In addition to (or instead of) stock photography, do you also like to take artist photos? Your paintings are hard to sell and you don’t know what your options are online? Fine Art America is a company that was created to distribute the works of artists and at the same time became a community for artists signing up on their site.
From stock photography to POD sites
If you are an enthusiast stock photographer, you sooner or later get to the point, where you feel you have shot everything that can be sold on a stock photo site. Or you start to be bored of producing soulless images, which gives you less and less happiness, and your enthusiasm is decreasing, too.
You are not alone with this feeling. Many photographers find one of the POD (Print On Demand) sites, which are different in many aspects. Let’s start with a comparison, which shows us how well these two fields can go hand in hand.
Stock photography vs. POD photography
- You can ulpoad the same images here and there.
- You earn money if your image is sold.
- Keywords, title (caption) és description are needed to make your images searchable.
- While a stock photo is primarily an illustration, the POD prints decorate the homes as wall art images (or can be printed on simple objects).
- The photos uploaded to stock agencies are priced by the company, the POD sites give you the opportunity to set you own prices (mark-up), even depending on the size of the print. Then the material costs and profit of the POD site is added.
- To promote your stock photos is not your task. Most customers search the stock site for the most appropriate image. Your portfolio on a POD site should be promoted by you yourself, because just a small portion of the sales are made through searches on the site.
- It is impossible to tell if a stock photo will be a bestseller, people often buy the ones that you have never thought. The POD sites sell not only wall prints, but objects, too (mugs, stickers, towels, T-shirts etc.), for which you can create special images (e.g. transparent png). So if a customer is searching for unique face masks, your images (printed on masks) will have a great chance to be found - particularly if you promote them in the right place. You have way more possibilities than just uploading your photos and waiting for your customers to come.
- The stock photo agencies don’t charge you for uploading your images, but Fine Art America charge you 30 dollars per year if you want to upload more than 25 images. I think it is a good idea, because contributors who are not serious enough will not store their low quality photos on the site. Artists are somewhat pressed to upload high quality works, if they want to earn something in the long run.
- Unlike stock sites, Fine Art America don’t check the quality and content of your uploaded photos. Since we talk about prints (on POD sites), the low quality images will be refused to print out if a customer orders one of them. In this case, the artist is informed, and the image will be removed from the site.
- A stock oldalakkal ellentétben, a Fine Art America nem korlátozza a már feltöltött képeid törlését, illetve lecserélését (ha egy jobb/javított verziót szeretnél feltenni).
- While stock agencies do not allow you to easily delete or change your uploaded photos, Fine Art America let you remove any images or even upload a new/improved version instead.
- Stock agencies accept only digital works (photos, vectors, videos, illustrations or scanned slides), the POD sites mostly sell digitised paintings, art photos or digital artworks such as montages, fractals. Naturally, you are also allowed to offer your original paintings.
Fine Art America, one of the most known POD services
Fine Art America is an independent American company located in Santa Monica, California. It is famous for its high quality art prints, special portfolio, which includes names like Slim Aarons, Anne Geddes, or magazine covers from Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone Magazine, The New Yorker.
Being an American company, it is not surprising, that both its artists and customers mostly come from the USA. It means, that you have bigger chance to sell images connected with the country. So if you are not living in the US, you should have more general photos or paintings than images with special themes that are typical of your country. Prints of bigger sizes also sell well, so you don’t have to worry about your prices. It all depends on the method of promotion you are working with.
Every artist agrees that sales for a new member on Fine Art America starts very slowly. The site’s search algorithm puts special weigh on your number of sales (of each particular image), which is practically equals zero in the beginning. Then later, as this number starts to increase, the avalanche gets bigger and bigger, and one sale brings another. But the road is very long before this happens. It can last from some months to some years.
In the initial period you are advised to promote yourself very hard. Each and every successful artist considers a different way of self-promotion the best. I am going to write about some of them below, though, if you have committed yourself to be successful, you must find the most appropriate one. Even more than one method, but experienced artists keep saying that the best you can do is choosing one and be a master of it.
