NFT Photography, and NFTs in general, have been a hot topic for a while now. It’s fair to guess that you’ve at the very least heard some chatter about it. Photography and other genres of art have been selling for millions of dollars, making this an interesting avenue for both artists and art collectors.
But what are NFTs and why should photographers pay attention to them? More importantly, how can you get started and actually make money from your beautiful images?
That’s what we’re going to take a closer look at in this article. Keep reading and you’ll learn everything you need to know about getting started with NFT Photography. Those of you who’ve already dipped your toes into this world might want to scroll further down and read the advice shared to us by some of the top collectors on how you can get more sales.
What are NFTs?
Simply put, an NFT is a Non-Fungible Token.
To understand what this means, we first need to understand the difference between a fungible and a non-fungible item.
Fungible items are interchangeable items, items that are identical to each other. The US dollar is an example of this. A $1 bill can be replaced with another $1 bill, as they have the exact same value. This is also the case for Bitcoin and other currencies.
Non-Fungible items are items that are not interchangeable. Each item is unique and cannot be exchanged for anything else. Collectible trading cards are a great example of this. A card with one characteristic might be immensely more valuable than one with another.
This means that an NFT, or Non-Fungible Token, is a non-interchangeable token. This token, or unit of data, is stored on the blockchain, a form of a digital ledger. The type of data can include any type of digital file (such as photos, videos, and audio).
I want to keep this article as simple as possible so I’ll stay clear of too much technical talk. For those who want to learn more about blockchains and the technicalities of NFTs, I recommend reading this article by Investopedia.
What is NFT Photography?
So, where does photography fit into the NFT space? What exactly is NFT Photography?
The easiest way to look at it is by comparing it to selling prints in the real world. When you sell limited edition prints, you want to include a Certificate of Authenticity. This document is proof that the print is an original version. It’s essentially what brings value to the image if it’s to be resold. Without it, it’s hard to prove that it’s an original print.
This is similar to how NFTs work for photography. Instead of selling a physical print, you’re selling a digital file. The NFT is the Certificate of Authenticity or the proof of ownership.
An argument against NFTs is that someone can right-click and save your photo. This is true. Just as someone can make a copy of your print or you can purchase a Mona Lisa at the Louvre gift shop. But these aren’t originals. Which, in theory, makes them worthless.
What NFTs offer photographers are a way to make an income from their images in a world that’s rapidly becoming more digital. It’s allowing you to build relationships with collectors who resonate with your work and to get paid for creating what you want.
What About Copyright?
One of the questions that are often brought up when talking about NFT Photography is about copyright. What rights do the collector have? What about you?
Generally speaking, the artist keeps the copyright and retains the right to use the image after selling it as an NFT, be it commercially, printing, or licensing. However, it is not acceptable to create another NFT with the same image.
The collector can sell or trade the NFT as they please but do not have any commercial rights. For example, they cannot create copies of the file and license them, or create prints to sell.
It is, of course, possible to make other arrangements with the collectors and grant specific rights. For the tech-savvy, this could be done through a custom smart contract.
Royalties on Future Sales
An interesting aspect of NFTs is that you get royalties on future sales. This is quite different than in the physical world, where once an image is sold, you’re unlikely to ever hear about it again.
In the NFT world, it’s quite different.
Let’s say that you mint and sell an NFT for 0.2 Ethereum (ETH). After some time, you’ve built quite the name for yourself and the NFT resells for 10 ETH. A percentage of this sale is then transferred directly to your wallet (typically 10%, though this can vary between platforms). In this case, that means you made 1ETH from buyer A selling to buyer B.
This is a huge advantage for artists as they can keep earning an income from the same NFT every time it resells in the future.
How to Get Started With NFT Photography
Now that you know what NFTs are and what the purpose of photography is in the space, let’s look closer at how you can set up and prepare for your first sales.
There are a few steps and decisions that need to be made before we get to the sale, though. I know this can be slightly confusing at times but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible.
Step #1: Purchase Ethereum on a Crypto Exchange
The very first thing you need to do is to purchase some Ethereum from a crypto exchange. This is because you’ll have to pay a service/transaction fee when first signing up for a marketplace. We’ll get back to this when looking at the different platforms.
