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The Difficulty of Monetizing Photography (Or Anything) Online

I want to write about my own subjective experience with attempting to monetize my talents in photography and writing. It's something I have wanted to write about for a while but the subject matter intimidated me because it's not a success story by any stretch of the imagination and while you could argue that my story is still in the process of being written, it's still hard to come to grips with certain financial realities especially when they are linked specifically to your own passion(s).

An excellent article came out a few days ago called: "The Facebook Illusion" (http://goo.gl/6In2e) by Ross Douthat, a columnist for The New York Times. It's an opinion piece about the state of the digital landscape in the wake of Web 2.0 and lofty collective aspirations of finding ways to make "lots and lots of money on the Internet". One of the segments from Douthat's article that resonates deeply with my own situation is this:

"As The New Yorker’s John Cassidy pointed out in one of the more perceptive prelaunch pieces, the problem is not that Facebook doesn’t make money. It’s that it doesn’t make that much money, and doesn’t have an obvious way to make that much more of it, because (like so many online concerns) it hasn’t figured out how to effectively monetize its million upon millions of users. The result is a company that’s successful, certainly, but whose balance sheet is much less impressive than its ubiquitous online presence would suggest.

This “huge reach, limited profitability” problem is characteristic of the digital economy as a whole."

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Some context is always good.

A few years ago, I decided to go back to school to finish up a degree I was unable to finish in my early 20s due to financial limitations. I spent the middle part of my 20s working in various corporate environments and I wanted to broaden my further job prospects down the line by finally finishing my undergraduate studies. The economy was right at the point of collapse and I initially decided to go the pre-med route because I have a love for science and medicine, and at the time job security seemed high in the medical field. After two years of pursuing those studies, I became increasingly dismayed that job security was rapidly declining in the medical sector and as my student loan debt increased, my confidence in my field of studies and the amount of time it would take to finish them dwindled. This made me rethink my future and my schooling.

During this time, a strange and unlikely set of circumstances occurred: I discovered photography. I had a little over a year left before I would finish my Bachelor's Degree and I decided I had absolutely nothing to lose by pursuing photography as a means to support myself while finishing up school. Certain circumstances happened that propelled me into the world of photography that were largely based on being in the right place at the right time. I became a regular contributor to a local New York Times blog and I started to compose photo-essays for another hyper-local news and events based site.

While testing out the waters of freelance photo-journalism, I started to focus heavily on my photography blog which was/is based on Tumblr. As my follower count on Tumblr went up after being featured in their Spotlight section for photography, so did my confidence to broaden my own style of photography. I found that my interest in exploring the over-arching concept of New York City via my photography was quickly becoming a major focus rather than local photo-journalism. After a few people contacted me via private messages on Tumblr about selling prints of my work, I decided I had nothing to lose by setting up an online store where I could sell my work on various merchandise.

The first online store I created was on Zazzle. I spent endless hours setting it up, creating product templates, writing out descriptions and making sure I had enough of my work on there. I poured through blogs full of SEO tips. I spent countless hours perfecting my tags and linking to my products on my blog. I thought to myself "This will be incredible! All of the people who inquired about purchasing my work can now purchase it. This is the way to monetize my photography." And while I added more and more work to my store there, I waited for sales to come rushing in.

And I waited. And waited.

And waited some more.

I made almost no money the first four months that I was on the site in 2011. I was beside myself. I had another semester of school left, school loans were looming over my head, and with barely enough money for food I thought to myself: "Maybe it's this way because I am terrible at online marketing, or maybe I need a larger reach." I opened another store on yet another print on demand photography site with an active community, RedBubble. I spent countless hours (once again), uploading and preparing my work for sale there, interacting with the community and fueled by hope, I started to gradually market my work on there.

In July of 2011, I received an invite to Google Plus. I was ecstatic to finally find an online spot where I could not only meet other photographers but also interact with other artists, thinkers and people from around the world. It was something of a revelation to me during my initial months on Google plus that not only were there a ton of other photographers out there but that some of the photographers out there like +Trey Ratcliff were actually making a living off their photography. I was in total awe (actually I still am!). As I posted my posts that were previously only ever posted on my photography blog, people from all over started to interact with me. On my own photography blog, here on Tumblr where I had gained quite a following (around 40,000 at that time), I barely received any sort of regular interaction about my work other than Tumblr's version of 'likes' and infrequent private messages. On Google Plus, each post in the early months would result in some of the most intensely cerebral conversation about photography. I was over the moon.

However, I was still struggling financially. I started to make a few sales on Zazzle and RedBubble based purely off random luck whether it was people finding my work via Zazzle's online marketplace (which is beyond enormous) or via searching for various subject matter on RedBubble but it was barely enough to keep my head above water. I also did some commercial work for various magazines, books and album covers based off of people finding my work via Google Images as well as Flickr.

In the later half of 2011, I entered my last semester of school broke and reliant on student loans for support but in a better place creatively. I started to write quite a bit with each of the photos I posted encouraged mainly by the Google Plus community. Prior to Google Plus, I would include writing with my posts infrequently. After lots of absolutely incredible interaction and support from the Google Plus community, I decided to explore writing as a complement to my photography. In the later half of the year, somehow I managed to get put on the Suggested User List on Google Plus. I still am not quite sure how it happened but it did and my follower count soared to well over a million followers at the beginning of 2012. It gave me the confidence to enter a few photography contests which I made no headway in but allowed me to better understand the world of online photography contests a bit more.

I also met some absolutely incredible people on Google Plus who I can single-handledly credit with encouraging me more than they probably know like +Thomas Hawk , +Julia Peterson , +Lee Daniels , +Lotus Carroll , +Sean Cowen , +Daria Musk , +Billy Wilson , +Tiffany Henry , +Alan Shapiro , +Mike Shaw , +Kelli Seeger Kim ... I could be here listing people for days. I am so thankful every day for these people because they have and still make me absolutely love sharing my world with everyone else. That's the beauty of Google Plus, really. It's great as a supportive community full of people who are sincerely interested in others.

As for my financial reality, I started making a few holiday sales at the end of 2011 on Zazzle, RedBubble and a few other sites like Fine Art America, Society6 and SmugMug that I spent quite a bit of time putting my work on in order to gain a wider reach. I thought to myself: "Surely now, with such a vast reach and broad network and with the amount of time I have spent putting myself out there, this will become lucrative."

But, the truth is, it hasn't become the lucrative career I envisioned for myself a little over a year ago.

It's quite difficult to make a living selling fine art photography via print sales and/or random contract work. And that's a truth that has been a bitter pill for me to swallow since graduating at the end of January. I see many posts from people online that remind me of myself when I first started to pursue photography as a financial career. I see a lot of variations on this thought: "Well, maybe if I had a wider reach, I would sell a lot more." However, with over 1 million followers on Google Plus, over 175,000 subscribers on Facebook and a photography blog followed by 65,000 people on Tumblr (all places where I interact heavily with my own posts and other people's posts because I truly love engaging with people online), I haven't been able to crack the secret code of online marketing that would somehow turn my photography career into something that is profitable.

I have noticed that few people discuss the less than positive aspects of putting yourself out there online. For every incredible success story about becoming successful based on large online reach, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of stories like mine. I believe that the reason there are few stories like mine that get written is because when you struggle financially in regards to something you are passionate about, sometimes the only tangible thing you have at the end of each day is the hope that you will be the exception to the rule. By admitting that you haven't become the success story you wished you could have become, you lose your grasp on that tangible bit of hope that you have been keeping close to your heart for so long.

And so, when I read Douthat's article where he states: "This “huge reach, limited profitability” problem is characteristic of the digital economy as a whole.", it was as if all of the heartache I have been experiencing regarding my own subjective reality pursuing photography as a lucrative career was staring at me in the form of a thought that so perfectly sums up a glaring issue that I barely see discussed regarding having a huge reach and barely making headway in terms of making that reach profitable.

I would love to open up discourse regarding this subject but I am not sure how many people will actually read what I have wrote and I am not sure that people are open to discussing something as touchy as this subject based on what I wrote above regarding hope. Do I regret any of the things that I did or the enormous amount of work and time that I put into pursuing my dream? Of course not. Without trying, you will never know how things will pan out. I definitely think that while I haven't been able to make photography work for myself financially, I have met so many incredible people along the way who have truly inspired me to never give up on photography as a passion and that is something that I consider to be priceless.

In a recent post by +Paul Stickland about Google Plus and Visual artists, +Marie Hélène Visconti made an incredible comment that I agree with wholeheartedly regarding the various artist's communities on Google Plus: "I have the feeling of having found the equivalent of the artistic circles which used to exist in Paris before and after WWII, a very stimulating environment."

As for myself and my current subjective reality, I will be embarking on a job search soon. I am in a great place in that I just graduated from college and I have quite a bit to offer to any company with my experience and skills which involve: community support, a passion for social media, a commitment to excellence, audience development, communication skills, the ability to anticipate issues, brand development, and writing skills.

Don't worry, you can be sure I will post about that too in the coming weeks.
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You can read this post (if you wish) on my site here:

http://nythroughthelens.com/post/23953919061/the-difficulty-of-monetizing-photography-or-anything

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Tags: #photography #onlinemarketing #socialmedia #writing #passion #career #newyorkcity #nyc #newyorkcityphotography #manhattan
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314 comments
 
And because this has no photo, I don't know how many people will actually read this.

I do know that I closed my eyes when I submitted this post because it's quite possibly the most vulnerable thing I have ever posted.
 
I just bookmarked this post, read only from here and there, but will finish tomorrow [late night here].
I'll just say that it's a common problem to realistically put a price tag on your work, especially if a person is just entering the market. It's great that you did the effort to say it in a post. Thanks for that :]
 
It took some courage to put yourself out there like this, and I applaud you for that. It should also be required reading for many folks who are considering the blind leap of faith it often takes to become successful, regardless of the endeavor. Thanks for posting it.
 
Well, I read it. And have found similar results. I guess the problem with trying to make a living selling prints online is that the perceived market is much smaller than we would like to think. Folks like to look at a nice picture, but actually shell out cash? Not so much. So instead, I keep producing and honing my skills. Maybe at some point I will have enough work to display in a gallery or through some other venue. Until then, I have to keep producing what I enjoy.
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A year is just the beginning. Real world businesses take 3-5 years to be profitable (in general). If this is truly what you want to do, take the time to do it. Don't get discouraged so easily :D
 
Vulnerability presented honestly and sincerely is absolutely attractive. Thanks for speaking from the heart and sharing. (hug)!
 
Being able to be open about being vulnerable and doing it regardless is what makes it worthy of reading. Even without an image.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa, have I told you I love you, lately? Thank you for this. And thank you for bringing so much beauty - both via your images and your words - to my world. But most of all, thank you for your authenticity. I prize that the most in people, and you are the real deal, V. SO grateful to have you in my life. ♥
 
I have posted a lot of material online (much more writing than photos), but never with any idea of making a living at it, so I have not shared this particular experience. I can say that many who had read what I have written have asked why I don't write something to publish.

I've never really considered it - I knew all too well, from history and my reading, that much like sports, the few who make money at art are the tiny tip of the massive iceberg of struggling artists, who do it because they love it but will never make a living at it.

I was lucky, I think, that I have always had a fascination with computer to go along with my love of reading (and of writing - but only since I got into computers. Writing by hand quickly becomes painful for me) and so far it has paid the bills.

I think if you look at a lot of the 'successful' artists, you will see someone who had a spouse with a paying job that fed them both for years before the artist's career made that shift from starving artist to a productive career; and probably a fair proportion of the rest had a second job to keep them fed through much of their life.

Best of luck in finding something to keep you afloat through the hard times!
 
+Leo Soderman - Thank you for sharing your experience. I actually toyed with the idea of including a discussion of the sad reality of most gallery shows as well but felt my piece would have run even longer than it already is. I would love to hear real success stories based on gallery showings though as my own experiences with that (and going off the experiences and financial breakdowns of the costs associated with it) are largely not so positive.
 
I read it.. I think I'm on the same page as you..

The truth of the matter is, that most Americans haven't received any real art education in the last decade or so. People just don't buy prints like they did in the past.

Funny thing is I just spoke to a photographer recently that travels the country on the local art-fair circuit and seems to be making an ok living at it.. He looked real tired though.. I can't remember his name.

We chug along, we do what we feel we need to do.

Good luck Champ
 
That post was way too long for me to read the entire thing.
 
Totally agree with this article. It's almost impossible to make anything online. No fault of the artist. The way the world is.
 
Your words resonate loudly. Thank you for your authenticity.
 
I can totally relate. I can't even get the "increased online reach" part right, so actually monetizing my work seems even more farfetched.

Have you tried the more local approach, though? People you know personally, word of mouth? I know that sounds silly, but personally, the sales I've made have all been from people I know, with one exception. Sometimes, word gets around.

I think it's amazing that you've managed to keep up the online presence, but you're very right...the internet is all about instant gratification for the most part, so most of the time, people will view and not go further.

By that same token, though, I think it's hard to shift an online presence from a personal one to a business model. I mean, if a place begins an online presence as a store, then you already know "I can go here for _____" and when people seek you out, it's most likely with the intent to make a purchase. But when you're a person, and you just so happen to sell things, it's tougher.

Even if you look at your notes on tumblr, or your +1s here, it's never proportional to the amount of followers you have. It's a shame, really.

I've got almost 4k followers here, and about 1800 on tumblr, and honestly, I'm lucky if 1% of those people interact with me on a regular basis—no exaggeration.

I'm glad that you addressed this, because it's a very real issue, and I'm not sure what draws someone to one person or another, but I'm glad that you haven't decided to give up on it entirely.

Has one network been more responsive than the others, in terms of sales?
 
So honestly spoken. I've sold my prints online, but it's only been a trickle. Like DeShaun, I HAVE had some luck selling local prints in my community.
 
Thanks for sharing these thoughts Vivienne.....when we met on that gallery walk in NYC I was completely touched when you spent time with me (along with +Charles Leon Thompson) and gave me such a positive critique of my collection of dreamscapes....I had no idea you had such a following on the web, or that you've come so far with small results, but I can assure you that your kind words repeat in my head as a reminder that art brings us all together from somewhere beyond explaining. I can rest a bit easier knowing that someone else has many of the same points of view as I do about trying to make it as an artist. Thanks again :)
 
Aww Vivienne! I like you even more now than a few minutes ago, which I must say, was a lot!! your honesty resonates deeply about my own journey and hopes. I know this, you are a talented bright shining star and as you continue to pursue what you were born to do, somehow, you will pave a way. I think we are in a new renaissance of sorts and some of us will see it through and find our way in this new landscape. My plan is also moving slower than I would like, but it's moving. I do have another source of income to help me through this transition though. We will find the answers, and I suspect it will look different for everyone.
 
I read it and know it all to be true. My reality as a photographic artist is that social media allows ample opportunity for validation -- a pat on the head, if I may be so bold -- but not much else.
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+Vivienne Gucwa so many of us struggling at being able to make a living at what we love lol its so different for everybody too. Thats the realization that I had after thinking about and facing the same problems and the same self doubts over the years. Some are able to work a mainstream job and pursue their passion on the side, others have to throw themselves into trying something and risk everything for the chance to make it. Both carry their own risks and rewards.
Seems to me whether you are a dj, a band, or a photographer, the art part is really what gets you noticed, the side projects are what gets your name out there, and then some company will hire you to do a commercial project, which is what gets you the money to continue your art. Then you have money to continue making art and so on...until you are so well known that its the art that starts to sell. But yeah that is such a distant dream, for me at least...
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I also struggle a lot. I don't have enough money to hardly do anything at the moment. I hope at least I can influence people through my ideas, cause some kind of actual change that I can see. I love the community that I have found here, but I have for the most part given up on selling prints because they go so slowly. I do still license and sell individually, but I felt that I was pissing away money on SmugMug.
 
I did read it :-) and it is a very brave post, indeed.

I have pondered about that golden balance myself, of where we get to do what we love, and manage to survive financially, doing it. I haven't started selling any of my photos, (don't know if I should even say "yet"), but I agree that it is a though job, to make money with photography online.

Some years ago, I was contacted by a publishing company that wanted to use one of my older photos (which I had more than forgotten already) in the cover of a book. I made 200€, and it took more than 2 years to make that money. But really, the only thing I did was post that photo, 2 years before.

It is, for sure, a matter of how much people you get to reach, and how many of them are interested in buying fine art photography, really :) What I find is the biggest problem about online photography sites is that they are for photographers to upload photos, to talk about photos, to exchange experiences, but let's face it, how many photographers do you know that actually buy photographs from other photographers?

Who buys photographs online, anyway? those are the people you want to reach.... is that Redbuble? iStockphoto? I really dont know...
 
This made for a good read for someone who has thought about selling his photographs (although I have no real talent like you) maybe not to make a lot of money but to buy newer and better equipment or maybe fund a dream photography vacation to some place exotic. I was amazed by the talented people on Google+ and thought no way would I ever upload anything without being embarrassed about my meager offerings or worry about diluting the content on there already.
I found that some of the most respected contributors on Google were the first to give praise or help me or other newbies. Here I go rambling on.........sorry. Good luck to you my friend.
 
I hope your job search goes well. I also hope it doesn't cut into your photography. It is a difficult balance.
 