On Facebook, the best way is to be present in groups. Find active groups with the same topic as your images you want to promote. Then you can post your images linked to the Fine Art America page, or your pixels page where your particular image sits. You can also promote collections, as they have unique url-s.
There are artists with serious results on Pinterest. Pinterest has its own secret, which has to be learned. You may find expensive courses on the Internet, but if you search deeper, you will discover cheap ones, too.
Not every artist has the opportunity to do it, but I think it is worth mentioning the personal or email promotion. If your topic is popular (e.g. you paint pets), you can start a list of your customers email addresses to send them newsletters with your recent works or discounts. Unfortunately Fine Art America don’t give you the details of your online customers, but if you sell originals, you should surely have the email addresses.
Your own website
Fine Art America offers a great webshop plugin that can easily be embed into your own website. Your customers can purchase right on your site, which can be designed to your needs (unlike the pixels sub-site you can use with your premium account).
Topics that sell
When you sign in to Fine Art America, the first list you see is the recently sold prints. It is worth browsing through them. You will be surprised what topics are saleable. Practically anything and everything. Basically the American topics of course, but I have not noticed any trends or such. Paintings and photographs, from modern minimal art to religious icons, everything. For us, artists, the most important on this page is that there are a huge number of sales each day on Fine Art America. The thing that we can observe is the pricing. Clicking the sold image you can see the price, which then you can set against your own prices. This is the gross price, but we can easily count the mark-up we get with some experiments.
Signing up to Fine Art America
In this section, I am going to write about the things you should pay attention during registration and building your artist account/portfolio. The process of registration itself is very simple , I will not include the steps here.
If you are serious about selling your images, you will soon realise that the standard membership plan with the 25 uploaded images limit is not enough to be successful. To remove the limits of the standard plan, and enjoy the benefits of the premium service, you need to pay a $30 fee per year. Otherwise, the premium plan, apart from the upload limit, gives you only two plus services: a shopping cart widget that you can embed into your own website, and a premium website built on Fine Art America’s technology (having also the same design). Using the widget provides your customers to purchase without leaving your own website. The premium website has all of your products (and only yours) that you uploaded through Fine Art America.
A very important part of the registration process is the About section. Your portfolio will seem much more authentic for your customers if you write about yourself, list your exhibitions. Though, it is completely unnecessary to include any descriptions about the services of Fine Art America that are quite obvious. Such as these: the watermark will not be on the prints, what paper is used, what sizes you provide etc. There are artists who include this information, but it only makes your about page too long to read. You need a short, but exhaustive introduction, listing only the infos connected to your artist career.
Signing in the Fine Art America website you will find the most important menu item with your name in the top right part of the page. Clicking on it you will get to the ‘Profile Page’ where you can upload and set your images and find a number of other services you will need. Here you can upload your works, submit to contests or join groups.
On the ‘Activity’ page you can find all the activities of the artists you follow, and if someone liked one of your image.
Clicking the ‘Community’ menu item you can access the forum (Discussions), the groups, the contests, the events (like exhibitions in your neighbourhood). I will give you more information about them below.
Uploading, pricing and sorting your images
Fine Art America accept 2D works, the reproductions of them, and photos. You are allowed to upload many types of artwork from traditional paintings, drawings to digital creations. You have the opportunity to sell the originals of your paintings, too, for the price you set.
Since you offer digital prints, it is very important to provide the highest quality reproduction you are able to. To reach this, never use a smartphone or compact camera to photograph your paintings (the minimum device should be a DSLR or equivalent), and always use a tripod to fix the camera preventing any camera shake. The originals may be superb, lively colours, but you should also pay attention to the proper photographing or scanning. The image with (motion) blur, grain, noise or low resolution will not be printed, though you will face this, if a customer wants to buy it. There is no quality control during the upload process, so you are responsible to upload high quality images.
Default settings before uploading
The first item of the Profile page menu is the Images. Clicking on it, a row of grey buttons will show up at the upper part of the window. The third button is Default upload settings. Before uploading your first image, start here!