There are many trusted exchanges to use and I recommend doing some research on which are the best. Personally, I have good experience with:
Again, this is based on my experience but make sure to do your own research before transferring money to an exchange.
Exactly how much money you need to invest depends on where you want to sell your photos but somewhere between $150 to $250 should be enough to get you started on most.
Step #2: Create a Digital Wallet
Before you can start selling or buying NFTs, you also need to set up a digital wallet. This is where you can store both the crypto you’ve earned from sales, as well as NFTs you’ve purchased. Any transaction you make needs to be approved in it.
The wallet, also known as a crypto wallet, is also used for logging in to most of the marketplaces where NFTs are listed.
There are many great resources out there that explain exactly what digital wallets are and how they are used (as well as the importance of using hardware wallets). Doing a quick search on Google will provide you with lots of useful information.
For now, I’ll keep it simple and recommend that you use the MetaMask wallet. This is arguably the most used digital wallet on the Ethereum blockchain (which currently is the biggest for NFTs).
It’s also important to understand that the wallet address is tied to all transactions you make. For example, when you mint (create) an NFT, it remains tied to your wallet address until it’s sold. It will then be transferred to the collector’s wallet. This transaction is stored on the blockchain, which functions as a public ledger, allowing anyone to see who created the NFT and who currently owns it.
Note: Never share your seed phrase with anyone. Giving away your seed phrase gives the person full access to your wallet. Avoid storing the seed phrase on your computer or phone, it’s safer to write it on a physical piece of paper and store it somewhere safe. Make sure to read up on wallet security and consider purchasing a Ledger or Trezor hardware wallet for extra safety.
Step #3: Choose the Best Marketplace to Sell Your NFTs
You’ll quickly learn that there isn’t just one place to list and sell your NFTs. There are several platforms and marketplaces, and new ones keep popping up all the time.
Each platform is different and appreciates different types of art. They also have different features and shared smart contracts.
Let’s take a closer look at the most popular NFT marketplaces for photographers:
Opensea – Best for Collections and Editions
According to Gadgets 360, Opensea’s monthly trade volume has exceeded $3.5 billion [January 2022], making it the most popular marketplace for NFTs.
Getting exposure on such a big platform is quite difficult and, quite honestly, Opensea is not well-designed for browsing. You can think of it as the eBay of NFTs.
The main advantage of Opensea is that it has a low entry barrier. There is no significant investment required to get started selling your NFTs. You’ll have to pay a service fee the first time you’re listing an NFT on their platform. The exact price depends on the current gas price (more on this later) but could be anywhere between $50 to several hundred.
What makes Opensea more affordable is their lazy-minting. I’ll explain more about this in the FAQ section but simply put, this means you don’t actually mint and pay a transaction fee when creating your NFT. It’s technically not minted on the blockchain before it’s sold, at which the buyer pays the transaction fee.
This is a quite neat feature as it means you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars listing your NFTs.
Foundation – Best for Standalone Single Edition Images
Foundations is a slightly more exclusive platform as it requires an invitation before you can mint and sell your work. Artists who are already on the platform will receive invites to hand out once they have sold some of their work.
Invites can be hard to come by sometimes but there are many artists who are more than willing to give you an invitation if they have some available. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Minting on Foundation is slightly different than on Opensea. The main difference is that there’s no lazy-minting on Foundation. This means that you’ll pay a gas fee to mint and list your NFT (often around $100 each). It also means that you can’t go in and edit a mistake. You’d have to actually delete the NFT (which is a transaction that costs gas) and re-upload it.
The platform fees are also significantly higher at 15% for primary sales, compared to Opensea’s 2.5%
This might be enough to scare most people away but still, it is perhaps the most popular platform for artists who are selling standalone NFTs (NFTs that aren’t part of a collection. We’ll come back to this in a minute)
The main reason is that Foundation has a relatively good UX that makes it easier to browse and view work. A lot of collectors use this as their primary platform to purchase art.
SuperRare – The Most Exclusive Marketplace
SuperRare is the most exclusive of the three marketplaces. This is also an invite-only platform but the invite needs to come from the platform itself.
This requires you to send an application and record a video introducing yourself and your work. It’s a very high standard t get accepted but it does seem like they’re gradually opening the doors for more creators.