+DeShaun Craddock - "Has one network been more responsive than the others, in terms of sales?" Not really to be perfectly honest. All of the contract/commercial work I have gotten has been from people finding me via Google Images and/or Flickr (oddly enough). I have only been public with my photography on Facebook for the last few months so my data would be useless in that respect since I haven't been on there publicly posting my work long enough to make any sort of conclusion.

I will say that Google Plus has been incredible in terms of creative support in that due to the exposure I have had here, I have met people who have really encouraged me to try new things creatively and grow. I can't really say that for any other network!

In terms of the amount of people who interact vs. "follow" (or whatever the terminology is) on any online site will always be around 5-10% I think I remember reading. So, even if you have close to 1.5 million followers like I do currently, a very small number will actually regularly interact. Probably a smaller percentage will ever consider (note: consider, not even commit) purchasing work.

I think some of it also has to do with online consumption currently. There is so much visual eye-candy (or noise) that people are overloaded on so many levels. Not really sure how that will be dealt with as we move more towards mobile-centric consumption vs. typical online consumption now.
 
+Eiji Kumamaru - Oh, I won't! Don't worry! I just need to feed myself and sustain myself in a real way. :)
 
I've read this whole thing.

My story is completely different. Up until last year I've tried to monetize my artwork. Every attempt has failed.

Comic book... 3 issues then it got to be too much time to produce. Broke even.

Webcomic... Made shirts but had to sell them like mad at a local con. Two years later, finally broke even.

Then I joined G+.

Because of the "anti-other social media" behavior on G+ I came up with my 1st 3 propaganda posters. A few key shares later and wham! the orders started rolling into my Etsy shop.

I've gotten a ton of freelance work because people have seen my style.

In no way do I want to brag about my experience, and I'm wicked humbled to have the success I've had.

I wish other creative types on here (and in other social media) the same success I've had.

If anyone wants to as me any questions, please feel free to ask.
 
The only things I have to add here is that you are absolutely right, and for music the situation is even more bleak.
 
I discovered what you are finding around 1999, which was before 9/11 had a devastating effect on the print industry. I have already put time, money and analysis into the industry and I see what likelihood it holds for me as a sustaining source of income. I frankly have no need to pour more money into an effort simply to impress strangers on the internet.

As for a particular person making a living off of photography - that is highly suspect. I think instead there is family money buoying up that dog and pony show. Any real working photographer has evidence of clients online, so legitimacy is always easy to check. Easier than that is checking a reputation within the photography and print community. If they don't know of someone... Well you get my drift.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa This is a great post and certainly rings true. My goal has never been to completely make a living off of my photography, but I'd be happy if it would fund my gear lust! I, like you, have set of a Zazzle site as well as Imagekind, Red Bubble and Fotomoto for images posted to my blog. My Zazzle account never really did much and I've pretty much ignored it. Every so often I'll get a random sale worth a few dollars. My Imagkind and Fotomoto images have done better in dollar amounts, but not enough to pay for a new D800. :-)

I think one of the issues with social networking is that you tend to find people who have similar interests (say, photographers) who probably appreciate your art, but aren't likely to buy it. The trick is to connect with people who aren't photographers who like your stuff, but the truth is you probably still won't make a living at selling stuff online.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa your abilities are multi-faceted. +Kari Johnson and I have just absolutely enjoyed the privilege it has been to read your posts and to feast upon the beauty of your photos. I am new to digital photography, but I am not new to business. Your business and technical skills are top tier and anyone that hires you will be fortunate. That said, you are gifted artistically too, and I look forward to seeing not if you will be successful in the months/years ahead, but where you will be successful.
 
+Aaron Wood - I think your experience is amazing! I think this is why I put in my piece above: For every incredible success story about becoming successful based on online reach, there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of stories like mine. I think you are one of the exceptions I am referring to in that while you failed many times, you found a way to succeed finally. However, I think that this is not the case for the majority of newer artists entering the world of online marketing (and the online marketplace).
 
This makes me sad, but is the reality for most... unfortunately. Good luck with the job search +Vivienne Gucwa . Maybe there's something out there that can play off of your photography and social media / SEO skills?
 
Well, you are not alone. I struggle, deeply and painfully, with this very topic. When I got started down this road, I really thought that my initial successes were a sign that amazing things were coming my way. Then, slowly but surely, I found myself begging for gigs, doing way too many free shoots, and spending agonizing periods of time waiting for someone to notice my recent work (on whatever it was). I waited for clients to book me again for another project, only to find them moving on to someone who is cheaper and less talented, proving they really didn't appreciate my work for it's artistic value but only as a service that was required at the time. I didn't make nearly your efforts in the online world, as my initial attempts seemed to lead me no where. You certainly had some great reasons to be hopeful, as your work was able to attract a lot of notice... but sadly it can take a lot of time and patience and continued efforts until you'll finally get noticed by the
right people. You have to just keep pushing if that's what you want to do, and really believe in yourself and your work.

For me, with over 5 years of efforts, I will still have to drag myself to the office tomorrow, and earn my paycheck and my health insurance, waiting patiently for the next gig, or the next idea to try and jumpstart my progress as an artist. There are many of us out there having the same struggles... finding balance between earning a living and finding ways to still express ourselves with our art. I've watched close friends who never got comfortable in a 9 to 5 scenario, and still live with family, eating ramen, hoping that something will change... so I don't feel too bad about "selling out" and keeping my day job while I try to explore my options. I like health insurance and being able to pay my bills, and although the time and energy I would much prefer to focus on my art is often compromised in part by using so much of my week doing art for someone else, perhaps in the end I will somehow gain my independence without having done even more grievous harm to my already strained financial situation. Yet somehow, despite the praise I have received from many of my clients over the years, I don't seem to be getting much new business... I hear "oh, I'll book you once I get some extra money" so often now that I've just been telling people to let me shoot them for next to nothing (or actually nothing) because I know it's only a matter of time before some other hopeful photog offers them free serivces and I lose a client and portfolio material. My rates are embarrassingly low, yet I still can't seem to find people willing to pay them (and often seemingly interested clients try to lowball me with abusive offers)... and yet somehow I see people who, in my opinion, are not very good photographers who get paid quite a bit and have no shortage of work.

I will note, to clarify for people reading this who don't actually know me or my work, that I shoot a lot of life events which is a totally different monster than the one that Viv is dealing with. I enjoy fine art photography as well but never made a genuine effort to pursue it as my focus. My original love was concert and performance photography which I'm pretty sure has the lowest possible likelihood of producing income.

My only advice is to keep on keeping on. Work a regular job if you have to (as I figure the vast majority of us hopeful artists do), and continue trying to get exposure wherever you can. As long as you love taking photos and writing about them, then you've already succeeded. Success itself is certainly not about money, even if they seem to go hand in hand for the lucky ones. Money is nice, and perhaps you'll find more ways to create financial opportunities as you push forward and grow into your art. It's just a sadly limited market (as people will generally not purchase something they can see for free on their computer screen), and it can be a painful waiting game.
 
Do we sometimes think that making money from Art (literature, music....) can be formulaic?

What I mean is that the current proliferation of social media gurus would give us the impression that if we work hard at these steps, we will start earning a living.

None of this is new, people were always writing 'how-to' books. The only difference now might be the numbers of people they can now reach.

For what it's worth, I do think you will ultimately be successful, +Vivienne Gucwa because you have the ability to take a long, hard look at things. Don't be discouraged!
 
Lucky +Aaron Wood

+Vivienne Gucwa your story resonates. I'm in the beginning stages myself and know that it's going to be a very hard slog and that I wouldn't be able to support myself off of print sales for s long time to come. Mostly I try to use the work I love doing to try to get portrait type jobs and the like. I've sold a piece or two from personal interaction with people and gotten interest from people who know me and have seen some of my work on here but mainly it does seem that online you get encouragement and feedback and nothing else. I've yet to make a sale online for instance.

Don't give up and be prepared to work very hard is what I see repeated again and again. Sometimes past work leads to other work even if you haven't sold that piece.

Thank you again for writing this and baring it to us all.
 
Imo, its "How" you monetize photography +Vivienne Gucwa I think the successful artists (Photographers) online, like a Trey Ratcliff for example, aren't necessarily making the bulk of money from photos, but monetizing information through tutorials, ebooks, reviews, etc while they share their photos online to keep a following. Similar to individuals who are popular & making money in other areas, like SEO. They make the money & popularity from writing & sharing information about the subject, but not necessarily from performing freelance SEO work. I know some people can earn a living selling their photography online but I think more make a steady stream of income from writing, reviewing & teaching about
 
Dear Vivienne, I am so very glad that you did post this moving and illuminating account of just how difficult it is to convert your audience into customers.
Your work is wonderful and I well remember seeing your work for the first time. It was a picture of the Vesuvio Bakery on Prince St. Soho and it really struck a chord. I love NYC and something in your picture was resonant of a love of your city which your work really exemplifies.
Your observances of the back streets and wonderful atmospheres of your great city are just the way that I have them in my memory, I go right back to all the fascinating times and crazy experiences I have had there.
I don't seek out the 'glamour' of Fifth Avenue, I like the seedier but so vital areas like the East Village and years earlier the Meatpacking District before it too got the treatment. Your shots of the flora on the High Line are wonderful and just make me yearn to return.
Your wonderful shots of the Halloween Dog Parade last year really inspired me to get drawing.
So you have been one of the the most important people to have encouraged me to explore this place, for which I thank you. I am sure that I am not alone in this.
You have a style and atmosphere in your work which is yours and yours alone. It can stop my busy stream dead in it's tracks.

Zazzle? Don't get me started! I was lucky to have a very successful career in children's books, which is what led me to NYC in the first place but following the break up of my marriage and the collapse of the associated publishing company, I found myself with all my books out of print and a very expensive 5 year legal battle to regain control of my titles. No way could I work on books during that, so I turned to Zazzle too, as a way of utilizing the years of work sitting patiently in my plan chest. I have poured so much effort into Zazzle and to some extent it has worked, a few hundred dollars each month has kept the wolf from the door, during which time I learnt a lot about all aspects of social media.
Indeed I joined g+ thinking that this would be the way to get greater sales. It has but it has meant so much more than that, which luckily I realised before I spammed everyone's streams with products!

G+ has changed my life and work and I too will write a longer post (even!) about that. I have been encouraged to follow my dream and it seems to be working.

What remains though is your great work. There are so many photographers here but your work really stands out. If you are not making the money you need now, I am quite sure you will be in time, quality like yours will rise and I am sure that there are people here who will help to make that happen.
Please don't abandon your dream because what you are sharing here has great value to us and intime it will repay all the effort persistance that you have poured into it.
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying this. Great folk like +Sean Cowen and so many more are there for you and it will work out. Good luck, when I next come to NYC I'd love to say hello.
In the meantime keep sharing your wonderful work with us.
 
Very well written and honest post +Vivienne Gucwa. I read the whole thing but there's probably been 100 new responses while I'm typing this. Here's my point of view based upon my observations and conversations with other photographers over several years:

Online print fulfillment is great for portrait, wedding and event photographers, but very few people will buy fine art (or landscape) sight unseen over the web (unless you have an extremely well known name). I don't know any fine art photographer who will say otherwise. Maybe you get lucky and sell the occasional print; cards, posters and other items at the low end can work, but when we're talking about larger scale prints that someone may use as decor (which is what you need to be financially independent), we are generally talking about a higher price point (and if you price too low people think you are not worthy). To sell fine art prints you need to have your work on display in the real world. Put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask yourself if you would spend $1500 on a piece of art for your home after only seeing it on the internet.

If you're not one of the fortunate ones who get hired to do commercial and editorial shoots (which would imply that you are specifically working toward that goal), most of the photographers I know, and that includes myself, make more money off licensing. Even +Trey Ratcliff stated that he makes more from licensing than he does from prints. To do that successfully it helps to be represented by an agency (macro, not micro) or two so you can benefit from the economies of scale of their marketing efforts. If you can successfully get your name known in a niche or specialty, eventually people will call if they need something in your area of expertise.

That is why you see so many photographers in the fine art/landscape genres doing other things related to their photography...leading workshops, writing books, teaching, etc. The money doesn't come from print sales, especially not internet print sales.
 
Wow! Thanks for writing this. I have nowhere near the kind of reach that you do but I still feel your pain. I've been blogging for 3 years. I've gotten a couple of great guest posts and have been working the social media thing to death. I get fabulous feedback about my writing but nothing comes of it. It is discouraging. I keep the blog going and continue to write mainly as a wonderful way to connect with others and create. But, parlaying that into something more may never happen. I'm realizing I need to be okay with that.
 
Good story +Vivienne Gucwa I have been a photographer for over fifty years and my experience tells me that anyone with a camera wants to be a pro and sell their images. It is very competitive out there. My advice: Keep trying and keep enjoying it.
 
I don't know that the market is smaller, I think that the commodity has changed.
That is people see hundreds if not thousands of pictures online that are stunning. A quick browse through 500px turns up amazing work. Therefore the average person no longer feels that a photograph is worth as much as it used to be. Why should they buy anything when they can see a never-ending parade of beautiful art all over the web?

Really there is an excess of supply so therefore the commodity seems cheaper now. There are massive amounts of talented people so many people with talent just turn into noise. I work with a lot of younger people and I hear them just say that they pull pics off the web and print them and put that on the wall. Why should they bother to pay for a print?
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I read almost all. You really a professional writer. Nice work and do your best. : )
FYI. In Japan, some university student dropped out by shooting too much photos for many websites, and whose fund-raising campaign was held by supporters for her return back to school, but she and her supporters were accused of the activity(Because, she lied she's still in school), so she refunded all of the amount of subscriptions to be raised. I don't know it's ashamed thing, or not. er.. But, do you hope fund-raising? I don't accuse you. But, I don't know it's legal, or not in your country.
 
Thank you for sharing this and for being so open about it. Hopefully it can encourage others and allow us to open that discussion.

I will ramble a bit, but my personal experience has largely been the same as yours. I've sold some prints, but nowhere near enough to even begin to support myself or my family. The extra few dollars I've made has helped me eat and pay bills a few times, but that's it.

Personally, I'm not trying to do anything considered lucrative - I lost my job at the beginning of 2011 and took another making around $21,000 a year, because it's all I could find. If I could trade what I'm doing now for making the same amount of money selling prints - I'd do it in a heartbeat - but being honest with myself, I don't see that happening. I've never even made $1,000 profit in a year selling prints - and that's even with purchasing advertising and marketing heavily. So I completely agree that it's very difficult to make a living that way - and I don't have a tenth of the reach that you do.

I've recently been moving away from selling prints and I'm currently trying to find other ways to put my skills and abilities as a photographer to work - and I believe that is the best way forward for me. I'm not sure what that is yet though - maybe it's teaching; maybe it's more 'commercial' photography (weddings, for example). Unfortunately, I've just not seen anything to indicate that the demand is there for selling photographs as art - and that's kind of a shame - because there's probably more great photographic art being produced right now than at any other time in the lifespan of photography.

Now as for why the demand isn't there - we could probably discuss this all day. I tend to have this belief that it's because the camera is essentially ubiquitous at this point. There's one in just about every device and on every corner. Of course, anyone can pick up a paintbrush still, but unlike trying to paint a beautiful canvas, the average person can pick up a camera and get average results with a minimum of time and money invested. Why then, would they spend $100 on a print instead of buying their own camera for $100 - which will essentially allow them to take an infinite number of photos that are probably far worse artistically but far more personal and individual to them.
 
Try reading "The War Of Art" by Steven Pressfield. It's an inexpensive book and a short read. It's more than just inspirational. Any artist of any type that wishes to be professional should read this.
 
...and the wonderful recent Neil Gaiman acceptance speech!
 
This hits home, and you wrote it so eloquently. Not 5 minutes before reading this I had I visited the dashboard to my site. You see, this is somewhat significant because I haven't touched it in well over 6 months. I bought the domain about 9 months ago, worked on it, and realized quickly that I'm just not good enough to be competitive. Of course my friends and family, both real and on FB, have all said, "I'd buy that!" -- but I think most of us know that when it comes down to it they won't. And then there's the fact that everyone owns a camera and says, "I can do that." After all, we do.... How many times, as "photographers," have you bought someone else's photograph?

Facebook and Google+ had given me some hope. The "like's" on FB for my photography were somewhat gratifying, even though they were my friends--but the +1's on G+ seemed to mean a little more because these people were relative strangers--and some even accomplished photographers! Heck, at one point reaching the paltry sum of 7000 circlers gave me hope--but my participation has waned (due to some unfortunate life circumstances) and so have those numbers. Nevertheless, G+ is a great sounding board, inspiration, and place to learn.

That said, I'm going to try again. You might be understandably frustrated, but you're making the effort and you have a positive attitude. That's a huge plus!
 
Not that you've asked for advice, but a thought crossed my mind while I was looking through your texts and images (for the first time -- I've found the link via +Paul Stickland). It is my impression that your work lends itself better not for decorative posters, but for a book (or a series of books) which would combine images and essays.

Again, not that I am a guru of internet marketing, or anything, but it seems to me that this approach would promise much better financial opportunities. I, for example, would be about a thousand times more likely to buy a book like this (even after reading only a few of your posts) than any print.
 
I like that idea +Lena Levin, essays and photos capturing the essence and flavours of the different areas and villages of NYC.
 
often success is just being in the right place at the right time, so don't give up your dream +Vivienne Gucwa you can never predict when that time will come...
 
