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Re: [OM] Selling photos - getting a start (long)

Subject: Re: [OM] Selling photos - getting a start (long)
From: "John Gardner" <vu49@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 14:11:42 +0100
Shawn et al             

A little while ago, Shawn asked about getting a start with selling his
photos. Here's my thoughts, better late than never. I have been *very* busy
with all sorts of things and I haven't had much chance to reply to some the
posts I've been skimming through on the list (which seems to be livelier
than ever).

In my opinion there is only one thing which separates the high class
amateur from a pro and that is *time*: time to label up the trannies, time
to catalog them, time to market them and time to get out and shoot them.
Those of us holding down busy day jobs (and having to be a family man too)
has precious little enough free time to get out and shoot stock. We are
often limited to weekends, when invariably the weather will be poor and
then becomes glorious again on Monday am when we have to get back to the
grindstone. A pro can get out whenever the weather is good and if its bad,
they can spend the time indoors doing all the paperwork, writing articles
and marketing.

However, a good amatuer can make some kind of income from their piccies if
they are good enough, but you have to be honest about your work and ask
yourself 'is it as good as the stuff that's getting into print?' You should
be *the* most critical person in the world of your work.

Agencies are a good source for the amateur as well as the pro. They
(usually) take 50ommission but its worth it. They spend all day trying
to sell your work while you are still pulling in the readies from your day
job. They will find more outlets, have more contacts and secure bigger fees
than you ever will. However, with agencies, its is very much a numbers
game. The more slides you have with them the more chance of selling; a
dozen good trannies will rarely net the photographer anything. you really
need several hundred shots with them as a starter.

You can contact editors directly yourself if you have a good set of shots,
but they need to be topical and timely. Editors are busy people and don't
want to spend ages talking with you. Often a magazine will have a picture
editor/researcher who will know what kind of shots they're likely to
require in the coming weeks/months. Don't forget about how far in advance
they work too. Pictures themselves are difficult to push unless they just
happen to be what a magazine is looking for. Try working on a theme, wrap
some text around them and push them as a package. Don't forget your local
or national newspapers if you have something topical or of general

Photographic magazines are probably the best way to go to start with. Many
of them (UK ones at least) have a 'gallery' section so they are more than
willing to print 'one off' stunning pictures and pay well too. Also nearly
all the pictures in photo mags come from freelance (amateur) sources too.
They pay quite well depending on the size the image is printed at and will
take one off pictures without any specific text. Technique shots can be a
good way to go i.e same shot with/without polariser or warm up; wide angle
view/tele view of the same scene etc.

Photo CDs: Corel pay about $70 for scanning a picture for exclusive
'digital' copyright. You get the tranny back and can resubmit it to
magazines etc but not in electronic form. People have different views on
this kind of thing. Basically, Corel then stick your picture on a CD, sell
it and people have royalty free use of it, so the customer pays once but
can use many times. I think, though Corel are now only looking at MF
trannies but there must be other digital houses that are still looking for

Calendar/postcard firms are a good source and its worth phoning around to
see what they want but they aren't big payers.

You could try framing your prints and then having a stand on a craft fair
or have an exhibition. I've just started doing this and hit my first show
yesterday. It wasn't a full blown craft fair, more of a country fair with a
craft marquee, so most of the events and people were to do with farming,
hunting, fishing etc. However, I had a great deal of interest in my stand
and sold about $300 worth of framed photos (landscapes and wildlife). The
drawback of this is that it is an expensive outlay for printing and framing
so that you have enough stock to keep your display full (display boards are
another outlay). I reckon  though, this is going to really net me some cash
in the coming months. In the UK there are several consortiums that organise
craft fairs up and down the country and I reckon by picking when and where
I exhibit, I could coin it in.

You could start selling framed prints to colleagues at work which will
build up the funds to allow you to get more prints framed and then hit a
craft show.

I am trying to get together a range of greetings cards to hawk around the
craft shows to to supplement the framed pics. These can be very good
sellers as everyone seems to buy cards at one time or another. Get them
printed with a blank interior so that they are universal in application.
Again though, they are expensive to print and you won't recoup all your
money overnight but you should end up in profit. I just had 1000 postcards
printed and have sold 700 already which has taken me well into profit.
That's another thought. How about having your own postcards printed of
local views and sell them in the local newsagents, shops and restaurants

Weddings are sometimes a way to go, but it is nerve wracking. Its amazing
how many top notch photographers go all wobbly at the thought of a wedding.
They lose confidence in themselves and in their gear and end up shooting
300+ shots 'just in case'. This eats up your profits in terms of processing
and also means there are plenty of dupes so no-one comes back for reprints.
Just stick to a 70 shot wedding package, take your time and enjoy it. First
time I did a wedding I fell into the former, second time I did it the
proper way and got some cracking shots and masses of reprint orders. 

Of course all the above is just my opinion and advice and I don't always
follow it as I just don't have TIME which brings me full circle. If you
think you have the shots and you are confident I think you should be able
to pull in some money Shawn.

Sorry if all the above is 'a la Ken N.' and I hope it makes sense as I'm
typing furiously while at work. Hope the boss thinks I'm coding another 
REXX programme (tee hee).


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