When you first start out with photography and develop your skills, it can be difficult to know when and if you will begin to continue selling your work as art prints. Is this the year you tried it?
The question of whether you are ready is a difficult question to answer and may require some personal reflection. Maybe your family and friends tell you that you’re great, and that’s encouraging, but how will others see your work? And if you decide that you want it, which is better to start? Here are a few things to look at and think about if you find yourself thinking about taking that leap.
Find your best work
What is your best job? Is it landscapes, wildlife, macro, or street and urban scenes? Don’t base this on what you think will sell, but on what you prefer to portray. This is probably your strongest work or at least your most memorable one.
Put together a collection of what you think are your best photos. Keep the selection for a dozen or so, and then ask for feedback from people you know will be honest with you. Listen carefully to what they have to say, and do your best not to take anything personally. Remind yourself that you are still learning and developing your technique, so everything they say should be taken in that spirit.
Joining the camera club is a good place to get feedback. A Facebook camera group can also be useful, but what I’m talking about here is an actual personal group. This can do two things for you. One is that you get vital feedback and insights into how your work compares to other photographers and what they think is your strongest work. The second is that you have the opportunity to hang out with other like-minded people who enjoy photography. This can often be intimidating to some at first, but hopefully, over time, you’ll discover that other photographers can be a great source of support and inspiration, especially those who are up to their skill and experience level. And who knows, you might even develop some close friendships outside of the process.
Another great benefit of the Camera Club is that it may provide you with opportunities to showcase your work in public, thus giving you your first outlet to show what you feel are your best photos. Often these are group presentations where you will showcase your work alongside that of your colleagues, and give you a chance to see how your photos measure up and where you are unique in your approach.
If you want to do it on your own, it is best to find a café or other public place with a rotating art display. If you try this and don’t get any sales, don’t worry about it. At first, it’s more about exposure and experience than anything else. It will give you a chance to print, frame and hang your work where others can see it.
Another great way to continue your search is to find an artist collaborative gallery to join. An artist’s art collaboration is usually a gallery run by a group of artists working in different mediums. Generally, they take a very small commission on the work you sell, and sometimes, none at all. The only caveat is that you will have to help a little with the gallery running. Typically this includes working in occasional shifts and being in supply slots. Co-ops are a great way to get some experience in the gallery, as well as learning about artists working in other disciplines that can also have the added benefit of giving you new ideas or ways to approach your work.
Developing relationships with other artists can be very beneficial. Whether they are other photographers or not. Other artists, if they are well advanced in their careers, can give you valuable pointers and advice as you develop your art. They may also be able to help you find places to view it.
But whether it’s a camera club, a collaborative gallery, or something else, I highly suggest you find a community to connect with. If it’s too scary to start in person, find a good online group where you can start posting pictures and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. It can help a lot mentally just having friendship with others, sharing successes with them, and sometimes consoling when the inevitable failures happen.
For me, I found long ago that participating in co-ops was a great starting point for me, especially when I get my first solo show. It was a real confidence booster. For the most part, my fellow artists have been very encouraging and supportive. I learned a lot from them.
There isn’t one magic point where your work is good enough and then all of a sudden, you’re all set. It’s more of a process than just putting it up there, getting feedback, and maybe even some sales as you go along. As your business improves and you build a name for yourself, you begin to be able to charge higher fees, charge higher fees for everything you do, and perhaps participate in high-quality art festivals or galleries.
The image above is an example of one of my images that I’ve reworked over time as I’ve improved post-processing capabilities.
The point here is not to let the idea that your work isn’t as good as some of your heroes stop you from showing it if that’s what you want to do. When you start out, you may not be able to charge as much, or at least not as much as you’d like, but as time goes on and your business progresses, you’ll hopefully be able to charge a higher price for it. This is the natural progression of being an artist in any medium.
If you start this process and have some success with it, you may decide that you want to start taking things more seriously. If so, at some point there is one question you must answer on your own and that is “Has it become a business”? The benefits of being a corporation is that you will be able, if you earn enough to claim taxes, to work on top of the board. You can file a Schedule C and write off your expenses, such as a new camera or laptop you just bought, or expenses associated with a fall photography trip. Also, if you want to start doing things like art festivals, you’ll need to collect sales tax. Obtaining a sales tax license requires a business license.
For me, that was when I first started doing art festivals. I created my LLC and started “getting real.” And while it was something I had been doing on the upside until then, the experience of taking it to the next level was mentally valuable to me. I’m starting to devote some time and attention to what I love to do, and make the formation of a business more realistic in the world. This was another important stepping stone for me in my career.
So there you have it, some ideas and guidelines for those who want to start selling their photographs to the public. If 2022 is the year you should start, go out and give it a try. You really have nothing to lose.