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Why Print or Sell Photos

Lesson 51 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

Why Print or Sell Photos

Lesson 51 from: Adventure Photography Pro

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

51. Why Print or Sell Photos


Class Trailer



Workshop Intro






Gear - My Camera Bags


Mastering Camera Settings


Blue Hour, A How-To


Photos That Move Us


Visual Storytelling 101


Endurance In A World Of Sprinting


Keeping Your Ideas Fresh


Building Your Story Arc


Shooting More: Action Plan


Conveying Emotions


In the Field


The Assignment: Himalaya Pre-Pro


In the Field: The Himalaya Defender Shoot


The Assignment: Canon Pre-Pro


In the Field: Canon USA Shoot




Keywords & Organizing Images


Commercial Grading


Masking & Radial Filters


Perspective Correction


HDR (Hand-Held)


Black & White Edits


Before & Afters


Moody Grading


IG Export Settings


Web Export Settings


Clone Stamping & Patch Tools


Grading in Lightroom


Hand-Held Panoramas


Radial Filters Pt 2


Delivering Files to Clients


Archiving & Organizing Images


My Favorite Software




Let's Talk Business


Building A Desirable Portfolio


How to Contact Clients


Prospecting: Finding Brands That Fit You


Getting Clients To See Our Value


Paid to Travel the World


The Art of Making Moodboards & Treatments


Keys To A Fulfilling Career


Three Things You Need To Know Before Pitching


Finding Your Value Proposition


Media Kit: A Walk Through


How I Built My Audience


Social Media Landscape


Module Recap


Bonus - Everything To Know About Filters


Do You Need Lens Filters?


Filters in The Field


Bonus - Find Your Path


Find Your Path


Bonus - How To Print Your Work


Why Print or Sell Photos


Preparing Photos for Print


Reviewing Major U.S Printers


Lesson Info

Why Print or Sell Photos

This is the printing special. I thought I'd make a two-part video to go over my whole printing process. I think that modern creative freelancers wanna sell their prints online and there's no comprehensive guide to doing that. So, my point with this mini workshop is to walk you through my entire process of printing and selling. So, how much to charge? Who to print with? How to have a cool website? How to set yourself apart? Just, you know, should I sign my prints? Should they be limited? Should it not be limited? What are the most popular sizes? So, I'm gonna... I have been printing since 2014 I think. That was my first proper printing in paint, so I got a couple years under my belt. I'm not the ultimate expert on it, but I've printed enough that I feel confident that I can help you out. This is going to be a two-part series. Part 1 is gonna be selling. All the mechanics of it. Online store, how much to charge. And then part 2 is going to be getting images ready for printing, so more te...

