Picking up that all-important first photography sale can be a big challenge - here are some tips to get things moving in the right direction

Beginner

The time before finding your first buyer can be a nerve-wracking one. With an enormous amount of competition out there, you’ll find that you’re mostly relying on your existing network to pitch your wares to - but it’s natural to wonder how to best reach those potential clients.

In this piece, we’ll be looking at the best ways to attract potential customers to a brand new photography business venture, as well as some tips for keeping those customers happy when they do appear. 

1 Build a strong social media presence

These days, social media really is the best way to get the news about your work out there. Chances are you’ll already have profiles on many of the platforms, but make sure they’re really working for you, and pushing your best work.

"With an enormous amount of competition out there, you’ll find that you’re mostly relying on your existing network to pitch your wares to - but it’s natural to wonder how to best reach those potential clients."

If your social media is mostly personal at the moment, consider setting up dedicated accounts for your photography which becomes an extension of your brand. Make sure to post to it regularly with your latest work, but also don’t be afraid to show a little bit of personality too - behind-the-scenes shots, work in progress, the kit you use and even shots of you at work also go down well.

It can be a good idea to build up your social media presence before you even have a product to launch and sell, so that you already have an existing community ready to pitch to. Instagram is probably the place to concentrate most of your efforts, as a photographer, but don’t be afraid to explore Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and other platforms too - take a look at what other photographers are doing for a better understanding.

When you do have something to sell - whether that’s digital files or physical products, make sure you go big on pushing it across all of your social channels - posting regularly and including links.

Don't forget about friends and family

When you're ready to shout about your new photography business - make sure your friends and family know about it too. They'll want to support you on your new venture so make sure they are aware of your plans and anything you're putting out there.

Your friends and family are likely to form the majority of your existing network when starting out. And you could find that as well as providing you with support, they can help spread the word about your business within their own networks and even become your first customers too.

Having a strong and regular social media presence will keep you in the minds of potential customers. Photo by Martijn van der Nat

2 Have a portfolio page ready to link to 

Social media is great, but it’s important to have a proper portfolio page you can link through to drive views - and ultimately sales. Luckily, it’s very easy to create a beautiful portfolio right here on Picfair.

A Picfair store can be set up and launched in minutes, and all the boring yet necessary admin of payments, creating prints and shipping will be handled directly by Picfair. Make sure to include a link to your Picfair portfolio on all of your social media pages, so anybody that does want to make a purchase can do it in a few simple clicks.

Having a Picfair Store ready to go is a quick, easy and convenient way for your customers to buy your images and prints. Picfair Store: Helen Hotson

3 Get some sample printed goods prepared

That said, if you want to sell physical products in person, then it’s a good idea to have some samples printed up.

These you can use to show potential clients, highlight them on your social media channels and take them with you to exhibitions, fairs and so on (see next tip). You’ll also know exactly what you’re able to offer your customers, exactly how much the raw materials cost (and therefore how much mark up you can make on them), and indeed whether selling prints is the way to go for you.

Having some sample images printed helps you to know exactly what you’re selling - and gives you something to show off to potential clients. Photo by Jason Kessenich

4 Look for local fairs and exhibitions 

You’ll probably find that there’s lots of opportunities in your own local area if only you can find them.

"You can find out about local opportunities in many different ways - making sure you’re active on local Facebook and NextDoor groups is probably the most simple yet effective way."

Fairs and exhibitions are a great way to get a feel for the potential market, giving you the ability to chat face-to-face with likely customers, get feedback on what you’re doing and spread the word. You can find out about local opportunities in many different ways - making sure you’re active on local Facebook and NextDoor groups is probably the most simple yet effective way.

Keep an eye on your local newspaper’s website and social media feeds, and follow photographers and other creatives to find out about opportunities. Having product ready to go will help you land a stall or space at a local fair if you need to apply to an organiser. Make sure you have business cards or flyers to take with you to hand out to any interested parties, too.

It’s important to be friendly and approachable at these types of events. You must also develop a thick skin - be prepared for people not to want to buy your goods, or for some people to downright dislike what you do. That’s OK, not everybody needs to be your customer - but you need to remember not to take it personally.

