Taking, Showing, Marketing, and Selling Photos That Have Real “Meaning” for
People – At Home!
While traveling around the world is a great benefit for a photographer, in many
cases the best place to market your work is in your own hometown.
I live in a lovely area of New England known as the Farmington Valley of
Connecticut. It's picturesque in summer, spring, and fall. (I'm not as thrilled
with winter, but that's because I have a long driveway to shovel.) Best of all,
though -- like in many communities -- most of the people who live here love it.
I have great photographs of Paris, Death Valley, New York, and many other places
I've explored. But the bulk of my fine art photography sales are the
photographs of my local community. Local shots account for about 80% of my
It's certainly easier to start at home than it is to finance a trip to Paris.
It's also easier to develop a reputation as a local photographer. And, as one,
you'll find your skills can open up other opportunities to do commission work
for people, portraits, events, buildings, products, and more.
Here is how to begin...
To start a photography career from home, you'll need a portfolio of local
scenes. I think you should have about 30 images before you begin to market your
work. You need to look like the headquarters for local photography, not just
someone with a few good pictures.
You'll need professional-quality photos, of course, all employing good
composition, the rule of thirds, proper exposure, and so on. (Exactly the
skills we teach in Turn Your Pictures into Cash, AWAI's photography program. To
learn more about this program, click here:
Turn Your Pictures into Cash
Your subjects should include everything that makes up your community. In my
case, that means local buildings, nature scenes, people, and even community
Here's a partial list of some of the subjects that I have in my portfolio:
In short, everything in the town and the surrounding community is fair game for
It is particularly important to take multiple shots of all your subjects at each
season of the year. The local cemetery is picturesque in spring, fall, and with
a covering of fresh snow. Town Hall looks great in the spring and winter. River
scenes are lovely in summer and fall. If you find a subject worth adding to
your collection, you should have at least two seasons represented in your
Many shots will need some Photoshop work on the computer. I find most of the
touchups I do involve removing power lines and street signs in front of
hundred-year-old churches. You get the idea. It's not difficult to do using the
stamp tool in Photoshop or Elements. (This is something else we cover in Turn
Your Pictures into Cash (hyperlinked to:
http://www.thephotographerslife.com/phc/cat/.) It takes a bit of time, but it
makes the difference between a shot that's saleable and one that's not.
Remember, these photos need to look like fine art. Pay attention to lighting,
shadows, attractive skies, etc. I confess to having a few shots that took two
years to get right. But once you've done it, people recognize (and pay for) the
Before you can display or sell your work, you must (continued below...)
Wouldn't it be nice if you had an expert to look over your shoulder when you
snapped pictures? You know, somebody who could tell you, "Hey, change that
f-stop for a much better shot." or "That'll come out quite nicely if you focus
on something farther away."
Our Photo Tip Cards are the next best thing to your own personal expert. These
pocket-sized "cheat sheets" will ensure you get the best possible pictures all
Sunsets, beaches, people, sports, waterfalls -- whatever you're shooting, just
grab the card for that situation and it'll tell you which camera settings to
use, what to look for, the pitfalls to avoid, and exactly how to get the best
Click here to find out more
about AWAI Photo Tip Cards
give it a professional presentation.
Everything must have a mat. The smallest photograph I'd suggest selling is 8" x
12". Add a 3" mat all around, and you have a 14" x 18" overall size.
I always use a white mat or black mat (the latter often on black-and- white
shots). These are backed with foam core. I put this in a clear plastic bag (try
www.learbags.com, they have a great selection on high quality bags in
I'd suggest making several larger images part of your presentation, too. A few
of your favorites blown up to 12" x 18" plus a 3" mat brings the size up to 18"
x 24", which is impressive. I have several shots that come to a full 30" x 44"
Having those larger works really separates you from an amateur. I've sold
thousands of dollars of these larger photographs for local office buildings.
The scale of the rooms demands bigger art.
You probably don't have a set-up that will allow you to do this matting and
printing on your own. I've used an online shop to print, mat, and supply the
frame for digital photos -- www.americanframe.com.
I have no connection with them, but I've found their print quality to be first
rate. The mat and frame prices are very reasonable as well. You can also
explore a local picture framer and see how their pricing compares. They may
also be interested in giving you a show or display space.
The idea is to make a profit. Be sure you consider all your costs when you're
establishing a retail price. You should make at least twice your total cost of
materials -- and I'd shoot for three times.
Remember, you'll likely be the only one doing this. There is no competition! If
people like what they see, they can't shop around or go online to find a
cheaper price. You're selling your creativity and real art here. Act like it.
If you decide to wholesale to a retail gift shop, they will want to double their
cost as a selling price. If you are charging $40 for a matted print to your
customers, they will only want to pay you $20 so they have the same retail as
you. (So that won't work if your cost of materials is $20.) Contrary to the
popular saying, you won't be able to "make it up on volume." Take this into
consideration when establishing your prices.
Some shops will take your work only on a consignment basis. That's OK. Under
those circumstances, you should expect to keep 70% - 50% of the retail price.
Settle up monthly with the gallery. Make sure they do a decent job of
presenting your work. Don't leave your art sitting in an unproductive location.
If you're not generating enough business to make it worthwhile, explain that
you appreciate the opportunity, but the shop may not be the right fit for your
Use your own creativity to figure out other ways to market your photography.
I've made note card sets of local scenes; done postcards for the local visitors
bureau; sold the rights to four shots for a local business's web site; been
hired to take annual report photos; sold photos to travel magazines writing
articles on local sights.
You never know where a photo will lead. The idea is to get the exposure. I think
you'll find that by shooting and selling locally, you'll be off to a quick
start, and be funding your travels in no time.
[About the author: Professional photographer Rich Wagner began his photographic
career in college as a freelance photographer for Pittsburgh newspapers. After
graduation, photography remained a hobby during his 20-year career in retail,
and in 1984, Rich opened a custom framing and fine art gallery. His current
shop recently had the honor of being designated as one of "America's Top 100"
custom framers by Décor Magazine.
To read his full biography, browse through more of his articles, and learn about
other programs he has contributed to, visit his bio page on
(c) 2007 American Writers & Artists Inc.
245 NE 4th Ave., Ste 102
Delray Beach, FL 33483
Phone (561) 278-5557
Fax (561) 278-5929
To LEARN MORE, visit: