Making money without very much money.

Joined
Oct 27, 2007
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After taking a year long break from photography, I have recently picked up the camera again and plan on doing two things. The first is start shooting medium and large format film again for myself, in the name of art. The second is turn a profit with photography. I am 17 years old and have never been formally employed. This is completely by choice, as I have made (and saved) enough money to get by with the various teenage jobs of mowing lawns etc. However, thanks to photography and too many other hobbies, this money has run out.

To make time for the aforementioned hobbies (which include obscure things like spearfishing and unicycling), I have decided to keep my unemployment streak going and try to make money using photography. I have lucked into shooting two weddings, 5 or 6 senior portraits, and a few family portraits. I had the opportunity to shoot for paying skimboarding and skateboarding companies as well. I am extremely new at this, but technically not brand new.

For those of you that I haven't bored to tears yet, I'll get to the actual purpose of this thread. I'm currently working with a few ideas of making money. As some of you may have read, I am currently selling prints (er, attempting to) on both Etsy and Ebay. On top of that, I plan on printing/matting/framing some prints to present to the local coffee shops and restaurants to hopefully hang and sell those. The last idea is to open up a SmugMug pro account and shoot the high school sports games, offering prints to parents.

The hope is that I will be able to learn from this, make some money, and in the end have a log of how to make money (or what not to do to make money) with extremely limited experience and money. I figure it is better to publish what I'm doing to keep me motivated and make the successes and failures valuable to someone else. The budget is $250 max, which includes the SmugMug account. The idea is to keep it way under that if possible.



Ebay/Etsy:
Nov 21st: Listed the first print on eBay. I also started a listing for the same print on Etsy. No more prints have been uploaded, but I plan to very soon.

Nov 28th: Print didn't sell. It had 65 views and 4 watchers. I will post the link only because the auction has expired. I don't believe that conflicts with any rules, as it is simply for informational purposes and the item is no longer for sale. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...149757&ssPageName=STRK:MEUSX:IT#ht_500wt_1156




Coffee Shop Sales:

Nov 25th: Started making prints and looking for frames. It is extremely difficult to find reasonably priced frames. I am currently just looking for thin, black, simple frames. I figure these won't restrict people from buying them due to the frames because they are so minimal. However, there is no good way around that. I am cutting my own mattes from existing matte board.

Nov 30th: Bought 9 frames and cut mattes. All are 11x14 matted to 8x10 or 8x8. All of the frames are black and thin to attempt to reduce the "this frame doesn't match" dilemma. Printing will happen tomorrow.

Nov 31st: I find out today that I will be doing a print show in 3 days. Wow.

Dec 2nd: I am showing at a craft show in my town. Here's the overview.

I purchased about 10 11x14 frames and 3 16x20. I will be selling 12 images total. I'm going to have the three most marketable images (not even close to my favorites, however, most appealing to the audience) printed at 11x14 in the 16x20 frames, matted. These will be the attention grabbers of the show. Lots of color here was important. Now, the remaining 9 or so images will be printed 8x10 and framed in 11x14 mats. That covers the display of all of the images. They'll be hanging behind me.

On the table, there will be two print bins. In those print bins will be one copy of the 8x10 image, matted in a plastic bag but not framed. When someone buys the print, I will replace it with stock I have on hand of that image and another mat. I don't have any idea what the demand will be, so I have 3 printed images of each photo. I also have small 5x7's of the picture I took of my school (that crazy spherical panorama) because it's being run through the middle school in that photograph. If more are requested of any print, I can offer to deliver them or ship them location dependent. A lot of the buyers will be local.

On the table I'll have a laptop set up with a running slide show of those images as well as others that didn't make it to print, but are still potential sales. Those can be ordered with the same deal, delivery or next day shipping.

Prices:

5x7: $8
8x10, matted: $20
8x10, matted + framed: $35
11x14, matted and framed: $45

These prices are cheap. However, the 8x10's are priced at $20 because it's one bill to hand over and a very convenient size. They're the money maker in this endeavor. I would be very surprised to sell more than one of the 16x20's.

Any leftover framed prints will be driven around to local coffee shops to offer to hang them for sale. This way I'm not wasting mats or frames, if they are in the public eye for sale then it's just a running expense.

Here are the images (Again, emphasis on the target audience. I like almost all of these, however, my personal favorite photographs would have a hard time selling)

16x20's
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The printing should be done by tomorrow and I'll snap a picture of the whole lot. It's going to be quite impressive. I still have a huge amount of work to do tomorrow, getting the prints done, matting, framing, printing business cards, price cards, and getting fliers done for family portraits as well as the upcoming sports photos. I'm going to get a flier up for that as well. I also have a jar to draw someone to win one of the 16x20's, $1 gets a ticket. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow!

December 7th

I talked to a whole slew of restaurants and businesses today. I hung 5 prints in one salon and have many more to contact in the coming days. I'll update this when I do.

December 8th

I went back to the restaurant/salon owners and they want 5 11x14's matted and framed to 16x20. I'm getting those printed tonight and I'm dropping them off tomorrow. The salon owner isn't sure if she wants prints yet, but is planning on taking a second look tomorrow. They have a hallway that everyone walks through that is very well lit in "spotlight" form where they will be hung. It looks perfect.

I also spoke with another salon owner who is interested in hanging 5 8x10's matted to 11x14's. She also wants a print box that people can leaf through matted 8x10's for purchase. I'm not entirely sure that I'll go that route, but it does seem like it has a lot of potential. She was the first person to ask for commission, and we agreed on 20%.

