This article is based on my interviews with best selling Imagekind photographers (see end of article for links). A version of the article recently appeared on Empty Easel.
You’ve put some photos or artwork up for sale on Imagekind (or a similar site), and now you’re wondering why you haven’t sold many (or maybe even any) yet. Or perhaps you’ve already achieved some success and now you’re hungry for more.
I interviewed two of Imagekind’s best selling photographers, Michael Longfellow and Eyal Nahmias, and Ben Rogovy, from Imagekind. My mission: to find out exactly how they achieved their success. Read on to find out what I learnt.
1. Create a website or a blog to promote your work.
In order to sell your artwork on a site like Imagekind you need to people to see your work. But with so many featured artists and photographers how do you encourage people to see your galleries? One way is to create your own blog or website.
The goal is to bring targeted traffic to your Imagekind galleries. Therefore it makes sense that your website or blog should be aimed at art and photography buyers. A site about your work would be ideal. But it should go a little further than just displaying your artwork. The more useful content you provide, in the form of articles, commentary and links, the more likely readers are to return to your site. You should also talk a little about yourself, your life and your work. This builds trust, which is one of the keys to making sales.
Blogging, website creation and SEO (search engine optimisation) are complex topics too broad to cover in this short article. There are plenty of articles on sites like Empty Easel, Problogger and Web Design From Scratch to get you going. Be prepared to put in some time and effort to create something that looks professional and has great content. Remember, it’s a long term project.
Here is a relatively quick way to get traffic and start building a readership with a photography blog:
a. Write a great article and publish it on your blog.
b. Install a free hit counter (Statcounter provide a good one).
c. Submit your article to Photography Voter.
d. Spend the next few days checking your stats to see how many people visit your site and vote for your article.
Take a look around my photography blog to see how it works. Also take a look at the websites of Eyal Nahmias and Michael Longfellow, to see how the experts do it.
Michael’s website, CapeMayX, is especially interesting because Imagekind forms part of a wider business.
2. Use Keywords and Descriptions Intelligently
Use the title, description and keywords to help photo and art buyers find your work. Use keywords to describe the location, mood, event and concept of the photo or piece of art.
Tell interesting stories to pique interest. Create curiosity, something worth talking about. Give your work a creative title and an interesting description for the viewer to connect with.
3. Pay Attention To Quality
Make sure your work is of the highest technical and aesthetic quality. Photographers should make sure their images are appropriately sharpened, colour balanced and dust spotted. Artists need high quality digital reproductions of their work. Learn how to do this properly (or get someone else to do it).
Eyal Nahmias told me why technical excellence increases sales:
I believe that image quality, technical skill and creativity are among the most important factors in any photographer’s success. If the image is visually strong, the composition is excellent and the subject / concept of the photograph stand above other images in the same category, than it will increase sales.
It’s also important to be active, to continually update, change and post fresh work. Keep adding new galleries, they appear on a separate page on the Imagekind site and this will bring new viewers to your work.
Make sure you’re publishing only your best work. This raises the perceived quality of your portfolio.
4. Choose Your Own Frames
Choose the best frame and paper for your images. Buyers can be overwhelmed by the wide choice of framing options that Imagekind offer. The ‘Purchase as the artist intended’ button gives them an easy option.
Michael prints on canvas:
For my work, I decided to focus primarily on the canvas prints (though I use frames too) because they look so great and really add an aesthetic magic to the types of shots I take. That canvas mystique has become part of my brand. Any time you can differentiate yourself you’ll have an advantage and will stand out from the crowd.
5. Promote, Promote, Promote
Promote your Imagekind galleries to everybody you know. It’s essential to promote your galleries outside of Imagekind. Ben Rogovy has this advice:
It’s always best to start where you’re already known and work outward. Often times an artist may have a support network of family and pre-existing fans/friends. Those people are a good base to start word of mouth. Putting their username.imagekind.com URL on business card and in email signatures is a good way to pick up free exposure as well. Involvement in online forums and blogs works too.
Then think about who else you can promote your artwork to. Michael Longfellow said:
You want to find and build your audience in everything you do which requires multiple approaches to increase your visibility. Gallery events, mailings, building relationships with magazine editors in your niche, fundraisers. These types of activities can all help to get you additional exposure.
If this is beginning to sound like hard work, it is! Our best selling photographers didn’t get where they are by waiting for sales, they worked hard for their success.
6. Create Your Own Brand
Take your self-promotion to the next level and start thinking of your work as a product to be branded. Design a logo for your website or blog (the Empty Easel logo is a great example). Think about what makes your photography or artwork unique. Who is your audience? How will you create an audience and market your work to them?
Michael Longfellow explains more:
I know many photographers may cringe at the notion that they have to market or brand themselves, but let me say it’s going to happen whether you agree with me or not. So why not be proactive and smart about it to maximize your chances for success.
Brand is a somewhat elusive and bandied about term, but at the core this refers to a promise of value that is expected. All your work, in a total and ongoing way will create your brand, your promise of value that is expected. Are you high end? Bargain basement? Middle of the road? Is your work bold and unique, or soft and quiet? Do you believe in your work or are you just wondering and hoping something good will happen?
Take the reins for your own brand creation and development. You’ll get much more enjoyment out of the process and will be able to more effectively adjust to changing market conditions.
7. Hold an Exhibition
Planning an exhibition of your photos or artwork? Or you’d like to sell some of your prints? Consider ordering them from Imagekind at the base rate for contributors. The volume of sales increases the seller’s ranking which leads to more sales. Eyal told me about what happened when he did this:
Since the volume of prints bought raises the seller’s ranking, my volume of sales / purchases rose dramatically after I had to purchase personally a large amount of images to be printed on 20×30 for an exhibition I did in Israel last March. Many of those images were sold to the public, and others through the Imagekind search engine and referrals.
Bonus Tip: Take on the big boys at their own game!
Do what Jason Wickens of Fotoviva did and set up your own e-commerce website to sell your work. That way not only do you get to keep all the profit but have the satisfaction of creating your own business too. Learn more by reading my interview with Jason.