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1. Open vs. limited edition prints

How to sell photography prints online: A step-by-step guide [2024]

Updated Jan 15 2024

The global art market is on an upswing, with a current market value of a whopping $67.8 billion. In 2022, the United States held the largest share of the art market by far, accounting for more than 45% of global sales value. As collectors and creators continue to covet art from around the globe, photography prints have steadily proven to be a profitable business opportunity worldwide.

In fact, selling photos online has become the new preference for purchasing art! According to a survey of art collectors’ favorite online sales channels to purchase new pieces, a quarter of respondents preferred online art marketplaces like Etsy, and 16% used social media platforms like Instagram to discover art online. So, now, you can begin to sell photography prints online to drive significant profit!

Learn how to sell photography prints step-by-step, from finding a niche to choosing a sales channel and establishing your business.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Photographers can offer open-edition or limited-edition photography prints to customers depending on personal industry experience and general preference. 

  • Selling physical prints offers the dual advantages of higher profit margins and the rapidly growing global wall art market, indicating a robust and escalating demand for tangible, high-quality prints.

  • Artists must follow the foundational building blocks of selecting a niche, opening an online store, and marketing themselves to build a profitable print business.

  • To sell photography prints online, it’s crucial to identify a specific photography niche to build a cohesive portfolio, create a mix of exclusive and regular prints, and diversify your offerings beyond traditional prints to include items like apparel and home decor items in order to boost your market presence and revenue potential.

  • Print on demand (POD) service providers are a great alternative to cut inventory and management costs but still sell a robust collection of print products.

Open vs. limited edition prints

As photographers like you venture into the world of selling photos online, it’s important first to decide whether to offer open-edition prints, limited-edition prints, or both. This decision will help you better navigate your ecommerce store setup and ongoing product management. Here are the factors you will need to consider!

Open edition prints

Open edition prints refer to images that may be reproduced in an unlimited quantity and various formats. Sellers who wish to sell open edition prints online face no restrictions when reprinting the photos and can choose to sell them in an assortment of sizes, media types, and even product types, such as on tote bags

Because of the unrestricted production, open edition prints often have less value and are sold at a lesser price point compared to limited edition prints. However, open edition prints may be more favorable for photographers just getting their selling operation off the ground or new to the professional photography scene.

Limited edition prints

Unlike open edition prints, limited edition photos are printed with a set max quantity. Each limited edition print follows a single print style with the same media, such as paper or canvas, and is identical in size. Photographers often sign and number a print, such as print 3 of 100, to indicate its limited edition status to buyers.

When compared to open-edition prints, limited-edition prints typically have a much higher value and price point due to their limited production. Selling limited edition prints may be more favorable for established professional photographers whose work is already in high demand and boasts a considerable amount of followers.

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wall art

Why sell prints instead of digital photos?

When it comes to selling photos, there are two formats photographers can consider: digital images and physical prints. Selecting one or both is a crucial decision that can impact the earnings of photographers. Although digital photos are now more popular because of the smartphone culture, selling physical prints can be a more profitable option. Let's understand the differences between the two formats.

1. Platforms to sell on

Digital images: Platforms like Shutterstock, Alamy, and Adobe Stock are popular for selling digital images. Etsy is also another selling platform option.

Prints: Etsy, eBay, and photographers' own websites on Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace offer various options for selling prints.

2. Profitability

Digital photos: Your earnings per sale on Adobe Stock can range from $0.33 to $3.30. On Etsy, digital file sales range between $3 and $15.

Prints: Selling prints on platforms like Etsy can give you higher profits, ranging from $30 to $300. The profit depends on image size, print finish, and framing.

3. Production needs and time

Digital photos: Selling a digital file requires minimal effort as no physical production is involved.

Prints: Printing images yourself or through a service takes time. Print partners usually take 2-3 business days to complete the final product, plus shipping times.

4. Demand

Digital photos: The stock photography market is strong, but the large volume of images makes it difficult to gain visibility.

Prints: The global wall art market is expected to grow from $48.50 billion in 2021 to $72.61 billion by 2028. This indicates a rising demand for high-quality prints, making them a lucrative option for photographers.

Despite the convenience of digital sales, selling physical prints can give photographers more recognition and profits. The tangible appeal of photo prints makes them a better option for those seeking fame and financial success.

