I initially wrote this as a comment in response to a question Melanie asked, but I realized others might be curious, so I’m putting it up as a post.
I’ve sold a few pictures over the years. In the beginning — before I discovered photography — I sold paintings and did really well and I still don’t know why. I did SO well that I don’t have of my own paintings — and I could nor convince anyone to sell me one of my pictures.
As far as selling photos goes, everyone has a cell phone and/or a camera, so far too many people are sure they are photographers. It’s a tough market. I did give it a try when I had my online shop (it was called “Kismet” and it was part of the Ruby Lane group). Towards the last couple of years, I decided to try and sell some prints. That would have been around 2007 or 2008 — right before the big recession.
When the recession was about to hit, I decided it was time to sell off my inventory. Everything I sold was an antique or collectible. I never sold anything even remotely useful — unless you consider “art” useful — which oddly enough, I do, but most people do not feel that art is an important part of life.
Eventually times would get better. A few years later, the market turned around. By then, though, I didn’t want to go back to spending every day finding inventory, writing advertising copy, packing, shipping, and dealing with (ugh) customers.
Customers. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Also, that was before they were requiring sales tax for online sales, so it was more profitable then.
I don’t think the quality of my work is quite good enough. It’s not bad, but I could make it better if I worked from RAW files. I’d get higher quality images. The difference would be noticeable on big prints but isn’t noticeable online. Also, RAW photos take up a huge amount of disc space. Photographs are big anyway. RAW images are huge — 10 times bigger than a jpg. You need a REALLY big set of drives for storage and a powerful computer — even bigger than this one which is pretty damned big — to work with them.
RAW photographs can produce amazing photographs. Since I put everything online, it doesn’t need to be as amazing as it needs to be when you print it — especially if it is going into a magazine like National Geographic. Just take a look at the quality of those pictures. It’s astounding work. I sometimes stop breathing when I look at them. They are the real deal.
I’ve been urged to try contests and selling pictures, but I think my good but standard print quality would be a problem. To solve it I’d have to actually subscribe to Adobe, get a heavy duty desktop computer with a big screen. Which would move me back into my office.
That is a lot of investment for what could very well be no real money. This is also why I don’t write another book. I spent many long years writing books and manuals. Hundreds of them, usually without even getting a credit for the work. I also wrote for newspapers and magazines. I would have needed a 14-day workweek to make enough to live on. Freelance writing pays very little for most of us. A few people hit it big, but I’m not that kind of writer. I don’t need to see my byline (although I do enjoy it when it happens because I’m not quite that humble), but I also want to get paid.
I broke even on my one and only book. It sold okay for the first year and a half — as Indie sales go — but after that I discovered I had cancer in both breasts and somehow, the book seemed a less important. I stopped pushing it and started pushing to survive.
I will, however, voluntarily and for free, send printable versions of pictures to bloggers and friend who are interested. I will also provide the name of the company I use for my own printing. They are fast, reasonable, and produce exceptional products. They frame prints for a modest amount, though that raises shipping costs, so if you have a local, reasonably-priced framer, it’s better to get prints unframed and have framing done locally.
If there is something you truly would like to hang on a wall (or turn into a tee-shirt, mug, or poster), let me know. I’ll send you a high quality file designed for printing which you can send out and will come back to you beautifully printed. My company prints on a variety of paper, canvas, glass, and aluminum. Canvas prints really look like paintings. Even when you get inches from them, they STILL look like paintings.
I ran a business for about six years after retiring. I did well — better than I ever imagined I could. I’m not much of a business person as this post proves. But it was work. I’m a terrible boss and I never gave me any time off, even when I was sick.
I don’t think I want to do it again. I’m older and a bit tired. I could use the money, but not the headaches.