How to Sell Your Photos

How I went about setting up my online store in order to sell some of my photos.

There will come a time when most of us will consider selling our photos. For me it is something that I have been considering for many years but always put off because it seemed too complicated and difficult.

This week I finally pulled my finger out and set up my online store and do you know what? It wasn’t half as complicated or as difficult as I was expecting.

In this article I will walk you through the process that I went through when setting up my online store.

Why Sell Your Photos?

The first question that I asked myself was why do I want to sell my photos in the first place?

As far as my own expectations are concerned I am realistic enough to know that I am not going to make much money selling my images. In fact I fully expect to make a loss when you take into account the amount of time and effort it takes to set up and run an online store.

But if my main motivation for everything in life was to make money then I may have never have started a YouTube channel.

Working as I do in IT I am interested in how applications like eCommerce platforms work. I have learnt over the years that there is no better way of finding out how something works than having a go for yourself.

But by far and away my main motivation for selling my photos is simply to answer the question “are my photos good enough to sell?”

I have absolutely no intention of becoming a professional photographer. However that does not necessarily mean that I am not interested to learn if one day I could become one.

Who knows what might happen in the future? As I reach my mid forties I am aware that if I don’t do the ground work now turning professional might not even be an option for me in the years to come.

My main motivation for selling my photos is to simply answer the question “are my photos good enough to sell?”

How to Sell Your Photos

Having made the decision to sell my photos the next thing that I need to figure out was how to go about it. Here I had 3 options:

  1. I could try and sell my photos directly at events such as craft markets
  2. I could sell my photos via a third party like a stock photography agency
  3. I could sell my photos via an online store

For me the number of opportunities to sell my photos directly are extremely limited. I simply do not have the time to travel all over the north of England to attend craft markets and car boot sales.

As a landscape photographer I have never seen the appeal of selling stock images. As far as I can tell stock photography is a numbers game. In order to make money from stock websites you have to upload a lot of photos. 

It is also pretty anonymous; you don’t really know (or care) whose work you are buying. If there is one thing that I have learned about photography since starting my YouTube channel it is that in general, when it comes to hanging a piece of art on their wall, people ‘buy’ the photographer first before they buy the image.

I believe that people do not buy prints from Thomas Heaton because they are the best photographs. They buy from Tom because he has touched their lives in some way, either by inspiring them or by sharing the story of his images through his videos. It’s not just a print, it’s a Thomas Heaton print!

I want people to buy my work, not just because they like the image but because they have invested a little in my journey as a photographer.

Clearly the best option for me is to sell my photos via my own website.

If there is one thing that I have learned about photography since starting my YouTube channel it is that in general, when it comes to hanging a piece of art on their wall, people ‘buy’ the photographer first before they buy the image.

Selling Your Photos Online

Again, when it comes to selling your photos online there are three main options:

  1. Sell via a fully managed service such as SmugMug
  2. Use a hosted solution such as SquareSpace or Wix
  3. Set up a self hosted website using something like WordPress

SmugMug is a website specifically created for photographers. They have a number of plans from a basic place to upload your photos to solutions for professional photographers allowing them to sell their images online.

For me the main advantage of SmugMug is that they take care of everything. Once you have uploaded you photos they manage your sales, collecting payment and even fulfilling the orders using a print lab of your choice.

One of the main disadvantage of SmugMug is that they do not support limited edition prints which for a landscape photographer is a serious limitation.

Another issue is the cost. Their ‘portfolio’ package which allows you to sell prints costs £140 a year. I would need to sell 7 prints before I broke even.

Hosted solutions such as SquareSpace (£180 a year) and Wix (£100 a year) suffer from the same problem. At the volumes I expect to sell (potentially 0) I am going to be out of pocket.

Fortunately I already have a self hosted website and enough IT knowledge to set up an online shop myself. 

WordPress and WooCommerce

I have had my own website for about a year now. Up until now I have mostly used my website as a place to host my blog.