It is a good idea to override the default settings offered by the system. The prices were calibrated to a rather low level. Here you have to enter the amounts you require for each print size or item (your mark-up). Virtually all artists price their works differently, but the basic rule is that the increase in size should be followed exponentially by the price. So double the size means more than double the price.
Take a look at the creations of other artists (who have joined for quite a few years now) and count. In the case of the objects, you can find the gross selling price in the above basic settings, from which you can deduce how much artist share the price of the work (print) under examination contains. Be careful: when you log out, the page will show a different price for your own creations than if you are logged in (simply because if you want to buy your own creations, you only have to pay the cost of printing)! You can see what the final price is made of by clicking on the Show price details link below the price.
On this page, you can specify whether to allow digital streaming (Allow Streaming to Acanvas Digital Picture Frames), whether you want to watermark the images (Enable Watermark), whether you want 100% magnification (Enable Full Resolution Preview), whether you choose Allow Print Cropping or automatic Facebook and Twitter posts. That is, you could choose if Facebook sharing would work, but unfortunately it does not. Twitter, on the other hand, works as expected.
Of the former, streaming doesn’t work, so it’s a good idea to uncheck it, and the watermark is unnecessary and often confusing for customers, so I don’t recommend it.
Uploading your photos or reproductions
The first item on the Profile page menu is Images. If you click on it, your already uploaded images will appear, or a blank page if you haven’t stood for it yet. You can upload one or more images with one of the gray buttons at the top of the page (Upload image or Upload multiple images).
When you upload, you can override the default settings and give your image a title and description. Keywords are relevant to local (i.e. within the FAA page) search. Artists often give "artistic" titles to their works, which is not practical here, as the title is only meant to help with the search (along with the description and keywords). If you give the title e.g. "Untitled" (which is a real example!), then virtually no one will find your great portrait. Always think about how you would look for your own image as a buyer when giving the title and description. What would you type in the search engine?
Organize pictures into categories
Once you’ve successfully uploaded some images, it’s a good idea to think in categories as well. Collections is designed to help you organize your images. If you click Collections, the Create new collection button will appear at the top of the page. Here you can enter a name and description for your new category.
Many times you may find that the opening image of a collection is a purpose-built image that the artist does not even intend to sell. I also recommend choosing your collection cover images consciously so that buyers will know at a glance what your particular category is about.
Changing or deleting an image
Fine Art America, unlike stock photography sites, allows you to simply replace an already uploaded image with an improved version or delete it completely from your collection. This option comes in handy if you notice an error in the image afterwards. You have to wait a few days for the thumbnails to be updated on the entire website.
White balance / Natural colors
My own note: uploaded images sometimes have slightly different colors in the preview images (thumbnails) than the one you uploaded. Despite the fact that you use e.g. sRGB color profile when saving images. In particular, yellows may be fainter, and black-and-white images may take on a purple hue. This phenomenon can only be seen on the previews though, not on the prints! If you click on the thumbnail, it will also appear perfectly on the detail page of that image.
Building social relations on Fine Art America
Some of Fine Art America’s artists have forged into a great little community over the years. Interesting people, lots of experience. Everyone adds something from their own experiences and strategies. I highly recommend reading the forum (called discussions) and investigate the groups, where you will get a comprehensive picture of the quality and theme of the images on the site.
Liking, favoriting and commenting other artists’ works
Even though the assumption has already been confirmed that the number of likes, favorites, and comments you receive will in no way contribute to the sale of your images, there are still plenty of artists who have the time to use these opportunities and also receive them. It’s a good opportunity to get to know other artists, no doubt, but unfortunately I don’t have time to regularly like images and write posts. So when it comes to selling your pictures, (in my experience) you don’t get any benefit from likes, favorites or comments.
Here I note that in the customer search interface it is possible to sort the results list according to the following aspects: bestsellers, most comments, most (contest) votes, recently added, recently commented on, recently featured in groups, recently sold. This suggests that it makes sense to participate in contests, upload regularly, and collect comments. If buyers actually use these options, the number of comments may (slightly) affect the number of our sales. However, liking and marking as a favorite is clearly only for the entertainment of the artists themselves.