Being accepted onto the platform is something that’s noticed by collectors too. Being an exclusive marketplace, it’s not uncommon to see more expensive sales here.
Step #4: Deciding on Editions vs. Standalones vs. Collections
The final step before creating your NFT is to decide what type of NFT it will be. Not just in the aesthetics but if it’s going to be an editioned NFT, a standalone piece, or part of a collection. Your choice here will impact both the price and platform.
There’s no right or wrong choice. Different artists have different strategies, and what works for one might not work for another. What’s important is that you make a conscious decision and have a plan moving forward.
Just as selling prints in the physical world, NFTs can be sold as editions. This could be an edition of 1, 10, 20, 100, or as many as you’d like.
It’s most common to create an edition of 1 but having a more affordable edition can be a good way to reach more collectors. However, editions are more successful for photographers who’ve already built a significant following or achieved a certain level of success in the NFT space.
The second aspect to consider is whether you’re going to sell your NFT as a standalone image or as a part of a collection. This will impact the marketplace you choose and the price of the images. Personally, I have my standalone “premium” images on Foundation and a collection on Opensea.
Note: Not all marketplaces allow multiple edition NFTs.
A Note on NFT Photography Collections
How to create a good collection is a big topic and can be an article in itself but I want to point out some key elements that you should think about before making one. It’s important to take these things into consideration, as collectors notice them too.
- A good collection should be carefully curated. Avoid throwing all your photos in it. Try to have a cohesive theme that contains only your best work.
- Think about scarcity; It’s better to upload a small collection. Having lots of unsold work can scare collectors away.
- Don’t neglect collection and image descriptions. Make sure to specify what the edition size and dimensions are. A good description shows that you’ve taken the time to do this properly.
These are three of the main points you should keep in mind when creating your collection. It’s important to show the collectors that you’re not just throwing images together hoping for a quick sale, but that you’re being aware and thoughtful about what you sell.
What are Gas Fees?
As we dive further into the process of creating your NFTs you’ll see the terms gas or gas fees mentioned multiple times. This is something that’s important to understand.
Every transaction that’s made on the Ethereum blockchain requires a transaction fee to be paid. This fee is referred to as gas.
It’s because of this fee that you need to purchase some Ethereum before creating your first NFT. You’ll have to pay a gas fee when sending money from your exchange to your digital wallet, and you’ll have to pay when uploading your photo to the blockchain (called minting).
Different platforms have different protocols for minting your images, hence requiring different amounts of money to get started. Needless to say, it can be expensive.
The gas fees themselves fluctuate depending on the traffic on the blockchain. The more activity there is, the higher the fees are. It’s, therefore, best to wait with your transactions until there’s less traffic.
You can use websites such as Etherscan to monitor the gas fee.
How to Get Your NFTs in Front of Collectors
While I’ve been active in the NFT space for quite some time and have had several sales so far, this is a question that’s best answered by collectors themselves. So, I reached out to three respected NFT Photography collectors asking them what photographers should do to get their work discovered.
These 9 tips are what OxV0ult, jamison_dove, AlphaTriology and Jean-Michel Pailhon suggest that photographers do to get their NFTs seen and sold:
#1 Be Active on Twitter and Be Smart About Your Pinned Tweet
Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that having a strong social media presence is important. It’s not enough to simply upload great work to an NFT marketplace.
Twitter has become the go-to platform where artists and creators connect. Building a community here can help get your work exposed to the right people.
These are some of the things you should pay attention to when using Twitter:
- Retweet other artists work but make sure that your own images are easy to find
- Share your best work in the pinned tweet
- Make links to the NFT platforms on which you are displaying and selling your art (Foundation, SuperRare, OpenSea, Rarible, etc.) easy to find in your profile
- Follow collectors who’ve purchased similar art to what you create
Instagram and other platforms can be great secondary repositories of your photographs and also provide a historical display of your artistic work, which can be appealing to collectors. Especially if you have more than 10K followers.
#2 Curate Your Collections and Have a Cohesive Theme
A well-curated collection is something that stands out and attracts potential buyers. It’s better to have a small collection than one where you’ve just thrown in all of your work.
The collection should also have a cohesive theme. So, take your time and really think through what images you want to include. You can always divide your work into multiple collections later on. There’s no rush.