Read the post on your site. I appreciate the sincerity of your words. I know what you mean, it can be good money here and there but it's not relatively consistent nor like you said, an income and career of Trey Ratcliff caliber. With your audience, the only suggestion I could make is offer another product in addition to your prints, i.e. online courses in street photography. It would be a lot of work, but if you'd be passionate about doing something like that I'd really believe that would be your ticket. On another note, I started in science too - hello fellow geek ;) Hugs!
 
just finished this post during my breakfast, and you are right!never give up anything that u have passion on!!
 
This totally follows my experience!! A fan base on Facebook, Flickr ( over 1 million views), G+, fine art america, red bubble, Amazon,
Not much in the way of sales at all. Still - like you - it's been a great journey and amazing experience. I'm just glad I have a job. : )
 
"And because this has no photo, I don't know how many people will actually read this."

Well, at least 56 people +1'd it and 50 commented it (so far), so apart from one who announced that he didn't read it because it was long piece with no pictures, at least fiftysomething people did read it through, including yours truly. Interesting and thought provoking piece. I have not much to add to some of the comments already posted, so there's not much point in repeating all the same talking points all over again.

Even though the internet, the social media and digital photography have seemingly torn down many obstacles and previous boundaries for a lot of people to carve a career online, in reality the number of full time professional photographers is shrinking in general, and photography is becoming increasingly that of opportunity. In other words, the real success stories are few and far between, and there is no magic pill to make it work for everyone and every time. Sometimes it can even be about mere luck. We just need to keep looking for the niche or the opportunity to make it happen.

Besides, who is to say you wouldn't become a financial success story, too, eventually, +Vivienne Gucwa? Maybe it won't happen today, and maybe it won't come from selling fine art prints (alone) but, I'm pretty confident that you will make it, sooner or later, if you carry on with your passion. Easier said than done, we all know that but...
Just hang in there, take your time and good luck!
 
Thank you so much for sharing +Vivienne Gucwa, it's not easy to write up such stories so I really appreciate it hugely.

When I look at the people who are making a successful career out of photography, I quickly realize that photography is the support act, but really their main business is something else in many cases.

Trey makes most of his money through his HDR tutorials and things around that, Scott Kelby is a master at doing events, Varina sells eBooks online, Colby and a whole bunch of others also do workshops, tours, training sessions and so on.

None of those people depend on photos as the main income - getting or creating digital art is way to easy these days (after all how much of it is there, and how cheap is the equipment to create it these days - there's just not a large enough market for it), but at the same time with that also comes the realization that if everyone is buying camera's, they also want to learn how to use them - so workshops, events, books and training are big business because of it.

There are some exceptions but those are either very specific and almost always few and far between - head shots for actors, wedding and event photography, senior portraits and some family photos - it's not a huge market and a lot of people offering those services so you either have to be lucky with your location (little to no competition), or make a name for your self - but for a large part making money there is as likely as earning an income by being a rockstar - only very few people get to do that.

So if you're a writer, write a book about your fine art - if you're a teacher, give workshops, if you're good with people, photograph weddings, events and/or portraits .. but the focus unfortunately is very much about creating a buisness, and photography can be the supporting act to build around - just plain old photography is not an easy thing to make money off.
 
Love your post and totally agree with you. The Etsy, Ebay, Self Published Kindle Millionaire stories are the ones that get all the press, but just like any other kind of success, explaining how it happened is never easy. I can relate to your story, well, except for all the followers. ;) Keep up the good work.
 
Wow, I went out to do a few errands and came back to all of these comments! I am speechless.

I honestly thought that this would get a minimal response.

I am going to reply to everyone soon but I wanted to first thank everyone so far for the great discussion!
 
I am really trying to outline how much I agree and identify the stuff you have gone through, since I have and still do on a regular basis. I think I've started typing something only to get rid of it at least three times.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa you are right about a few hitting it big and everyone else struggling. Back in 1995, the book The WInner Take All Society (http://www.scribd.com/kimricarte/d/54517560-The-Winner-Take-All-Society) explained why: with consumers having global access to all artists, they can solely consume the most popular ones. They don't need to go to a local gallery - or a local club, or a local theater. And social media on the Internet, through "viraiity", amplifies the effect. So yeah, you're gambling, putting yourself out there, hoping to get a hit of virality.

Of course, producing fine art greatly limits your potential audience, making virality that much harder to achieve. And you are competing for attention with not just thousands of other fine artists, but with people's Facebook friend posts, G+ posts, TV shows, video games, and - most challenging of all - cute kitten videos.

Check out +danah boyd's post on fear and the attention economy: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2012/SXSW2012.html It's not just your problem, and other artists' - I have to compete for people's limited attention to market my business, and it's freaking hard.

Having a day job you don't despise, with time for your passion, seems like the best compromise in today's world, imho.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa - Have you thought about attending local art and craft shows? The ones in high schools the band boosters or local Rotary Club would organize. Particularly the ones October through December. This is where my photography sells. Where people see the tangible, not digital, item. Cost in this area is $30-$95 for your own space for 2 days, your own little gallery set up for shoppers.

Does it work? YES! And then those customers tell others, they visit your sites for more...

Websites and networking are to further enhance your business, not necessarily be your sole business. At least until you are more established.

Check around the art and craft fair website listings and talk to other artists for the best shows to set up shop at. The good ones have waiting lists by summer. Good luck!
 
+Paul Stickland I was thinking of the Neil Gaiman speech as well.

+Vivienne Gucwa well I am not a photographer but I definitely understand what you are talking about. When I am at my job I often work on artwork in the cafeteria on breaks. Invariably someone will come up and say 'if you can do that why are you here?'. I now reply 'glad you like my work, would you like to order something?' I have very few takers. When I don't close an immediate sale (99.9999999999999% of the time) I add 'that's why'.

The problem I see is that there is just so much superb photography out there. The amount of available prints far outweighs the amount of actual purchasers. This is one of the reasons I don't generally make artwork to sell prints of (that being said almost everything you see in my albums is available as a print) but rather because I want to make them. By working on commission the work is sold prior to it's existence.

While I have made far more money since joining G+, it wouldn't even keep my family housed or fed for a month let alone perpetually. That is why I keep the 'day job'.

Keep on doing what you love to do and find another way to keep afloat until you can via photography. As +Ted Ewen said, a year is nothing. The longer you keep plugging away the more likely you are to break through.
 
I totally get it +Vivienne Gucwa ... totally, totally, totally, totally, totally get it ... I have fumbled and fumbled and fumbled with these same question as concerns and have, more or less, concluded that, typically, the best use of an online presence is simply to let people know that you exist ... kind of like a giant, multi-picture, multi-page business card that people can refer to. Your best bet is to look for opportunities to find places where you can get people to see your actual prints in person. People are always much more impressed with prints (rather than staring at a photo on the computer screen) ... and making one's prints is the final step in the full artistic immersion into one's work (and an art form in itself).

So .... I would shift all of your energy to finding places to hang your prints. New York has so many walls within its borders that there must be loads of places for you hang your work ... as well as lots of art shows, etc.

The online world is a wonderful way to connect with people and talk to them ... but not a great way to find people who have money they are willing to part with. The majority of the people I know in the online photo community are photographers ... and photographers make great friends, but they tend not to have a lots of money to spend on prints (and I can never get myself to try to advertise myself to my fellow photographers). Some people do manage to break through the online world and build a thriving financial existence, but that seems to be the exception. Most of them are good marketers (or they hire good marketers). I personally cannot sell myself. I just can't do it. Can't ... do ... it ...

You already know all of this ... so please accept my apologies for saying things you already know.

I'll just add that I think finding a day job is a good choice. I am fairly certain that you mostly take photos because you simply must ... so you're not going to ever stop. One can most certainly live a very fulfilling and satisfying life keeping some kind of day job and creating art in one's spare time! And then there are those who work a regular job and create on the side for years and eventually get "discovered" after years of perseverance.

For whatever it may be worth, you are very talented, Vivienne ... and, of equal importance, a lot of people appreciate your work very much. And that is, in my humble estimation, the definition of success ... :-)

Again ... please accept my apologies for rambling and for telling you things you already know ... but your concerns are so similar to mine (to all of us who are scrambling and ambling about in the online world).

Cheers, Nathan
 
I think +Chris Chabot has raised a few good points, in that selling images isn't the sole income driver for many. The big names he mentions in Google+ do appear in many other ways, I have, through finding +Scott Kelby on Google+ bought his Digital Photography book series and enjoy reading and learning from them.

While walking around Sydney last weekend taking photos I bumped into the same guy whose photography courses I attended here in Canberra ( it's a 3 hours drive apart ) and he was hosting another training course at the time. From that point onwards I noticed 4 other groups all being taught how to use their camera and how to capture images.

He is an accredited photographer who also does weddings and other photography, clearly teaching is an income stream he also uses.

I think photography is going to be a tough art form to "own" or "crack", simply because many of us have disposable income to allow us the luxury of good gear, which is just awesome these days, and we have a desire to just go out and explore and click, and not a thought of actually making money from it... want one of my photos? Go for it, all I ask is credit, if for no other reason to see where it ended up. Has it happened yet? Nope? Am I discouraged? Nope.. I lug that camera around because I enjoy it and surprisingly, I'm getting fitter for it! :) Not sure my images are getting better.. but practice makes perfect.. :)

I don't think you should give up on your dream, but I think in a tough "market" you will need to diversify.

Just like the baby boomers are taking all the top jobs and earning the bug bucks, our time will come when they finally get out of the way. You've just started out, HDR will die, Scott will get tired of the madness that is life on the road, and your time will come to take their place.
 
+Michael Sweeney I think you are exactly right. I know many artists who make more selling tutorial type books/videos to other artists than they do selling the actual art. I know I am far more likely to buy how-to books than prints.
 
+Cliff Roth yep, same, I want to learn how to make my own prints.

Photography is a commodity. Learning how to do it well takes time and effort and learning... I have a million technical books on programming and languages, my job, my Photography library is just starting as I learn something new and important to me... a life long desire.
 
I don't think most photographers makes money selling their prints. I think they make money from workshops, books, e-books and so on. I think photographers with many followers (like you) are followed mostly by other photographers interested in your work and how you produce it. It sounds from what you wrote that you focus too much on just selling prints online. That's just one of the many channels to make money in photography.

This is just my view and I must add that I don't make any money in photography :-) So Im not at all sure if Im right but I'm thinking of one day making a try at it so I have been thinking about it a lot.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Very well written, your story comes through. The reality of what you say is a tough pill. The amount of investment of time is truly incredible in social media.

I hope you keep your dreams alive!
 
Wanted to ping +Olav Folland , +J. Rae Chipera and +Ricardo Williams regarding this post since I read and had some interesting conversations regarding the business of photography online in recent months with them.

And, +Charles Lupica and +Nicholas Ong because of similar conversations regarding wide online reach.

Also, my local pals +Dave Ortiz , +Angel Figueroa , +Jose Vazquez , +kora foto morgana and +Armand Salmon who I have shared food and drink with here in NYC while venting vaguely about these sorts of things in the past. :)
 
I have found the same scenario in respect to visibility versus profitability. I have made the occasional print or product sale but nowhere near the numbers that I would have hoped. Like you i have spent hours combing through SEO articles, key wording and promoting through multiple sites with sparse returns. I have come to the realization that for the moment my work is to remain in the realm of 'hobby' rather than fulfilling profession. 
 
+Ricardo Porto - Glad you found it interesting.

+Violeta Ivanova - You are quite welcome and are absolutely right that it is initially difficult to put a price on the fruit of your passion(s). It's one of many hurdles that new artists struggle with, for sure.

+Howard Weitzel - Thanks so much. I still feel like I just exposed more than I ever thought I would but it honestly feels like a weight is lifted off my shoulders in some respects because I think (and seeing the comments here affirms my suspicions) that many people are struggling with monetizing their art online.
 
+Ted Ewen - You are absolutely right. Online sales are also dictated by times of year as well. For example, I am sure that my experience with an increase in sales during the last quarter of the year matches other people's experiences since people tend to want to give art as a gift rather than purchase it for personal enjoyment. I won't give up but I do need to concentrate my efforts on finding a steady income to help me stay afloat since I am close to scraping the bottom of the barrel for the umpteenth time. Thank you for the encouragement!
 
+Kelli Seeger Kim - And I want to thank you for the same things! It was so nice to hang out with you recently and talk. I am grateful to have you in my life too. Much ♥.
 
+Howard C. Shaw III - Thanks for sharing your experience. It's great that you found something you are passionate about that has sustained you and you are probably right about people having a support network to help them when they were literally a starving artist.
 
+Tom Chamberlain - That's a really interesting point to consider. Shifts in tastes have occurred along with shifts in technology and marketplace mediums. I have also heard that about the art fair circuit. From what I have read, it takes a bit of start-up capital as well which much be quite a leap of faith for those struggling to even eek out any sort of wages from their art.
 
+Betty Sederquist - Thanks for sharing your experience! The local market is a bit cut-throat here in NYC. For example, selling in prominent areas with quite a bit of foot-traffic and shoppers finds many artists competing with each other (I like to call it watching the real life equivalent of online competition play itself out in public ;) ).
 
+John Nandor - Aw thanks! That was a great conversation that we had. I really enjoyed looking through your work and talking about art. It's always nice to get together with other artists. In fact, it's one of the crowning achievements of Google Plus, I think: that it has led people to each other to meet in the real world which is incredibly useful in terms of building off each other's creative energy.
 
Thank you so much +Vivienne Gucwa for the mention and drawing my attention to this article with information I was so interested in learning about. You are a doll.
 
+Ron Clifford - Thank you! I love what you wrote where you stated: " I think we are in a new renaissance of sorts and some of us will see it through and find our way in this new landscape." I agree. I also didn't think this would resonate with so many people. I am really happy I put it out there. I am so happy that I have gotten to know you and +Jan Kabili via your show and Google Plus posts. You have such a wonderful creative spirit and you are so encouraging to those you mentor.
 
+roma g - Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I think this is a subject that many people don't discuss openly because it feels terrible to admit that it's a huge struggle (somehow). I have done a few commercial projects but none that paid anything that I would consider substantial in terms of being able to use the money to put back into my efforts (or even create a profit with at the end of the year!). I do think you are on to something though with your thoughts about people's success trajectories in terms of how they get from point A (struggling) to point B (not struggling, with steady work). The in-between tends to lose a lot of artists along the way though.
 
+Billy Wilson - Sorry to hear that you are struggling quite a bit as well. It's such a terrible situation to be in. You are such a great community builder here on Google Plus!
 
Thanks for reading +Bruno Garcia . It's so hard to find that golden balance, I agree. I would even wager that perhaps the concept of a golden balance is one that resides in the realm of legend rather than reality.

In terms of my experiences selling on print on demand sites, I have found that word of mouth has helped in terms of other artists suggesting my work to people they have known who were interested in my sort of imagery. That has happened rarely though. Ironically, the site where I have sold the most is the site I loathe the most due to their poorly organized and overflowing marketplace (Zazzle). What sells there is mainly invitations though which at one point I painstakingly spent quite a bit of time designing. I think the reason that people purchase more from Zazzle is because they have an insanely huge online presence and therefore attract non-artists who are shopping online for whatever they are shopping for. It's a total gamble if anyone finds your work in their marketplace though! (ugh)
 
+Stephen MacIntosh - Google Plus is probably the best place to share your work because the community is so unbelievably supportive of new artists and emerging artists as well as more established artists. Don't be discouraged in terms of sharing and growing here. It is, hands down, the best place for that! :) Thanks for reading!
 
+Deanna Sparks-Kjorlien - Oh, I won't give up on photography or writing. It's such a part of me now that it would be like giving up a part of myself were I to do such a thing. Thank you.
 
+Jeremy Nicoll - Oh, I have heard! I have a friend who dabbles in music as a hobby and puts his work in various places online and it's crazy to consider the state of the music world currently when I see how fragmented it is!
 
+Lisa Borel - Thanks for sharing your own experiences and realizations about the state of the industry pre 9/11 and post 9/11. I can only imagine the difficulty of making it as an artist prior to the rise of the internet and how those difficulties are just amplified by the state of things online currently.
 
+James Howe - I have found Zazzle to be pretty hit or miss in terms of print sales but decent in terms of sales of things like invitations. It took me a while last year to swallow my pride and venture into the tedium of creating invitations but during the holiday season that and greeting cards were nearly the sole source of sales there. Not that it was much, mind you :).
 
It is far more satisfying to sell my work as art than to try to wring a living out of photography +Vivienne Gucwa . I have other lucrative skills to sustain me financially, and my art sustains my soul. I don't think the internet has done anything for artists, to tell you the truth. What I have observed is a lot ot people spending a lot of time on social media, thinking they are promoting themselves, without even stopping to ask if they are promoting to an audience that is looking to buy. Tragic waste of time, to me.
Your work, however, +Vivienne Gucwa stands far and above many. Have you considered getting an agent to assist you in finding work?
 
+Jerry Johnson - My day always gets a little brighter when you and/or +Kari Johnson reply to one of my posts. I am so happy I met you both here and have had the pleasure of interacting with you both. :)
 
+rik beatty - Thank you for your comment. I love what you wrote when you said: "And, if we that have them can live and stay strong enough long enough, which means getting a "Real Job" along the way while still keep tight hold on our dreams, those dreams will eventually become "Needed" and profitable." That's a wonderful way to look at things. Thanks for the encouragement.
 