December 9th: All photographs are hung and priced. At this point, I've got a total of 17 prints framed and a bin of another 10 matted pictures available for sale. In every spot I hung up a business card holder with 30 or so of my cards in it. Two owners expressed interest in having me hang a "local photographs for sale" sign in their window. On top of that, I'm bringing in a flier advertising my family portrait services to put next to the print bin. I think if nothing comes of this, the exposure will still be important.

December 12th: Sold my first non-photographic item on ebay and re-listed prints I have extra's of for a cheaper price.


High School Sports:

November 28th: I ordered 250 free business cards from VistaPrints. It ended up being $10 for 250, which is reasonable. The next sport that is coming up is basketball. I have about 3 weeks before those games start. I'm currently trying to find a very elusive coupon for SmugMug, as $150 is quite the initial investment.


I'll update this as frequently as possible.
 
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Joined
Nov 16, 2008
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What lenses do you intend to use for shooting HS basketball? The lighting in most HS gymnasiums is horrible. And, will you have full access to the floor to be able to shoot from under the basket?
 
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Joined
Mar 18, 2008
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Trenton, NJ
I'm just impressed that you are 17, and have already shot 2 weddings. I am 29, and (for now) dont want anything to do with wedding photography, as it's fairly stressful knowing that you could miss major shots that you only get a chance to do 1x. While the money can be good, I'd much rather stick to my non-stressful day job than deal with a bridezilla because I forgot/missed a shot she wanted.

Good luck!
 
Joined
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3,048
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NH
What lensed do you intend to use for shooting HS basketball? The lighting in most HS gymnasiums is horrible. And, will you have full access to the floor to be able to shoot from under the basket?

I've shot them plenty of times before at this gym. I either use lights or the combination of a 50 1.8 and 85 1.8. And it really is one of the best lit gyms around.

Here is an example of the strobed stuff (that I probably won't do much of): http://i.pbase.com/g1/79/758679/2/108048873.qC8ra8V4.jpg

I'm just impressed that you are 17, and have already shot 2 weddings. I am 29, and (for now) dont want anything to do with wedding photography, as it's fairly stressful knowing that you could miss major shots that you only get a chance to do 1x. While the money can be good, I'd much rather stick to my non-stressful day job than deal with a bridezilla because I forgot/missed a shot she wanted.

Good luck!

Both fell into my lap and were just for friends. Paying, but not what the going rate is, mostly because I just really didn't know at that point. I don't plan on shooting weddings much if ever. They really are just far too stressful to the point of no longer being fun.
 
Joined
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That is certainly an option as well. Assuming you have experience with them, which subscription package would I need to buy to fit my needs? I'm looking at the incredibly extensive comparison chart and it's doing nothing but confusing me. Hahaha.
 
Joined
Dec 19, 2006
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New York
That is certainly an option as well. Assuming you have experience with them, which subscription package would I need to buy to fit my needs? I'm looking at the incredibly extensive comparison chart and it's doing nothing but confusing me. Hahaha.

The $100 premium plan is the one that you want to upload and sell photos (prints or downloads). I've been with Zenfolio for 4 years and I'm very happy with them. Great customer service, very good lab (mpix), yearly fee is much less than SM, and the percentage Zen takes on sales is also less than SM.

I've sold sports photos to parents for a couple years, but sales have been getting tougher, so this year I only shot a couple games to make enough to cover the costs of my yearly subscription and a little more.

Best of luck with making a go of it, I hope it works out for you.

Chris (one of your eBay watchers ;))
 
Joined
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Thanks for the info, Nystrpr. We'll see what happens. I figure in the very least I will cover the expense of the subscription.
 
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Well, this is certainly exciting.

I have a booth in a craft show on Saturday to display and sell prints. I have, err, 3 days, but I'm going to make this work.
 
Joined
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EDIT: First post updated with all this info and more!

So in the past few days, I have bought ~45 mats, ~15 frames, and I've ordered ~28 prints. I am going to be displaying 12 different photos (selected for public likability) matted and framed. 9 will be 11x14 matted to 8x10 and 3 of the best will be 16x20 matted to 11x14. An additional print of each of those will be just matted and stored in plastic bags in a print bin for people to flip through. Extra mattes (in their original packaging) will be behind the counter with one extra copy of each print available there. If I don't sell all of the photos (I would HIGHLY doubt it), the mattes get put on hold or returned. If I end up with additional framed photos (I assume I will), those are going in coffee shops.

8x10's will be $20 matted, $35 framed.
11x14's will be $45

I have a jar that I'm going to take $1 tickets to auction off the best 16x20 I have available.

I think I'm ready! Wow, quite the process though, and very expensive.
 
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Joined
Sep 30, 2006
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St. Joseph, MO
If you are after family portraits, I would ship the $1 ticket and have a free drawing for a session and wall portrait.

You want a way to collect people's name and address so you can market to them in the future. When I do these type of shows, my main goal is to promote my business and then if any sales of artwork are done, it's a bonus.
 
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On the slips, I have a section for name and address as well as telephone number. I planned on doing just that.

Here is an image of the number of photos. They turned out great.

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Connor,

Dumb question: are you showing these at home, or down in Rho D'island?? You might have better success showing them in the area where they are shot. I know it's off-season, but my thought was that if things are slower than you wish, perhaps start already talking to shop owners down south, and get things set up there too. People love to buy something that reminds them of their "awesome vacation at the shore." :smile:

I frankly have always loved your work, and feel that you won't have a hard time moving merchandise......but just wanted to toss out an idea. :smile:
 

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