My Photostream Brings All The Boys To The Yard

The Greyhound Cheers, all. My photostream just ding‘ed over at Flickr to 100,000 views of the stream itself, and 650,000 views of photos in total.

I got into photo-snapping not because photography had ever interested me. It didn’t. It was an arcane mystery, an occult language.

Then, an interesting thing happened: I was able to dupe a lovely lady into marrying me (my hypnosis over her still holds strong!), and in the process of planning a small, toned-down wedding, we decided that it would be silly to hire a photographer. Wedding photographers demanded that we tithe to them our blood and future children, and it was cheaper instead to actually buy a reasonable point-and-shoot camera to do the trick. So, the Canon S80 entered my fumbly hands.

It wasn’t long before I learned to love the digital camera. We’d had digital cameras before, but none of them really wowed me that much. The S80 was robust. It took beautiful shots, and it had a macro mode — and, those who know my stream know that I am a giggling whore for macro mode. I love the tiny worlds, the miniature places, the secrets hidden in grass and rust and bug-eyes. Before too long I was kneeling in mud trying to get waterdrop shots or look deep into some firefly’s butthole or something (it glows, it glows).

Then, onto Flickr.

Over time, it became clear that taking photos was a visual way into my stories. I’d gotten deeper into screenwriting, and using the camera helped me think visually and frame my work in that context. The camera became a writer’s aid, strange as it may seem.

I had a few shots hit big. One of my fog shots has 100,000+ views all its own. I got blogged. People seem to like one of my landscape shots. I got a fog snap onto some BBC site [damnit, can’t find the link]. I got into a charity photo book about MS. A shot ended up in an online Napa Valley travel guide. And so on.

Not long ago, I became the proud owner of a Canon DSLR with requisite macro lens.

Photography is still a hobby. I think it always will be.

But, it seems high time to start trying to make a little scratch off of them. Maybe it won’t work. Maybe it will.

So, I’m soliciting you, The Intertubes, for your wisdom.

What’s the best way to sell my work? Should I put together a book and sell the book? Prints? Where? How?

Of equal importance: would you buy one or more of my photos?

Help me, Internets. You’re my only hope.

11 comments

  • Hey bud, I’ll toss some support here and a little bit of… it’s not exactly criticism, more critquey in a sort of nutmeg flavored way.

    First off, your ability to work focus is great. Finding Depth of Field is not the most natural thing to a lot of people, and it looks like your compositions are better for just nailing that. Kudos! Also, your perspectives are pretty damn original. I don’t pretend to be a photography expert, or even well “viewed”, but I think your ability to cloak the real world in itself (like the pepper picture) is pretty nice. Those are good traits.

    My advice: Use your publishing credits to get some pieces put in a photo-magazine, try the freelancer route. How you do this? I am not at all sure but I think if you want to “break” in, that would be the way to go. Go to galleries also, do some research. You’re not insanely far from Boston or NYC I assume, take a day trip and go to some smaller (ie, not snobby) galleries there that will actually talk to you.

    I don’t know if any of that will work, but that’s where I would start. As much as I hate internet writing groups, maybe the photography scene is better. It may be worth it to talk to other people asking the same questions you are.

    Either way, good luck bro. And that fog picture totally kicks ass (my highbrow critique of your art).

    • Sweet, sweet nutmeg.

      As to your suggestions: believe it or not, I don’t know that I care so much about freelance photography. I’m a writer, and want to stay that way; I just figure, hey, I’ve got just about 2400 photos available. If even 1% of those are sellable in some fashion, then I’ve got 24 photos I could maybe use to pay for, well, all the cool camera lenses I want. :)

      So, for example, I could go with something like:

      A photobook from Qoop.com, and sell those. The best thing I could hope for would be a product that also lets me pair some small stories with them (either flash fiction, or just updated text like what I post with every pic on Flickr).

      But, it also seems worth considering doing prints, too, that people can order.

      Problem is, I dunno what site/service is best for that.

      Taking suggestions, obviously, if anybody out there has experience.

      — c.

  • Hey Chuck,
    I’ve done several things as a freelance photographer to make money from my images. Nowadays, I’m established and get most of my assignments from my publisher, but I’ve tried tons of different things in the past – most failed miserably but some worked moderately well.

    You can try the photobook route with qoop.com or lulu.com – before you attempt a book like that take a look at your “competition” on those sites and you’ll see how few of those books sell unless you’re willing to do a lot of self promotion. On the other hand, it doesn’t cost much (mostly time) to put a book together and offer it for sale so you’ve got nothing to lose really.

    If you want to try selling prints, one of the best ways (best = cheapest & least hassle) is using photoreflect from express digital (http://www.expressdigital.com/products/prstorefronts.shtm). They give you the software for free, don’t charge to host your images, and everything is drop-shipped from the photo lab that you choose. Photoreflect works better for event photography because you have a well defined target audience, but I’ve seen photographers use it for fine art stuff too. The challenge is going to be getting people to the site who might be interested in buying the prints.

