Fine Art America – a new way to earn cash from digital photos?

One of the issues of normal “stock” photography – especially studio and people/lifestyle images – is that they tend to remove the opportunity to add an artistic flair to the image. Pure white isolation, room for editorial copy, deep depth of field – all these are part and parcel of a stock image. Photographers are driven by other aims though – the ability to create an image that wows the audience, or takes their breath away, but is it possible to do that and make money from the Fine Art prints that result from letting this artistic impulse have its head? I’ve thought often about printing and displaying my best images in a gallery (or coffee shop/restaurant), but there are a lot of upfront costs, and do the buyers of art in a local gallery really want what I have put on display? I would obviously be restricted to a small subset of my portfolio. My solution – try Fine Art America, but do it professionally with the aim to make money.

FineArtAmerica has a growing artist base, but, even more importantly, it seems to have growing presence among the art buying public. With photography, the basic business model is that the artist uploads digital images, keywords and describes them, and sets a price for different sized prints and greetings cards. FAA then manages the printing, matting, framing and customer relationship, paying the difference between their marked-up cost of the materials and the selling price to the artist. They have two packages for artists – a free package that supports 25 images, and a Pro package for $30 a year that allows unlimited uploads and a customizable artist portfolio/website. $30 is a huge bargain compared to the hundreds that SmugMug want for a similar service, and my experience on selling on Smugmug has been pitiful!

I have had a basic package with Fine Art America for a year or so, and actually sold one of my images. I hadn’t really set the pricing very well, and so I only made $25 for the print, but it was a nice boost to my artistic side! Last weekend, I decided to take the plunge and treat FAA seriously – signed up to the $30 package and started to sort through and upload my already keyworded stock images that I thought may be of interest to their customers. My stock portfolio is weighted more to travel and landscape shots than studio/lifestyle and so I think I have around 1000 images that make the grade. The big benefit of an unlimited package is that people are generally searching by keyword and so giving them the chance to see all your work might just meet the need that is in someone’s mind. Good selection is important – you don’t want prints to be returned for poor focus or dust spots on the image and you don’t want to make your gallery look amateurish either, but don’t discard that nice isolated image of a flower or herb – someone may like that specific design.

Sp, what is my experience to date – well, no sales! But 4 days is not a real test! Then, I found that it was nothing like as smooth as using ftp or a Lightroom export option (eg Smugmug) to upload images. There are two options – upload a single image and keyword/describe and put into a gallery one by one, or upload 5 at once and follow the same steps in parallel. Unfortunately, I found the multiple upload to be very buggy and almost useless, so I stuck with the single approach. With already keyworded images, I found that I could do one image per minute on average – so this is not for the faint at heart!

You do get to set defaults for most things – the price being the main one, but you can choose to add a watermark (I didn’t) and also choose to link to Facebook/Twitter to build some web presence for your site (I did). Pricing is completely up to you, but I did check around with other galleries and came up with this:

Fine Art America - default pricing for prints

Default pricing for prints

There is an option to bulk edit prices (for a selection or all your images) and so I can always change this in future if I think it is harming sales.

The only other tip I can think of is to work out your gallery structure in advance and create those galleries on the site. When you upload an image, you can choose one or more galleries by checking boxes, so it is easier to have them all available to you. Your photo will then appear under multiple groupings in your galleries. Also, note that your images will not immediately be available for search – it seems to happen overnight as far as I can tell.

My Fine Art America personal website is now online – only got 400 images so far, but I add more each day when I have some spare time. I’ll let you know how I get on with this new venture!

Update: I’ve found out that you can sponsor a particular keyword which is an important one for your images. As an example, I have a lot of images of Kauai, and so I have sponsored that keyword. Sponsoring is free – you just have to add a link in your blog or webpage back to that page in FineArtAmerica, in my case linking to kauai photos, or, to link to my Washington DC photos, I just add this link. Seems a pretty easy way to get some traffic to your best pages. I’ll have to think about how to do this properly!

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15 Responses

  1. Linda Price says:

    I can’t read the default pricing sheet. I can zoom in on the page but it is just a blur.

    Thanks
    LGPrice

    • admin says:

      I will upload a larger version of the screen shot later this week. It looked OK to me, but I will go with my customer’s view! You did click on the image, I assume?

