How to create and sell a calendar of your photography

First published:
April 21, 2023
January 31, 2024

How to create and sell a calendar of your photography

First published:
April 21, 2023
January 31, 2024

Man in Black T-shirt holding DSLR by Amar Preciado

Looking for an interesting way to make some extra cash from your photography? Why not give calendars a go

If you’ve got a slew of great photographic images sitting on your hard drive - or your online portfolio - to save them gathering digital dust, you might want think about creating physical products with them. The obvious one to go for is greetings cards, but calendars are also a big business that you might want to tap into - and they can also be a good branding / freebie giveaway too.

When you consider that a calendar of yours will be on display for 12 months - that’s a whole year of reminding a customer that you exist and that you could be booked again - you can see why many people go down the route of using them for branding exercises.

If you’ve got lots of pictures on a specific theme - such as a national park for example - that can also be a good idea for a calendar for anyone interested in that specific area.

Of course there’s lots of things to consider first, so here’s some tips to get you started…

1 Plan ahead - in plenty of time 

It’s safe to say that you should always allow more time than you’ll think you’ll need, especially for timely projects like calendars. Photo by Constantine Pankin - f/9 | ISO 100 | 1/125s

It might seem obvious that you need to have a calendar ready for sale before the start of the new year, but what might not be quite so plain is just how long you need to prepare for the run up to the big sales period.

Assuming you’ll want to start selling your calendars in November or December (at the latest), then think about how long it will take you to choose pictures, design the calendar, get them printed and packaged, and list them for sale. It’s better to start as soon as possible - at least three months is ideal, but even longer is even better if you can, that way you’re likely to be ahead and not be working to strict deadlines.

2 Consider your imagery and seasonal themes

There are a number of ways you could go about designing a calendar, such as a picture for every single day, several pictures on one page, or the same picture all the way through the year, just with the calendar part changing. However, the most common is one picture per month.

This will only give you 12 pictures to include in your calendar so you’ll need to be ruthless when going through your shots to make sure you only pick out the best ones. You might also want to consider whether you align your pictures with the various months and seasons, such as spring, summer, Easter or Christmas. There’s no right or wrong answer per se, but if you’re producing a landscape calendar and have a summer picture for December this may look a little odd (unless they’re all summer pictures).

It can be helpful to print out the shots you intend to use and lay them out in front of you to ensure they have a good flow from month to month.

3 Add text, graphics and consider design of month pages

Think about the design of the actual calendar part - generally you’ll probably want to keep it clean and simple. Photo by Nora Carol Sahinun - f/8 | ISO 200 | 1/160s

Once you’ve chosen your images it’s time to think about the calendar part of the calendar - that is where the days / months are displayed. There’s plenty of free templates you can pick up online, or within design editing software so you probably won’t need to design your own (unless you want to).

It is important however to think about the look and how it aligns with your brand. For example, do you want clean lines and plain fonts, or do you want something a little fussier. Again, there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s a matter of personal taste. Again, printing out some templates and placing them next to your images can help you get a better idea.

You should also think about whether you want to add any text or graphics elements that aren’t already included - some photographers for example like to include an inspirational quote or a tip on their calendar pages. Take a look at other photographers calendars to get an idea of how others approach it. 

4 Add your branding 

This is particularly important if you’re going to give away your calendar as promotional material. Make sure you include any branding you have somewhere on the calendar. On the front and/or the back is a good idea, but you might also want to include it on every month’s page too - so long as it’s not too obtrusive or prominent.

Be sure to include a link to your website or portfolio, and maybe even consider including a QR code that people can quickly scan to go straight to your website. 

5 Choose physical dimensions, card and/or paper stock

This is an important decision, but may well depend on your printing company (see next point).

You’ll want to go for a paper or card stock which is high enough quality to show off your photographs well, but without being so expensive as to make your calendars too highly priced for sale. If possible, ask to see samples before placing any order. 

As for size, again this may be dependent on what your printer offers, but try to choose one that shows off your photographs but isn’t too enormous. You might also want to consider smaller calendars that fit on desktops for example.

6 Decide on a printer - and follow appropriate guidelines

You could print a calendar at home or at the studio, but it’s probably more likely that you’ll ask a third-party to print your calendar for you - especially as they’ll be able to do all the binding too.

Lots of places offer the ability to create personalised calendars so spend some time looking through the pricing structures of various companies, comparing what you get for your money, delivery times and so on. Look for online reviews and testimonials about the company if you’ve never used them before to make sure they generally do a good job.

Most companies will provide image guidelines - such as how big the images should be, where they should be placed on a template for cutting and so on. Be sure to read and follow these guidelines carefully for the best results.

7 Find a place to sell 

Gift shops are a good place to sell your calendars, particularly if your calendar is themed around a particular area for instance. Photo by Cary Seipp - f/8 | ISO 200 | 1/500s

There’s lots of places to sell your calendar to consider. The obvious place to start is online, whether that be through an online marketplace such as Etsy or through your own website. If you already sell other things via your own e-commerce platform, then it makes sense to do it that way, while third parties will take a lot of the hassle away (for a fee or commission).

In terms of physical locations, seek out things like craft fairs, Christmas markets and other local events - again, especially if you have other products to sell. You might want to consider teaming up with other creatives to rent a stall or space if you don’t have too many products.

Gift shops and tourist hotspots can also be a good place to sell your calendars - get in contact in good time to ask about the possibility of doing that and again any commission they might take.

8 Carefully consider pricing 

You’ll need to take into account the material cost of your calendar - but you should also think about how much time you’ve spent on creating it when coming up with a final price.

Avoiding very high prices is for the best, especially if it’s priced way above other calendars on the market, but don’t be afraid to start relatively high with the assumption that you might need reduce your prices as the year winds down.

Think about how much you’d generally be prepared to pay for a calendar yourself and compare with other similar products as a good starting point. Don’t expect huge profits, especially for your first calendar, but it can add a nice extra pot of cash to your earnings.

9 Submit designs to external companies

As part of your initial research, look for companies that might want to either buy a finished calendar from you and sell it to their own clients - for example gift shops and the like - or companies that may wish to buy the design off you and produce it in house - such as greetings cards companies.

There’s dozens of potential avenues here, but perhaps the best place to start is to look into where sells calendars which are similar to yours. If it’s small businesses, contact the owner and ask how you might go about setting up a partnership. If it’s a larger company, such as a calendar printing company, check to see if there are submission guidelines on their websites, or get in touch to ask for them.

Generally speaking you’ll either take a fee for each calendar you sell, or, you’ll sell a set number at a set price and leave it up to the shop to make their own mark up on it. You might also sell the design to a company who will either give you a fee for its usage, or give you a percentage of profits. Whichever route you go down, try to get everything agreed in writing so you know exactly where you stand.

10 Think about giving away your calendar to clients 

A calendar of your work is a great free gift to send out towards the end of the year. This is especially true if you have a lot of corporate, repeat clients who you might want to remind of your existence throughout the year. If you’re planning on doing this, you might want to make sure your branding is prominently displayed throughout the calendar, not just on the front or back page.

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