How to Turn Stock Photography into Calendars, Posters, and Collages
If you are a professional photographer, chances are you have hundreds of photographs hanging around on your hard drives. These images might be sold as stock, or you might just have them taking up space. You could turn them into another revenue stream if you hit on the idea of creating products from your images.
While stock prints are the obvious option, you could go even further. Could you envisage your artwork as a poster on someone’s wall? How about a collage of images that would make a great display? You could even put together a yearly wall calendar, full of beautiful photographs that the owner will enjoy seeing every day.
It’s easier than you might think to get started. Let’s take a look at the process of making, marketing, and selling these products from your own work.
This is perhaps the most difficult step, and the most important. The selection of images could make all the difference when it comes to your sales. Not every image is going to work for every product.
A poster needs to be very high-quality. A blurry image or a low resolution shot just won’t do – it needs to be good enough to print large and still look flawless. It should also be something that works very well without explanation, such as a beautiful landscape or a gorgeous model. If you happen to capture images of celebrities, that is always a great choice.
You can also add captions to posters if you like, to make them funny or more meaningful. Actually, words can make the poster stand out more than the image can, if done right. Jump on the zeitgeist with a catchy phrase or meme, or reference a popular TV franchise, and you could be on the money. The concept is the most important thing with a poster of this kind.
For a collage, you need to choose a set of images which all tell the same story. It could be shots all taken at the same location, or different angles of the same person. If you are a music photographer, you could put together images taken at the same concert or on the same tour.
A wall calendar also needs a cohesive storyline, though it’s more about theme than direct links. For example, if you shoot landscapes, you could make sure that each image represents the month’s weather. They don’t have to be taken in the same location, though narrowing it down to a country or area of the world might help with sales.
Most importantly, every image needs to be strong. If there’s one image in there which isn’t up to scratch, buyers might be turned off.
If you shoot models, you will need to make sure that your post-production skills are up to scratch. Take out any flaws and make sure the skin doesn’t look too plastic. You can always hire a professional retoucher if you don’t think you can reach a good enough standard by yourself!
There are similar standards to uphold for other genres. Landscapes should have perfect contrast and brightness, and colour correction needs to be flawless for all of your images. The best way to achieve this is through calibrating your screen. This gives you a more accurate view of what the photographs will look like when they are printed.
Go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, and when you are done, ask someone else to take a look. It’s easy to miss something when you have been staring at an image for hours! Don’t let your image go to print with obvious retouching marks or a layer missing.
A Note on Calendars
Be sure to put your images in a very particular order for your wall calendar – and for your collages too, if to a lesser extent. It’s so important that the images flow in a nice way. For example, you wouldn’t have a snowy scene in July and a sunny beach in December (unless you are marketing to an Australian audience!).
Calendars work best when there is some way to tie in each image to each month. This is a little less important when you are featuring models, but you can still make it work in this way. Why not shoot scenes which represent the major holidays of each month, for example?
Putting it Together
The way that you create your products depends on how you are going to sell them. There are a few routes to take, each with advantages and disadvantages.
If you put your images onto a site which creates and sells the products for you, you just have to upload the image file and then you are done. The downside is that they may take a steeper percentage of your profits as a result.
You could go to a printer yourself and put the images together into a format they can print for you, then list the items for sale on an art-based site. This is a good way to go for saving a little more of your profits for yourself, but you will need to do a lot more work. Sourcing your printer, choosing your materials, and formatting the files could take weeks. Then again, you will have total creative control.
Finally, you could do everything yourself and then sell it on your own website. Payments can be taken online via PayPal, or by asking customers to put in their card details. You may still have a few small fees to pay with this method, and you will have to create your own marketing and exposure, but you will retain total control and the largest percentage of your profits.
Launch Your Products
The first step in your marketing plan is to prepare for the launch. Rather than suddenly announcing one day that the products are available, you should try to build up to it a little more.
Posters and collages can be sold at any time of year, but for wall calendars you will want to start around November – or even earlier. A lot of people like to get their next year set up well in advance, and may even purchase a calendar as a present for Christmas.
You can start by teasing on social media that you will have new products available soon. It’s up to you how much you show. Sometimes creating a mystery will garner more interest than telling the whole details right away! At this stage you should shy away from showing the full final product or the price, as you may want to change things before you launch.
You could also add something to your website if you choose to sell through your own space, showing a product as “coming soon”. You could even take pre-orders and give an estimated release date. People like the idea of being the first to own something, so this could get you a few sales.
Next, it’s time to build up more of a buzz. Count down to the launch and make sure that you create a lot of fanfare on the day the product goes on sale. If you have a mailing list, send out a message to everyone to let them know about the new launch. You can offer a first day discount which is only valid for 24 hours to create a sense of urgency.
It’s not enough to just give this initial boost and then let things go. What do you think will happen? Your sales will drop off, of course. To keep the momentum going, there are a few things you can try.
First, remind people every now and then that the products are still on sale. Each month, you could reveal the photograph which features on that month’s entry in your calendar. You could offer a discount period every now and then, or just remind people that they could buy your items as gifts around certain holidays.
You can include little reminders everywhere. On emails to your mailing list, keep a shop button with images of your products at the end of every message. Put a link in your “bio” section or profile on social media. These little hints are the ones that build up to push sales.
You can even celebrate milestones – why not share an image of your poster when you sell the 100th, or 1000th?
Of course, eventually you will reach a point where no one wants to buy your products on a large scale anymore. There are lots of reasons why this happens. It could be that just about everyone who wants it has already bought it. It could be that times have moved on and your images look a little dated. It could simply be that people don’t like having a calendar with the same images year on year!
The next logical step is to carry on making more photographs which you can sell as posters, collages, or wall calendars. You can set up photoshoots specifically for this reason, creating themes that you think will sell well. You could simply review some of your old images which haven’t been used yet and get them out there.
The important thing is not to rest on your laurels, even if the products appear to be selling well. Keep creating and marketing if you want to keep selling!