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In 2020, thanks to Getty taking over licensing on 500px, I was looking for an alternative platform through which I could make some pocket money selling my photographs. Some Google searches later I bumped into Picfair, which sounded ideal for my needs.
They, after all, have a platform where they provide the moderation and licensing and you bring in your photographs. You get to set your own prices and they take only a minimal processing fee on top of your markup.
Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?
Reality Check #
The concept is nice and functional if you have a customer base to begin with. What they do not tell you is that you are in charge of finding your own customers and will have to do your own marketing to drive the prospects to your website. Unlike on 500px for example where you can sell your photos simply by getting them through the moderation process, on Picfair my results have been meagre at best.
In reality, Picfair makes their revenue through the Picfair Plus memberships, where each respective hopeful photographer pays an annual fee for their membership. Needless to say that the annual fees I have paid for my plus membership far exceed the revenue I have grossed from my photo sales. In other words I am Picfair’s customer, not my prospective customers.
Over the past three years, all the sales I have made have been direct sales to customers whom I know personally and the platform’s cumulative 123k photo views on my 285 photographs to date have brought me zero euros in sales.
Social marketing FTW, right? #
We all know that marketing is the key to drive sales for your goods. The Picfair proposed approach to marketing revolves around the hopeful photography business owner becoming a social media influencer like persona and using social media to drive customers to their store. I’m not faulting them for that approach, just saying that for your average Joe Blow photographer like me, it simply is unrealistic when considering:
- the likelihood of that actually happening
- the effort needed to make that happen
- and the poor return on investment, ROI.
What about SEO then? #
I know from personal experience that search engine optimization, SEO, can bring you the kind of traffic that you need for your site. In simple terms it means creating and organizing your content so that Google loves it and so that the people who end up on your pages love it even more.
For the purposes of SEO, however, the biggest thing you need is the ability write supporting text to your site which helps drive engagement from the user. Simple picture galleries with poor navigation and content organization is not going to achieve that.
What picfair offers in terms of content is a page for each photograph, with a meta title, which is the name you have given your photograph and a space for the SERP text, which is the meta description. In other words, they give you a title and a description but no body text, subheadings or other supporting material to accompany a given photo page.
Some Lessons Learned #
Even if my short review of Picfair may seem scathing, my aim is to give you the hopeful photographer an honest view of:
- What the benefits of using Picfair are.
- What Picfair is not when examined in the cold light of the day.
Picfair Benefits #
- They host a platform, which they run and operate and you do not need to set up your own e-commerce website and you get to set your prices.
- They moderate the content you upload so that it meets the licensing requirements to a point.
- They have a clear licencing model that you can use for selling your photographs.
- Your customers can buy printed products of your images, whose fullfilment is handled entirely by them.
- You can re-upload images via their Lightroom plugin.
Picfair Drawbacks #
- Unlike on some other platforms, you will have to draw potential customers to your photography store all by yourself.
- The platform does not allow you to create and organize content that would be compelling to your customers as a standalone solution.
- They have hiked their annual membership pricing by almost 40% from approximately 60EUR to 100EUR per annum.
- The photography store they host for you has a lot of room for improvement from the user experience (UX) perspective. In all honesty, it has slowly improved on the management side.
- No way to re-upload an already uploaded photo without a Lightroom plugin.
All in all, I think Picfair is relatively fit for the purpose of what they promise, but to be able to get the attention of potential buyers, you will have to figure out how to market your website to them. It isn’t Picfair’s job to do it – even if they try to make the social media play sound sexy enough to try.
What Next? #
Thank you for reading this write-up and I hope you learned something from my experience as a Picfair Plus customer. On 2023-05-09, I decided to let my Picfair subscription expire and try something else instead.
If you want to see more of my photos, please visit the full portfolio via the button below.View Portfolio