Thank you for putting yourself out there and saying the words that many of us think to a certain degree often. It's great making these prints and creating social and interactive networks but it is hard to make honest to goodness food buying, rent paying money. Hang in there. We are all pulling for you.: )
 
+PJ Ammidon - Thank you! Actually I will most likely be looking for a job in the social media arena :)
 
+Ruth Anne Arnold - Thanks so much for your insightful comment and for sharing your own reality. I wanted to make this post because I think it's easy for people to assume that people are immediately rolling in success after a lot of hard work and/or having a huge online presence but the reality is closer to what you and I have discussed here rather than closer to the rare exceptions (the people have somehow found a way to make their passions profitable).

♥
 
Sorry +Vivienne Gucwa I read this and was overcome by a nap before I could formulate a response (coincidence, really! :)

I have to speak as a pro-am. Unless something radical happens, I know I'm not going to make a living off my art - there are too many sacrifices, particularly in health care, that I can't avoid right now.

There's a flood of people in the market right now, and everyone with a camera thinks they're a photographer. Coupled with the sense that I get that there's not a value in putting things on people's walls...

I dunno. Monetizing needs a new strategy, or better, a resurgence in the fact that a physical print is 1000% better than something on a computer screen. I've seen people stare at my prints and not buy them, because it doesn't even cross their mind.
 
I'm sort of reeling from your post but I'm thankful that you wrote it. What you have outlined is sort of what I imagined was going on in the online marketing world. Clearly you are making a name for yourself and you never know when the payoff will come. I was thinking about the whole social media space the other day and it occurred to me that social media is sort of like cooking, if you stop stirring is sticks to the bottom of the pan. I sincerely hope you reap the rewards of your obvious hard work.
 
+Aleta Curry - I think that the prevailing formulaic mantras of (as you put it so well) if: "we work hard at these steps, we will start earning a living" go right along with people's general belief that everything is a meritocracy which sits right alongside concepts as all-encompassing as the American Dream. What all of these mantras and concepts have in common is that people want things to be fair and formulaic because a world that's fair and formulaic is more appealing than one that isn't necessarily fair and is chaotic more than it is formulaic.

The reality is though that you can put thousands of hours into something that you may even be moderately good (or even great) at but that doesn't necessarily guarantee you anything.

Thanks for the warm and encouraging words!
 
+Michael Sweeney - You are correct. You hit the nail on the head with: " I know some people can earn a living selling their photography online but I think more make a steady stream of income from writing, reviewing & teaching about it." I think a lot of people who start out though, don't necessarily fully understand that and believe (or want to believe) the dream that you can make a living purely off your art. The reality is closer to what you stated.
 
It's been the comments that have been longer than the piece you wrote =P
Something I forgot to write is that a bunch of the local photographers here are in the process of working out the workings of a group stall to sell prints at markets. We don't expect much, but we're hoping to be able to get a little bit.
 
it seems to me that LOTS of people care what you have to say :-)
 
+Locky Downing that's something - my prints have been far better received when viewed in person vs. online. I don't know how that does here, but I know some of the local photogs seem to do okay at festivals and the like.

The bigger problem +Vivienne Gucwa is breaking that whole 'circle' that the art buyers have put out there. There's an artificial value on works by people that are 'known' and the rest of us have to scrabble to even be noticed.

Personally, I'd rather have a print on everyone's wall, rather than be 'art-famous', and I know that limits me in some ways, but I'm part of the masses ;)
 
+Paul Stickland - Wow, thank you so much. You were one of the first non-photographer artists that I followed on here way back when! I loved your renditions of the cute dogs I photographed at the dog parade. :)

As for Zazzle, it's so refreshing that I finally decided to discuss it here because it's really difficult to find any sort of objective criticisms of the site online due to their insanely huge online presence and gobbling up of almost every term having to do with Zazzle so that it is near impossible to find people's actual experiences with them (I have found some amusing forum discussions after digging quite a bit but even then....). I will say that just like you, pouring hours and hours (my goodness, the TIME I put into Zazzle and other online ventures make my head spin when I think about it) into Zazzle did give me a 'school of hard knocks' education regarding social media and marketing.

As I mentioned in other comments, what I do the best with there are invitations and cards rather than prints which took a lot of pride-swallowing (and lack of food/money) to get myself to the point last year where I threw myself into creating those types of things. Even then, it's a pittance.

When you come to NYC next, I would love to meet you too!
 
+Lori Carey - I have made a tiny bit off of licensing via Getty (which I believe takes far too much of a cut) and via clients who have found my work via Google Images and/or Flickr and have used my work for book covers, album covers and things like that. But it has been few and far between and based on very random elements like having people find me, for example.

And you are right. +Michael Sweeney stated something very similar to you (as well as +Chris Chabot ) where you stated: "That is why you see so many photographers in the fine art/landscape genres doing other things related to their photography...leading workshops, writing books, teaching, etc. The money doesn't come from print sales, especially not internet print sales."

Spot on.
 
I read it, Vivienne...and from the amount of comments, I am not the only one either! :D

I wish I knew the answer to this conundrum. As for now, I am just trying to get my work into local galleries and start from that end. I am trying very hard to keep using G+ as a social system mainly...with hopeful side benefits.
 
+Chris Chabot - You have touched on what a few others have stated like +Lori Carey and +Michael Sweeney regarding workshops, events, books and training as being the main sources of income for many of the more well-known online photographers.

I think many people who are just starting out tend to assume that people are making money off their art, first and foremost, primarily because it's a generalized dream that many people have and they want to believe that the dream can become a reality. However, the reality is far different in that the art becomes the secondary act to other modes of income generated.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and observations (which are definitely spot on).
 
Very nicely written Vivienne. Thank you for sharing this.
 
This is a great read. In learning the history of photography, I also learned how few of the "great" photographers ever made money or sold their work. I suppose we're all worth more dead! LOL (I agree with most, if not all, of +Chris Chabot 's comment!)
 
+Jennifer Havice - The world of writing is almost if not worse than the world of online art (in all its forms) . I wish you much success in your endeavors. I have found that keeping a blog and writing regularly (as well as posting my photography) has, at the very least, served as a great way to connect with people as you pointed out regarding your own blogging experience.
 
+Denzil Jennings - Perhaps. I think with the staggering amount of visual eye-candy online, it also presents people with the paradox of choice. People become paralyzed with the overwhelming amount of art online to such an extent that buying becomes a distant thought because it's just too difficult to hone in on any one thing.
 
+Fred O'Donnell - You are right. I think with the ubiquitous nature of cameras currently and the ease of selling work online (in terms of how easy it is to put your work out there), more people get stars in their eyes regarding entering the online marketplace than ever before. I won't ever stop writing or taking photos, of course. Thanks!
 
+Marshall Humble - That's an interesting perspective that the commodity has changed. In a related comment above, I stated : " I think with the staggering amount of visual eye-candy online, it also presents people with the paradox of choice. People become paralyzed ... to such an extent that buying becomes a distant thought because it's just too difficult to hone in on any one thing."

There is a point when all the beauty and talent just turns to noise, as you state. Sometimes I wonder what the state of art will be in 5-10 years. I firmly believe that we are moving from digital to mobile and that the post-mobile world will be focused on augmented reality. If noise is an issue now, it will only increase when it is even easier to record what you see with your eyes (literally).
 
+Eiji Kumamaru - Thank you so much! I am in quite a bit of debt currently (due to student loans) so I am not sure that fund-raising of any type would help me. I need a steady income and job that I can devote myself to which hopefully I will enjoy and will give me further means to explore my photography and writing :).
 
+Nick Gatens - Thank you so much for your detailed comment and for sharing your own experiences. It's really quite amazing how many people have had similar experiences with trying to make a living off their art. Sorry to hear about the job loss and subsequent lower wage job. It's an all too common story right now in the wake of the economic issues that have plagued the country (and world) which saddens me greatly.

I think you are spot on regarding why the demand isn't there and I have a feeling it will get worse as technology shifts in the coming years.
 
+Paul Stickland +Cliff Roth - So, I looked up Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech and just seem to keep finding the one where he runs screaming in a field with dogs (or wolves?) chasing him. I am assuming this is not the speech people are referring to. Do you have a link? My google skills are failing me :).
Thomas Hawk
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A couple of thoughts.

1. The stock photography market is a multi BILLION dollar industry. There is no reason why Getty should pay photographers 20% and keep 80%. Google/Facebook/Flickr all have the power to turn that industry on it's head and create a new fairer equation. I'm not sure what that equation is but certainly 50/50 60/40 70/30 or whatever the outcome is would be preferable to today's situation. This could free up lots of money for photographers. Facebook wants to make the world a more "connected" place. Then connect buyers and sellers of photography. While I don't think Facebook/Google/Flickr recognize the bigger picture here yet, to the winner who breaks this log jam will come an amazing amount of photographic beauty. Copyright is the enemy. Google/Facebook/Flickr mostly fear the stock photography business because they fear being sued over copyright. Outsized demands for copyright cripple innovation. Companies being sued for millions of dollars over images worth thousands makes no sense.

2. The true artist struggles. It sucks but it's true. The best art is borne out of suffering. Forget about everything else around you (the best you can) and just produce and shoot.

3. Struggling artists have always had to have second careers.

4. It's very, very early still.

5. There is money to be made in all sorts of paid shooting but it's not necessarily creative or fun. Weddings, events, kids' sports, all can be marketed to a degree. It's not the glamourous life for sure.

6. Probably 50 gatekeepers in the world control 98% of the fine art market. This arrangement is ripe for disruption.

Just keep making the great art that you do. Get by however you can. Just keep shooting.
 
Despite my other ventures having thousands of hits daily, when I tried to start a web design business in 1996 it went nowhere fast. I effectively closed down shop in 1998. It is so hard to make a big success on the Internet.
 
+Thomas Hawk Great insights and advice as always! It's been such a pleasure following your trajectory on Google+, and I'm always thrilled to see the interaction you have with everyone here!

+Vivienne Gucwa Sweet of you to mention me. I read your entire post and I'm glad I did. I think I'm an eternal optimist, and as I know how incredible your work is, I have high hopes that you will 'break on through' in the near future. All the pieces of the jigsaw are in place for you - you just need a little push to get those last few pieces lined up properly. No advice here, simply faith in you and your work.

Thank you for kindly mentioning me, and to my buddy +Paul Stickland as well. I stay up late many a night thinking about you both, and about +byron rempel and +Cliff Roth and especially my good friend +Ryan Van Sickle. This is a difficult subject and I don't believe there is a "One Solution Fits All" for all of my artist friends here. But I truly am working at this often, as I'm an idea man. I constantly am thinking of things like this, and +Daniel Ely Rankin and I have had so many conversations over time about this topic.

I will read all of these wonderful comments in the next few days as I was astounded by how many incredible insights there were in response to your words. Hmm. So much to ponder!
 
i read the post and some comments -- will return later. it's a very refreshing and honest read and... well, somebody had to say it!

so thanks. you are brave.

numbers and reach are an illusion... it's a little game that websites create to keep you producing content... circle counts, subscribers, reach... ridiculous. we are all people with similar interests chatting over what we love, but we're not going to make money off of each other, are we?

we need to stop trying to force what we want to sell on other people and instead, try to understand what people truly need... and provide that.

even if that leads us away from our preconceptions.
 
Oh man, what +Thomas Hawk said is so accurate. I mean, I don't know how many times I've thought about contacting hotels or local businesses to ask if they'd like to have some original and locally shot views of the city for their walls, but then I think about it and businesses, for the most part, aren't about putting up fine art on the wall as much as they are about just putting any art on the wall, if it's from a reputable and cheap source. I mean why pay me any sort of premium when they can purchase a bunch of mass produced images in bulk? And then people who make art get a bad rep because there's such a stigma about copyright.

I maintain the idea that people will pay for things they value, and sometimes, it's hard to get someone to value an image. There's this idea that if an ability is easily accessible, that it's not of value. anyone with a phone has a camera these days, and it's hard to get people to place value on an image, regardless of the process involved. Not a lot of people put two and two together and think of the work of the photographer.

Also, when it comes to making money from photography, most people are quick to dismiss your goal. When I told friends I wanted to make some money shooting, they suggested that I go to clubs and bars and shoot patrons, and charge them for the images, which does make money, but doesn't speak to me artistically. I'd get no satisfaction out of it, and I'd hate it.

Anyway +Vivienne Gucwa, I think that what someone else mentioned about the book content might actually work. You could probably get published. Have you tried Powerhouse Books? I've seen quite a few things in there that started out as internet phenomena.

I've thought of the book route, but mine didn't work because it's stictly a picture book. I'm thinking of doing a revision with actual information. Anyway, hang in there, a lot of people are behind you, myself included.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa If you want to try fund-raising, please check out legality before going through procedure. Of course, income and boyfriend should be steady. Good luck. : )
 
I really appreciate your putting yourself out there +Vivienne Gucwa It is a wonderful post about an important topic. It's always a bit of a shock for me to find out that photographers with amazing talent like yours are struggling as much as you are.

I make my living as a photographer--shooting portraits, weddings, dance performances, real estate, school photos, etc. Like +Thomas Hawk says, not glamorous. But over the years I've found that there is ample space (and need) for true creativity in these fields. Both in the sittings and the editing process. I still see these sessions as my "day job" Hard work from start to finish. Every minute that I'm not shooting or editing these paid gigs, I focus on creating the fine art photos that are my passion. Any sales that I've had on fine art images have come through card companies and stock agencies.

A few clients have found me through Facebook-- but it has never been a viable place to generate income. For me Google+ provides inspiration and connection. I've learned more in the past 10 months from the photographers here than I've learned in workshops, books and videos in the past 10 years. Can these sites be used to monetize talent? I have no idea. It's a topic worth discussing.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa, Wow, has this started a great conversation! And you thought no one would read it!
First of all, here is the link to Neil Gaiman's wonderful extraordinary speech, it should be required listening for every single creative professional at the beginning of their career, you will love it, 100% guaranteed!
https://plus.google.com/u/0/117245054937343378617/posts/WrpWono3iH7
I hope you will see from everyone's thoughtful comments, that your work is really appreciated and if it is appreciated in this most intelligent and discerning forum then it is only a matter of time before your dream turns into a reality.
The time has come for a post on Zazzle. Like you I have spent countless hours on creating and promoting products but am lost in a marketplace which is chock full of tat, clip art and rubbish. Zazzle could be a truly great opportunity for real artists but it has run out of control and I do not respect the way they handle store keepers and _ proper_ professional_ artists. I make no apologies for this, I have been banned from the forums on several occasions. I will send you an invite to a forum full of the disgruntled of Zazzle!
As for me, I'm already looking forward to seeing your next post and I have an idea for someone to contact with regard to +Lena Levin and my idea of a book about the villages of New York. I will pm you this.
This post has been yet another example of why g+ is a radical shift in communication. The very best of luck to you!
 
+Vivienne Gucwa, thanks for writing this post. I sell my art online too and I since I started I've been sure that if I finally reached enough people my sales would just soar. Every article I read about marketing and SEO tips make it seem as if all I have to do is find the right combination of words and use enough social media sites and the money will start rolling in. My sales have increased but I'm certainly not able to support myself from them. I'm not ready to give up yet I love what I do to much. But thank you for talking about a reality that marketing articles will never admit to and most artists/sellers can't admit to.
 
I've said before +Vivienne Gucwa that I think you are as brave as you are talented. Truth and talent will win out. We have to believe that, right!
 
Yes!!! I've been waiting for this. The American Dream says: if I can do it, you can do it, too. But for every one person that makes it there are ten that don't. And those ten help the one to make it. With our dreams we support an industry that lives off our failures.
Machines/automation have relieved us of work/income. It's about time we share in those profits via a basic income. It's inevitable to sustain the markets. Stop dreaming and things will change.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Yes, monetization is the crippling problem of the net. Those who make money at the moment are those who get founded because the reality strikes back - I've known a good bunch of them - and those who house and broadcast the great content produced by the dreamers who make quite no money out of it.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa - I hope you still like me after you read my reshare. Take it positively. That's how I meant it.
 
Keep having fun with the photography... sometimes money can suck out the purity of it all. I mean, worry about it a little bit but not so much that it becomes a drain. Art should never be a drain... it should add energy to your life, and if money is getting in the way, maybe do something else for money... and keep the art as something special and pure in your life.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I hope that we don't move into a worse mode than we are in now. I feel that we are being flooded right now with a bunch of people picking up a camera and saying 'I can do that'. Which may be possible but in the end tenacity wins over talent.
I am hoping people will become more knowledgable and begin to learn that they can do, but it will take a lot more work than they thought initially.
Now it seems the ability to market one's self is the key. I see a lot of photographers offering workshops and online training and DVDs, etc. I feel that they are doing this because they need to make money that way.
Pictures like music and movies are no longer a high-price item. The ability of Joe and Susie to create pictures they are semi-happy with makes the pictures themselves worth relatively less to the potential consumer.
I hope in the end it will all 'right' itself if there is anything like that, but I fear that is more wishful thinking on my part.
Thanks for the response. :)
 
+Vivienne Gucwa That's right. The scope is huge, but the audience does not target. Why should photographers to buy other people's photos? Here, as indeed in any other social network, it makes sense to sell your popularity. That is to say or workshops, or advice on buying equipment. Sell photos on social networks - it is an empty idea.
 