I host my website using WordPress, a powerful, opensource content management system and the most popular website management system in use today.

One of the best things about WordPress is the ease with which it can be extended through the use of plugins. One such plugin is WooCommerce, a completely free and fully featured eCommerce solution written by the developers of WordPress themselves.

WooCommerce provides everything that you need to run an online store:

  • Product catalogue
  • Stock management
  • Order management

Setting up your catalogue is very straight forward and involves creating products, setting descriptions and other attributes including the price and uploading images.

It also allows you to set stock levels, perfect for limited edition prints which, when all are sold, will appear as out of stock.

When the sales start to roll in WooCommerce will help you to keep track of your orders. It is hard to believe that such a full featured solution could be free to use.

But for me the most important feature is the ability to take payments.

WooCommerce is free, fully featured eCommerce solution that can be added to any existing WordPress site.

Taking Payment

Processing card payments is for me at least the most scary part of running an online store. Fortunately WooCommerce manages this for you.

All you need to do is to choose a card processing company and set up an account.

In the UK it seems that WooCommerce recommend Stripe. Their fees seem to be pretty reasonable, £1.61 for each print that I sell, and so I went with them.

WooCommerce also allow you to accept payment via PayPal. PayPal is a bit more expensive than Stripe, £1.85 for each print, but for the time being I am happy to offer both options.

In order to keep everything simple I have also set up a separate bank account with Monzo Bank where all of the money collected will be paid into.

Logistics (Printing and Shipping)

I do not produce my own prints. It is an aspect of photography that I have not yet explored but perhaps will at some point in the future.

At the moment producing my own prints is not practical. I spend most of the working week away from home so an order could potentially have to wait for 5 days before it could be fulfilled.

In this day and age that is simply too long. Clearly I need to find someone to produce my prints for me.

I have been using Loxely Colour for a number of years and have always been happy with the quality of their prints. They offer a wide range of products including high quality Giclée fine art prints.

The other advantage of using Loxely is that they offer a white label shipping option. This means that they remove all branding from their packaging and will ship directly to my customers on my behalf keeping costs to a minimum.

Loxely Colour offer a white label shipping option which will help to keep costs to a minimum. 

Pricing

Pricing your work can be tricky. Set your price too low and you risk undervaluing your work, too high and potentially no one will want to buy from you.

I decided very early on that the approach that I would take was to simply add a 100% markup to my costs.

It costs me roughly £20 to produce a 18 x 12 inch Giclée print and to process the credit card payment. At £40 I will obviously make a £20 profit for each print sold which is enough to keep me ‘interested’ while hopefully offering extremely good value for money.


Selling your photographs can seem a daunting process at first but eCommerce platforms like WooCommerce deal with most of the complexity of running an online store. Couple that with a print lab that will ship direct to your customers and you could have a winning combination.

Well, that’s what I am hoping for at least!

Let me know what you think of my online store by leaving a comment below.

Chris – December 2018 

25 thoughts on “How to Sell Your Photos”

    1. Go for it Tim, if you are using WordPress is should be straight forward enough. I think the only problem that I had was that not all themes work well for WooCommerce. I solved that problem by having two entirely separate sites. My main site and my shop site. That way I can use 2 different themes. But that does make it a bit more complicated.

  1. Nice job! I’ve been thinking about setting up a web page, blogging, and maybe an online store, so it’s really nice to read about how you did it.

    1. Go for it Theresa! I am going to write an article about setting up a WordPress site explaining all that you need to know if that helps. Hopefully I’ll get that done early in the New Year.