How to sell photography prints online in nine steps

Both professional photographers and novice artists looking to sell photography prints online will need to check off a few steps to establish their storefront, boost their work’s online visibility, and obtain consistent profits. If you’re searching for how to sell photography prints online, follow these eight steps.

1. Choose a niche

To sell photography prints online, artists must first select and follow a niche for their imagery to ensure customers have consistent and cohesive options to choose from. Finding a niche can be done by first considering your overall photography passions. There are numerous potential avenues you can take when selecting a photography niche, including but not limited to the following:

  • Wildlife photography

  • Sports photography

  • Fashion photography

  • Landscape photography 

  • Architectural photography

  • Abstract photography 

Across each of these photography niches, remember there's genuinely no limit to the variety of images you can capture. However, if you find yourself having difficulty nailing down a specific niche, a bit of market research can help. From Etsy storefronts to social media pages, seeing what types of photo prints are in demand can help you understand your best options for selling.

2. Collect photographs

collect photographs

Once you’ve nailed down a photography niche, you can begin collecting your digital photos for printing. To avoid print quality and clarity issues, you’ll need to get your hands on a high-quality camera capable of capturing high-resolution photographs. Popular camera manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, and Sony all sell numerous high-quality options fit for a variety of budgets.

With your updated gear in hand, you can then begin capturing images that are bound to sell. When shooting, remain mindful of photo composition and how you arrange your visual elements within the frame to avoid poor focus and distractions. Also, always shoot in RAW to preserve the bare image data, unlike JPEG images which are automatically processed and adjusted by the camera. 

With RAW images, you’re given much more capabilities in terms of correcting exposure and noise reduction concerns while using editing software like Adobe Photoshop. Once your images have been cleaned up, you can then move forward with narrowing down the final print options that can be listed on your online photography shop or digital gallery website.

3. Find a print on demand service

Print on demand (POD) services are essential when creating photo prints to sell through an online store. While you can devote your valuable time and money towards developing and managing your own print product inventory, POD services eliminate this need by producing prints as needed and removing the costly need to maintain a product inventory. 

As you sell prints, you’ll want a print on demand supplier that offers a wide range of print capabilities to ensure all customer needs are matched. To further support the overall customer experience, your POD supplier must also offer top-notch customer service to help effectively navigate any concerns while supplying competitive shipping rates, locations, and timing. 

Gelato’s POD services are preferred by many photographers who sell photos online due to our wide range of capabilities. From museum-quality matte prints to canvas prints, Gelato offers numerous high-quality print products alongside sustainable shipping options from one of 32 worldwide production partners.

4. Select a printing material

print material

With your POD service providers and images ready to go, now is the time to select your print materials. First, consider your photography style alongside current trends. Then, research various product types, sizes, and finish options that best complement your photography and appeal to your niche audience.

A matte or semi-glossy finish will be your two core options when it comes to general prints. However, many photographers like to expand into additional print product markets to offer customers more options than just a basic print. As you explore Gelato’s vast POD catalog, those product options can include:

It’s understandable if you’re a bit hesitant when venturing into multiple print material types. Remember that with POD services, you can always order samples to ensure you are satisfied with the final product before listing it on your online storefront. Likewise, you can then use these samples to take high-quality photos of your prints to be used in your product listings later.

5. Choose a selling platform

When launching a photography shop, your chosen selling platform will impact your business profitability and productivity. Custom websites are an excellent option for print sellers who wish to hold their own website domain with expansive customization options. However, maintaining your own website requires extensive technical skills or possible investment in professional website services.

Similar to customer websites, ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and BigCommerce allow sellers to purchase a custom website domain, but with pre-developed design templates and tech support for the site. An ecommerce platform is excellent for photographers who don’t possess many website management and design skills, but it will cost them a bit more in monthly platform fees.

If those options don’t seem feasible, consider selling prints on ecommerce marketplaces like Etsy or Redbubble. A Redbubble or Etsy storefront places a small print business inside a more extensive online marketplace to provide access to an existing audience. While this is ideal for exposure, marketplaces have limited design capabilities, and sellers are subject to product listing and transaction fees.

6. Set up your photography business

photography business

Whether you’ve settled on an ecommerce platform or an ecommerce marketplace, you’ll need to navigate the setup phase of your online business. You’ll begin by signing up for a seller account on your chosen platform, selecting your shop preferences, and integrating your storefront with any necessary ecommerce plugins, such as your POD service provider.