  2. Irina says:

    Thank you for a great article! I am with you on this page. Selling art on FAA for already 3 years I am satisfied with the customer service, SEO, and the quality of their prints/canvases/cards etc.

    So far my Fine Art America website has around 500 images and I’ve sold multiple prints through them.

    Thanks,
    Irina Sztukowski

  3. Bokus says:

    FineArtAmerica and its sister site, ArtistWebsites, offers a dubious comparison page of other services. Almost all of the info is outdated or presented in a way that looks negative. For example, they will list the cost of the sites premium service, but only mention basic features. That is deceptive, is it not?

    The comparison page lists many sites that don’t offer print on demand. Oddly enough, they don’t offer a comparison of established print on demand services. You won’t see RedBubble listed. You won’t see deviantART listed. Instead you see them comparing features to sites that offer totally different services, and relatively new start-ups. Why won’t they compare their service to deviantART and other print on demand / artist profile services? I know why. Most of those sites are free or cost less.

    They also have a referral program. They pay artists in the program $5 for everyone who signs up after clicking the ad on their page. The end result of that is that you end up with people praising these two sites just because they want that referral cash. The quality of the sites should stand on their own without having to pay people $5 to spread the word. This takes away from the credibility of reviews because you don’t know if the artist really likes the service, or just wants that $5. I’m on several art networking sites and it is not uncommon to find artists trying to nab members from other communities all because they want referral cash.

  4. Great write up, thank you! I am new to the site only of a few weeks or so. Haven’t sold anything yet but it is early. I only have 20+ images on there write now but I would love for some feedback (constructive please).

    http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/clarke-hineline.html

    Thank you in advance!

    Clarke

  5. Have been with FAA for four years and consistently sell my images monthly, with little to no marketing on my part. They key is to have quality images with substance that any buyer would be proud to display in their home or office.

    Buyers have never returned any of my artwork for a refund, and monthly payments are promptly received on the 15th of each month. My business continues to expand and I have no intentions of closing my account.

  6. Fine Art Guy says:

    I’ve only been on Fine Art America for 6 days and just sold my first piece which was a $156 dollar canvas wrap image. I made back my $30 yearly fee with the first print.
    My images have also received almost 400 views around the world in less then 1 week of uploading them. I’m very pleased. The interface is easy to use, upload is fast and simple, and the community is very friendly and helpful.

    I’d give it a try if you have art that’s worth buying and displaying. That’s the key.
    There’s millions of people and they all like something different. But QUALITY and Subject is KEY. It can be a simple image but be rare and of something someone wants.
    It’s not always the flashy fancy images that sell. Sometimes it’s the very simple overlooked subjects that someone wants but can’t find any other place.

  7. Chris Willlemsen says:

    Steve, nice to see a post from You here. I strat with this Fine art America aslo. W ehave a site like this in Holland, but I think this is better for sale because it is worldwide. I let you know about my experience and thanks for the pricing, gives me a start

  8. Caroline says:

    Good review and tips, thanks!

  9. Thomas Logan says:

    Nice article, I learned a bit from it. I have been on and off FAA. The main thing I wanted to comment on was that uploading issue. I can’t say how much I feel you on that. Frankly, considering the size and scope of everything around FAA it’s incomprehensible to me they have such a feeble uploading system. I just looked at it again today, same as it was YEARS ago. I work out of Lightroom mostly for the photographic stuff, and those published service plug-ins save my life. All I’m trying to figure out is WHY a company like FAA is comfortable with allowing one of the most essential components (tools) we need to work with their site, to be so utterly HORRIBLE?!?!

    Thanks again for your article.

    • admin says:

      Thanks – it is certainly not improved and there are so many options of things you can sell your images on these days. It takes a long time to get just one image online! I noticed that you use Smugmug for your website (very nice pictures by the way!). Do you sell any images that way?

  1. November 3, 2013

    […] » FineArtAmerica – update on some recent sales As I mentioned before, I uploaded about 500 of my images to Fine Art America. This is a site that provides a way for the general public to find your art and have it printed […]

  2. December 23, 2015

    […] again to see if I can get some traction. I’ve had few sales this year. I talked about my pricing strategy at FAA in an earlier post and I haven’t changed that, but I’m investigating uploading more artistic images rather […]

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