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What are NFTs – and can photographers make money by selling them?

NFT
(Image credit: Michele Bitetto on Unsplash)

Over the past few months, you may well ahve heard the term NFT mentioned in the news or by your photographer friends. If you've been wondering what on earth an NFT is, how it's related to photography and whether you should start rifling through your hard drives to make a quick buck, we're going to answer all of your questions here.

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NFT stands for "non-fungible token", which essentially means that each NFT is unique and can't be replaced with something else. There have been comparisons made between NFTs and bitcoin, but while you could replace one bitcoin with another and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference, you can't do the same with an NFT. 

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Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain, which is a cryptocurrency. However, other blockchains are beginning to implement their own versions of NFTs as well – and we'll likely see more continue to do this as NFTs become more popular. 

If you're wondering what exactly can be bought or sold as an NFT, the answer is pretty much anything digital. Art, photography and music can all be NFTs – but Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, sold his very first tweet (opens in new tab) for an eye-watering $2,915,835.47. 

If you're wondering what the point of NFTs are, it might be worth thinking of them from an investor's perspective. Physical artwork is bought and sold everyday across the world, with the buyers hoping that the artwork will appreciate in value and make them money further down the line. The same is true with NFTs – many buyers are investing their money in NFTs, betting that they will be worth more later. 

However, NFTs aren't just investment opportunities, they're also a great way for people to financially support the artists or photographers they love. Plus, if the NFT does change hands further down the line, NFTs have a feature artists can enable that will pay them a percentage every time it's sold. This means that if the artist's work massively appreciates in value, the artist will profit from it.

How can photographers make money with NFTs?

If you're still skeptical about NFTs, perhaps it would interest you to know that a photographer has earned over $20,000 from selling one single NFT photograph. Kate Woodman recently sold her digital image (opens in new tab) "Always Coca Cola" for 11.888 ETH ($21,321).

This shows how much potential the NFT space holds for photographers – especially if you already have a following that wants to support your artwork. 

Nope! While NFTs are designed to give the buyer ownership of the work, photographers still retain copyright and reproduction rights. This means that you can sell an NFT of your most popular photograph and still continue to show your image on your Instagram or website, license it to companies, sell prints in your online shop and more. 

Lindsey Adler at Adorama puts it best (opens in new tab): "NFTs allow you to create something that can’t be duplicated: the ownership of the artwork! Think of it as a digital fingerprint, or signature, or certificate of authenticity for your photo. In short, NFTs allow you to create limited editions of your digital work, all while you retain the copyright."

How can I sell my photos as NFTs?

For a total rundown of how to sell your photography as an NFT, we'd recommend reading the series of articles (opens in new tab) that Adorama has recently posted with Lindsey Adler. However, we've put together a quick summary below:

1) Firstly, you need to create your photograph – or, alternatively, scour your archives to select the images that you think will be most popular.

2) Decide which platform you want to sell your image on. Popular marketplaces include Opensea (opens in new tab)SuperRare (opens in new tab), Nifty Gateway (opens in new tab) and Foundation (opens in new tab)

3) Decide how many editions you want to sell – it doesn't just have to be one single edition! Theoretically, you can actually sell different NFTs of the same artwork (they will still be unique, as they'll have different "digital fingerprints"). However, it's worth keeping in mind that doing this will likely bring down your asking price for each NFT.

(Image credit: Foundation)
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4) Choose your reserve bid, i.e. the minimum amount that you're willing to sell your photograph NFT for. Think of this like eBay – if you were selling an old guitar, you likely wouldn't want it to go for just $10! Consider the minimum amount you would accept for the NFT, but don't be tempted to go too high and price yourself out.

5) Decide how much money you'll receive if your artwork is sold on by setting a percentage royalty. 

6) Mint your photograph NFT by making it available for sale. Minting is when your NFT certificate is created and put up in the blockchain – this is what makes your artwork non-fungible, as this cannot be replaced or duplicated.

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With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab) and  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab). Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.