Very well written, open and honest assessment. I think you're spot on, thanks for sharing.
 
Thank you for your candid honesty, Take heart you have learned more than you truly know because of this. I am working on a project that may benefit from your talent & wisdom. you can pm for more info if interested. I am hoping that this network I am building will be your specialty niche.
 
"I honestly thought that this would get a minimal response."

...With your 1,416,829 followers? Really? ;-)
 
Thank you for this post, and thank you to all who replied with good information
 
+Vivienne Gucwa is one of the most candid, thoughtful, honest, perceptive, humble, humbling, inspiring people that I have been blessed to meet and call a friend. This was an emotional read for me since we met in the midst of her struggle she eloquently shares with all of us.

The moving part for me is that Vivienne, even in times of struggle, has an aura of peace and serenity that permeates everything she shoots and writes about. She humbles me and makes me realize that monetizing a passion does not come easy. I have grown weary of the idea that I can monetize mine because, for me, it equals work. I have a steady job that pays me well enough to support my family. I travel two hours each way to and from work. My priorities are spending time with my family and making sure my sons are tucked in every night with a kiss and a hug. I have thought that I can make a business appear out of thin air with an hour or two of effort in the late evening.

Vivienne is so deserving of her following and more. The proof is laced in this string of posts from so many great and talented people. A million followers and counting and she still takes the time to respond to each of us. Even more, she i thoughtfull enough to mention us to lift us up with her. I am blessed and humbled to know Vivienne. She has enriched my experience here in G+ and reminds me why I love this art and this community.

A feeling honestly that has wained in recent months. Thank you Vivienne for reminding me what matters most and fueling my passion as well as your many followers. 
 
I just read some more of the responses this post has initiated. This community can have a significant impact in the business of photography. +Thomas Hawk's post should be read and digested.

Primarily point #6: "50 gatekeepers control 98% of the Fine Art market. This arrangement is ripe for disruption". Can the next leaders of industry be G+ members who pooled together talent, drive, initiative, and necessity into and industry leader with their concerns evenly focused on the content makers as well as the consumers? I say why the f*** not!!

Im Inspired!

D
 
+Dave Ortiz, wise, thoughtful and very kind words, which I agree with entirely. Vivienne's work really opened up my eyes to the possibilities here and I look forward to her every post.
 
That wall being broken down would be insane.

It's kinda tricky to monetize something that can be mass produced, and getting someone to say "what you make is valuable beyond that. I want your work above the others."

I mentioned this on a photo walk before, but I think it's worth saying again.

It's hard to compete in a market where the guy on the street selling $10 prints of the twin towers is going to make more than you. The average consumer doesn't care that the image they're buying is creative commons, or that the vendor on the next block somehow has the same image—unless that vendor is selling it cheaper. They care that it's an image of something they wanted.

It's tough to convince someone that my picture of the Empire State Building is worth X amount of dollars if they can get the same shot everyone else has for a price that I can't possibly compete with. It's not that I don't think the market exists, but I feel like the middle range is hard to tap into.

Honestly though, I feel like we can do a lot to help each other as photographers, too. Clearly +Vivienne Gucwa, you're not alone with your thoughts. I wish people collaborated more, looked out for their fellow photographer. Maybe they do and I just haven't been noticing.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa
your story and analysis rings true. I believe we should look at the internet as simply a necessary adjunct to the real world. Redbubble, 500px, Google+ all are useful and I use them all. BUT I make more sales each month through a small real world gallery in a rural location than I do in a year through all internet sources combined. Often I will buy my own work from redbubble and then sell it through the gallery. If I had more time to invest, I would invest it in persuading more galleries to carry my work.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa - very well written post and I commend you for the courage to put yourself 'out there'. I'm coming at photography from the other side. I did the MD thing first and ended up in a great job. You're right about job security in medicine - it's a rapidly changing field economically and can be scary at times.

I've always loved photography and, two years ago, decided to focus all of my landscape work within the 4 square mile confines of my new seaside New England town. My photography has opened doors for me in this community and the self imposed limitations have broadened my creativity - as has the incredible wealth of talent on G+.

As far as sales, I run the site on a server powered by Wordpress and use a plugin for sales. Ive made a few thousand dollars over the past few years and sales come only from current and former residents of this affluent town. I've been somewhat disappointed with the paucity of sales especially during showings but have come to accept that whether online or in the real world, the market for photography is currently relatively small.

I think part of this is due to the proliferation of digital imaging. In the old days, the number of people with 'good' cameras capable of producing prints worthy of being hung in a room were few. Now, you could print an Instagram photo on canvas taken from your iPhone! There is no way to compete with the sentimentality that comes from taking and putting up your own photo and I think that has decreases the formerly larger market for print sales. The other large factor is that fewer people have prints in general. It's much easier and faster to transfer images to the file computer or TV and show them there.

This is becoming very long winded so I'll cut myself off. I do wish you luck with finding that market and hope you continue pushing yourself creatively. 
 
+Vivienne Gucwa First, the feeling is mutual. :o)

Second, you have apparently brought to the forefront an issue that pains a great many people. I read your post (& many of the comments) late last night -- it is obvious you are far from alone. You have given your followers a wonderful forum to share their pain, anger, hope, disappointment & even their possible solutions & successes on this topic. Well done.

p.s. success is always sweeter when suffering is part of the process. I agree with Jerry, your success is coming & we can't wait to see it when it does. In the meantime, we'll keep cheering you on. :o)
 
Excellent post +Vivienne Gucwa Have you noticed that the people who make money online are the ones who tell people how to make money online? Seems everyone is a business coach out there, but their only product is telling people how to make money or get traffic to their site. If they weren't selling that dream, they wouldn't be making money or driving traffic to their sites. I'm willing to bet that you could make money by writing a book that outlines how how you got all your followers. You could beautify it with your pictures. All the time, energy and effort you invested into your online presence has to pay off at some point. You just have to figure out how you can help people through your art. I'm going to take the time to read through all the comments as I think there's a lot of wisdom being shared here.

Thank you so much for your honesty and courage. I wish you all the success your heart longs for.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Your very articulate posting expresses my thoughts precisely. I continue to put in hours working on on-line sites because I consider them pieces in a much larger mosaic, not the end-all answer to becoming self-supporting artist. ~Shane
 
+Vivienne Gucwa it's not like we all haven't tried, in one way or another. but it's just frustrating as hell to try and make money from photography. it's not my personality to be an entrepreneur, something I learned 30 years ago. so, for me, it seems to work best as a kind of hobby, especially since my aesthetic direction seems to be swerving ever farther from any of the mainstreams. good luck! I do enjoy what you post.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa You're a storyteller at heart. Your photos say so. I think you should do photo stories or essays and do books with themes. I'm sure you've thought of it but we all need reminder, don't we. All best.
 
It's unfortunate, but all the internet has done is lower the cost of entry to any number of creative endeavors, thus creating a glut of product and no means to distinguish between them.

I can't even give my writing away, even though, on my profile, it's there for the asking. (I would expect such would indicate that my writing is not so good, except nobody has read it!)

And those most "successful" on the internet are the ones selling shovels and gear to the gold prospectors.

In your case Vivienne, you have considerable talent and are likely to see fruit outside of the social networking world in due time.
Mike Shaw
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You have no idea how much I can relate to this, as so many of us, you know of my decision to put something on the back burner earlier this year, that was a fear for something I was unsure of and I do still wonder if I made the right decision. But I have to take things into account such as my family and so on, the same as yourself, I am fortunate that I do work, albeit a job I dislike but I know I can pay my bills. My passion though is the same as you, photography and a little storytelling too. Will I ever make it? I have no idea, we can only ride wave of the day to see where it will take us :)
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I am so very glad you took the time to share your story as it mirrors my experience with a significantly smaller following. I wouldn't trade my online community experience for anything as it feeds my creative soul in a way that living on an isolated island off the southwest coast of Canada needs to be partnered. The statement about relating G+ to the artistic circles that use to exit in Paris is true for me and a huge draw for my day-to-day interactions here.

However, though my financial revenue has more than doubled in the last two years it is still not enough to make a living if I had to use it to do so on its own. What is does is bring in just enough to keep me flirting with the possibility. With only four oil paintings left out fifteen in my solo exhibition last year I keep thinking it will eventually be a sustaining and thriving success. My fine art photography has grown along side my painting in a similar manner as you describe. I started with redbubble, my Creative Potager blog and added in Fine Art America and smugmug. I also show in physical venues locally. Small local photography projects and requests for private lessons in both painting and photography have been increasing but I am reluctant to expand this area of work as it eats away at the time I have for my own creative work.

I share these aspects to do more than commiserate. I share them because I believe you have done everything right in starting your photography business and as a business it is at the beginning of its life cycle to determine its success. Generally small businesses with a financial plan, leadership, flexibility and commitment are looking at 5-7 years before they can start making a profit and have any indication of possible success. On top of this we are in a global recession which appears to be poised for a second wave of recession. This may make it more realistic to expect a 10 year window to determine success or failure of a small business venture. That is a long, long time to find ways to pay the bills and eat without some other source of financial backing be that another job, a partner with an income, savings, a pension, or an inheritance.

What might I change in what I am doing? Like you, I will be realistic in what the digital landscape offers in the immediate present - community, peer discussion and inspiration, immediate feedback on creative work that build confidence, and sales that are enough to finance the expenses of the both my painting and photography. These are not small things. Without these I may lose the drive to keep working at what I love in a sustained way. And it is necessary to be able to go buy a new professional lens or that 36 x 60 inch canvas I just brought home - all paid for out of my business account.

I also now have enough experience in selling my photography and paintings to build a business plan that will stretch me forward into that success I still believe is there... just outside of my current physical grasp. It can be done and I intend to do it. I believe the same is true for you Vivienne. You will find a way - because you must!

Good luck and thanks again for sharing your story and hosting this discussion.
 
The nonprofit community is experiencing similar monetization and/or fundraising troubles. http://www.economist.com/node/21542396. The take-away: if you're a little guy (artist, nonprofit org, etc.), social media and the internet are not the vehicles for economic sustainability or success that Silicon Valley has been so vehemently proclaiming for years. In fact, code monkeys are working overtime to keep the "illusion" going so as not to lose their seat on the gravy train. And make no mistake, the developed world is certainly under the spell of the snake-oil technocrats. People are simply unable to acknowledge the truth about ICTs (information and communication technologies): it's all just another way for private capital to redistribute wealth from the working poor.

I haven't produced a film in over five years now. I can't even remember what it feels like to dig on something I've created -- like trying to recall the scent of a recently-deceased loved one. Ms. Gucwa, you are not alone.

A reading list of missives on digital technology: Jaron Lanier (a musician), Sherry Turkle, Douglas Rushkoff, Nicholas Carr, Eli Pariser, Evgeny Morozov, Tim Wu.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I am so glad you took the time to write this and share your experience! It's helped me to know I am not alone in my struggle to make a living doing something I LOVE. The incredible and overflowing comments it has inspired is a testament to the giving and interactive community here on Google+. I look forward to what the future holds as we work on finding our place in this new creative world. Sharing and learning from each other as we go!
 
Figure out how to monetize praise, +1s and your troubles are over. You clearly are appreciated here, maybe more than you realized. But, again, all this love and hugs doesn't feed the monkey.
 
Thank you so much for your post +Vivienne Gucwa ! I have no where near the reach as you but have heard people were interested in buying my work so set up and nothing. It so helpful to see that others who are in a better position than me are having struggles as well. I have always loved photography and have made money at times but for the most part i am doing it because I have enjoyed it. Google+ has been wonderful for me and everything I wanted it to be because I joined it to interact with other photographers and I have gotten that out of it. It has been so much fun to interact with people like yourself and others who are interested and do and shoot similar things to myself. I have read just about all the comments so thanks to the ones who shared tthier insights as well. Very interesting and helpful.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Thank you for opening up this discussion. I also agree that as a community we have not been talking about this enough. Very few photographers have found a way to make it on their art alone. In fact out of all the photographers I know I can only name 1 or 2 out of thousands. Most have had to find other ways to supplement their photography by making money in another ways either by working in another field or by teaching and monetizing their knowledge.

One of the things I have been thinking a lot about is the fact that art is so easily consumable in the digital age. Why would I pay to put a photograph on my wall when I can just log onto a person's social network and easily enjoy their work with a few clicks for free. Furthermore there is this feeling that the photo will always be there tomorrow, and if I want to enjoy it again I can always go back on my computer and it will be there at my finger tips. Beyond that It would have to be a KILLER, AMAZING, ONCE IN A LIFETIME photo to take the time to go through the process of putting it on my wall and I don't think the vast majority have the passion or the need to want to do that these days. The age of the ipad has in a lot of way completely changed the way we consume art and our perception of its value.

Now what do we do as content creators do about it?
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts. Obviously it's a subject that many people have experience with. I read your entire post and tried to read all the responses in order to try and keep my response fresh. This may be a little OT but I think it still leads back to your sentiment.

First of all we need to ask ourselves "Do I want to be an internet celebrity photographer or do I want to be a blue collar working photographer."

One name that has been mentioned many times in this post is Trey Ratcliff. Obviously Trey figured out his niche and has ran with it and is doing well. IMHO trying to follow the Trey Ratcliff model will only work for a select few. Like single digits. Do you have enough money to buy whatever gear you want? Do you have enough money to travel the world on your own dime in hopes that someone will buy the photos? Remember Trey's name on Flickr, Stuck in Customs, was his handle long before he ever made a dime on photography. I've never once even been through customs because I live too close to the poverty line! So it's obvious to me that Trey had already made his money pre-photography which put him in a unique position, one that the majority of us don't posses.
Do you have enough money to pay high priced lawyers to track down people who take liberties with your Creative Commons license?
Do you know how to create apps for the iPhone? Do you have a spouse or partner who allows you to travel the world and supports your dream to become a photographer? Do you have kids whose lives you'd miss by traveling the world?

Trying to be the next Trey Ratcliff is a fool's quest if you ask me. It worked for him but I've yet to see it work for anyone else.

How many of you went to the Google Photography Conference? How many of you could afford the $1500 price tag if you live outside of San Francisco? Airline tickets, hotel, car, food, tickets to the conference, etc.
How much of that information was stuff you couldn't have learned for FREE on the internet or by simply meeting with a local photo group?
I saw that one of the topics was "How to host a successful hangout".
I'm really curious about this. How does having a hangout on G+ lead to paying gigs? Do gallery owners spend time in hangouts? Do parents of seniors needing portraits spend time in hangouts? Do wedding couples spend time in hangouts? Nope, nope and nope!


The folks who spoke and gave presentations at the G+ conference all get paid by Google to tell you those things. They are telling you that to get a paycheck. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that but don't get it twisted. If you went to the conference simply to say you shook Scott Kelby's hand than IMHO your priorities are all wrong.
What you didn't hear at the G+ conference was that any time spent on social networks is time lost doing real marketing. Real marketing involves cold calling galleries and magazines. It involves creating and sending out postcards to your target market. It means hitting the pavement. If you look at the more successful "working" photographers in your own area, you will find that they aren't having hangouts and spend very little time on social sites. They are too busy shooting, processing, and marketing LOCALLY. They aren't concerned with how many followers they have our how many +1s they get. They don't care what their Klout score is because they realize that score has nothing to do with being a successful working photographer. They are more concerned with connecting with actual clients and improving their craft. They use sites like G+ for one reason. To share for the sake of sharing.

Like +Thomas Hawk said, we live in a time where stock agencies take advantage of photographers. We live in a time where magazines, newspapers, and the local TV news tempt you to send them images for free with the idea that "exposure" will lead to work. Which we all are learning is a huge myth. Everywhere you look you find rights grabs, be it on Pinterest, or in a photo contest or whatever.
We live a time where everyone has an uncle Bob who will shoot your wedding for free with his DSLR and kit lens...or some newb will shoot it for $500 if you respond to his Craigslist ad. Everywhere you look the value of photography has gone down.

But have we let that happen?

What if we didn't use Pinterest? What if we didn't send our images to the local news just to see our name on the big screen? What if we didn't allow Getty to rake us over the coals and get rich on our creativity? What if we realized that being a second shooter at a half dozen weddings is a much better idea than starting out as the "go to" photographer? I for one know that my eyes were bigger than my stomach when I first started in photography. My friends and family all told me how good my photos were and the truth is I tried to become a "professional' photographer way too soon. Of course they all take amateur photographs and have a vested interest in me so they might not be the best judges. Only now, seven years @ 10+ hours a day into my journey am I truly prepared to be a pro. Only now can I say that my work compares with other high quality photogs. Only now do I know exactly how to use my camera and lights creatively without even having to think about it.

I wish someone would have sat me down and told me the truth about the world of professional photography, rather than telling me Creative Commons will benefit me and that Hangouts are good for business. IMHO if we ever want to change the present culture of photography, this kind of information is as important as apertures and shutter speeds. I'm sorry if I don't completely trust those who are getting paid to share certain information. Of course a guy who works for Canon is going to tell me it's the best camera! Doesn't make it a "fact".

In the words of Nancy Reagan, "Just say NO" to giving away your work for free or for peanuts. It devalues all photography and you are only cutting your own throat. The only way the culture changes is if we do something about it. The masses will always take advantage of you if they can. So don't let them and spread the word to others so they don't have the option to say no to real market values.


Sorry for the blog sized post +Vivienne Gucwa . I'm sure as a writer you can understand how easy it is to be pages deep once you get started. Thanks for the discussion. :)

This is just one man's experience and opinions.
 
