Now that you’ve decided to sell photographs online, and determined the type of photography that you’d like to sell, it’s time to think about setting up your business.
Sell Photographs Online: The First Things First Checklist
- Office: Whether you have a dedicated space or a laptop on the couch, make sure you have a system to see what jobs you are working on so nothing gets missed. As you start to sell photographs online and your business grows, you’ll need to allocate more space (and time) to keep on top of everything.
- Business registration: Every city, state, and country has different requirements for starting a business, so it’s impossible to go into specifics here. Suffice to say, if you are selling something, you need to do it legally lest the taxman comes knocking on your door. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to ask for advice. You’ll likely need (at minimum) a tax ID number.
- Accounting: The “boring numbers stuff” is where many new businesses fail, so be sure to set yours up properly at the start. When you start to sell photographs online, filing expenses and income is easiest when done electronically and there are multiple accounting software packages available. I recommend something that automatically backs your data up to the cloud because no-one wants to retype in data the night before tax returns are due. Consult a tax expert or professional bookkeeper if it all gets too confusing.
- Develop product: People won’t buy what they can’t see. If you are going to sell photographs online whether that’s framed art prints, or books, or anything else that is a tangible product, get at least a few of them ready before you officially hang your shingle.
- Suppliers: You don’t want to wait until you have your first customer to find a reliable place to get prints done. And for goodness sake, don’t get them printed at Walmart! There is a plethora of professional photography suppliers and printers out there. Choose a few that match your needs best and ask for samples so you can evaluate quality. Once you’ve decided whom to deal with, contact them about setting up an account and getting sample prints. Remember that tax ID we spoke about? They’ll likely need it to set up your trade account. Many suppliers offer substantial discounts for samples and are keen for new accounts, so ask what they can offer you.
Nothing in this world is ever free, and photography can be a particularly expensive venture. Below are my recommendations of stuff you’ll need to sell photographs online:
Sell Photographs Online: The Essentials
- Professional Camera gear: Unless you’ve chosen a niche like art photography where you’re essentially working for yourself and you can re-schedule if things break, you must have reliable camera equipment. If you are shooting weddings, you must have two of everything. Yes, two professional bodies, two sets of lenses, two flashes. Everything. Both cameras should always be with you, and never in the back of your car. You do not want to be shooting the bride walking down the aisle and have your one and only camera stop working. It happens more often than you’d think. Spend the money or choose a different niche. No, I am not kidding.
- Insurance: You need comprehensive coverage for both your gear and for you (and your employees). Don’t even think about skipping this one. There are several insurers that specialize in professional photography, and will even include hire of rental gear while yours is being repaired.
- Computer and Software: You’ll need access to a computer with internet and software to view, edit, and ultimately sell your photographs online. Although you can download freebie shareware, I highly recommend you stick with the industry standard of Adobe products. You can bundle Photoshop and Lightroom together for only $10 per month on a subscription plan.
- Back-up plan: When you are handling your images, you need to have them stored in more than one place. Use a RAID system on your computer, an external hard drive, a cloud storage solution or preferably a combination of all three.
Sell Photographs Online: What’s Nice to Have
- Professional memberships: Depending on your chosen niche, membership in a professional organization can bring you referral work, offer practical support, and provide networking opportunities. In the USA, PPA and WPPI are good choices. In Australia, AIPP and ACMP are great. Most countries have at least one professional association, so be sure to investigate what suits you and your business best.
- Social Media accounts: Social media is a great way to promote your business, to sell photos online, and an easy way for people to share your products with their friends. Use whatever account(s) you feel most comfortable with, but I’d suggest Facebook and Instagram as a starter.
Things You Don’t Need
- A professionally-designed website Don’t waste your money paying a designer to create an elaborate website for your business. With Selz, it’s easy to set up a beautiful store in just under a day or add products and buttons to your existing site. You can add your photos, and start selling right away. If you want to sell your photographs online, your product should be the focus.
- Gear, gear and more gear: Setting yourself up as a professional photographer is expensive, so don’t spend money on gear you don’t need for your chosen niche. Do you need that 14mm lens? If you’re a landscape photographer, then probably yes. If you shoot sports, probably not. Despite what camera manufacturers tell you, you don’t need to replace your camera body every year, and professional lenses (when cared for properly) will last a lifetime.
- The latest shiny thing: The photography industry is riddled with plug-ins, presets, courses, and templates that sparkle and beckon for your hard-earned cash. Be realistic about what you need, especially when you’re just getting started.