Local fairs and markets are a great place to sell your work - but they’re also a fantastic opportunity to speak to potential clients face-to-face. Photo by Chavalit Likitratcharoen

5 Be your own PR manager 

The job of a photographer requires you to wear many hats in the current climate. Being your own PR manager is just one of them.

"You’ll probably find that there’s lots of opportunities in your own local area if only you can find them."

Keep an eye on your local newspaper’s website and social media feeds, and follow photographers and other creatives to find out about opportunities. Having product ready to go will help you land a stall or space at a local fair if you need to apply to an organiser. Make sure you have business cards or flyers to take with you to hand out to any interested parties, too.

It’s important to be friendly and approachable at these types of events. You must also develop a thick skin - be prepared for people not to want to buy your goods, or for some people to downright dislike what you do. That’s OK, not everybody needs to be your customer - but you need to remember not to take it personally.

Contacting newspapers, magazines and gallery spaces is one of the jobs that you should make some time for in your schedule. It’s usually relatively straightforward to find the best person to contact at a magazine or website - you’ll often find their name and an email address listed somewhere in the magazine or website itself. If it’s not immediately obvious who the best contact is, look for general contact email addresses and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for the right name either.

Again here you’ll need a thick skin - and patience in abundance. Journalists and managers are generally very busy and are often inundated with emails from those who’d love to be featured in their publications and spaces. Making yourself stand out from the crowd isn't necessarily easy - but it is straightforward. Having something unique or unusual about yourself (or your pictures) gives you a hook, especially if it’s linked to a timely event - such as an appearance in an exhibition or at a fair.

Remember to be courteous and polite, triple check for obvious errors before you send off an email, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back immediately. Don’t be tempted to send follow up emails too quickly - but there’s nothing wrong with sending a polite chase-up if you don’t hear back after a week or two (especially if your contact is particularly timely).

Getting your images in front of influential people, such as editors, can be the first step to drumming up a sale. Photo by Emanuele Ravecca

6 Be alert for bigger opportunities 

Selling photographs and prints to your local network might be relatively lucrative, but think about how many more potential customers there are further afield.

Keeping up to date with photography magazines, websites, and even Instagram feeds can make sure you’re made aware of bigger opportunities. Whether that's contests and competitions you can enter, submission opportunities, valuable contacts you can make, new gallery openings or something else entirely.

It’s also worth exploring niche avenues. Say for example, you specialise in flower photography - it’s not just photography publications or local newspapers that might be interested in your pictures. There’s also gardening, travel, science and lifestyle publications that might also want to use them. That’s just one example - by broadening your mind by following your niche, you can find many more potential clients.

There are publications and magazines which cover just about every genre. Make sure to explore avenues in your particular niche, as well as more broad opportunities. Photo by Christian Müller.

7 Keep your stock library selection regularly updated and current

If you want to sell stock and prints via your Picfair Store, making sure it is always kept updated with fresh, timely content is of utmost importance.

A high turnover of new pictures (or just new to your portfolio but drawn from your existing archive) means there’s always something for potential clients to discover. Keeping them timely (i.e. spring pictures in the spring - or just before the spring) is also helpful for anybody who wants something to illustrate something specific.

Keeping your stock library up to date - and timely or seasonal - is a good way to ensure clients always have something new available. Photo by Jason Kessenich

8 Be as organised as possible 

Customers love suppliers who are organised, quick and deliver what they need. Whether that’s a local individual looking to buy a print or a commissioning editor at a publication, you should always aim to be as professional as possible.

That means answering emails and enquiries in a timely fashion, having files in the correct format ready to send or link to (a Picfair Store is a super quick way to ensure this is always ready), and being ready to make changes or adjustments as necessary. Doing all of this politely - even from the most demanding of customers or clients - will ensure that the first sale turns into another (and another, and another). 

Organisation and professionalism is key not only to making your first sale, but to retaining customers and making additional sales. Photo by Jess Kraft

Further reading:

Discover a wealth of tips, tutorials and advice from professional photographers and industry professionals on how to sell your photography with our dedicated Business of Photography section on Focus.