+T Alexander You said it better than me: "And those most "successful" on the internet are the ones selling shovels and gear to the gold prospectors." The people successful on the internet aren't people selling the product but selling the dream of success (Similar to the SEO crowd). They usually don't make money directly off their art/photography but make money selling tutorials, ebooks, website subscriptions, product reviews, advertising, etc. Plus, its a tight click among the various niches. Many run in a circle and if your not in that circle (Speaking at conferences, collaborating on websites, tutorials or other projects) then its very hard to get accepted into that circle.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa As someone who has you in 4 circles and sees your posts all the time, you definitely have the talent to be a successful professional photographer. The sad news is that non-fine-art Photography is falling victim to the "Rise of the Amateur" - where as in days gone by, photographers would be hired to take pictures of places and things and companies paid good for it. Today, publishers can and do use sites like Flickr to offer some amateur 'photo credit' or some small amount of money - but no where near what used to be offered professional photographers. I know because I get offers every couple months from for-profit firms who want to use my photos for free. I say No since its taking $'s from photographers who are trying to make a living at it - but I'm sure they are finding someone else who will say yes for free. And its not just in photography - my wife is a free-lance illustrator, and the same kind of thing is happening via DeviantArt, etc. - offering some student 'bragging rights' to use their illustration vs. paying a professional. So my advice is that you'll need to figure out some other ways to support your photography business - teaching, writing books, lecturing, working local events, and such. That's what I see from those who do it full time - just taking amazing pictures and putting them online won't bring in enough to cover the bills. I wish you luck and hope things turn around for you quickly.
 
+AJ Schroetlin - ummmmm.... wow.
Thanks for making my long winded rants seem short. And thanks for being exactly right about almost every single thing you typed.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Hello Vivienne, first of all I wish you a happy personal life, as in finding a lasting good relationship and all that gives you long term happiness. I would perhaps not want to use words such as vulnerable , gullible etc. since it would smack of patronising or sympathetic response. I've always seen in you a honest, simple person who deserves a fair deal if not the best.

Right from the day I started following your photos, I have always enjoyed, as someone has already pointed out, the genuine sense of warmth you bring in your posts - as reflected in the typically warm hues of your photos as well as in your positive writing. In times that we live in, positive outlook and clean fun is becoming a rarity with more focus on contrived interpretations or meandering abstractions. Your stream has certainly been a whiff of fresh air.

Though not a professional or even a good amateur myself, I could guess your pains even before this post. I did feel sad when you wrote a few days back that if ever someone bought a photo of yours online you'd jump in joy. You won't believe this - since that response of yours, I did actually want to order one of your photo prints as a gift to a friend who lives in Philadelphia. Since I am in the UK, without own house etc. couldn't think one for me though ! Should I tell you why ? It did feel very parasitical to be entreated to great photos, tips, knowledge etc. in return for practically nothing ! Not only you, I do follow a few other (apparently professional) photographers on G+ and often wondered what's the best way to keep it a symbiosis than a one way traffic !

I also wonder at the irony of this: we all pay through our nose for electricity, gas (as in heating!), fuel for car, broadband, mobile, landline, mortgage/rent, council tax, car maintenance and all things which offer some utility or the other, to us. Whereas, when it comes to Internet based offerings, be it someone hosting 10 GB worth email account or Photo uploading facility or whatever, there is a distorted expectation that this utility , somehow, has got to be perpetually free ? I do find this strange and wonder if it's the consumer who is so mean to always demand a free lunch and gets away with one OR is it a case of industry trying to not raise the bar or set right expectations. Imagine if Facebook or Google were to charge $ 10 per family per month, for 4-5 accounts, I am sure it wouldn't cause a mass exodus provided the industry as a whole shuns devious ad revenue or location tracking and all sorts of potentially hazardous (should the info fall into wrong hands) ways to increase shareholder wealth !

This very chat is hosted in some server farm, perhaps in the middle of nowhere, with the only 'noble' intent of finding more about what and who we are and if something could be offered that's of 'interest' to us !

Anyway, why am I writing all this. Just to let you know that there are enough people who are genuinely interested in well being of well meaning people. Wishing you good luck in your job search and all that lies ahead.
 
+Pete White - I have seen the same behavior over and over again regarding people saying a lot but not following through in terms of purchasing art. In some ways, it's very easy (much easier in fact) online to give off an aura of good will without ever committing to an action.

Someone further down in the comments linked to an excellent article about how non-profit organizations are also having issues with monetizing their huge followings on Facebook and other social networks. In the end, all the 'likes' or 'plusses' or even statements said in passing regarding doing something amount to much of anything in terms of seeing any sort of action. And really, I think that this is an issue because as our lives become more and more dependent on technology and the online world, perhaps there were thoughts that the online world would function differently than the offline world.

And really, it's hard to even make conclusions about any of this at the same time because social media is still relatively new and attitudes as well as technology shift at such a rapid pace that conclusions are just as hard to come by as people willing to purchase art. :)
 
+Lena Levin - Thank you! This has been suggested to me before and I definitely will be doing some sort of book at some point, most likely when I get my finances in order.
 
+John Dusseault - So true. The older I get the more I realize that success is a combination of knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time and having the awareness to understand when these sorts of synchronous events occur. If success were less random, it would probably be easier to attain.
 
+Niki Aguirre - And hello fellow science geek :). Thanks for the comment and suggestions. It's definitely something to consider when I am in a better place financially having just graduated with loan debt (heh).
 
+Erkki Juurus - Well, the reason I thought that initially is that in the past (even with a lot of 'followers') when I have posted text-only posts, they have been met with the digital equivalent of tumbleweeds. Additionally, if I post a photo with something serious that I have written that I am looking to discuss, people tend to focus only on the photo and ignore the writing for the most part. So, I didn't have high hopes for this post. I have to say I am still floored that it has prompted so much discussion!

Thank you so much for your encouraging words. :)
 
+Jon Herrera - I think that we all (to some extent) create our own mythologies and so the people who enjoy quite a bit of success in fields where success is increasingly more and more difficult to come by, may not always include everything that would fill in the blanks with their own mythologies because they are trying to project a different image to their audience (or even a tidier image).

But the people who aren't enjoying success also craft their own mythologies and often (as is evident by the lack of discourse regarding the topic I wrote this post about) the sad realities about not reaching expected success get left out of those mythologies for the reasons I detailed in my post. It's very hard to come to terms with a dream (or dreams) that isn't/aren't taking off for whatever reason.

Thanks!
 
+Brian McDonald - Aw! That's understandable. I have wanted to write this post and discuss this for months and wrote out earlier drafts only to discard them immediately.
 
+Peter Schmidt - It really is a gamble. I really enjoyed the points you laid out in your comment. The competition for attention gets increasingly more and more intense in an age where everyone is connected and able to 'compete', so to speak.
 
+Tyann Marcink - Thanks for the suggestions. I never attempted it because I haven't had the money to lay out for the space (and physical prints). Perhaps when I am in a better financial place I will give it a shot!
 
+Cliff Roth - I wanted to thank you again for linking me to the Neil Gaiman acceptance speech. It really hit home. ♥
 
+Nathan Wirth - It really saddens me to read that so many people whose art I am inspired by and deeply admire (like you and +Mike Shaw , for example) are in the same purgatorial position.

Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment and for sharing your own experience. You are right on the money when you stated: " I am fairly certain that you mostly take photos because you simply must ... so you're not going to ever stop." So true :).
 
Anytime. We have to get together sometime in the city this summer.
 
+Jim Davis - Thank you. You are so right in saying: "The amount of investment of time is truly incredible in social media." That, in and of itself, is an understatement. The amount of time spent vs. results is an equation that isn't a pretty one.
 
+Lisa Borel - To be honest, I wouldn't even know where to start in terms of an agent (looking for one, I mean). Perhaps it is something I should look into once I get myself into a better financial position in the coming months?
 
+Olav Folland - It's interesting that you stated: " Monetizing needs a new strategy, or better, a resurgence in the fact that a physical print is 1000% better than something on a computer screen." In an age where people are now making a choice to view books on a reader and/or the iPad, the physicality of art seems to be slipping alongside those advances (which even I can admit I love).

I like to envision the future more often than not and I see physical art of all mediums being replaced by digital displays on walls. Of course, if that was to happen (and it probably will), the market for art will shift again and possibly in a worse way than the reality of the market now.
 
+Harold Thompson - I absolutely love your statement: "it occurred to me that social media is sort of like cooking, if you stop stirring is sticks to the bottom of the pan." You have no idea (or maybe you do) how true that is. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face!
 
+Tamara Pruessner - Thanks!! I find the gallery issue to be an even more complex one regarding the capital required to show (often) vs. the limited visibility (and that's without getting into the cut that the gallery takes!). However, those who attend galleries (for the most part) tend to have purchasing intent so who knows? I would be interested in hearing how it turns out for you! Love your work. :)
 
+Suzanne Haggerty - Hah! I have had that conversation many times with various people regarding how the value of art seems to rise once the artists are no longer with us. It's sad but true!
 
+Vivienne Gucwa - Oh I am totally with you on that. What I am trying to do, is print up a couple or three fantastic prints, at different sizes and then get them framed. It is a slow process because we just don't have loads of spare dollars hanging around to spend on the canvases/prints necessary for a gallery. But once I get a bit stocked, then there are a couple of galleries here, that are interested in my work. We will see what happens. I need to find out exactly how much the cut is for each one. And the other thing I am looking at, is local businesses for smaller, more inexpensive prints to show.
 
I've been living these challenges for some years now and empathize deeply. How to monetize, as they say, my experience and talent. Selling my work directly has been a challenge. I used to make a lot of money from stock photography, but sadly, it's just a trickle these days with microstock and their ilk. Similarly, I receive a trickle of sales from the many images I have on imagekind.com. However, I have made good money from teaching photo workshops in my local area and will continue in that direction. I joke that I'm training my competition, as many of my students go right into the field of working as pro photographers.
 
+Thomas Hawk - Regarding your points:

1) I can't agree with this more vigorously than I already do. I find Getty's cut completely ridiculous at this point. Instead of looking forward to my monthly statements from Getty, I usually cringe when I look at them. I never considered that copyright litigation was the enormous hurdle that it probably is in regards to entities like Google Plus, Facebook or even Flickr taking stock photography by storm. That makes sense though, however frustrating as it is to consider.

2) It's what I have been doing for years and years now. I don't have a fantastic support network and moved out on my own when I was 18. So, it's been non-stop struggle for a very, very long time. When I look at the music, writing and photography I have produced in the last few decades, sometimes I ask myself if the products of my creative mind would have been vastly different if all the things I have been through were more positive than negative. It's interesting to consider.

3) 4) You are right, of course. I know my story is still being written in regards to my photography and writing which still gives me a lot of hope (despite my frustrations). :)

5) So true. Who knows what the future will hold in that respect as photography becomes more and more democratized. I think there will still be a demand for all the photography avenues that you mentioned but the demand will decline steadily as people get their hands on gear and the learning gap closes with better techology.

6) I found your statement: "Probably 50 gatekeepers in the world control 98% of the fine art market. This arrangement is ripe for disruption." the most intriguing mostly because I agree wholeheartedly and also because I can't fathom how the existing hierarchy would be disrupted.

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I won't ever stop shooting. It's too much a part of me and a creative outlet that I am far too passionate about to ever give up. It's in my blood now :).
 
+Sean Cowen - Thank you, my friend. You were also one of the first people I followed here and you have always been so warm and encouraging. I am also blown away by the response to this.
 
+helen sotiriadis - I agree with you on your points. In the end, what is good about these networks is the connections formed over interests.
 
+DeShaun Craddock - I have never heard of Powerhouse Books. I will have to look into it. I will eventually do a book, for sure. It's why I started to archive my writing a few months back (finally). Thanks for the suggestion. It's something I will look into when I get to a more financially stable place this year.
 
+J. Rae Chipera - Thanks so much for weighing in! This statement really resonated: "our competition continues to increase while our clients become poorer and poorer in this economy..." Very true. And you mentioned the same things that frustrated me about photo-journalism last year when I flirted with it for one brief (hot mess of a) minute.
 
+Wendy Baker - Thanks for sharing your experience working as a photographer in various fields to make ends meet, so to speak. In terms of the glaring question of whether these sites can be used to monetize talent, I think everything is still so new including discourse on the topic (real, honest discourse) that it's hard to get a grasp on anything related to the debate.
 
+Paul Stickland - I am SO looking forward to your post on Zazzle. I was very, very active on their forums for a bit but got so frustrated with issues there (regarding forum drama and site issues) that I abandoned them entirely ages ago for my own sanity. Please do let me know about the secret forum for the disgruntled of Zazzle! Dying to read it. :)

I still need to check my PMs from earlier.
 
+Irma Walter - Fascinating comment. I went into how concepts like the world being a meritocracy and the American Dream tend to shape how people view things like marketing in the arts (online and offline) in earlier comments above and skew expectations. Was interesting to read your comment now in light of that.
 
+Trey Ratcliff - Art should be the vital energy that sustains everything else in life. You are right. Allowing it to get muddied and sullied is never a great or even marginally good idea. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
 
+Claudio Ramirez - It's interesting that you stated : "Big media tends to portrait the social media as the place where a new American dream happens on a global scale. The social media echo chamber gladly amplifies it. "

I think that people would love to believe that anything is possible always (because that is essentially the definition of hope). Social media and the online world is, for many, a new frontier of sorts and just like any new land that holds out a promise of something better, people have a lot of interesting expectations that come along with their hopeful assessment of this new land.
 
+David Ford - Interesting. Your experience with a local gallery seems to be echoed by quite a few here.
 
+Eyal Oren - Thanks for sharing your own experience pursuing photography. I really agree with your assessment that it's hard to compete with the sentimentality that comes when people take their own photo and are able to print it out as is currently the case with mobile photography. And I have no doubt that this will become easier and easier as technology shifts and learning gaps close for those who are just casual photography enthusiasts.
 
phew that was a lot of catching up to do. Thanks +Vivienne Gucwa this had rolled off my notifications apparently :/

I think, in the near term there will still be a need for printed media. Until the electronics come up to snuff and hi-res large format displays are cheap, who's going to want a room with one tiny thing on the wall? Or, the only art is being displayed on the TV?

The day will come, I'm sure, when something along the lines of e-paper can display really crisp color images for a decent price, and things will have to change at that point. Maybe it'll be micropayments for digital files, or something along those lines. Who can tell?

In the near term, though, there is still a lot of white space on the walls. It's up to us to fill them, and remind people of the value of art. Which, is the tricky thing. From a purely art standpoint, we have to make images that people want, and subtly let them know that they can have a copy for their very own, without "pushing" it at them. A dance between artist and aficionado.

At the same time, we have a full dance hall. There are so many people out there with a ticket. Some good, some, well, they may have the eye or the technique... Standing out from that crowd is increasingly difficult - I myself am admittedly a relative newcomer to the market - but what that ultimately means is that the days of the high-end prints aren't going to be around much longer, particularly with the average person's budget right now. Something that people can buy for $20-50 is going to market a lot better than the $100+ works.

One of the things I'm trying to work out is making it such that when someone buys something, they can just grab a frame and hang it. Cut into the framing business by sending everything pre-matted, signed, etc.

Is it the right choice? I'm not sure. I'm also not sure how to make that value clear to someone that might buy something. That whole 'you're getting something from the artist and he/she's saving you about $80 to get it done right' value.

Anyway...
+Tamara Pruessner I'm thinking about the local gallery thing too. From what I understand it's a bit difficult to break into, on top of the capital investment. Once I can deal with people again, hitting the local art scene probably isn't a bad idea :P
 
+C.J. Shane - I like your attitude towards the work you put into building your own business in that you consider it pieces in a larger mosaic. That's a nice way of looking at it.
 
Thanks +Emon Hassan - I have considered it definitely. I most likely will do something like that in the future.
 
+Olav Folland - It can be very difficult to break into. One gallery that is interested in me, won't consider my work for another 6 months...and if they do decide to use my art, it won't go into the gallery for another 6 months after that.

One of the things that I am finding interesting, is that if you take someone the physical print to see in person, they are more likely to sit and discuss things with you rather than if you send them the website link. When I do the second, I get "oh those are great" and nothing else. When I do the first, it feels like I have "stuck" in their minds more.
 
+T Alexander - I read your comment earlier this morning and I kept stating this sentence out loud to various people throughout the day (who all thought it was a brilliant assessment!): "And those most "successful" on the internet are the ones selling shovels and gear to the gold prospectors." So agree (I am sure there are exceptions though).

Brilliant. Thank you so much.
 
+Mike Shaw - You have such talent for writing/storytelling and photography. "I have no idea, we can only ride wave of the day to see where it will take us :) " Absolutely!
 
+Terrill Welch - I agree with you on so many points. I know that my own endeavors with photography and writing are still very, very much in their early stages since it's only been a relatively short time. Thanks for your input.
 
+Ryn Shane-Armstrong - Wow, that article was fascinating in light of this entire discussion. Also thank you for the list of names you provided.
 
+Tamara Pruessner thus my 'prints is 1000% better' comment, but yeah. When I'm ready to start knocking on doors it's going to have to be with an old-fashioned portfolio book, I think.