chnical side. And then printing, where I'm gonna go over different print shops that I've ordered from. And I'm gonna tell you who I use, and what paper I like to use. So, let's have part 1 begin now. So why sell prints? I think there's different, you know, reasons that drive us. But for me, it's about developing one-on-one relationships with people. So if one of my images is hanging at somebody's place, that is a connection and it's a pretty solid connection, right? It's one-on-one and it's more valuable, I feel like than, you know, having 10,000 people follow you online. If you have your work in people's houses, or in their offices, wherever they want to have it, I feel like that's a deeper connection. I wanna foster these. Another reason would be to develop another income stream or for the love of the medium, just because you wanna print. So whatever reason you have, this will explain the how, how to do it. And if you haven't printed anything, or if you've been just playing with it, just printing is tough. It's tough business, I think. Especially if it's not your main focus. Because there's photographers like Thomas Mangelsen who have, you know, multiple galleries across the U.S. and that's all they do. That's their core business. They just sell fine art. And it works for them. But if you're a commercial photographer, and you also have a little online print store on the side, it might just be that forever. Just your online print on the side that, you know, brings more headaches than it brings joys. So from the get-go, just manage your expectation is that if you're gonna be printing on the side, it might never be the thing you're dreaming of. If you want it to be your main thing, great! That should be a fun journey, but just know from the get-go what you're getting into. Okay. How, okay. Now the, how, how do I sell prints? So this is an online workshop about online selling. So we're gonna go with the case of online, and we're not gonna talk about galleries, or having somebody who represents you. This is online. For me, it really depends. Because you can either have like I said before, a little store on the side worth 40 of your images, or 100 of your images, or your whole gallery of images, I've seen that with like 2000 images, and just have it kind of always open. You know, it's always there, whoever wants to go buy an image, doesn't buy one. Or you can do campaigns. I personally prefer to do campaigns, which is I'm gonna come up with a collection of images that Iceland of north or forest, and then have fire images in that collection in different sizes, limited. And I'm just gonna have that open for a few days, seven days, 10 days. And then it's all limited quantities. If you wanna get a print from that collection, it's only gonna be doing that seven days. Then it's done, a proper campaign. So it's not always on. A quick thing, when you do collections, you can tie it into something, some seasonal event, Christmas or Thanksgiving, whatever you wanna do, you can tie that into it, and pick images that match that, so it makes good sense. Why don't I have like a permanent collection on my site? Well, like I said before, the fact that it's always open, always available, kind of turns me off. I don't want that feeling of, oh, it's just a commodity. You want a print, you get it. You don't want it, you don't get it. It's... I prefer to build more interest around them, so, with the campaign specific stuff. So this is why I don't have a permanent collection. What I've been doing now is actually one-offs, I call it, so it's on request. I get an email from somebody, they want a print. I get a couple of these a week, somebody wants a print, and they've seen the photo online or in the magazine. They just want a print for themselves. So, what I do now is I send them to this, to my site. I have built a page that you're gonna see now, where I just explain quickly the process of printing. This little page is really made to filter my client. I start with 20x16, so already pretty big sizes. There's no like tiny prints. And I make sure to explain that it's a custom experience. It's gonna be limited, hand signed, and numbered. And that prices start at 1500 bucks. So, by that point, 90% of the people who wanted a print will drop, and it's okay. I didn't waste any time explaining a bunch of stuff about paper or asking them what photo they wanted. The first email they send, we just send them back the link and we'd love to help them. I wanna help them, but before investing any time, they just go to this page and they say, oh, 1500 bucks. So whoever doesn't want, they can auto eliminate themselves from it. The reason I charge that much is because I just took some time and reflected on how much is my time worth to me. And I realized that if I'm gonna sell a print for 200 bucks, which it's a lot of money, but if I have to go dig into the archive from and find that photo and get it ready for printing, and I've spent two hours on it and then it's not worth it, 'cause I gotta get it printed and shipped. And, so I've decided that, for me to sell a print it's gotta start at 5,000 bucks. And then you can have this talk with yourself, and I'm gonna talk about how much you should charge later down the road. But just a quick note on pricing. On pricing, it's a vast conversation, and I don't mean to have all the answers. But it starts with how established you are, and how much people want your stuff. If you are on many magazines, and many interviews, and you know you've done some shows and galleries across the world, I would say that you are established. And then your work should have a price tag that you should set for yourself or compare as other peers. But it shouldn't be cheap, because you've done all the work you spent likely years trying to be established. And it's not the right time now to go on discount your work. If you're starting out and, you know, you've been shooting for a year, and then you've had a cool show at your local coffee shop. And you're like I'm gonna take it to online, and I'm gonna crush it, I'm gonna sell a bunch of prints. If you're just really fresh to this, and you want to sell small print for 500 bucks or even 300 bucks, odds are, you're just gonna not sell any. And I don't want it to be pessimistic because I'm all up for challenges and setting expectations. But this should be, you just have to think about it. You know, why would somebody spend $ on your print when they don't really know who you are? So, where do you start? Well, first, what is your work or your time worth to you? If you have a full-time job that pays you well and you're happy, and then you wanna sell some prints on the side and you don't... you're not doing it just for the money, just doing it for the love and you wanna do real high quality stuff, then price it high because you don't need