#3 Write Good Descriptions and Names
While it’s not the deciding factor for most collectors, having a good description and name of your NFTs will be beneficial. A good description can, in some cases, be what gets the sale. Just as a bad name can lose you one.
The name of your piece is often more important than the description. The main reason is that it’s the only thing that’s displayed when viewing images in an online gallery (such as OxV0ult’s Oncyber gallery)
A good piece of advice to those who aren’t comfortable with their English skills is to get help with writing the names and descriptions. You can get professional help through websites like Fiverr, or you can ask your native English-speaking friends.
#4 Show That You’re Here for the Long Term
Collectors want to know that you’re not just here to make some quick money. They want to see that you’re here for the long term. The best way to show this is to remain active in the NFT.
This is particularly important if you’re selling NFTs with a higher price tag.
#5 Make Friends With Fellow Photographers
You are better off making friends with other photographers versus cold messaging collectors promoting your work. Collectors often ask those who they have collected from for other recommendations on who they should look at. This is why making friends with other artists is far more important.
#6 Treat Collectors Like Fellow Humans
It’s easy to look at collectors like something more than human as they can spend a large amount of money on someone’s art. But, at the end of the day, they are just like you and me. Treat them with respect and avoid constantly trying to sell them your work.
According to jamison_dove, collectors do not deserve special treatment. They enjoy supporting artists’ work for different reasons. Not only because they like it, but it’s also an investment for them.
#7 Stay True to Your Art
Artists are far better off creating art they believe in and being themselves. These are the kind of people that sell their work because collectors can easily see when someone is not being true to themselves. It comes through in their art.
At the end of the day, you don’t control who collects your work. Focus on developing your style and connecting with people who resonate with your work.
#8 Don’t Be Desperate
It can be difficult to watch everyone but yourself get sales but that does not mean it’s ok to beg or try to guilt collectors into buying your piece. This really shouldn’t be necessary to write but it’s something that several collectors have pointed out as a quick way to get blacklisted.
Sometimes collectors take their time to analyze your artworks and even intellectualize how your NFTs could fit into their collection. It’s not because they’re not immediately buying your art, that they won’t in the near future. Be kind and patient. You’re there to build a long-term relationship with them.
#9 Promote Your Work and Engage on Discord
Discord is another great platform to connect with both photographers and collectors. I found this quite difficult in the beginning but after getting some good advice on Twitter, I came across several great channels. A few of these have resulted in direct sales on my Opensea collection.
Besides the sales themselves, it’s proven to be a great place to interact with the NFT community and learn more about the space and people in it.
I’m not going to sit here and claim that NFTs will change your life in an instant or that you’ll go from no photography-related income to making a living from it. There is only a small percentage of artists that are able to sell their work for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The majority are still waiting for their first sale.
Quitting your day job or putting all your effort into NFTs might not be the best move but it is a space worth exploring if you have ambitions of making an income from your photography. Play your cards right, and enter with a good plan, and you might be making the transition to full-time photography sooner than you thought.
Curious about getting started with NFTs but feeling a bit overwhelmed? Feel free to send me an email or DM on Twitter. I’ll do my best to answer your questions!
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NFT Photography FAQ and Glossary
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the various terms and expressions when entering the NFT space, so here’s a little summary of some we’ve looked at so far, and some that you should know when getting started.
A gas fee is a transaction fee that’s paid for each transaction you make on the blockchain. The exact price of gas depends on how much traffic there is on the Ethereum network. More traffic leads to higher prices.
Minting is the act of creating and uploading your artwork to the blockchain.
Lazy-minting is when uploading an image to a marketplace doesn’t actually mint it on the blockchain. The actual minting doesn’t take place before the NFT is purchased. This allows you to make adjustments (i.e. change descriptions, titles, tags, the image, etc). This type of minting is used by Opensea but not by Foundation or SuperRare.
Listing means putting a price on your NFT and making it available for purchasing.
The floor price is the price of the cheapest available NFT in a collection.
Disclaimer: Not Financial Advice. This article is for general information purposes only and is not intended to constitute financial, legal, or any commercial advice. Please conduct your own research and seek out any financial, legal, tax, or other necessary commercial advice in your local jurisdiction before making any decisions.