I’ve decided to write a fuller post on my experiences on Fine Art America as I’ve been increasingly impressed with the sales coming from the site and thought some of my landscape/fine art readers may like to know more about this site and the opportunities for selling non-stock images.
Fine Art America is a combination of a social site for photographers and a print on demand site for connoisseurs of good art! There are millions of images from abstract painting through to photography and pricing that is similarly all over the place. Buyers can find a piece of art that they like by searching for keywords, and can then buy a simple print or greeting card, or choose various framing options from canvas wraps through to fully matted and framed pieces. I’ll focus more on using it for selling photographs in this article though.
There is a free account option which lets you upload an unlimited amount of images, but you can only sell a selection of 25 of them. That could work if you know what your best sellers are going to be, but it could also be a recipe for big disappointment! The Pro or Premium option costs just $30 a year and that lets you sell an unlimited number of images via their site, at your own pricing, and also gives you a 5% share of any extras they choose – like matting or framing. For me, the $30 annual fee is a no brainer – I have no idea what will sell, and so the option to sell everything makes a lot of sense. Finally, you can embed the FineArt site into your own website (or Facebook page) and have the ability to take potential buyers from your portfolio site to a place where they can buy a print or fully finished frame. As an example, click on the Buy Prints menu bar on my Stock Photo site, BackyardStockPhotos.com.
As an example of how I use the site, I’ll work through the upload of one new image – a panorama of Sydney in Australia:
One quick thing to say about this image – probably all stock photographers know that the Sydney Opera House is protected by copyright and maybe a trademark, so how can I use it here. A couple of things – first, the image is not just about the Opera House, but the main reason is that selling a print of your own image, or displaying it for sale on your own site is not “commercial use” as defined in the various copyright laws. Commercial use is all about using an image to promote a product, idea, policy or other position, not making money from the sale of a print of your photo.
Step 1 for me is to properly keyword and describe your image as you would for stock purposes. I use Lightroom for that. I try to be as specific as I can, in terms of what people may search a fine art site for, although there is no need to add words like print or fine art, as the site does that automatically. I then export a copy at the maximum size, as that dictates what size people can print. The site automatically calculates the maximum print size from your resolution. This particular image is 8000 pixels wide as it is a stitch from 3 or 4 individual HDR shots.
On the FAA site, you login and go to Artwork from your “Behind the Scenes” page. There is an option to upload multiple images, but I (and others) have had issues with that and so I don’t use that. Just upload using the single image button. Your keywords and title/description will be automatically read. One thing I just realized in doing this – the main tags describing the image come from the first keywords in the list, so it is worth typing in four or five really important keywords here. There is a choice to add a watermark – I don’t because I don’t want to spoil the viewing experience, and if someone is going to “steal” my image to use on their website, they will probably find larger versions on websites elsewhere where someone has properly licensed and used the file, so why worry. You can choose a gallery to help find the image at this stage. The site remembers your pricing – but I will cover that below.
Pricing – a very tricky subject. I decided to price my images as the professional photos they are. Although stock photos sell for next to nothing, these are still very high quality photos, and I price them as if someone was buying from a artist that had a lot of skill! Here are my mark-ups over and above the basic cost of printing the image:
OK – that is probably enough about how to do it. What are the results? Is it worth it?
I’ve been on the site as a premium member for probably 12 months or so, and in 2012 (as a basic member) I sold 3 prints. In 2013, mainly in the last three months, I have sold seven prints. It does seem to be that once you have a sale, it gives you more visibility and incremental sales seem to come along. Can I prove that – no, and your results may vary. As I am usually open about such things, here are my net earnings:
All 2012: $27.00
Sep 2013: $193.75
Oct 2013: $17.35
Nov 2013: $34.90
Dec 2013: $172.33
What sells? For me, it has mainly been travel shots – perhaps for someone to remember a holiday or vacation. These are my most recent sales on the site:
Will it work for you – I honestly don’t know, but I’m definitely going to add more of my fine art images to the site as I process and keyword my latest set of images from Australia and New Zealand. It isn’t much effort over and above the basic work necessary for preparing them for stock agencies, and the earnings are certainly starting to beat many of the smaller stock sites. If you decide to sign up for the site, here is my referral link to the site. It will earn me $5 if you choose the premium package!!