    Another option would be to explore the many micro-stock photography sites on the internet. My favorite is istockphoto.com because it also has an active community that gives brutally honest critiques and technical advice on your technique. The idea behind micro-stock is that you upload images which are manually reviewed and accepted into the collection where photo buyers pay very small fees depending how they intend to use the image. You make money based on volume of sales and not one sale for hundreds of dollars. A friend of mine likes it because he can upload when he feels like it and is always generating residual income from the images he already has in his portfolio.

    Whichever route you take with your photography make sure you don’t obsess too much on what makes an image “marketable” because it will suck all the fun out of creating the image in the first place.

    • Martin:

      Awesome. That is all very good information. Exactly what I’m seeking.

      It shouldn’t affect my future photo-taking voodoo; ultimately, I just want to mine the 2000+ photos I already have going. :)

      Thank you, sir.

      — c.

  • Totally man. I’ll contact a couple of people from film school that went the stills route, if I can track them down. They may have some advice… and I know none of them are famous, so they’ll still return my emails.

  • Glad I could help. I forgot to add that I’ve been enjoying your macros lately and they’ve inspired me to dust off my macro and do some of my own. I’m on assignment right now, but will be back in the studio next week – I’ll post a few to my photostream.

  • I’ve had relatively good luck at local art shows. It’s a time commitment, but it’s fun too. Etsy has not worked out well for me, but Getty is wonderful and very low maintenance. I’ve had some luck with the website too, but most frequently people write into my site asking about shoots.

    I prefer Mpix for printing because of the product and shipping options (Drop ship).

    Good luck! Isn’t this a fun problem to have?

  • Hi Chuck,

    Nice macro work, btw!

    I recently joined a photography start-up in this field & I will share what I’ve found out online…

    Many photographers take a “shotgun” approach to selling their photographs online, which means they try to distribute their photos via multiple channels online to generate income (stock photo sites, selling from their own web site or blog, selling photos from a hosted storefront, selling on places like Etsy or 1000markets, etc.).

    I think the other challenges would be in determining what a fair price would be for your photos (if selling prints) & if you’re willing to pay subscription fees at some sites (ones that are hosting a storefront, for example).

    And an interesting read from someone that appears to focus on stock sites:

    http://www.dphotojournal.com/sell-photos-online/

  • Hey Chuck,

    I don’t know a thing about selling prints, but I did more than a little research on photo books and I really like viovio.com because it will let you have complete control over the page… many photo book places don’t do that… or they end up cropping your pictures, or don’t let you put them where you want, etc. So, you have to do a little more of the work yourself… you have to create the page yourself in PhotoShop… but to me it was completely worth it to be able to make the page exactly what I wanted. I ordered a paperback book and it was beautiful… oh, and the book quality was great too. :-)

    Good luck!

  • My dad always had the most luck with gallery showings (although for his favorite images, he always priced them way out of the reach of most people so…). I’d love to see a coffee-table type book of your insect fetishes, personally.
    Spoken as the child if an obsessed photographer (he named one of our cats Leica, for fuck’s sake), I love the ease of digital photography. That being said, some of my fondest memories were watching my dad up on Old Rag Mountain waiting for 45 minutes to 2 hours for the perfect sun-dappled pool to get just the right pattern of shadows or sitting in the corner of the darkroom in the basement that he and I built and watching this wizardry of light and chemicals create a stunning image appear out of nowhere on a piece of paper.
    I’m by no means this 35mm B&W purist, but those images just seem to have something deeply visceral that is so much more difficult to capture with digi-magic. So, in betwixt thousand word days, carve out a niche in a closet or basement and buy yourself all the requisite goodies.
    I actually have a print I’d like you to take a look at – when I get a chance I’ll take a snapshot and email it your way (destroy immediately or else my father will hunt me down… it’s one of those priced-out-of-range images that I feel most people would be disgusted by the fact I have it hanging on my wall, but I find it gorgeous in how deeply disturbing it is).

  • I think a photo book would make sense for you. It seems obvious to combine your photos and writing and try to make money from it.

    I have been trying the stock photography stuff. Much of your photography is more artistic than normal stock photos I think. I have tried a few sites and stayed away from the microstock sites. Even though I am not actively trying to make money from my photography, if someone buys a photo, I want a decent price. I was invited to the Getty Flickr Collection and have a few photos for sale there. One actually sold the first month it was up and now I can afford to buy a new lens cap. I was disappointed with the low price though it is slightly better than microstock. Other than that, the few sales I have had were all to people who found me on Flickr. I have many people contact me for photos, but 90% of the time they want it for free.

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