to make that sale. But if you're trying to get through college and you need to make those sales, then just be competitive. Not only on pricing, but also on content. Have something that's unique, you know, it all comes down to how unique the images are and how established you are. And sadly, if you're really established and the work is okay, you must still work though, because you're established. Let's look at another example, Mr. Kevin Russ, amazingly talented photographer. He had decided to go a different route with his prints. He's not trying to be high end. He's not trying to sell limited editions. He's just trying to sell volume. So he'll have postcard packs and little prints for like $3. But if he sells 10,000 of them, ends up being the same as, you know, selling a few high end ones. So what he's done is that he's dialed his distribution. You know, he's dialed his distribution system, where he doesn't have to be too involved in it. People buy print for $10, automatically goes to their house and everybody's happy. So, that's another example of how you can go completely different way and still have good success with it. He also does little magazines. He sells for affordable prices. And they're awesome. You should probably get one. But there's different ways to go about it. And this is the way of volume. Another thing that Kevin does, that's pretty smart, I think, is that he's got different price ranges, kind of a price for everybody. You go to the site, you have $10 to spend, well, you can get a postcard pack. You have $50 to spend, well, you can get a bigger print. You have $300 to spend, you can get an even bigger print. So everybody can be happy on his site, you know. So the more little products you have, the better. But don't let your small products canalize your big ones. That if something's cheap, then the big item needs to be expensive for a reason. Last thing on pricing is that I would try not to be too vanilla. Because I've seen countless of talented creators have their work on sale for the same prices, like 50 bucks, 75 bucks, kind of this middle ground. That is like not cheap, not expensive. I'm speaking for the, you know, the modern American consumer. It's like not cheap, but not expensive. And you end up just looking like everybody else. It's just vanilla. So Kevin just went extreme, it's like really cheap but lots of them, really cool. Thomas Mangelsen, little of them, really expensive. But if you're in the middle there, you're just not setting yourself apart. Do I stock any prints? I haven't so far. I have never had inventory of prints sitting anywhere in the studio because I haven't had to. I've just engineered the system in a way that it gets the order goes through or replace the order. It goes to the lab directly. And there's more on who I use for lab in part 2 by the way. Goes to the lab, the lab ships a little proof to me. I make some corrections that I have to make. Then send that little print back, and then the big print comes again for inspection. I put my white gloves on, look at it, sign it, number it if I have, and then we send it to the customer with a little personal note. So I don't need to have any inventory because it's all on-demand right now. It's custom. When I do a campaign, I don't either stock any inventory. I'll just, at the end of the day, if my campaign's gonna last for seven days, at the end of the day, I'm just gonna go and have all the orders from the day fulfilled by the lab. And that's it. I don't have to carry anything physically here. And when I do campaigns, they're usually cheaper. I think my last campaign is like $200 for a print. Something like that. See, that was me being vanilla with the pricing. I've learned from that. I know. I think my last campaign was $ for I can deliver 11x14. And there was only like 20 of each available. So even though it was vanilla on the pricing, there was limited inventory. So there's this imediacy that was created, and then they all got out. But build it in a way that you don't have to stock inventory. If you wanna stock inventory, that's really cool too. And I'd like to do that more actually. And I'm gonna touch on that later. What percentage of sales come from social for me? Well, maybe 30%. That's probably where these email inquiries come. They come from social or my website, but the bulk of the sales is from the newsletter actually. When I do a campaign, I just, you know, prepare a beautiful email newsletter to my subscribers. And that's where most of the prints are sold. That's the best conversion rate. And it feels like a private club. I love the newsletters. I wish I could do more. But I love this little community of people. So if I have some advice for you, it'd be to develop a newsletter and foster it. Not just sell them stuff, but also add value to them. Share some photos they haven't seen. I feel like we need to make a newsletter special now. All right. But yeah, I'll say that 30% from social, the rest is mostly the newsletter. Let's talk about e-commerce. I've used Squarespace for my site since forever. This is not an ad. It's not sponsored. I've just been using Squarespace. I keep seeing in my workshop, actually. To sell, I usually use Squarespace as well because the store is simple enough. If I have one book to go off to sell, I might just put it on Squarespace because it's simple. If I have multiple products, I start using Shopify for that. Shopify has allowed me to have custom templates made, or even just tweak existing templates. Shopify is just way more powerful to sell things. They accept more forms of payment. And this is not an ad again. I'm just really sold on Shopify because it'll... it accepts every form of payment known to men except gold, maybe, but otherwise, Apple Pay, Amazon, PayPal, you name it. Just super convenient. And you can customize the whole store way more than Squarespace. You might need to be a little, you know, nifty with the edits, like you might have to know how to edit CSS, or you can just ask someone who can do that, might not be cheap. But if you're curious, you can learn how to modify your own Shopify store. Some friends use SmugMug to sell their prints as well. Looks a little cookie-cutter to me. You can do some cool integrations. I've seen... I think Chris Burkard has a cool integration of his SmugMug into his own site. That must have taken a bit of time and some effort. But I thought it was cool. I've just preferred to make my own custom Shopify once though. Everything I wanna do has to be custom. And I don't like the white labeling cookie-cutter stuff. Whatever you do with your e-commerce for your prints, try to make your design different. Likely it's gonna be templatized. You're gonna have to work either with Squarespace template or format or SmugMug or Shopify. But whatever you do try to put effort in the way it