A Guide To Publishing Your Photos Online And Beyond

March 26th, 2021
woman sitting on mountaintop at sunset

Whether you’re an artist, a sole proprietor or a small business owner- chances are good that you might also be your own accountant, curator, website designer, and marketing team.  First and foremost- stop and pat yourself on the back.  This is no easy feat!

Today I want to specifically talk about getting your work seen and increasing your exposure. It can be daunting, especially when you are doing it on your own.  I had a lot of questions when I first got started many years ago.  How do I build an audience? How do I keep people engaged?  How do I not get burnt out while being both an art producer and a business manager?

Here are five pro tips on how to publish your photos (or other art) and promote your business, while avoiding burnout.

1. Before you hit that Post Button… Develop your Artist Message: be Authentic.

single poppy in a field of white flowers

In a sea of many, authenticity shines out like a beacon. To get noticed, people need to hear your story. What do you have to say? What are your goals? In the end, it is best to be true to yourself and your vision. Come up with a clear message, and be honest.

Additionally, in my experience, people from all walks of life are drawn to the “little guy”. It may feel unnerving, but it can be beneficial to not hide that you are doing this on your own, or that you are just starting out. As a whole, people want to help other people. You might just inspire someone who loves your story, and wants to see you succeed.

On the flip side- Something to accept early on is that you are never going to please everyone… and that’s okay. It’s much better to find an audience that supports your authentic self than bend over backwards trying to appease every type of audience.

2. Ready? Let’s go.

Since this article is about posting your work and increasing exposure, we are going to cover what to do after you have already curated your best work and created a brand.  If you haven’t taken these steps yet I encourage you to check out our guide on building your portfolio and establishing your brand.

There are a number of ways to get your work out there!  I strongly suggest doing at least 3 of these things to start out.  The more places you post your work, the more chances you have to get noticed.

publishing photos online using a laptop

Build a Website 

If you aren’t ready to sell yet- it is a good idea to still pick a platform that offers e commerce- that way you won’t have to move your whole site when you are ready to make that cash.  See my earlier Article, Eight Tips On How To Create A Great Photography Website.

Upload your work to a Print on Demand store: Sell Merchandise 

Create an online store to sell branded promotional items that showcase your work.  Most Print on Demand stores are easy to set up (though not very customizable) and often require no website design.  Examples are RedBubble, Printify, and Society 6. Clients will go to the PoD website, and find your work.   Just upload your photos and what kind of merchandise you want to sell. Details will vary from company to company and you will likely sign a contract- be sure to read the fine lines about licensing, royalties, and everything else.

Upload your work to an Art Platform.

Again, this is not a website and is not really customizable, but there are spaces out there where you can upload your art for discovery by traffic browsing the art platform.  Some artist platforms are behance, 500px, but there are many out there and they are constantly changing. I encourage you to do your own research and keep up with the tide.

Create and use Social Media Platforms

This is a great way to build an audience-  Post Daily, Engage with Followers, Network, and link to your other platforms. Instagram is a great one, and facebook is a great contender too, but there are more.  These social platforms are constantly changing in use and popularity, and I encourage you to do your own research and keep up with the tide.

Make a Blog

A blog works as a great soapbox to display your work, your achievements, and your artist message. It is also a great way to ramp up your SEO and Boost your business.  Read more about tools and tips for SEO here.  Watch a video about how to boost your business with your Blog here.

computer port cables

3. Network with Artists and Join Communities: On and Off-line.

Technology has brought the world to our fingertips, and it’s easier than ever to connect with people.  Everyone you went to highschool with.  That hunk you met on vacation.  Your sister’s best friend’s cousin who was roommates with Sting.  

This same tool also gives you a unique opportunity to connect with artists and professionals you admire, who you might otherwise have never had the ability to interact with.  

Vice versa, this platform gives people who admire your work the opportunity to connect with you and ask questions. I encourage you to engage with your audience and always show your appreciation, especially as you continue to grow. Never forgetting to show love to your supporters matters, and says a lot to your audience about your values as a person and an artist.

making connections between locations on a map

There are many great ways to network and broadcast your work. 

In addition to the above mentioned social media and art platforms, other tools include: Artist Organizations, Press releases, Competitions, Art Shows, and collaborations with other artists. 

Simply put- any event when you have the chance to speak publicly about your work is an opportunity to network and grow.  Sometimes opportunities are spontaneous and not so obvious.  For these reasons, especially when you are starting out, it’s a good idea to stay open-minded and say yes to things you normally wouldn’t say yes to.  You never know what event is going to be something special that really kicks off your exposure.

Special Note: There are many potential opportunities out there if you are courageous to take the chance.  Remember though to always value your time and your work. We strongly encourage you to avoid offering free services in most instances, such as in exchange for networking and exposure. We do have a few tips on when it may be appropriate, however.  Check that out here.

4. Get creative: Create ways for your followers to promote your work.

single peg-person apart from a group of peg-people

A great way to gain exposure is to get a little help.

Some ways to do this are: 

Cross Promoting with other Artists.  

A lot of Artists like to do this- whether it is following each other on social media, or doing a product swap and then reviewing it to followers.  

Note: You may work with an artist who does not hold up their part of the deal of cross promoting, but don’t let this discourage you from continuing to use this tactic as a tool.  Most artists do hold to their word and love to cross-promote. Networking with other established artists is a great door into increasing exposure.

Giveaways/Prizes for Contests.  

Set up a contest for your audience.  This contest could encourage users to comment on your platform of choice, or share your work, at the promise of potentially winning something for free.  It will take a little work and cost a little money, but this is a great way to get your viewers to be excited about engaging with you.

Special offers for exclusive fans (ie. Crowdfunding Platforms).

Some artists offer specials exclusively to dedicated fans.  This might include a look at how you work behind the scenes, special session offerings, or access to non-public works.  Examples of these types of platforms include Patreon and Ko-fi.

Think outside the box and get creative.

5. Prepare yourself for a Marathon, not a Sprint

runner leaping across divide

Pace yourself, this is going to be a long run. Here are a few tips to avoid burnout:

Plan, Organize, Schedule.

When you are wearing a lot of hats, it’s easy to get involved in one responsibility while neglecting others. Assign time tables for it; you are your own boss, and no one else is going to tell you what to do or when you have to get it done. You need to set the rules! Use calendars and notifications, use charts and to do lists. There are lots of free apps out there to help.

Know it’s going to take time.

Progress will happen with time and persistent, constructive action. As much as we like to fantasize about becoming a famous name overnight, it’s unfortunately probably not going to happen that way. But it doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen at all. Keep at it steadily; having realistic expectations will help you not get disheartened.

Done is better than perfect.

This is a valuable mindset that you might have to learn to teach yourself, especially if you are like a lot of people who love to strive for perfection. As an artist, you have to learn when to call a piece of work complete. This same rule can be applied to lots of things in life. It really comes back down to managing your time efficiently. There is a way to work efficiently and still keep the quality of work- you just need to find that sweet spot.

Disappointment and pitfalls are inevitable; Embrace and learn from them.

Unexpected setbacks are a part of life. Undoubtedly – It’s going to be part of business too. Being prepared to go with the flow; thinking “What can I do next?” instead of getting hung up on “What did I do wrong?” is going to set you up for success.

Celebrate your accomplishments

Cheers to you, hard worker! Savor the moment, you deserve it.

person celebrating, silhouetted with fireworks

Eliina has an extensive background in illustration and design. She has been working at Zenfolio for the last 2 years helping photographers meet their business and website needs.