Selling Photos Online Part 1

Selling photos online might seem like an obvious step for any photographer who is planning to take their business to the web. However, creating a website that showcases your work and makes it easy for customers to purchase prints can be complicated.

This is the first post in a series aimed at helping the photographer who is considering or trying to sell photos online. Over the next five posts, we’ll cover the topics of:

  • Planning your site
  • Content you should consider
  • Choosing and creating your website’s functionality
  • Marketing your website
  • Using the website to increase business and profits

So, on to planning your website ¶ Before you start trying to work out how to use HTML or any other web development tools, you’ll save yourself some headaches by answering a few key questions.

Who is your target market?

Photography is a big field and customers want different things. Who are you trying to reach? Brides? Seniors? Models? Corporations? CEOs?

You might be aiming to reach more than one group ì that’s fine, but you need to define the groups you’re reaching. By answering this question, you’ll be able to set the direction for your website’s presentation, sales and marketing.

Part of your target market analysis is determining the location of your target market. Most wedding photographers focus on their local area, whereas travel photographers or stock photographer might aim at national or global markets.

Get your focus right here, and the decisions that follow will be much simpler. One trick I use to keep myself focus is to create òprofiles’ of the typical individuals in my market. For example, if I’m targeting a site at brides, it helps me to define one person in my target market very clearly. For example, I might say my target market is òSuzie’ ì she’s 26, working full-time, and spends a lot of her free time designing her perfect wedding. She’s probably busy and stressed, in a hurry, and determined to find a photographer who understands weddings and will make her look fantastic. As a profiled customer, Suzie isn’t the same as òRyan’, a budding model who wants to find a portfolio photographer. By profiling your market in this way, you’ll get a clearer understanding of their needs.

Once you’ve clarified your target market, you need to work out your business image:

What image do you want to convey to your target market?

Now that you understand the needs of your target market, you need to position yourself in line with those needs. Do you want to portray an image of òHigh-End Pro Photographer’ or òSmall-Town Wedding Photographer’? Maybe you want potential customers to see you as a òFriendly Photographer’, good with children and animals. Any of these definitions could apply to any type of photographer ì Suzie the bride may be looking for any one of these types of photographers. You can’t be ALL of the above ì and none is necessarily better than the other. You just need to identify your image so that you can be consistent in how you present yourself through the words, pictures and designs you use on your website.

Next, you need to ask yourself:

Why do you want to sell your photos online?

There are all sorts of benefits that come when selling your photos online:

  • Increased exposure
  • A simple way for customers to purchase their photos
  • Greater flexibility in what you can offer your customers (discounts, packages, customized pricing)
  • Streamlined ordering process that reduces the amount of time you spend dealing with orders and printing
  • If done properly, it should result in greater profit and a reduced amount of administrative work

I suggest you choose one or two reasons for selling your photos online for now. Again, working out the answer to this question helps you to focus your website. Write your reasons down because we’ll come back to them later!

What value do I want to add to my business?

Selling your photos online allows you to tap into different areas of the òlifecycle’ of dealing with your customers, so you need to think about where in this lifecycle you want to add value. Do you want to give your customers an opportunity to see your portfolio before they hire you? Do you want to allow your customers to view their photos instead of handing them a CD or proofs? Or do you also want to use the website to deal with ordering and shopping?

I don’t know about you, but as a consumer who is now conditioned to òshopping online’, I love being able to browse, choose and ultimately purchase what I want quickly and simply on a well-designed website. I prefer to pay by credit card and to have the shipping, tax and final price finalised and confirmed on the spot. It makes me feel like there are no loose ends. As long as I am confident I can easily contact the seller, I’m happy.

Consider Have you ever purchased anything from them? They have a very simple purchasing system that also allows the customer to modify their order after purchase.

Another advantage of selling photos online is the potential to market your photos with some extras – volume discounts, early-bird specials, coupons, and bridal registries, for example. These little extras can do wonders in creating a positive experience for your customers.

There’s also the important matter of òrepeat business’. If you do wedding, portrait and event photography, and you do a wedding for a couple who have an overall positive experience with you from the moment you make first contact to the moment their prints are delivered, you are much more likely to be remembered when the time comes for them to get photos done of their new baby, their family of 5, their teenager’s senior prom, their daughter’s wedding, etc ¶ and they’ll mention you to their friends.

These are just examples to get you going on the right track. The complete customer experience, not just their experience with you on the day of the shoot is important.

Finally you need to determine:

What is your budget?

This one is obvious. You should use your answers above to determine what you want to pay to achieve these goals. You probably have a finite amount of money that you can spend on your website and that’s fine. Over the next few posts we’ll talk about how to design, build and deploy a solution that can conform to any budget and has the ability to be expanded effectively at a later date.

Remember, this is just the beginning of the series. Look out for the next post dealing with the content of your new website. If you’d like to keep tabs on this series and be notified as soon as new posts come online, subscribe to the RSS feed here.

Next: Determining the content that will be placed on your site.

Written by

Derek is Engineering Czar and Co-founder of Fotomerchant. He once picked up a camera and started shooting but everyone screamed so he stopped.