      1. Chris, Looking forward to the WP blog. I had a feeble attempt at WP a few years ago but couldn’t get my head around using a blogging platform for a website. I’m sure the blog will answer some of those outstanding questions.
        Great blog on your ecommerce approach btw. Have to agree with you on Loxley – fantastic products and customer service, but did find their shipping fees on the high side.
        Have a fantastic festive season and all the best for 2019.
        Mark Day

  2. Nice one Chris. I think that by planning, taking, printing and selling your prints, you are completing a cycle of sorts. I rarely if ever print any of my own photos because I don’t want to invest in a printer–it simply doesn’t make sense for the number of times I would need to use it. Thanks to this post, I do think I will select and print a few of my favorites just to go through the process.

    I believe you are spot on about the reasons for buying prints from a specific person. While following you on YT and viewing your images, one of my favorites is “Windermere from Loughrigg Fell”. I can remember seeing it for the first time and re-playing the video and pausing to study it closely. I love the composition and the light is so wonderful and warm. I shall give your new e-commerce site a go and invest in a “Chris Sale print”. Cheers, Jeff

    1. Thanks Jeff, I did consider buying a printer myself until I saw how much they cost. I worked out that I’d need to sell about 50 prints before I broke even. If you are going to print some of your images before heading back to the US then I can highly recommend Loxely Colour, they have done an excellent job for me in the past and even do test prints for free! Thanks again for being the first person ever to buy a print from my shop.

  3. Chris
    well done for taking the plunge and I am sure you will sell enough to keep you interested. I tend to buy other photographers’ work in book form rather than prints as we have limited wall space and I do like having my own work on display. Not in a narcissistic way, just that the images have a real meaning and connection for me and Jane. Like you, I do a calendar every year for friends and family but I don’t think I will ever offer the images for sale – I have enough complications on my tax form without adding more!

    1. Thanks Steve. I think it is important that we print our own images, as you say we have a real connection with them. It is an ambition of mine to produce a book of my work. It will take a while for me to build a portfolio of work good enough so in the meantime I am thinking about producing an eBook sharing my approach to landscape photography. I hear you on the tax thing. I have set up an entirely separate bank account and plan to invest any profit that I make back into my photography and YouTube channel. Hopefully that will keep HM Revenue and Customs happy. 🙂

  4. Interestingly, I just received an IM from a FB friend who was interested in purchasing an image she saw on my timeline. I’m always humbled by requests like these. Depending on who it is, I’ll offer to send them a high res file to print on their own. In this case, it was bday present. I do like the idea of WP. I’ve run a blog before and the platform is very intuitive. But I’m still intimidated by the e-commerce side of things. Didn’t know Wix etc. were so expensive, guess I should stop hitting the “Skip Ad” button now and then. Anyways, great information that serves as a starting point in case I follow a similar path down the line. Appreciate you sharing your experience Chris.

    1. Hi Miguel, it is very flattering when someone asks to buy on of your photos. Although I have just set up my store I have sold one print before to a friend of the family. Nice to know someone else is able to enjoy my work. Don’t be intimidated by the eCommerce side of things mate. I am here to help if you get stuck. In the new year I am going to write an article about setting up a WordPress site and the WooCommerce plugin which should help you to get started. But you can also sell images via Facebook and Instagram these days which might be a good option. Merry Christmas mate.

  5. Hey Chris,
    Interesting post and write up. Firstly congrats on taking the plunge with selling your work. Its an impressive reflection upon you as a photographer, and the confidence you have gained in your work to make it a physical product that is paid for! So massive kudos to you for that, and I wish you the very best of success Your images are very nice indeed.

    Perhaps, you may enjoy my ramblings on the subject also?

    I have taken a different tact to you in selling my photography as prints in as much as I have removed any and all prints from my website, instead rather than offering from a selection I have simply opened the floor up to any image seen can be purchased, so far this has had a very interesting effect upon sales, enquiries etc

    My findings have been….

    1: What I appreciate as a ‘good print’ isn’t always reflected in what my customers ultimately purchase.

    2: Offering a selection, sometimes more often than not blinkers my customers to other images they can purchase, or want to purchase.

    3: Offering a typical web shop, relates in my customers not engaging with me, as the photographer and ‘expert’

    4: The process of ordering a print is far more involved then selecting a size, paper type & edition from my experience.