looks. So it looks different. So people are like, whoa, this doesn't look like a photographer's print site, which is what you wanna avoid. It could be just with a cool header, or the way you show your photos in the site, like the way you show your prints. Are they like hanging in a cool swanky house? Or is it just like photos of the photo? Just like JPEG right there. So the more you can think about that, the more the person buying it will feel like they've being, you know, somebody's thought about them. There's also another service that is pretty cool, it's Pixieset. I use it to deliver photos to clients like you saw in the workshop, but you can also use it to sell prints now. I've never used it myself. I've looked at the templates. They look pretty cool, pretty different too. So maybe we'll give that a try, again, not sponsored. But if you wanna get serious, probably go with Shopify. With your store, you know, after you've added your prints and made your cool header, try to check out yourself. Try to buy, you know, get make a discount code for free for yourself and just buy a print from yourself. Just go through the whole checkout process down to the email you're gonna receive when you've done that order. Because if every step you've experienced and you've stopped and be like, does this look cool? Can this be improved for the customer? Can I make it more custom? So it doesn't feel like "Order 1099. Thank you for your order!". You know, can I make it more personal? Then, that again, will make the customer more stoked. The state of printing. So I'm gonna speak about what I know, which is mostly the online world. And I think it's pretty saturated. Everybody's trying to sell prints. And... nothing wrong with that. The thing is that some people are doing all the sales, and some people are doing none of the sales. So it's like I said, at the beginning, it's tough. Especially if you don't put much thought into it. If you just throw a website together, got a couple images, and wait, likely no much is gonna happen. You know, you're gonna harvest what you planted. And most of the way that we all do it, it's that the experience is not really custom. I've been talking about it for a while down to the store. But even the delivery process, which I'll touch base on part 2, it's somebody puts an order on your site, and then they get a box five days after that from a company called Photo Lab, Houston, Texas. And they just open it. And there's your prints there with nothing special about it. No note from you. No, nothing. So what's the point of that? Before you begin your next printing project, just take a second to reflect on what you're trying to achieve, what's your approach to printing, you know. Do you want some labs from somewhere to ship it to your client? Or do you want to print it yourself with a printer you just bought and frame it yourself? I don't know. Or do you want it to be handed in person by you at some of the local sales? Just think about what your experience is gonna be and what's your goal with it. Figure out what makes your prints, your offers stand out from the rest. If you can answer that before you even begin, you know, what makes your print special, then you'll likely win. Let's say I've never printed anything. And I'm wondering where to start. I've been thinking about this little funnel/process of the perfect first print sale. So if you try it, let me know, I'd love to hear how it went. But how about you start with one image you love. Just your favorite image that you've taken. Not the one that people like more online, the one that you like the best. And then, you know, imagine if somebody would hang it in their place, what would it look like? What room would it go in? I found that photos of people don't usually do as well in somebody's houses. Especially portraits, unless it's some Steve McCurry legendary portrait of somebody in India. That's amazing. Then, sure. But if it's just photos of your buddies, you know, out in your local park, it might not sell as well. Once you have that image that you love selected, send it to multiple printers. Spend hundred bucks, just to send it printed by different shops. Three, four shops. And then, you know, run your results. Like look at which one you like better and use that shop. Once you get that final print back that you like, get it framed locally by some local framers, or just frame it yourself if you're handy. And then hang it somewhere. If you don't have, you know, a super cool space at your place, find somebody who's got a cool space that you know around in town and hang it there. Take some real photos of it. Take some real photos of yourself, just examining it, like make this whole story about this print in photos. And once you have that, there's real photos of that print that's real, hang it up to site and sell. This is... You are selling this print, this only print. There's only one. And just tell me what you've done with it, you know. I printed it, I framed it myself, or I had it framed. And I picked this photo because of these reasons. And see if anybody buys. And then once you sell it, do that again, and again. Even if you break even at the beginning, just the fact that you're going so deep into the process that you're so invested in it will make people wanna buy from you more. It's like this guy's serious. He's a real deal. He's just printed it, you know, inspected it, framed it, and took some real photos of it. It's... he's just more involved. To recap, decide why you wanna sell prints. What do you wanna get out of it? Is it extra income? Is it just to develop new relationship with your people? Just decide that from the get-go. That will create your expectations. Develop a unique offering, you know, what makes your experience unique? Because I'm sure your photos are unique, but is your experience as unique as your photos? And, don't be cookie-cutter. Don't just slap a website quickly, and throw a couple images, and see what happens. That you're not gonna look back to what you just did and be proud of that. And lastly, create an experience that, I think, it's the biggest thing. Even if it's something as simple as selling a piece of paper with a photo on it. It's simple. But you can go so far into the experience. Just before you go crazy and spend countless amount of money and hours on making that experience, try an experiment. And then if the experiment goes well, keep improving it. Don't just go crazy on it. And then realize you've spent a thousand dollars and didn't sell any prints. On part 2 of the film, I'm gonna go over how to prepare images for printing, and printing. We're gonna review some many samples we have from different shops, and then I'm gonna share on papers and Gerber files, just a bunch of good stuff. So, stay tuned.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