We have a thriving artist community here, but it's rather insular, from what I can gather. And, unfortunately, most of the folks that show up for the art walks are slightly more interested in spending money at the bars than the galleries :P
 
+P E Sharpe - What you said here: " The harsh reality is that in the same time people have decided to sell their photographs online, photography itself has become democratized and ubiquitous. It's just as hard a sale offline as it is on." is so true. I think that people want to believe that offline monetization is somehow easier in light of the facts that it is ridiculous hard to nearly impossible to make any sort of living selling fine art photography online and via commercial/contractual work. However, it just comes with a whole host of other issues.
 
+Gino Barasa - All the likes, plus 1s and great discussion don't go along with me to the supermarket when I need to buy food. So true. :)
 
+Joshua Gunther - Great comment. I am really happy I made the post now. It's very difficult to find this sort of discussion about the reality for the majority of artists anywhere. Most of the discussions I have seen have been peppered with wishes and hopeful talk glossing over the ugly parts.
 
+AJ Schroetlin - What an incredible comment. Thank you so, so much for taking the time to write that all out. I totally know what it is like to let the words flow out of the floodgates once you get started.
 
+Michael Sweeney - I told +T Alexander above that I loved his statement about the shovels so much that I repeated it several times to a few people today when I was out and about. It's really brilliant. :) Thanks for your comment.
 
+Paul Moody - Thank you for sharing what you did. I also see the same things occurring in other art fields other than photography as you detailed with the example of your wife.
 
+Srini Radhakrishnan - Thank you so much! Your comment put a smile on my face. So happy you enjoy my work and I enjoyed your thoughts about the irony of consumer expectations in regards to online utilities vs. 'real life' utilities.
 
+P E Sharpe if it's evening (PST) I can be available if you'd like. Otherwise, I'd be happy to watch :)

+Vivienne Gucwa should be involved though, since this is all her fault ...
 
+Vivienne Gucwa _ all that praise is there for a reason though. You blow MINDS!!! (my mind in particular)
But to be honest when I see a thousand +1's on an image it annoys me. Not because of the people +1ing, but because I know it doesn't accomplish anything other than a dopamine rush. Maybe I am too pragmatic. Maybe I'm just getting old and I'm not turned on by pats on the head anymore.

I want more than that. I want to be able to see a reward for my work that has substance. I want to be able to get better equipment and go to better locations and buy all the cool software and take lessons from +Jaime Ibarra and other cool people. And all of that takes money. So until people take +1's as payment I'm going to have to go ahead and insist on making money.

But there is a grit and a toughness that comes through your posts. I sense that there is no quit in you. I feel your resolve and EVERYONE see's your talent and ability. When I add all of this together I see you achieving success in whatever form you wish.

Post Script - You DO NOT have to reply to everything we say. If you do you will never get anything accomplished. :) Start by not replying to my ramblings. I will consider the time you saved as more time for you to make more images.
 
+Betty Sederquist - Microstock has definitely affected the world of stock photography in a major way. It's interesting that you have branched out into the workshop arena. Do you ever wonder what percentage of your students will end up finding it difficult to make livings off of photography? That's interesting to ponder!
 
+Gino Barasa - This is an off-week for me in terms of everything including working on art since I determined I need a breather (the calm before the storm of hitting the pavement and looking for a job) and this is probably one of the most interesting discussions I have seen unfold.

Totally replying now in light of your recent edit ;).
 
I read everything.
Your words, Vivienne ... and everyone else's.
I think I need to go and lie down for a few days now ... ;oD

Let me preface the following with: I love you and your work. I think you are incredible and exceptional in so many ways.

So, I'm going to put on my "big sister" hat and ask you a really pointed question here: Do you think you are exceptional? Do you think you are more exceptional than others who are exceptional?

If the answer to that from you is a resounding "YES!!", then you already have the foundation covered. (I.e., that you have no uncertainty chewing away at your ability to push what you want to fruition.)

Essentially, what sells big time are things that people can get nowhere else––otherwise, as you mentioned, the money comes only in dribs and drabs. So, you have to know that you are exceptional, and more exceptional than the next guy. The next stage is finding the niche that wants your brand of exceptional.

–––––
+helen sotiriadis hit the nail full on the head with her comment, "we need to stop trying to force what we want to sell on other people and instead, try to understand what people truly need... and provide that." (Damn, you're wise, Helen!!)
–––––
^
|

That is the key right there!!!
Find out what they need (or want badly) and produce that.

And I think I am going to go off and do that right now ... :o)

Hugs to you, dearest Vivienne!!
 
Well, I just wrote a diatribe then accidentally pressed an arrow and it all went away. Grrr....

Point being, that I've tried for years to sell my art and photography online and although I've sold a few prints to online friends,
we are talking minuscule amounts. I do sell a lot of prints though, but I have to have them made, and I have to sell them at a show or other vending point. That one on one connection with a customer means a whole lot in a photographic purchase I think. But it's not enough to survive on by any means. Online sales and continued promotion online feels GREAT to the ego, but several months ago I realized that if I spent all the efforts out there in the real world that I spend trying to promote myself online, I would more than likely start making money in my own community doing photography. And so I have, and I'm getting more and more local gigs as a result. It's forced me to take on something that formerly made me squeamish, lighting, how to use it, when to use it and why.

What you've got in your pocket now, due to your online fame and reputation, and your amazing work to boot, is the solid kudos in your pocket to get an awesome job at a magazine or newspaper, if you wanted it.

Anyway, I'm glad you wrote this little bit of truth. Online marketing is expensively eating away at so many people's chances of making a REAL LOCAL living. As it is intoxicating to get all the attention. But I have learned, you can't eat applause. Most people just don't have the hours in the day to do it all, unless they are having people do the online stuff for them. So when I see people online 24/7 I often wonder how they can do that and be in the real world marketplace too. It doesn't add up. Then I worry for them. And when I'm online too much, I worry for me and my life offline starts to go to hell. Even to the point of having medical bills from over computer use. Seductive, soothing, connection, but all so very shallow in the grander scheme, and often quite harmful to one's mental and physical health.
 
A short answer, as I came quite late to this post.

Probably, one of the very few companies which has made money online is Google, and from the beginning. However, I suspect the ratio of their profits to the number of people who use Google worldwide is pretty low.

I agree with you respect of the quality of interaction here, in G+.

I received an invitation to post, and sell, through Fine Art America. I haven't decide if I am going to do it or not.

One of the problems of online communities and companies is that the medium itself is ephemeral, it is always about the NOW and Here.
 
I've been digesting this post for over a day now, reading nearly all of the comments.

I am not sure there is anything for me to add that has not already been discussed. I will say that +AJ Schroetlin comments resonated with me. In speaking to my friend +Leon Cato (who I sincerely hope would get around to reading this post and +AJ Schroetlin comment) he expressed almost identical sentiment. Marketing online today has become to much of a focus for people, when it should just be a portion. Hitting the ground, walking shop to shop, restaurants, business offering a unique service will be more lucrative than hitting every social network until 3 am. Although it is helpful to have an online presence, it is not as critical as people would have you believe. I have had more referrals over a drink with a business owner or patron than with any online contacts.

Intimacy, real contact, tangibility.

So much sound advice in this post and serves as a real testament to community and support for your unique caliber of work. What you do is special, it is important and there is no one doing what you do, quite like you do it. Remember that. Believe it.
 
“huge reach, limited profitability”

This is when businesses and services have to restructure their offerings or remain in zone where inevitable decline on that reach is imminent. The problem with photography as a business is not that everyone can do it... it is that everyone is still offering... pictures.
Here is a print, here is a poster, and over here we have another framed picture. I equate this saturation with the music industry and the digital audio revolution. Bands and labels made noise about piracy, dwindling profits and loss of control. The digital revolution leveled the playing field for the suppliers of demand in numerous creative arts related industries. It is inevitable. Photographs are cheap, reproducible and highly accessible. Competition is everywhere and cameras are in the hands of everyone, not just photographers. So how do you sell your photography without disappearing in a pool of photographers that are also offering photographs?
I think by not offering print photographs. Restructure the offering.
 
i think that similar to some previous comments, alot like the music industry, the mistake is trying to sell the photographs/prints like an artist sells his music. Musicians nowadays arent making money off the music and thats why cds arent big anymore. They are using their music to sell other things such as concerts, tshirts, iphone covers, video games, etc.

Instead, try to use your photography to sell something else ....or even just to sell people on you. Once people are sold on YOU, than you can sell them other tangible things that isnt over-saturated in a given market and make your money on THAT.

I am a professional photographer but its not via selling photography. I do event photography where the end result is the selling point and the environment im in....such as doing green screen photography for a client. Its simply a fun quick photo service im providing (like the kiosks in malls that sell your photograph on tshirts, mugs, etc)....but this is more about knowledge of software and unique products than photography skills.

But i UTILIZE my photography skills to give my services an edge, my website a unique look, etc. So in essence the Photographer side of me is selling his photographs to the Event Photography business side of me to use in web marketing :)
 
So little left to add at this point. So much has been said, including especially useful ideas about monetizing photography through means other than selling fine art prints. But I am also reminded of my favorite quote from one of my favorite movies: " It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great." Jimmy Dugan to Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own.
Who wouldn't want to make a living by playing ball, or making art, or whatever it is that each of us loves doing anyway. If it were easy, everyone would do it and we'd have nobody left to manufacture cameras, build the web, grow food, run power plants, or invent medicine and iphones and other great stuff.
The hard is what makes it great.
It's so hard that I have no interest in trying. Like many others who commented before me, I make my living otherwise and do this as an unpaid side job, who'd love to make enough to pay for a bit of gear, but don't even require that. The thought of trying to make a living off of selling my images is scary, but if it were not scary, if it were easy, I would do it.
The hard is what makes it great.
Of course, you can make great art and not make a living off of it. Your work is great, +Vivienne Gucwa, yet I cannot predict whether you will ever earn a living from it. But if and when it happens you will have attained something truly rare and wonderful, and it will be all the sweeter for how hard and rare it is. Best wishes and chin up.
 
+Mark Garbowski - My larger point had to do with wide reach in a digital age and selling art as a product. Many people equate a large online reach with instant success (even when thinking of the arts) when the reality is far more sobering.

I don't think that anyone would disagree that good things take a lot of work. However, the work vs. results model is far more skewed online (I detailed a bit about the amount of work it takes for seemingly nothing when dealing primarily with art marketing online but even that is a bit understated looking back on the language I used) and the digital marketing model which usually receives a glossy spin deserves a bit more scrutinization as is evident by the economist article linked in the comments above regarding non-profits having a hard time seeing tangible results from their wide online reach and the article I linked to in my post regarding the same issues.
 
Oh dear, I think I failed to convey my point. And rather than ramble on again at length let me just state that I did not mean to imply that work and effort are the key ingredients to get to the next step. Nor is it talent. By "hard" I meant something less tangible. I believe I definitely understood your point, and regret my inability to properly communicate my own.
 
+T Alexander - I have to say thank you again for your phrasing regarding selling shovels to gold prospectors being akin to what is going on with all the 'experts' helping to 'build brands in social media' and all that jazz. Really, it's the perfect analogy.
 
THANK YOU, +Vivienne Gucwa for being brave enough to put this out there. I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to write something similar to this...only regarding my music. I am in the same boat as you, sister (except with fewer followers). I have a lot to say regarding this whole subject and I'll definitely weigh in further once I can articulate what I am thinking/feeling...
In the meantime, thank you again, for being honest and for sharing your experience. Love ya, girl. XO
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I think +David Ford makes an interesting point during the comparision of selling his photos more successfully in a "small real world gallery" than over the internet. I found it interesting that he even buys his own work online to resell in his gallery. I imagine that is a cost effective way to replenish his stock of printed images.

David's comment brought to mind the summer art fairs that pop up in many of our cities. Online galleries kinda remind me of these casual galleries. When visiting an art fair, I often wonder how successful these artists are selling their work. Doing the summer art fair circuit I would think could be tough, since aside from time they also have actual out of pocket expenses that must be balanced against turning a profit. I would be curious to know: is there much profit to be made at these events and are there lessons to be learned for people trying to sell their work over the internet?

Now that Facebook has gone public and it needs to show its investors it can turn a profit, could it be the potential "summer fair" that opens up a new market for artists?

Vivienne, I hope you find your success. Your thoughts raised many questions for myself about our perceptions of work online vs in the "real world" and how best to exploit this new world but I won't ramble. Thanks for sharing your NYC photos and writings. They always bring back fond memories of my days in the Big Apple.

Cheers
 
+Vivienne Gucwa very interesting post and comments. We talk about this stuff every day at SmugMug.

I'll just add that there is a reason why even Ansel Adams had to shoot weddings to survice. Edward Weston died poor. So on and so forth.

Most people who do well in photography don't do it well because of their photography, but it is because they found a way to monetize some other aspect of business - be it education, or an app, or ebooks, etc.

I'm convinced it's impossible to make good money with just photography.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa - your entire story resonates with me. Incredible post. This should be a must read for every single person wanting / trying to make photography a career.

The promise of a living from photography is what drives sites like iStockPhoto and all of the other stock photo sites. The same promise drives us to open acounts on RedBubble, Fine Art America, PhotoShelter, SmugMug and dozens of other sites. I've tried them all and have yet to pay for a camera. I have a photo book published by a brick and mortar publisher and still haven't covered the cost of my camera.

I'm convinced that +Ivan Makarov is correct. That, for the vast majority, the only way to make money from photography, is to sell information to help other people with their photography. Many of the "successful" photographers here sell eBooks, lead workshops, do paid speaking engagements, etc. IMHO, this is where the wide reach is the most valuable. People who might not buy a print might buy an eBook for $5. People might want to meet you. You have charisma and many people might register for a workshop on shooting NYC.

I have no need or desire to buy a print of NYC but I might buy entry to an online webinar.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa so funny what you said about the shovel and gold prospector. I live in a very well known 'arts' area, Asheville, NC. I have said many times to folks here and now will say it here, the only people making money in an 'arts' area are those in service to artists. Printers, framers, art supplies, photography stuff, etc etc/ Not the artists themselves for the most part. :-)
 
+Vivienne Gucwa As an elderly amateur photographer let me first say you must be doing something right. I used to be a film photographer and am returning to my hobby after a fairly long break and going digital. I chose you as one of the folks to follow to help me progress and relearn some skills. As for making money that's the difficult one the main thing you need apart from the ability to take great pictures is persistence. The other thing to do is find a way to make money whilst pursuing your dream. A friend of mine a great landscape photographer  puts bread on the table photographing peoples puppies and pets( I know :) Remember 'persistence'
 
+Vivienne Gucwa Just read your incredibly brave and honest post, and totally agree with it. About 6 years back, I left my Corporate IT job, and for a while tried to make a living from selling prints of my photos and had exactly the same experience. Minimal sales, and those I did sell through Ebay barely made my costs back. Like a lot of the commenters here have mentioned, local sales are a good move. The most success I had was a local exhibition I arranged myself by hiring a little hall and posting flyers through letterboxes. That actually translated into a fair number of prints sold, but not enough money to justify the time. In the end, I went back to programming!

The internet seems to promise a dream where we can all be freelance creatives and make a living at it, but I'm still not convinced!! Don't give up on photography though. Whatever you do for a living, its so important to have a creative outlet for the sake of your soul. 

Best of luck to you
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I read your post and gave it some thought and I've come to the conclusion that there is no secret formula. A person does "their part" (marketing, hard work, talent) and either the forces come together to "make it happen" or they don't. I wish I had something deeper to say.

Of course, doing our part certainly should increase the probability of "success" whatever that means and that's the hard part. What does success mean? I don't think we always get to choose; At least not initially. Is it making a living doing something we love? Is it over 1 or 2 million followers? It may be right before us and we don't recognize it. I think once we do, it becomes easier to fit in the other "pieces" and make it all more meaningful.

And with that, I'm headed out on a road trip with a camera of course. :)
 
Funny, I came to write the exact same thing. Only thing I would add is time....when doing your own thing, everything takes longer than you think/expect...everything.
 
Is there anything I can do to help?
 
+Peter Davis - That's kind of you to ask. I will be embarking on a job search starting on Monday. If you have any leads, feel free to send them my way. I am great at marketing, social media, writing and a bevy of other things that I am not sure are marketable in this rapidly disintegrating economy.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa   You have tried everything reasonable to achieve some goals but have hit some obstacles.  Fine, Plan B: as you are doing, look at reality and do whatever it takes to meet your monetary needs and continue on with your enjoyment of photography and see where that leads also.

I talked with a photographer acquaintance who has been doing photography professionally for over 20 years.  He indicated that for him to make a living, he had to do what most photographers don't want to do, that is bread and butter type photography as headshots, weddings, product photography, senior portraits and such.  In other words, doing photography that the masses of people need more often than fine art photography.  He does his own personal projects for fun and to keep sane.

