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Should You Sell Your Work Online?

I have to preface this by saying that the business of Fine Art Photography has undergone a huge change over the last few years on so many levels that it is difficult to give any lasting advice in this area. I’d also like to say that anyone setting up a website and expecting the world to beat a path to your URL with money in hand, is just pathetically mistaken. It takes years to establish yourself online just as in real life and either way, you have your work cut out for you.

That said, I think it is also safe to say that like the music business, the playing field has been substantially leveled with regard to dealing and disseminating your work due to the online world. The fine art photography world is tough, and most will never get the chance at a brick and mortar gallery, let alone make a living from their work. The difference now is they can still easily have their work seen and in some cases even sold around the world online.

Now, this is not to say that there aren’t profitable and reputable galleries out there or collectors willing to support them. The good ones with experience and a history of success are still very beneficial in affording credibility and the occasional sale of your work. You will be very lucky if you are able to obtain representation from them. However, success in that world is no less difficult than becoming a rock star. It is not often, especially these days when photographic hopefuls are so plenty, where a dealer takes you under his or her wing and develops your career.

For those who are interested in selling work outside of a gallery setting, I won’t say that there are not drawbacks to self-promotion, and yes, there are galleries that will not deal with you if you are competing with them. That is something you’ll have to weigh on your own. I’ll tell you that personally, after many years dealing with galleries, it is my opinion that life is too short to put your career in someone else’s hands. Although I’ve had some great representation and am very thankful to several over my career, I’ve also had some very bad experiences and would caution other photographers to be very careful about who you choose to work with.

 Over the past 10 or more years of primarily self-representation, I have enjoyed holding the reins of my career. And I have not had to share fifty percent of my sales with galleries taking their time in paying me my half. My work has been collected from every corner of the world and I can safely say that none of my representatives gave me that reach. Has this cheapened my work? Maybe to some, but I don’t think so. I sell more now than I ever did, and it honestly doesn’t concern me what people might think. Only time with tell. All I want to be is a working artist that can do his best to support a family and pay the bills. Now, through the Internet, I’ve been able to realize that to a degree I would never have thought possible at the beginning of my career. Rather than waiting for a following to find me, I’ve gone out and found those that are interested in what I do.

Still, it is very hard and getting harder all the time. If you are going to have any success, it is up to you to get your work out there and for many, this will be very difficult. You have to be your own best advocate and shed any reservation you have about shameless self-promotion. By building a following and keeping those interested in your work informed, you can succeed in growing interest and sales of your work. You want to develop a relationship with those that buy your work and continue to feed and nurture it. Some of my collectors have become wonderful friends, and I value the interaction with them – something I rarely had through my galleries. Nothing feels better than interacting with people who love and hang your work in their living and work spaces. They don’t own them because they are investments, they own them because they love them and for me, as someone who creates the things they cherish, it is extremely rewarding.

– Bill Schwab, Photographer and Publisher at North Light Press


This article is an excerpt from Crusade for Your Art: Best Practices for Fine Art Photographers, Crusade Press, copyright 2014 by Jennifer Schwartz, reproduced here with the permission of the publisher. This excellent book is available from Amazon, here.