Getting out of the print sales rat-race

After 2 years online with my own website aimed at selling prints of my work I’ve decided to give it up. On 20th of Feb this year, Photos of Edinburgh will cease to be, in it’s current form at least. I’ll retain the domain and maybe even just point it towards this blog but I’m ceasing trying to make print sales any more.

The reasons is simple. There’s no market at all for an amateur to make any decent money from print sales. In an age where anyone can buy a SLR, set up a cheap WordPress website and register their name with “photography” at the end of it as a domain, it’s a crowded market of dreamers and chancers and not a dead horse I want to keep flogging.

I licenced an image to an advertising company last year, in that one transaction (which came via Flickr) I made more profit than I did in 2 years, 4 redesign’s and god knows how many hours trying to promote my own little corner of the web. I’d be lucky to have even covered the cost of 2 years hosting and domain name renewal if I’m brutally honest.

I think most amateurs, when they get hooked on photography, go through that “I could make some serious cash here” stage. Unless you’re very lucky, I’d estimate 99% of people end up disappointed. A touch of realism is actually what’s required. Think about it, you’ve gone out and bought your fancy new camera. You’ve taken a few nice pics. Now you want to punt them for a decent price, but wait! Stop and hink about it, you’ve gone and bought that camera and taken that pic, what’s to stop anyone else doing the same? I mean, who doesn’t have or have access to a half decent digital camera these days? Click, trot off to Asda, stick the card in the machine, order the print for a fraction the cost of yours. Might not be as good but a fiver for a A3 print or £30+ for one of yours, the average punter will be more than happy with their own.

From here on it I’m stopping the self promotion with a view to profit. In the last year I’ve been shafted by a magazine, let down by others wanting work and ended up disappointed trying to get a deal to punt printed images locally. It’s simply not going to happen and it’s pointless to keep on. From here on it, photography is about the fun of it for me, not the potential profit. That’s not to say I’m going to pass up any opportunities that might fall into my lap but I’m certainly not going to going out looking for them in future.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily wish “insert your name” Photography out there all the best with their endevours but unless you’re a full time pro photographer who’s very living depends on making those sales you will likely never put the effort in to make the sale as the need for it isn’t there. The pro who’s job it is will pull out all the stops to generate the income, me? I’m a web developer, that’s what pays the mortgage and puts food on the table, that’s where I’ll concentrate the effort, photography will be my escape from that, not an extension of it.

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6 responses

  1. it is a tough market. i have sold a few prints at flea markets, so far. i have my images up on a website that does all the work of printing, collecting the payment, and shipping, but i havent sold an image yet. still looking for viable ways to sell images. but ity isnt my primary source either. i just love to shoot, and am an artist at heart.
    k☼

    February 6, 2012 at 5:35 pm

  2. I am sorry to hear that. 😦 Totally understand as sometimes the timings are just not right. I wish you the best in your future endeavors and I hope you continue to blog when you have time. Send me your link if you have a new site, so I can follow you. 🙂

    February 9, 2012 at 10:08 pm

  3. I suppose you have considered selling files online through Getty or iStock.com. Theft of images is policed stringently by such sites.
    Your work is certainly good enough to attract attention and sales.

    February 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    • I actually had images on Getty for nearly 3 years but refused to sign their updated contributor agreement so they have now been removed. The main issue with Getty was the tiny amounts you actually got from them. The clincher for me was an image used by the Sunday Times and I got less than £5 commission for it. Getty and particularly iStockphoto are only worthwhile if you can get thousands of images on there and let them rack up the small abounts into large amounts, if you only have a handful it’s not worth the hassle.

      February 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

      • Royalties on iStock are better than they used to be because of increases in pricing. Many members are selling lots with relatively small portfolios (250 -350 photos). The quality is what matters, and you have that in spades.

        February 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

  4. azdustdevil

    I hear you! I’m teaching photography now and selling very little. When you really think about it, what is selling in this economy besides iPhones? I’m leaving Smugmug after my subscription expires. Nice site. No money. Not worth it. I’ll continue making a few fancy pinhole cameras and teaching photography, but that’s it. Photography will become my escape.

    May 28, 2012 at 4:18 am

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