You have impressed me in many ways.  I always appreciate someone trying to accomplish something.  Try Plan B while reaching for the stars!
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I like your photographs.  I read your complete item above, despite the fact that it had no photos.  I understand how difficult it is to make money with any form of art.  I myself had a college degree in a liberal arts college, starting as a chemistry major.  When the young man I met the day before classes later asked me to go steady with him and told me chemistry was not "lady-like," I switched majors.  I married him the day after my last exam of my freshman year.  He was the first and only boy who had ever asked me for a date until about twenty years later, when we were no longer married to each other.  I was eighteen and he turned twenty-one shortly before our wedding.  That was in a year when girls did not need to learn how to make money as long as they found a husband.  That's not why I married him, but having children and keeping him happy were what kept me busy, in addition to finishing school.  I took the classes needed to become a teacher, and ended up with a group major in psychology and music (theory.) After graduation, I enjoyed creating music for other people to play, by using india ink to place each note by hand.  Times have changed now.  Because I did not then have a way to present my music, I knew there was no way to make money from it.  I did not even expect money through music, but I so much wished other people could read my compositions and appreciate in them what I myself appreciated about them.  Some of the music I wrote had lyrics.  Later lyrics started coming without the music, so my poems really are just lyrics with no music.  Now, since 2001, my joy is in sharing my poems.  I make copies and give them away to people I meet who are kind to me, in casual grocery store conversations, for example.    I'm not asking for money for copies of my poems.  Your photos can bring much joy to many people.  Is that sufficient payment for you?  Can you find something else for which you can be paid, while you yourself enjoy and share your artistic ability?  I don't know the answer for you; I am just asking the question.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa That you for sharing your experience. I am one of the few who has been able to "monetize" photography on the internet (see http://bit.ly/KogjC7 and the five other posts in the series).

The main differences I see between us:
- I do not have a lot of followers in Social Media, but I have a lot of direct traffic on my website.
- Your work seems mostly limited to views of NYC, which is the most photographed city in the world. I've a greater range as I have been photographing seriously for well over two decades.
- Over the first decade I didn't even think about money when photographing. In 2002 I achieved the milestone to be the first to photograph each of the 58 US National Parks in large format, yet I started my business only in 2001.
- Although I already had a large body of work, it then took a few years to even reach profitability (in a more favorable environment than now), so hang in there !
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I read your entire post, and many of the comments. 

I am a poet, fiction writer, and journalist, and my husband is a journalist and singer/songwriter. I have to say: We're in the middle of a technological revolution. You might want to read Clay Shirky's post "Thinking the Unthinkable." http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/

For decades now, kids were raised with the notion that if they were talented and worked hard, they would find success in their fields. But we've got a major disruption going on. My husband works for a newspaper, and in the last five years, at least a third of the staff has been laid off. Those who remained have endured reduced hours and pay cuts.

My husband's two folk/Americana CDs got good reviews and some airplay, but he's yet to break even. And he never will.

I studied photography in college (back in the days of film). In the last couple of years, I've again taken it up. I know I will never make back the money I invested in equipment, but I realized that going in, thanks to experience with writing and music. These are the times in which we live.

You're right to bring up Paris. We creators are, in essence, a collective now. We should help each other whenever we can. We'll have to grab any opportunity that comes along in order to pay the bills. But our intellectual life will be what sustains us. 

In a forgotten film called "Echo Park," a character expresses disgust with the fact that everyone he meets is biding time till they make it big in Hollywood. His friend disagrees, saying she loves the fact that people are secretly, in their off time, doing something wild and beautiful.

All hail the magnificent photographers on Google+. They make my day, day after day. All hail the editors who work without pay. All hail the YouTube singers who pour their hearts and souls into a song and expect nothing more than a thumbs-up or a subscription in return. Once we get past how unfair it is to work for no pay, we remember we're "living in an age of miracles" (to quote an elderly gentleman who purchased the entire catalog of Nino Rota's film scores for his iPod).

Keep on finding beauty and spreading kindness. With that formula, you can't go wrong.
 
Very interesting... and vaguely disconcerting. I think what you have addressed here probably  resonates with a lot of us who like to think of ourselves as photographers. We have to know, intuitively, that making money on this stuff is just about impossible. But the fly in the ointment is that, there are indeed a few who do make a living at it (Ratcliff being an obvious example). And that fact facilitates our little fantasy. When I first got involved with flickr, I was amazed at just how many really creative photographers are out there. Now on G+, I realize there are many thousands of people who are really, really good at it. So, why do we do it? For me, I know there is the possibility I might just get an awesome image. And that's fun. Most of us have that urge to create and for me, I guess that's enough. I have to say, it's a revelation that  you haven't made some serious money with your images. In my opinion, they stand out and you have a great, identifiable style. I would urge you not to give up on your dream. Your images are definitely sales-worthy.
 
Very heartfelt post +Vivienne Gucwa. Perhaps your photography will bring what you want when you least expect it and not when you need it most. As one who has been involved in photography for over 40 years ago I realized similar things long ago but I still  love photography.

I remember our first conversation last fall when you told me about your plans and I was surprised and told you that even long time established photographers like Joe McNally and Bob Krist have to have supplemental sources of photographic income like books, workshops etc to make their ends meet.

In my opinion Trey Ratcliff's photographic presence is based more on his social networking skill than his photography and he is a true master of social networking.

Making a living as a photographer has always been difficult perhaps now more than ever. It takes much more than a keen eye to make it in the big world of photography. A big (make that huge) ego, marketing savvy and business skills will get one farther than great work will.

I know you will continue your photography and hope you will find something that will make things more financially rewarding for you.

Best to you.
 
At some point I seem to have stopped receiving notifications about this post so I assumed that there were no more comments. However, there have been many comments since I last looked. Interesting.
 
+Robin Griggs Wood - I appreciate the time you took to comment on this and you are so kind. Thank you. I do think your sentiment is quite positive and I think that there are broader issues here (as referenced in the other comments) regarding providing something that people may want but the connection between your work and their acquisition of it being broken currently due to a number of factors like:

1: over-saturation of the market in most areas of the arts so that the number of exceptional artists producing amazing work is at an all time high creating a glut for consumers who are faced with a paradox of choice on a daily basis leading to decision paralysis

2: the democratization of most art mediums which allows everyone to produce their own content thereby minimizing the demand for other people's art even if your own art has a signature style and is quite different from most people's art.

3: the economy which is suffering on a global scale which affects purchasing choice.

4: the noise ratio which has been steadily increasing (linked to point #1) which causes even people who are interested in your art to 'tune out' after a while because it's impossible to keep up with everyone all the time (which I have witnessed here on multiple occasions with connections I have made and fostered). 
 
+HEATHER FAY - I am happy that so many people found some value in my post. Initially, I felt as if I was letting loose a terrible secret that I would regret (silly, I know). However, I appreciate the discussion it has spawned over time in this thread and in shares of this thread. In some ways I feel a sense of relief. It's not that I am happy with the state of online art across all mediums (since it's so dismal currently for every area of the arts!). But perhaps I have spurned others to consider things and think of solutions. Much love and thank you. :)
 
+Bob Abell - It's interesting that you brought up the subject of art fairs. While my discussions initially was posted to discuss the dismal online art world (currently), several people have mentioned fairs and a few have mentioned that selling art offline is nearly as bad as selling online. Having no experience selling offline (aside from one gallery showing that I did), I wonder just what the reality is for these fairs and exhibitions. It's interesting to ponder.

Thanks for your kind words as well.
 
+Ivan Makarov  - I agree with your conclusion (especially after reading through this thread and the subsequent other threads it spawned on the subject) :). Thanks for the comment.
 
+Charles Lupica  - I finally realized that there were additional comments to this thread. I really appreciate your comment and I agree with your assessment. Thank you, my friend.
 
+Robin Stanford  - There seems to be recurring sentiment in this comment thread which you summed up well when you said: "The internet seems to promise a dream where we can all be freelance creatives and make a living at it, but I'm still not convinced!" I won't ever give up on photography but I feel that I have come to many sobering realizations in the past year regarding the state of the arts online (and perhaps offline). Thank you!
 
+Ron Bearry  - Thank you for your philosophical comment. Sometimes when we question the current system it just seems to create more questions :).
 
+Eve Adam - Thanks for sharing your experiences. As indicated in the post, I am currently in the process of looking for a (non-photography based) job. 
 
+Donna Trussell - Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree that in many ways there is a huge disconnect currently between the promises of meritocracy that many people grew up believing and the economic reality for many (in the arts and in other fields as well). 

On the other hand, you are completely correct in your assessment that we are living in a rather miraculous age in terms of the technological revolution and the incredible amount of brilliance that we have access to on a daily basis. G+ seems to magnify this brilliance and bring many people together which is wonderful. 
 
+Lisa Osta  -  Thanks so much for your comment! I wanted to address something you stated: "Making a living as a photographer has always been difficult perhaps now more than ever. It takes much more than a keen eye to make it in the big world of photography. A big (make that huge) ego, marketing savvy and business skills will get one farther than great work will."

One of the reasons I made this post was to illustrate that you can have a very, very wide reach online and quite a bit of marketing savvy and still not get very far these days :). I think this is due to these points I shared above in another comment:

1: the over-saturation of the market in most areas of the arts so that the number of exceptional artists producing amazing work is at an all time high creating a glut for consumers who are faced with a paradox of choice on a daily basis leading to decision paralysis.

2: the democratization of most art mediums which allows everyone to produce their own content thereby minimizing the demand for other people's art even if your own art has a signature style and is quite different from most people's art (one can't discount the sentimentality of consuming one's own work in physical form over other's work).

3: the economy which is suffering on a global scale which affects sales.
 
Yes, I agree with your three points but the big message is as you have stated that having thousands to millions of followers on G+ and Facebook is not the same as having several good solid business relationships. Which is probably hard to attain in the current environment.

It is also a bit naive to assume that Trey Ratcliff is making a living as a photographer on the internet, it seems obvious he has additional income streams other than what is on the surface of the internet, having moved his family to New Zealand is evidence of this, I'm don't mean to be dising him I think is a great sharer of information but his circumstance is much different than most photographers.

I hope you will eventually get what you want from your photography. Cheers
 
Just finished reading +QT Luong blog and checked out his photo gallery. Well thought out business plan and amazing diversity and high quality in the images presented. Perhaps QT should be teaching a photography and business workshop. There always seem to be photograhy workshops for how to take photos but I never see them advertised for how to market oneself and create a business. 
 
+Lisa Osta - So true. Nothing can compare to several good solid business relationships. 
 
It is very brave of you to write this post. Who knows but perhaps what you have discovered here will lead towards a new chapter of your life.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa I wrote you a few tips off-line, and the truth is that I have been able to scrape by over the last few years but I began on Christmas Day 1999!  And in my first year, I sold exactly one print online (I still had a stock pile of money saved up from my old corporate job) and I got a check for that print that bounced!

So I had to pay for the bounced check and I was selling large darkroom prints.

I did shows with some success but I believed that I could offer many more prints and sizes through the web.

It has been a financial roller coaster and it has taken everything I've got to ride it out.  A few months back I was totally out of money and asked for donations from people (and got donations).

Then I made some changes and things turned around again.  On top of everything else - selling fine art right now is even harder than usual because of the wretched economy.

I sold a lot of work to art buyers and that work went into new buildings.  No new buildings - no new art.

I definitely have never had any luck selling through third party places like RedBubble or SmugMug - because customers want a personal touch; plus it's better if I see every piece that is going out to a customer.  I almost completely ruined my business (I won't mention the company) when I did outsource the printing and have it shipped directly to customers because print quality wasn't always good.

I have done everything.  For six months I dragged a cart in front of the Metropolitan Museum and sold on the street.  That's a story in itself.

I sold at crafts fairs.  And most of all, I decided to become a bum.  That is, after having a fair amount of money - I would never spend money when the family went out to eat etc.  I borrowed money from anyone I could.  I have been close to applying for food stamps - but haven't had to yet.

Almost everytime that I thought I was going to go under - a project would come in.  But I was always living on the edge.

I suppose I still am - but by trying to make my site into a micro stock agency just for NYC - and making it very inexpensive to download files - I built up a larger following and many people who bought files came back for prints.

In other words - it has taken me almost a decade to get my head above water.  And I have about 1500 customers that I can email when I come up with an idea for a print sale.  

I definitely don't have advise - in the sense of saying if you do this than this will happen.  Everything that I've done has been trial and mostly error.  And I believe everyone needs to find their own path.  There's just no way around it.  

I had to put my ego away - be prepared to live poor - and continue to enjoy producing images.  I've always managed somehow to reach the age when in a year or two I'll be eligible for social security - so once I hit that - my rent is paid for plus a little more - and together with the income from sales - I'll will be able to say that I had made it.

But like I say - yikes.  It's not pretty.

Dylan has a great line in one of his songs: "behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain."

Dave
 
+Vivienne Gucwa This post has been open in my browser tab for nearly a week now, and every time I try to get through it all, some other distraction calls me away from completion of the task...  So I finally decided (for the moment) to forego reading through every comment, and simply share a few thoughts.

First, I would like to say how incredibly brave it is of you to share these experiences, because I'm sure there are many people out there who assume that popularity equals profit.  Having recently met you and discussed this very subject, I admit I was more than a little surprised to learn that despite millions of fans/followers, financial stability has not yet arisen from those dynamics.  

Art by definition is so subjective anyway, that it's difficult to place an accurate value on someone's creative vision.  However, whether economic fluctuations are calm or chaotic, there will always be people willing to spend money on what they believe to be worthy.

Your iconic NYC urban landscape images provide a glimpse into a side of the City many people (who don't live there) don't usually get to see.  Like most artists, you are probably your own worst critic, always striving to improve upon the latest creation that inspired you.  But what is the magic formula to monetize your art, and actually make a living build sufficient financial growth such that the art begins to fund itself?  This is the mystery which so many of us find ourselves pondering...  Alas, instead of providing any insightful commentary, I am starting to think there is definitely an element of luck needed as well, of being in the right place at the right time.  

If When you find out (as I'm confident you will), please share like you did here, so that those beacons of hope will shine even brighter, for those still struggling to figure out what comes next... 

Hope to run into you again at the end of the month, for the 1st anniversary Walk.
 
Have you had any luck in monetizing your photos?  How is your job search?  Sorry for not going to the Google Photowalk last week.  They look like a lot of fun, and it would have been nice to share my photo-taking hobby with others.  

For a while, I have been interested in the Northern part of the park, a.k.a. the North Woods.  Will there be any photo walks up there?  I have taken pictures in the North Woods on several occasions, and have posted them to my google+ account.  For instance, I have an album of photos at:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/112524970873259910506/albums/5696201006664447873

Would it be possible to tell me what you think of them?  
 
+Peter Davis - My job search isn't going so well. I am still un-employed despite passing out my resume to a large number of places. It seems I either lack the right connections or the places I am applying to are pooling their applications and/or waiting for internships to finish for the summer to hire actual paid employees (referring specifically to all the tech and social media companies). I was pondering making a post but I go back and forth on that every day. I am pretty despondent about the whole thing though.

If I had luck monetizing my photography to a point where I could pay off the student debt I am in and afford my rent and food, I would be happy but I am pretty sure that won't happen anytime soon due to all the factors listed above. 

I will take a look when I can. I am currently prepping my photos for a strange project in August (can't really discuss it yet). 
 
I'm just getting started showing my photos online. On Facebook is it almost impossible. I was so naive to think it would be easy because I have a lot of friends there. I found out that I was wrong. It is so nice of you to share your struggle, so one like me can stay motivated. I wish you all the luck in the world. Your photos is beautiful. 
 
Thanks so much for sharing this, +Vivienne Gucwa. It was a very educational read and gives me something to think about as I get more serious about my photography.
 
A great read, thanks very much for posting.
 
keep on keeping on in the digital world with out  artist this world would be dull...
 
I'm late to the party in many respects, but I was glad that a search for 'monetize blogs' found this.  I'm near the beginning of what will likely be a similar trajectory and trying to make decisions about what to do and not do online and. more significantly what to pay for and not pay for.  I have had an online photo gallery and Zazzle presence for years and never made a single sale, though I got a lot of nice compliments.  I've had four limited and short-lived showings of my work in those same years and it sold well each time.  I was nurturing what now seems to be an illusion, that if I just worked harder on my online "presence", I'd eventually start selling.  I won't stop doing the parts of it that excite and interest me, but I'll keep it as cheap and fun for me as possible.  If money comes, it comes and, if not, I'll be OK since I've never had to rely on it for a living.
 
+Vivienne Gucwa 
Wow, I'm late to this discussion which is also some very near and dear to my heart. At the beginning of this year I went as far as publicly stating that I was going to "go pro" in six months and shared with everyone that whole processes. Mostly my failures as a learned much of what everyone has advised. I have sold a few prints and licensed some work, but I have made most of my money shooting portraits. Something I've just started doing in the last three months. I've also made income from blogging and hope to do more writing as time goes on.

I have a day job as a web developer, I have a family including five sons and I live in realville. I own very minimal camera gear always wishing I had better gear, but living in realville bills have to be paid and food put on the table. Like Trey mentioned about money, it if you can remove it from the equation, your photography will stay a passion in your life as it should be. 

Keep shooting and thank for putting yourself out there, it endears us all to you :)
 
+Vivienne Gucwa, I feel much the same way, although I doubt I've invested nearly as much into as you have.  Always been a sideline so what little money I've made is just bonus.  I've done microstock, article writing and Zazzle, etc.  The one thing that I've done the worst at is list building.  I don't have a 'list' of interested people in my work.

A while back I read an interesting internet marketing article about list building.  The one point that really struck me was the MAKE UP of the list, it's not really how large the list is, it's how many people on the list buy what you're selling.  Granted if you have 1 million followers that's a lot of POTENTIAL buyers, but what if you had a list of 10k and 70% - 80% percent consistently bought stuff from you?  If you figure out a good way to pull this off let me know.
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