A Guide to Selling Photos as Art Online

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Growing up in a family of artists nurtured my love of art. However, I didn’t feel I’d inherited the talented artist gene. My first camera, a gift from my father, showed me an alternative path for my creativity—and photography became my passion.

After a few years of selling licenses for my travel photos through online stock agencies, I started experimenting with slow shutter speeds and camera movement to create impressionistic and abstract effects. I later discovered that other photographers also used this experimental ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) technique and I now follow other ICM enthusiasts on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Lucy Brown

I also came across Saatchi Art, a non-exclusive online art gallery connecting artists to buyers. Claiming to be the largest gallery and platform for artists in the world, they sell all kinds of artwork including paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photography.

I registered for a free account and started uploading my more artistic images to sell as prints and canvases. As my photo art collection was small at first, I sporadically added new images to my gallery as a side project while focusing on shooting travel images for stock agencies.

While initially I only promoted my Saatchi Art portfolio on my personal Facebook page, my first couple of print sales earlier this year inspired me to pursue my photo art more seriously. I sold two 24 x 16 inch fine art paper prints of impressionist-style Guatemalan folk dancers and I received 65% of the profits, totaling $113.

Red Skirt Photograph by Lucy Brown

Slower stock sales also motivated me to focus more on fine art photography, so I researched alternative online art platforms. As I’m currently staying on a small tropical island in Thailand, professional printing, framing, packaging, and shipping services aren’t readily available. I needed a print-on-demand (POD) service like Saatchi Art provided me.

Fine Art America (FAA), “the world’s largest online art site and print-on-demand selling platform,” caught my attention. A free account limits artists to just 25 images and provides two profiles. The FAA profile offers mainly wall art such as prints and canvases. The Pixels profile, in addition to wall art, offers a more extensive range of apparel, home decor, and lifestyle products.

I opted for the premium membership (with an annual $30 fee) that allows unlimited image uploads. Premium members are also provided with their own fully customizable print-on-demand website with all the features of FAA. Now I can promote my artwork without other artists’ work distracting potential customers. Another benefit is that everything I upload to my website also uploads to my FAA and Pixels profiles and vice versa.

For each product artists add their markup on top of FAA’s base price and that’s exactly how much they earn on its sale. Selling prices vary widely on the FAA site, so I researched prices of various photographers with a comparable quality of work to mine. I decided to start with mid-range markups, and I input those in the default settings for each print size and product.

For example, my 36” x 24” default print markup is currently $143. My selling prices for that size on the website display as $360 for a canvas, $339 for an acrylic print, $281 for a metal print, and $207 for a poster or an art print. The difference in selling prices reflect FAA’s varying costs to produce each kind of print.

The initial research and set up of default markup prices took some time, but now when I upload new photos the prices appear automatically. At any time I can adjust my default markup prices for all future uploads and bulk edit prices for my current portfolio.

I’m still learning how to navigate the FAA platform and use the array of tools, resources, and features available. However, I’ve made a few sales so far of coffee mugs, notebooks, a beach towel, greeting cards, and a yoga mat.

Spiral Notebooks by Lucy Brown
Fronds Coffee Mug by Lucy Brown

Now I upload the same images to my website (they appear on my FAA and Pixels profiles too) as well as to my Saatchi Art portfolio. This year, in addition to creating fresh photo art, I’ll focus more on self-promotion through social media and research other online POD platforms to hopefully increase my sales.

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