Sell Your Photos by Giving Them Away for Free

No, I’m not talking about the Creative Commons… again. I’m talking about one of my favorite street photographers giving away his work — the kind you hang on your wall.

Joeseph Szymanski is experimenting with the notion of free art. He’s offering free prints from a selection of his work to those who are willing to cover the cost of shipping via a PayPal donation. Of course, you can pay more than the $2 he’s asking for, but it’s not required.

I’m finding this to be a very interesting experiment on Joe’s part. The concept closely matches the ideals presented by the Creative Commons (which many photographers support), but it’s different because it’s tangible and it requires work from the artist beyond taking the photo and slapping a license on it.

What could come of this? I’m willing to bet that Joe makes a few bucks off of his “free” photos. I already know of one person that donated more than the minimum amount of $2, and I’m sure some others will do the same. So if you’re interested in some wall-art, head over to Joe’s page titled “Accessible Art, Free Photographs…

My questions to you, my readers:

  • Will Joe’s experiment prove to be profitable?
  • Is Joe on to something here?
  • Would this work as a long-term sales model, or would it only be beneficial in the short-run?
  • By associating his work with the term “free”, does he devalue his art?
  • Or does the value and appeal increase because of this association?

I’m curious to hear everybody’s thoughts on this, so go ahead and discuss. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a spot on the wall to hang a really great photo…

This entry was posted in General Tips, Quick-Tip on by .

About Brian Auer

a photography enthusiast from North Idaho. He's also the guy behind the Epic Edits Weblog. As a hobbyist photographer since 2003, his passion has been to constantly improve his photography skill set, to share his own knowledge with others, and to become an integral part of the photographic community.

13 thoughts on “Sell Your Photos by Giving Them Away for Free

  1. xavier

    I thought about that when Radiohead’s last album came out for “free”.
    I was about to do the same considering the printing costs (and shipping costs) and i came to the conclusion that i have to ask for at least 5$. This is still cheap, and i don’t doubt that some customers will pay more than 5$.
    I found Radiohead’s idea amazing, and i really want to believe in that system.

  2. MY Camera World

    For me the selling of art is mostly about buzz unless you are a recognized Brand that people want.

    Giving away your images at least in print has the ability for other to see these hanging on peoples walls and therefore lend credence to the person being an established artist.

    This I think should increase, down the road, the need or desire for others to purchase some prints.

    Great Idea.

    Niels Henriksen

  3. libeco

    I don’t know if this is a planned business making move, but it’s not uncommon to start for free (or low price) and slowly raise the price when the product becomes more popular. But whether or not it will be a ‘hit’ cannot be predicted. Sometimes a hype just comes in out of nowhere. Ofcourse the basic requirement for the pictures should be the qaulity…

  4. Bryan Villarin

    Our band, Phantom Scream, is trying to do the same thing by letting people download our CD for free. (If you like it enough, there’s a PayPal link where you can donate whatever you’d like.) We want to create buzz and gain exposure, and hopefully earn enough money to break even and continue creating new music.

    Like xavier said, I want to believe that this type of system will be better than worse in the long run.

    Will Joe’s experiment prove to be profitable? I hope so! I hate to see him burn out breaking even, rather than going into the positive.

    Is Joe on to something here? I think so. His photos look really good and I can only imagine that this could help him.

    Would this work as a long-term sales model, or would it only be beneficial in the short-run? I have no clue. I can imagine that it’d cause enough buzz in the short-run to bring more viewers to his work in the long-term.

    By associating his work with the term “free”, does he devalue his art? No!

  5. Trevor Carpenter

    The discussion is very interesting. I enjoy reading everyone’s opinions on this.

    Above all, this will/is creating a huge amount of buzz for Joe. No matter what, that is good. I bet he makes enough on this project to cover his costs, plus a bit more. However, the increased exposure and subsequent increased fan base, should benefit a more traditional business model down the road.

  6. Brian Auer Post author

    I agree, this is great discussion on the topic. I’m curious… has anybody else purchased a photo from Joe? Anybody planning on it? He did mention that as of this morning (just before I published this post), he had made 4 sales from the project already.

  7. Hitesh Sawlani

    By associating his work with the term “free”, does he devalue his art?

    Since he is offering only a selection of 6… I would say it makes it sound exclusive, like owning one of those 6 is an honour :)

    Will you try something like this?

  8. Brian Auer Post author

    Well, I won’t be trying something like this right at the moment. I’m actually working on changing up the way I promote and sell my prints (auerphotoworks is going bye-bye). Maybe after I get my new setup rolling, I might try a limited time promotion like this. I’ve been talking with Joe as things progress, and it sounds like he’s doing quite well with it.

  9. the_wolf_brigade

    Official media reports put the amount of actual purchases of Radiohead’s new album at 60%, meaning 40% downloaded it for free (myself included). Radiohead claim the actual profit figure is higher, but wouldn’t say how much.

    I guess it comes down to the fact that the people who are passionate will always fund more work. I’m not hugely passionate about Radiohead, but I was interested. If the album is any good (I haven’t listened to it yet) I might buy a hard copy when it’s released. I like tangible products. That’s why I like film.

    I just cruised over to his site. While I didn’t see anything I liked, I was quite prepared to pay 10-15 AU$ for a print. That’s around what it would cost to get a print mounted over here.

    As there will always be people like me who will be quite willingly to pay above the minimum suggested price so that the artist can keep producing work, I think this could be a viable business model, though I’m not sure I’d like to try and support a family on it.

  10. laanba

    This is a very interesting topic and discussion. I have never thought about giving away prints before but it is an intriguing idea. One site that I frequent holds a monthly contest where he gives away prints. These ideas might be combined to give away prints to frequent commenters or to hold drawings for free prints for people who visit your blog. You get your pictures in people’s hands, create some good will and get your name out there. Very interesting idea.

  11. Brian Auer Post author

    Those are good ideas for variations on this theme. I like the idea of holding drawings for frequent commenters… maybe one entry per comment and raffle it off.

  12. The Baldchemist

    I believe allpics should be free. There are so many out there now making pictures with camera and photoshop that unless you need to, conceptualise, dsign, pay models, hire a studio and spend hours post productin then give them to who ever wants them.
    You put them on the net and access is to millions of viewers( hopefully) to see them but press the stumble butoon and another fabulous collection appears.
    No unless you work with an ad agency, give ‘em away. There is very little originality today; only variations on themes.
    What on Earth are you going to do with others pictures? Make your own. There is far more pleasure in that. At least your friends and family will appreciate your work.
    There are very few picture makers making a fabulous living from their pasion, ( art it ain’t anymore).
    Other than that keep at it. I wish you the very best. Take good care. The Baldchemist

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