Should I have a mark/logo on my works?
I mark my works because I like to see what I’ve created and where it’s going on the web, whether that metadata or a digital signature. It also gives me a false sense of online ownership. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that once your work is online, it’s online. That means that you can’t force anyone against stealing it. You are dependent on them doing the right thing. Even in the physical world before the internet existed there were the original artists and the copiers of their works. There are people with special skills who can investigate the works to test their authenticity. And not to be too morbid, once you die your works will be passed on to someone else or into the trash bin. It depends on how they view its value.
I place a vector mark in Affinity Photo over the image that I’ve simply created with a few fonts. Create a brush from the mark so you don’t have to import it every time as a new layer. And use Adobe Bridge, which is free at this time, to add metadata to the final photographs. I can use search engines to look for this metadata and find where the file was copied online. Even with these two, people can remove the mark by cropping the image or erasing it from the image and the metadata can be removed taking a low-quality screenshot or running the photo through a program to strip it clean.
Even with these, I still continue my workflow because I know that even without these two methods, I can still identify my works, even if they are cropped. Each photograph has a signature within them that the photographer can see but others cannot unless that photographer has a custom style of editing that is unique to them. Every good photographer spends time composing the shot from their unique viewpoint before pressing the shutter button and it is that fingerprint that marks their photos.
Should I start with Instagram or have my own website?
Instagram still is a simple platform to easily share your works with an audience. You shouldn’t focus on the number of followers. I had 400 followers but only 20 people in that pool actually liked my photos and once in a while I garnered a few comments even if I reached out to them by comment or direct message. A lot of the likes over 50 came from running promotions but most of them would like the post and not follow the account or visit my website. And I also had accounts that re-posted my work without asking permission because I chose a hashtag that they claimed and they added me to their email list without doing a required double opt-in. I prefer that those accounts ask me but few have. I asked them kindly to remove my work from their profiles and despite Instagram having a form to fill out to claim action, it has never worked for me. And then there are other photographers who don’t seem to care about having others re-post their photos and tag them. I see them thank the account for featuring their work within their stories. It goes both ways. Instagram’s network is time wasted in likes, re-posts, tags, hashtags, and spending money to have others see what you’ve added there for a small return on investment. If you’re going to stay on Instagram, read the fine print before you sign up for an account. On a positive note, I do appreciate the friendships I have built on Instagram through comments and direct messages because of shared interests.
That’s why I have this website. I’m not constrained by social media platforms. I can post my photography here, write about it, and post links to places where it can be bought. I keep the traffic that comes to my website and there is a feed of my works not a mix of works from multiple people.
I have learned to use social media to point them to this website while not spending all my time within their apps and ignore the space I have here. It’s similar to owning your own fishing boat in the big ocean and putting out many fishing lines instead of floating in the ocean to be the bait for the fish.
I would encourage you to have your own website with your own domain name. That’s your place on the web where it will always be as long as you take care of the bills.
Where should I host my website?
The short answer is, WordPress.com. The long answer follows. If you are starting off, start with WordPress.com and when you have a need to go big with your own e-commerce, then you can pay more to WordPress.com for their Business plan or pay less and manage all the ins and outs of WordPress from your own server. WordPress is free to use but the hosting and domain name will cost you whether you host your website at WordPress.com or on your own hosting with WordPress.org. And buy a custom theme or you can pick a free theme approved for WordPress.
Besides being a fan of WordPress for the foreseeable future and a web developer of it, I’ll explain why I recommend you to go with it.
It’s really easy to export all your content from WordPress to another platform or to another WordPress installation. You can also import other select platforms into WordPress but you will have a lot of clean up work. If you use Wix, Weebly, Blogger, Tumblr, etc., when you are ready to go big, you will have to copy and paste all your content over to the new installation. It will be hard to move all your images from Blogger.
I recommend SiteGround at this time for hosting to clients who are starting out. I have used HostGator in the past. I do manage a few sites on BlueHost. Currently, I’m using a droplet on DigitalOcean because I’m interested in that type of customizable and developer-friendly environment.
If you are going at it alone, get a managed WordPress environment but if you have a web developer like me to work by your side, the starting plan is just fine. Whatever you do, please ask someone with my experience for advice before you pay for the hosting plan or the domain name because you will be get up sold on every possible addition that you won’t need. Don’t waste your money.
What about my domain name?
Get your domain name and only that at NameCheap.com and not from GoDaddy, 1and1, or Google. Then point it to your hosting at one of the sites I’ve mentioned above.
Artists should use their first and last name for the domain name and only purchase a dot com. You only need one domain name not multiples. You can also use your business name as the domain name. And set up an email address that matches your domain name if you want to look professional.
How can I sell my works?
I am going to assume that you use social media sites already and will recommend Gumroad, Etsy, or similar services to you. You can sell digital downloads from these sites and connect them to PayPal or Stripe. You will lose money in the transaction fees but that’s going to happen wherever you go online. You can also request a screenshot of the work that you have posted for sale and they want to buy. Complete the transaction through Square and direct messages. I’ve bought prints through this method on Instagram from reputable sellers.
If you are going to sell through WordPress, use the WooCommerce plugin, and tie it to your PayPal or Stripe account to sell digital downloads or prints you will fulfill on your own. Use NextGEN Pro if you’re not interested in self-fulfilling your own photography prints. You can also point people to other websites to sell your photography prints but then you’ll be splitting your site traffic.
What about cyber security?
Wherever you put your work online, make sure you can set up two-step authentication codes so you can retrieve your account when it is hacked. This is assuming that you have an email address and even a smartphone already with the Twilio Authy app. And don’t use an easy-to-remember password or the same everywhere. Use LastPass or 1Password to save all your secure STRONG passwords.