“Badly made is better than never perfectly made”. I read this somewhere and it was this one phrase that motivated me into trying to sell some prints of my photos.
Prior to that, I had lingering doubts:
What if my photos are not sharp enough? What if the exposure is not correct? What if the composition is not right? I had so many doubts, but decided to take the plunge anyway and hoped at least one person will buy the prints.
The first time I had a booth was one year ago on May the 4th – Star Wars day 2016. The organizer had worked out an arrangement where I could donate part of my earnings to charity for the booth space. Deciding on what to print and sell was a challenge – but more on that later.
My ever supportive wife, Jennifer, came along to help and has since been with me at all these outings. She is indispensable as she helps to manage the stall while I talk to visitors and geek out around the exhibition area. But more importantly, she is a much better sales person than I am!
Watching the crowd react with smiles to the photos on display was a blast. It was an even fantastic feeling when people actually bought something. I went in with zero expectation and would have been happy with no sales. The expressions on the visitors face was all worth it. Closing a sale was an added bonus.
Subsequently, I participated in an event organized by a local Lego store. From a high I enjoyed at the Star Wars event, I came crashing down to a reality check. It’s a terrible feeling when your booth is overrun with visitors more keen on Lego sets from your neighbouring store than your prints of Lego toys. However, it was not a total loss.
A couple of visitors became friends. Opportunities were created – one of which was to conduct toy photography workshops. On top of that, I received a most useful advice from the organizer to sell my work as postcards, which turned out to be extremely popular at future events.
Despite the setback from the latter event, I decided to take up a booth at a local comic con later that year because of the large targeted crowd. Managed to get lots of smiles from the crowd and had supportive friends coming by to say hi. Met people whom I knew online and generally getting lots of encouraging comments.
I almost broke even, but again, was just happy to be at the event and be part of the nerd/geek community. I met a teacher who wanted me to give a talk to her students on toy photography. This motivated me to prepare a proper presentation and it has been a valuable tool for future talks. The comic con also gave my wife an excuse to go dating, as we would blow our earnings treating ourselves at the end of each day!
I attended couple more events after that, with some hits and misses. The recently concluded Star Wars Day 2017 was the most encouraging in terms of sales (I had to do reprints more than once) and response. The turn-out was fantastic and I had an amazing time.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
I try to go in to all the events with pretty low expectation but high enthusiasm. However, it still stings when no one seems to care about your work. I try to pick my battles better now, and not to jump into any event that comes along.
What photos to print and sell? Base on my experience, photos relating to relationships, office work, toys doing very human stuff (like fishing) seem pretty popular. But there are also people who prefer certain characters or like well posed high action shots. I guess it does require a bit of luck for a photo to connect with the right buyer.
I shoot toy photos primarily for enjoyment, so I don’t especially go out of my way and think what kind of pictures will sell. Otherwise, it will feel like tedious work. I usually try to make the best picture I can with each shot. And if I think that a particular photo will find an audience, I will get them printed for sale.
The thought of someone, somewhere with a frame photo in their house makes me feel really happy and proud.
I don’t expect to make a living out of this, and primarily participate in events for a chance to meet and interact with people and be part of the community and hopefully, it will lead to other things. What that is, I have absolutely no idea. I am just enjoying the journey now.
This topic always opens up questions and curiosities about selling LEGO photos. I have sold through a 3rd party, Redbubble. LEGO-lawyer-bots occasionally come through and file to have certain pictures removed. LEGO seems to keep their rules and/or objections to selling prints vague…have you interacted with them regarding selling your prints?
I have not had any correspondence with Lego…yet. I sell my prints mainly through my own website and occasionally on my Facebook page. It could be that it is easier for them to police their stuff on popular sites such as Redbubble and Etsy.
I had worries about copyright issues and read about incidents involving Redbubble and Lego prints while researching on copyright issues. I ended up slightly more confused from all the researching and in the end, just decided to sell my photos rather than sit on an idea.
I have only just started selling my photos and maybe a low profile is the reason why Lego or any other property owner have not come a- calling. Actually, it is my dream that if they do, it is to offer to do something official with the photos!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sunny! I’ve sold some of my work online (your organizer was right, post cards are super popular! My highest sellers for sure), but have yet to sell anything in-person.
I’d love to do so at a gallery, or some kind of convention like you have. Hopefully someday! Your post has given me some confidence to look into it more.
Happy to share the journey! Have been dreaming of doing a gallery too, but is still a dream at the moment! I think you never really know what to expect until you dive right in. Finding the correct target audience is definitely a priority. Meeting people and sharing is definitely a highlight of selling stuff in person.
Good luck and success to you if you decide to dive in and start selling selling your prints at cons and artist alleys.
Sunny thank you so much for airing your experience! Like you I’ve found that the interactions with potential patrons are the most fun. When we post to social media platforms we have no idea how our work is received except in the comments. So to see the smiles, giggles and pleasure in person is lots of fun! Yes, its great when someone purchases a print, but for me, it is a secondary pleasure.
I wish you continued success as you find your market! Im jealous that you have such a wonderful partner in your endeavors. Best of luck to you both!! Shelly
Interacting and seeing the amused looks and smiles when they view my work is definitely the highlight of any event. Working hard to increase awareness of Toy Photography here and also hope to bring more smiles to more people.
Feeling blessed to have my wife join me on this silly journey. She always joke that she has to take a cut of the earnings for grocery whenever she helps out at these events!
Once again, Shelly, thanks again for letting me share my experience! It was fun writing this article.
Thank you for sharing your experience and your art – I really enjoy your shots and quotes. I have recently started selling my prints at a Saturday market that I’ve already been a vendor at since 2009. It has been an interesting experience. I get tons of laughs and lots of people coming by and then I get those collectors that keep buying whenever they are in town. I sold one of my Lenny Raptor shots to a lady who purchased it for her son who professionally competes in the iron man race – that was something unexpected! Thanks for the pointers with postcards – I hadn’t thought of those and I think they will be a hit at my next event – the Utah UFO Fest.😂 I’ve been busy with alien pictures…👽 Anyways, it’s all great fun and Thanks for sharing your talent.
Sunny, thanks for Sharing your experience, I never sold any of may photos, because I never printed any of my own photos.
I don’t know if the people like only lego photos or have preferences for other types of figures. So, keep with your primary objectives. As the number of likes of photos: the numbers of printed sold photos don’t represent that your photos aren’t good.