Photography is a double edged sword these days. Never has it been easier to grab a camera, take a picture and let the world see your great work in the blink of an eye. Never has it been harder to monetize your images to produce an income that is sustainable for earning a decent living as a photographer. There are plenty of avenues to generate to be sure. One can go through stock agencies to earn cash each time a photo is purchased, earning a small commission on what they sell. A photographer can sell digital images to a customer without having to do any work at all at the point of sale. A photo can be licensed by various media. Or, a photo can be printed and sold to a customer. This is probably the most widely chosen path in order to generate a sale.
So the question to be dealt with today is, can a photographer still make money by selling prints?
Why wouldn't they be able to? Well, the world has changed in such a way that images are everywhere, and in the palm of people's hands instantly. Smart phones have cameras that produce better images every year, and since most everyone has a smart phone they use those cameras to produce tons of images. Instagram, Snapchat and other applications have made sharing those photos so easy, and the photos are so free flowing that a picture has become somewhat of a commodity over the last few years.
This doesn't mean prints can't be sold though. The picture above is of a print I sold to a customer who had their photo matted and framed and wanted to show the finished piece off to me. This meant the person who bought the print had an emotional investment in it. It goes from being just a photo to a work of art that has value to the person who bought it. This print now hangs in their home, for them and their friends and family to see everyday. It produces a kind of happiness that a photo shared on Facebook can't match. It's this kind of connection that leads me to believe that a person can still do well selling prints provided they can sell them at a price that makes it worth a photographer's time and money.
The trick is finding the customers who connect with the photo and possibly the photographer's vision. This isn't an easy thing by any sense of the imagination. Sure, it may seem easy to upload a digital image to various print on demand sites and wait for the money to roll in, but the reality is the money won't roll in unless you're well known. Ultimately, it will depend on the photographer and their marketing skills as to how easily they find their target customers. Using online resources, local shows, word of mouth, social media, etc are avenues that all have to be explored in order for prints to be an income source.
So, can money be made these days by selling prints? I think so, but it's getting tougher each day. How much money is up to how hard the photographer works outside of taking the photograph.
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