price.