From here, you can move on to customizing your storefront. This step will include developing a catchy and memorable business name that accurately reflects you and your photography. Likewise, with the help of a graphic designer or design tools such as Canva, you’ll need to create a store logo that is cohesive with your business name and niche and consistent across all platforms.

Once your online photography business has launched, you can upload your prints to your online storefront. Each of your listings must contain high-resolution photos of your products and keyword-targeted product titles and descriptions to enhance discoverability. Ensure each of your product descriptions also contains relevant details, such as a print’s size, material, and finish.

7. Price your photography prints

As you upload varying print products to your ecommerce storefront, you must take the time to price each of your items. When pricing prints, it can be helpful first to consider all the costs that go into shooting, producing, and selling each print. Such costs may include camera equipment expenses, POD service provider and shipping fees, and material costs.

With these various costs in mind, you can set your desired profit margin more effectively and move forward with pricing. When pricing prints, it can also be helpful to look at what other photographers with comparable product offerings charge for their prints to help ensure you aren't undercharging or overcharging. 

To make money selling photos, don’t expect spot-on pricing and immediate overnight success. As time passes, you can always adjust your pricing strategy for your print shop as necessary to find the right price point that effectively drives new purchases without being suspiciously cheap or overly expensive to collectors.

8. Market your prints

print marks

With an online print store fully launched and equipped to take sales, sellers must adopt marketing strategies to draw in buyers effectively. A great place to start is social media, where prints can be shared on Instagram and Facebook feeds to inform interested viewers about their online store. Social media platforms and search engines like Google also allow sellers to run paid ad campaigns that help prints reach their target audience and boost store visibility.

Email marketing is another effective marketing strategy, especially when attracting recurring customers. Through your print brand’s website or social media pages, begin building an email list that can be used to share future marketing materials. These marketing materials can include monthly announcements and newsletters highlighting store promotions, current print discounts, new print materials, and other types of relevant store news. 

As an artist, it’s important to remember that you belong to a community of many other photographers that love to view and learn of others’ work. Be sure to also take advantage of online communities, such as Reddit’s photography forum, where you can interact with other photography enthusiasts to help increase your work’s exposure and influence others to purchase your prints.

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What to consider before selling photography prints online

Before you start selling photography prints online, you must take into account three crucial aspects in order to set your focus and boost your revenue potential:

1. Your niche based on your photography type

While being versatile is commendable, specializing in a certain niche, such as portrait, street, landscape, architectural, travel, or aerial photography, can enhance your professional appeal and cultivate coherence for your website.

You can also explore cross-niche opportunities and diversify your portfolio. For instance, combining landscape or street photography with travel photography can help create a coherent and diverse portfolio.

2. Open-edition prints vs. limited-edition prints

It is often presumed that selling unlimited prints maximizes sales. That may be true, but it also compromises the exclusivity factor. Although it can be a good practice for emerging photographers, making prints exclusive over time will increase their value. In fact, restricting the number of prints not only enhances their value but also generates a sense of rarity, which your buyers will appreciate. As your brand grows with time, consider making select prints ‘limited edition’ to make more money out of fewer exclusive prints.

3. Printed product selection

You don't just have to rely on selling prints of your photos. A variety of products exist that you can use to showcase your prints. These include posters, framed canvases, home decor items like wall art, apparel like t-shirts and hoodies, accessories like phone cases and mouse pads, and home & living products like mugs and blankets.

Whether you want to showcase your photo prints as traditional prints or have them printed on apparel and accessories, it is up to you. Regardless of your choice, make sure to align it with your brand identity and target audience.

Pro tip: Strike a balance between offering exclusive prints and standard prints to create a curated selection of products, and it will surely position your brand for success in the competitive world of photography prints.

Start selling photo prints for a profit

Whether you're a professional photographer or an up-and-coming novice, the viability of selling photography prints online relies heavily on the above eight steps. From nailing down your print niche to selecting print materials and jumpstarting your marketing efforts, you can build a profitable online store that drives considerable revenue — as long as you put in the work!

As you research printing options, remember Gelato has you covered. Our exceptional and high-quality POD services offer photographers a wide range of print material types and sizing options to ensure you meet all your customer’s demands. With over 100 production partners across 32 countries, we can ensure your customers receive their prints quickly and without delay. 

Start selling physical prints today with Gelato's premier print on demand services.


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