A Note From Alex

Ratings and Reviews


Not What I Was Expecting Let me just start by saying that the workshop was very good. There were lots of things that I learned and many insights I took away. Perhaps the greatest bit of wisdom imparted to me was not anything Alex said but how he approached every subject he talked about. I felt that he was talking to me as a friend, very personal and open book. This was both a blessing and a curse as the course tends to meander around and is not as structured as others I've taken. Alex's passion for the highest quality, and craftsmanship in every aspect of his business, is very evident. From the premiums he charges, to the attention to detail in client deliveries. This is where my review is going to give some hopefully constructive criticisms. For someone so focused on a premium experience I was a surprised to find the course a bit sloppily assembled, and the videography and editing lackluster. This is coming from a videographer and someone with a lot of experience in online training. A few short examples to illustrate my point include: repeating segments of the edit (in some instances the exact same segment), poor framing. Colors changing between cuts, and my biggest pet peeve, not leaving photo examples on for long enough to see them. These are all small things, but they add up, and along with the topics meandering, left me a bit disappointed. I'm curious who you would say this class is aimed towards. Amateurs, mid-level, or experts? The assumption of who you are addressing changes throughout the course. I feel like with a bit of work from an instructional designer, and some editing cleanup, you could help hone this course to be one of the best out there. I feel like I need to do a more in depth review than will fit here, to actually explain this well. Let me know if that would be helpful to you. One other note: When I signed up for a workshop on Adventure Photography, I honestly thought it would be more field focused. The field examples were all shoots for products, and not shoots documenting an adventure. I guess I had just hoped to learn that side of the storytelling process more. Getting into the nitty gritty of being wet, cold, and dirty, and still shooting bangers. The section on filters (going out and building the snow cave) was more what I thought this course was going to be. Anyhow, with all that said, I still found it valuable and worthwhile. To summarize, the course feels a bit unpolished and in some ways unfinished though there is still great value. I've taken Jimmy Chin's Masterclass on adventure photography and it felt very structured and highly polished. I purchased "Adventure Pro" on the "finish in a month" discount. I would have felt ripped off if I had paid full price with the course in its current state. Thanks for reading and I hope my criticisms come as helpful. As I've already mentioned I'd be happy to further elaborate.

Topher Hammond

One of the best photography investments I'm only 1/4 of the way through Alex's course and I feel like I already have a loose plan on how I can move forward in my own career as a photographer. I felt like my work was lacking a specific feeling. The way that Alex articulated ideas on how to convey emotion in your imagery and building that overarching story arc for your own life narrative were super helpful to focus on how to make my work better. Super looking forward to the rest of this course. Thanks Alex and team!

Sergi Mas de xaxars Rosell

Great Workshop I learned quite a lot with this workshop. Because I'm in the industry for 5 years now, there were a few things I already knew. On the other hand, Alex showed me different and more effective ways to improve my business. I like the way he gives the lessons, always in a personal and close way. This is the knowledge I wish I had when I started. Totally worth it!

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