About 14 years ago, Andrew Ray owned a pet shop and had just taken up photography as a part-time hobby. However, in 2008 he became a full-time photographer, supplying his images as fine-art prints, cards and calendars to galleries and shops across the county, and selling direct at local events and through his website.
So how exactly does a pet-shop owner become a successful fine-art photographer in the space of ten years? He shares his top ten tips for selling photo prints, and afterwards we’ll show you step-by-step how to prepare your own photos for print.
A local gallery or craft fair is a good way of determining if people are interested in your work. A selection of 20 images produced as both mounted prints and cards is a good starting point.
Capture images at different times. Many of my customers prefer prints taken in the type of conditions they would experience, rather than the ‘golden hours’ around sunrise and sunset.
Offer similar images in both horizontal and vertical formats where possible, and in a variety of sizes. Don’t worry about framing, though, as most people prefer to choose their own frames.
Print and mount the photographs yourself when orders are received. This helps keep costs under control and prevents over stocking – commercial printing requires quantity purchases to be cost effective, and dead (non-selling) stock just ties up your capital.
Invest in quality equipment, including a photo printer capable of producing archival professional prints to at least A3 size. A printer that can use a variety of media will broaden your range.
Presentation is important. Many shops/galleries require you to supply your own card racks and photo stands. When selling at craft events, lights are important to display your work to its potential.
Set up a website with the option to purchase via PayPal. There are numerous cost-effective template style options available, such as Clikpic, which helps advertise your business and increases sales.
Mounted prints and cards are best suited to postal distribution; only specialist carriers will accept framed prints under glass. Mounted prints can easily be shipped in a flat-packed box.
You’ll need to inform your tax office if you start earning anything through self-employment, and will need to keep records for your tax return.
Don’t neglect your photography! It’s easy to get caught up in printing and selling, but people will expect a new selection of images to choose from on a regular basis.
How to prepare your images for selling photo prints
Step 1: Optimise
The first step with any print is to optimise the image. This means checking and adjusting the exposure as necessary, using Levels to ensure your black and white points are set, and perhaps adding (or removing) some contrast using Curves. Once the exposure is set you can accurately see and correct any colour casts.
Step 2: Resize
Some people like to resize their images so that they match the intended print size at a 300ppi resolution. Although this isn’t really necessary for small print sizes if you’re printing them yourself, it will speed up the time it takes to upload them to an online lab if you’re planning to have them commercially printed.
Step 3: Sharpen
The final step in your print preparation is to sharpen the image, which should always be done after the image has been resized because the print size has a direct impact on the amount of sharpening required. In Photoshop, use either the Unsharp Mask filter or the Smart Sharpen option, which offers greater control.