Liking or marking your own works as favorite
I’ve noticed that there are artists who mark their own work as a favorite right after uploading a picture. Based on my previous finding, this makes no difference, but they do.
Topics well known from stock photography forums also appear here (25 Clicks For The Person Above You, Post Your Sales Here, and many other similarly meaningless but fun posts). If you don’t have a lot of time, I don’t recommend participating in chain-posts like this.
However, if you delve into reading the forum, you’ll find plenty of interesting advice and suggestions in the posts.
Participating in groups
Many groups have already been created and are being created by artists every day. The essence of these is to form a community of otherwise distant artists who also create on a particular topic. You can be a member of any groups. As I mentioned, in terms of sales, it is virtually irrelevant how many groups you are active in.
Participating in contests
Anyone can start contests. Contests are organized around a theme with pre-defined rules. Usually 2-3 images can be entered. After closing the entry, anyone who is a member of the Fine Art America community can vote. The winners will be announced, but only on the page of the contest. It’s a good game, but it adds very little to sales.
Some artists claim that if you are among the top three finishers in a contest (or even just participate), it does matter for your sales. This may be due to the fact that buyers may occasionally view images entered for contests or may use the sorting mentioned above when searching. This assumption was neither officially confirmed nor rejected, so it is unlikely to play much of a role in sales.
Your own Artist Website
Pixels.com and fineartamerica.com are actually the same company, even the two websites are pretty much alike. The difference is that while the Pixels page has all the printed objects and wall prints, the Fine Art America page focuses on wall prints and home decor (pillows, blankets, shower curtains, towels and mugs). If you pay the annual fee ($ 30) and request your own Artist Website from them, you will receive a website available at yourname.pixels.com. It looks exactly like the company’s website, but only your images are on it. Therefore, it is suitable for advertising your work, you can specify the link anywhere, even the availability of each image. Somewhat, to a limited extent, you can customize the layout of the blocks, but I think the point is that you get the look of a well-established and very nice brand website (my pixels page looks like this: https://viktor-wallon-hars.pixels.com).
How much money can you make on Fine Art America by selling your pictures?
At the Fine Art America forum (discussions), a special term was introduced to indicate topics about sales. This is the “Sales discussion” that is used by admins when a topic is clearly focused on the volume of sales. Because there has been a lot of inexperienced reasoning about how to achieve high sales in the past, to screen such artists, the average number of monthly sales (based on data from the last 12 months) is written under the name of each contributor.
It’s interesting to see how much the variance is: you can find all sorts of values from 0-1-2 sales per month to 1000. This allows for a bit of research, because if you see a high sales number next to a piece of advice, you can rightly draw a conclusion about the reliability of that advice. Unfortunately, you can't narrow down your posts to Sales discussions, just stumble upon it if you're looking for a lot!
You can get interesting results if you follow the footsteps of artists who produce a lot of sales. You can find posts that describe some strategic advice, advertising ideas, or simply look through their portfolio because they already know what customers are looking for.
So how much can you earn as a registered artist of Fine Art America by selling prints and printed objects?
Nothing and a lot. I’ve read about an artist who earns more than when she was an accountant, but there are also ones who sell 2 pictures a year, just to cover the $ 30 fee. There are artists who have got so popular with their unique paintings that there are dozens of sales on a daily basis.
It seems that the number of sales depends on the uniqueness of your images, how much you can touch the soul of your customers, and, last but not least, depends on the amount of advertising in the right place. (see above).
In general, paintings do better (both abstract and realistic) than photographs, and images printed on cheaper objects (postcards, masks, phone cases, etc.) sell out more often than larger wall prints (which, in turn, sell for much more).
If you are an artist, be sure to give it a try!
If you have paintings waiting to be sold, or perfect photos, or even abstract ideas, it’s definitely worth registering and uploading your creations to Fine Art America’s beautiful, clean platform. And the $ 30 fee can now be covered by selling a single print.