Louie Vidmar
Randomly Selective – Selectively Random

September 13th, 2008 Do I Want to be a Pro Photographer?

The answer is I think so. But the cost for entering the field of selling prints online is a bit of a hurdle.

A little backstory leading up to this entry here. About 2 weeks ago, I checked out a really nice lens, and took it with the rest of photo kit to a waterski tournament where I shot a little over 1500 photos. All this with the hopes of selling a few prints to people. Now on with the research….

The first place I looked at was ExpressDigital’s PhotoReflect (I’m not providing a link, they’re not worth it, keep reading), because it’s where the 2008 AWSA Western Regionals photos were posted. I looked around the site, looked a little clunky but usable. Their rates sounded high at first glance (I’ve since found out they are indeed relatively low). For low-sales-volume accounts, they scrape 18% off the top, but don’t charge any bandwidth or storage fees.

The second place I looked at was PhotoWorks which also has free upload and storage, but their pricing markup is severely limited. The only options are a solid $ increase (ex. adding $10 to the cost of the print, regardless of size), or a solid % increase (ex. add 400% to the cost of the print, $1.14 4×6 and $209.70 for 20×30)

I kept on looking, asking a few photographers I know for recommendations. Unfortunately most people I know don’t sell their work online. Enter Zac. He suggested a few sites to check out. The first, PhotoShelter, is what he’s used in the past, and they have a “free” account to try, cool. The others DigitalRailRoad and RedBubble seemed to be capable, but targeted at other audiences.

Now for comparison, PhotoShelter seems the best option, as they handle all the printing and shipping stuff, and they scrape 30% off the top. But there is a $50 setup fee, and I would soon need more storage for $7-10/month (so $50 setup + $120/yr). DigitalRailRoad does not have a free account option, starts at $50 setup + $50/month, and they scrape 40% off the top. Most expensive, lowest margins, not a good combo. RedBubble seems to be targeted more towards art stuff.

These all seemed a litle overpriced now, and I remembered that PhotoReflect was free except for the 18% scraping. So I signed up for an account to try it out, excited to try their plugin for Apple’s Aperture. Low and behold, the plugin crashes Aperture every single time I try to connect to the website with it. Doing some research, other than providing the crappy plugin, they provide ABSOLUTELY NO MAC SUPPORT. Bullox.

Another option is using SmugMug Pro account which costs $150/year and they scrape 15% off your markup. The biggest selling point for SmugMug is also it’s biggest downside, the website is really Ajax-heavy. While it is a SWEET looking site, I’d worry that the glam of the site might be offputting/intimidating to some customers.

Ultimately I don’t think I’m ready to throw myself into the world of pro-photography, which is what it would require to justify the investment of joining most of these sites. I do want to start making some money from my work so I can justify spending more money on equipment, and more time in the field. So for now I’m still stuck thinking about what I want to do.

EDIT: I just realized with PhotoWorks, you can use the % markup with a minimum $ markup. For example, I can say 300% markup, but a minimum of $5. This seems to create a nicer price scale, though I wish I could markup the larger items less, since I don’t think I’d be selling many.

2 Responses to “Do I Want to be a Pro Photographer?”

  1. David Says:

    SmugMug!!

  2. Louie Says:

    Realized I didn’t mention, I’m already paying $25/yr for a Flickr Pro account.