    5: My customers have several more fundamental questions that need answering, which they haven’t considered at the point of enquiry/purchase.

    So switching it around has allowed me to be far more involved in the ‘process’ my customers are undertaking, I can guide, assist and reassure and on occasions up sell. The downside is I have to spend a little more time nurturing the sale and being available to chat, but the double flip-side is I’m as equally invested from my customers point of view as they are, in getting the right image, perfect for them and they are also more invested in me as a person and a photographer, which has lead on to additional and multiple sales.

    Regards
    Geoff

    1. Thanks Geoff, that’s a very interesting insight into how you sell your images and I really appreciate you taking the time to reply. For me engagement is the most important thing; the way that I look at it people aren’t buying a print they are investing in my journey as a photographer. However, at this stage I don’t even know who my ‘customers’ are so I have no idea how best to meet their needs. I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes. Once I have updated the site with my portfolio images from 2018 I am going to start offering selected photos from my videos as single edition prints. An opportunity for people buy unique.

  6. Great site! The same reasons you listed with SmugMug is why I switched to Zenfolio (also for photographers) years ago and haven’t gone back. It’s hard when you start selling because you tend to be way more critical of your work at that point. It is a never ending circle. Good luck and I hope you sell a lot.

    1. Thanks Tammy. I forgot about Zenfolio, they are a fair bit cheaper than SmugMug. I’m already pretty critical of my own work 🙂 so I don’t expect to sell much. That’s why it is so important that my shop doesn’t cost me anything if it is just sitting there doing nothing. Merry Christmas.

  7. Good luck Chris, I agree with you wholeheartedly on this, people buy a connection, not just an image.

    You have some lovely images up there and I’m sure with your YouTube presence and personality you will get some sales.

    I have done a couple of small exhibitions and sold prints out here in Baku. It scared the life out of me the first time that no one would come or buy but in the end it worked out well. It helps I have a niche of expats buying souvenir prints. But there is nothing nicer than when someone decides they want your work on their wall.

    I put all the profits to a local children’s shelter and vulnerable families out here which brings an added pleasure.

    Good luck and look forward to hearing how it goes!

    1. Thanks Alan. I genuinely don’t expect to sell much but you don’t know until you try. I like the idea of an exhibition, something I have been considering for a while. If I do make some sales perhaps I’ll invest the profits in some frames to allow me to show off my work. Merry Christmas mate.

  8. Interesting insights and I think handling the website yourself is probably the best option, especially as you had it mostly in place. I’m currently with Smugmug and although I really like it as a gallery and archive service, stepping up to a sales platform is, as you say, very restrictive. Even though they are partnered with Loxley, bizarrely, you are restricted to basic photographic prints. I have the same doubts as you regarding my images but I think I may look into WP etc when my Smugmug renewal is due, which given is a few months away there should be a Chris Sale walkthrough available haha.

    1. Hi Steve. I am working on an introduction to WordPress for photographers. I hope it will be published soon. With all of the plugins that are already available it is so flexible but it does take a bit of effort to get everything up and running. If you have any questions all you have to do is ask. 🙂

  9. I believe you are correct on people purchasing the work of photographers. I know it’s true for me, I like to support the hardworking photographers who The the extra effort to share the experience of landscape photography on social media.

    1. Hi Paul, it’s quite exciting to have prints for sale on my website. I am fascinated by how it all works. My next step I suppose is to work on search engine optimisation so that more people find my website. How about you, do you sell your photographs?

  10. Hi Chris. Sorry not to comment sooner but retirement can be very time consuming. I hope your new venture is a success, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. I have used Loxley since film days and have no complaints. Happy New Year and all the best for 2019. Les

    1. Happy New Year Les! It has been fun to set up my online shop but I don’t suppose I will sell much. Still, it was a worth while exercise and I found the whole process fascinating.

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