View Full Version : Selling prints online

Marco Annaratone
22-Jun-2015, 10:06
My apologies if this topic has been already dealt with to death. I searched around and could not find what I was looking for, so I am starting this post.
My constraints are as follows:

1. I will do the fulfillment myself. That is, I do not care if the solution offers also printing services.

2. I want a service/site only for selling commercial, unlimited quantity photos - my fine-art, limited copy activities are on a separate site that is thought for gallerists, collectors, curators etc.

3. I will not sell digital photos (read: no download by clients) but only physical prints.

4. It should allow me to post a few videos as well.

5. I am happy to pay some yearly fee for a customizable solution that does not make me invest too much IT time.

I have done all my due diligence already, so what I am interested in is real life experience from someone who is using some of these services. To avoid misunderstanding, I am talking about companies like Photoshelter, Zenfolio, SmugMug, etc.



22-Jun-2015, 11:15
This has been covered, but let me put in my .02. If all you needed was an online store, we'd all be too busy counting our money to post here. These services will do a good job of killing sales for you. They are places to browse and move on, not places to buy. There is no call to action. Anyone can come there and look all they want, any time. I am sure this is not what you want to hear, but one of these sites will be a total waste of your time and money.

I have made a living selling photography for 39 years. First, you will have to be an excellent marketer. Second, you will need to do personal selling one to one. Expecting someone to find you online, fall in love with your work and immediately pull out the credit card comes under the heading of too good to be true. Spend your time learning marketing and sales. Then you will be far ahead of the zillion photographers who do not.

Drew Wiley
22-Jun-2015, 11:34
There's only about 10,000 wannabee photographers trying this already, and I doubt even 1% of them are making a dime. In this day and age people go to the web,
browse images, and are done with it. What do they need prints for? You need some intervening method of marketing that identifies you are having something different worth actually ordering, and not just looking at via a browse. As at is, a photographic website is nothing but the modern version of a business card unless people have somehow already seen your actual prints and like desire them.

23-Jun-2015, 07:02
I don't see how your #1 and #3 are compatible with a "commercial, unlimited quantity" environment. How is your intended market different from what every stock agency caters to, and what are you offering that would make a buyer choose you over Getty/Alamy/etc.?

Drew Wiley
23-Jun-2015, 08:32
Heck, even National Geographic spits out print-on-demand inkjets of their magazine pictures and massive stock base for next to nothing. Somebody that just wants something decorative on their walls might even pirate a web image and desktop print it. They aren't fussy types to begin with. I realize that this is an interesting dilemma for numerous photographers - but that is the gist of the issues - photographers offering web images are way too numerous already. At a certain point, people just go "ho hum" and web advertising becomes counterproductive. What makes your images stand out over millions of others? If they are indeed superior, that is not something likely to be conveyed digitally on a screen. It kinds like a restaurant trying to hold down the fort with fine walk-in cuisine, yet at the same time sell fast food out the back door using a Roach Coach : two different business plans that are hard to juggle compatibly.

Marco Annaratone
24-Jun-2015, 09:36
Thank you for your comments.

Back to the reason of my post: "I am interested in real life experience from someone who is using some of these services."

Does anybody have some experience with one of these services?


24-Jun-2015, 14:29
Hi Marco. Go ahead and try it and report back. Just trying to help you out here.

24-Jun-2015, 15:35
Hi Marco, on another note, your images of Berlin Entry ways is awesome! Took me right back to when I lived in Berlin. Great job! What lens did you use for the capture?

24-Jun-2015, 15:45
Thank you for your comments.

Back to the reason of my post: "I am interested in real life experience from someone who is using some of these services."

Does anybody have some experience with one of these services?


When I first began in photography 6 yrs ago, I shot local HS & some college sports. I did some freelance work for a couple media publications, but also sold prints of the games/ players I photographed. I passed out business cards after the games directing them to my site.

I used Photobiz.com along with their e-commerce site. It allowed for credit card transactions (at that time, needed to sign up with a merchant card company). Transactions went smoothly & I received an email when each order came in. I fulfilled the orders myself & printed thru Millers (mpix.com) who drop shipped the prints directly to the customer via USPS Piority.
that grew each month over 6 months of doing it, but I hated culling & editing the 400-ish images per game.

Selling very specific images (sports photos) to a particular buyer is one thing, selling art online is completely different. I now only do art & do not try to sell online personally. It needs to be done in person. The buyer is much more inclined to buy from an artist they have had face to face interaction with , who they like & want to support what that artist is doing.

With that said, I do license certain images with a company who sells canvas gallery wraps nation wide thru Walmart, Kmart, Sears & other such stores.

Light Guru
24-Jun-2015, 17:22
Square space is a good option for building your website and they have what you need to do the payment transactions.

The big question is how to you plan on getting people to you website? Without that nobody will be buying anything from you.

25-Jun-2015, 00:38
These are the ones I've tried and this is the order I'd recommend trying them in Virb, SquareSpace, Smugmug, Zenfolio (haven't used photoshelter)

25-Jun-2015, 07:01
In regards to the question of "How to get people to your site" (which I think is a much more fascinating and difficult question than "How do I build my site" or "what hosting do I use"), I'd recommend taking a page from the playbook of Eric Kim.

Eric Kim's blog is updated once every day or every other day with (what I think) to be relatively good content. He has a reason for people to visit his site... And people do... In droves. Other people to emulate in this regard: Ken Rockwell, Steve Huff etc.

bob carnie
25-Jun-2015, 07:45
I am working with one photographer using photoshelter .. the experience for me the provider of prints and experience for the photographer the content provider is an excellent one.

Photo shelter seems to be a very competent organization..

there I hope this helps.

Kirk Gittings
25-Jun-2015, 09:51
I sell a lot of prints and have a pretty big footprint online but online sales are nil. I sell a lot because I show a lot. For me at least people need to see the actual prints in the flesh.

Drew Bedo
25-Jun-2015, 14:36

I second Kirk 's experience but at a much lower level of activity.

I have had a few images on www.artsyhome.com for several years now. Whenever I have contacted them for help in anything, they have been responsive and helpful. My presence there is through thei free posting for commission sales service.

However I have never actually sold anything off that website. I have been contacted by interested buyers from time to time and have sold a few prints directly that way.

Marco Annaratone
27-Jun-2015, 00:50
Thank you all very very much for your comments. Lots of observations to reason about.