Photo Credit: Wix Stock Library
So, you went out and bought yourself a drone with a nice camera and have some amazing aerial photographs. Now what? You could share them on social media and get a bunch of likes from your friends and family, but you could also go a step further and make some money by selling prints of your work. The internet has been flourishing as a multifaceted marketplace for years now, and what's great about it is that anyone can partake. If you've got a gallery of beautiful photos just sitting on your hard drive, following this guide (and others) may help you profit from drone photography.
When you decide to sell something, there are a few questions you must answer. You've got your photos, but how will you sell, print, and ship them? Do you want to Do It Yourself, work with a printer, or rely on a Print on Demand site or maybe you even want to license your content? These options come with their own pros and cons, so you'll have to weigh the costs versus the benefits of each and decide what's best for your situation.
SELLING FROM YOUR WEBSITE
It would behoove you to invest in a well-designed website because it will function as a store and a gallery of your work. Your website could be built from the ground up with a tool like WordPress, where you could use plug-ins like Envira to create a photo gallery and store, or you could use hosting sites like Wix and SquareSpace which provide you with templates for the kind of website you want. In this case, you could pick a store template or add a store page. Another option would be to set up a "storefront" on a creative marketplace website like Etsy, where you can have more direct access to a customer base while still being in control of how you run your business.
LICENSING YOUR AERIAL CONTENT
As you may or may not know, you can alway license you content on stock imagery platforms like Getty Images. As a matter of fact, if you are a Certified Drone Pilot in your country, you can begin monetizing your content through the Women Who Drone Collection available on Getty Images. Its a non-exclusive agreement meaning you can still own your content and you may also sign up to license your content on other websites. By signing up to become a contributor, you are simply adding more ways to begin monetizing your content. The key here is the more content you upload, the more likely you are to make money.
If you're doing all the printing yourself, you'll want to invest in a nice photo printer, ink, and high-quality paper. Also, you'll have to decide what kind of paper you want to print on and keep in mind that eventually, your paper and ink will need to be restocked, so you'll have to sell enough to recoup your investment. Working with your own printer may also limit the sizes you'll be able to provide. However, you'll get to make all the decisions and have all the control over the quality of your prints, and you can be aware of printing issues immediately before they are sent to the customer.
LOCAL PRINTING SERVICES
Maybe you don't want to deal with all the work that goes into choosing the best printer and spending tons of money on paper with different textures, weights, and sizes, but you still want to be hands-on in some way. Well, you may be able to find a local print shop or an online printing service. Typically, print shops provide a variety of printing services such as posters of various sizes, binding services, brochures, and business cards, and they may offer a discount for bulk orders. You just send them the job (i.e. your image file along with the size of the print, the type of paper, the finish, and the number of copies you need), and they send you a price. When it's done, you just pick it up and pay.
For both these options, you'll be fully responsible for shipping your prints out to the customer. Shipping can be a big responsibility as you must ensure that the print is packaged with care and that the packaging will ensure the integrity of your print during its journey to the customer. If that also sounds like something you don't want to struggle with, then you can simply rely on a third-party to fulfill your orders for you or register as a member of a Print on Demand website.
Whether it's your Etsy store or personal website, you can have your orders fulfilled through a third-party printer. Some third-party printers commonly used by artists and photographers are Finerworks, Printful, and Fine Art America. Finerworks has a tutorial on selling prints on Etsy through their service. This way, customers can purchase their prints on your Etsy, then Finerworks will fulfill the order. As stated above, you can also order prints in bulk and ship them out yourself, which could end up saving you money. These printers also offer the option of having prints framed.
PRINTING ON DEMAND
Usually, registering for an on demand printer is tied to being a member of a creative marketplace. As a member of a creative marketplace, you can upload your image files and choose which products you want your image to be printed on. When a customer makes a purchase, the site will take care of the printing, packaging, and shipping. Websites like Redbubble, CafePress, Zazzle, and Society6 are marketplaces that provide Print on Demand services. Usually, they will take a percentage of the profits, then deposit the rest into your bank account or PayPal. Wix also has a Print on Demand service with their store app that's similar to Redbubble's.
I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron