The “Why Haven’t I Made Any Sales?” Checklist

You’re a photographer who’s oh-so-ready to make money. We hear ya. But if you’ve gotten every hair in place and you’ve still not seen that “Cha-Ching!” email, here are a few possible reasons why you’ve not been getting bites.

1. No Buy Button

Missing Buy button on a pro website

Is it there? This is possibly one of the most dire but easiest flubs to fix. Maybe you disabled this or applied a Quick Setting that hid the Buy button from your galleries, but if you don’t switch it back on you’ll never sell a single print. So be sure to check your galleries and if it’s missing, enable printing in your Gallery Settings. Easy peasy!

Enable SmugMug's shopping cart

2. No Pricing

Set your SmugMug pricing

We hate asking this, but… you DID set up your pro pricing, right? With Pricelists it’s really easy to set a pro markup on just the products you want, then apply that pricing to any or all galleries across your site. But if you forget to do this, you won’t make a dime.

Tip: If you don’t want to think about this ever again, check the “Make this my default pricelist” at the top right and we’ll automagically apply this pricelist to all current and new galleries on your site.

Also, are you charging enough? It may seem counter-intuitive, but we can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your prices high and charging what you’re worth. In short: Don’t be cheap.

3. Nasty RCP Message

Great example of an effective RCP message.

We’re all about protecting your photos and making sure that you have peace of mind when putting your best work on the web. But there are ways to use them, and then there are better ways to use them. We’re here to show you the latter.

Like your Right-Click Protection message: It’s there to foil right-clickers looking for an easy download, but most photographers just put a boilerplate copyright message, or a threat. Instead of slapping your customers, try to guide them to your Buy button for a profit-making purchase. You’ll look competent AND helpful all at the same time. Fix it under the “Photos” line in your Easy Customizer.

4. Originals On

Disable free originals downloading in your gallery settings

So many SmugMug users use their galleries to share photos with friends and family. But as a Pro, being that generous may not be so good for business. Originals (and full-res downloads) are on by default, but it’s a quick fix to change this. Just remember to do it!

Open up your gallery settings and look for the Security & Privacy option. Set the radio button to anything smaller than Originals (like XLarge), and to check, log out and take a breeze through your galleries. You’ll always see a Save Photo option when you’re logged in as the owner, but you shouldn’t see it when you’re viewing your site as a guest.

5. Zero Marketing

Ah, the feeling of sweet success on the morning you unveil your website! But wait… did you share the link?

Share that gorgeous sunset!

Like relationships, you’ve got to put a little effort in to get something back. So be sure to enter in your keywords, captions, meta description and meta keywords to be sure you get picked up in search engines. Also share the link to your site with friends, Facebook and anywhere else you go online. After all, you can’t make sales if nobody knows you exist.

6. Password Foibles

Share your gallery password

Many clients want their event galleries locked down with a viewing password, and, yeah, we understand privacy. But our Support Heroes hear from more people than we’d expect that get hit with this one. We hear from confused clients, curious pros who expected instant sales, but the culprit is usually that the password never got shared! So if you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest wedding gallery and your inbox is a ghost town, think back to whether or not you’ve completed this vital step.

The lesson? Don’t forget to share your viewing passwords with the people that matter most. Since passwords are cAsE sEnSiTiVe we recommend copying and pasting what you type in your gallery settings right into your emails.

7. You Launched Yesterday

Fill in your SEO settings to maximize your search engine results

It’s possible to find overnight success on the web, but patience is still a virtue. You can plug in every keyword and meta description properly, shared with your Facebook fans and distributed your business cards to shops across town, but you’ll still have to wait to see the effect. It takes time for Google to do its work, and for tongues to wag.

So instead of stressing out, grab your camera, keep on shooting and work on honing your craft. Your soon-to-be clients will only love you more.

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I'm a freelance documentary photographer who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

38 thoughts on “The “Why Haven’t I Made Any Sales?” Checklist”

    1. While i haven’t “sold” many of my photos that are currently on Smugmug, unless it was a a specific photo shoot, I can attest that most of my photos that end up on google search results are from smugmug, not my WordPress site or other sites. So I know they can be found.

      1. I’m in the same boat. Unless it’s event specific, haven’t sold much at all. My Smug stuff shows on Google more than WordPress, but then again, I host the photos on my site and use embedding code for my blog.

    2. No sales for sure. Stock photography is only venue I have made any sales. Ventured into Smugmug to experiment and love the way they allow you to present your photos.

  1. I know we can make the buy button a bit bigger in CSS but it also makes the give smug mug button massive.
    The small trolley needs urgent attention its TOO small and can’t be enlarged I want a BIG FOOK OFF button that says buy/ order/ get etc not a tiny wee shopping cart you need glasses to see on a normal monitor

    Once in the buying section it does not get any better
    The lack of preview to see how the canvas etc looks is appalling
    You need to sort this as a matter of urgency EVERY other place offers a preview and even a look at how it could possibly be on the wall.

    For the charges you make each year and the 15% what happened there tax each time we make a sale i expect you should have gotten it sorted a LONG time ago

    Talking to support is useless about this beacuase they cannot do anything about it

    SMUG MUG wake up smell the sales walking away We pay you to make our stuff sellable online but the buying process is total pants

    My site is

    It amazes me anytime anyone manages to figure out how to buy on it
    Just compare the buying experience on there to the buying experience on Fine Art America or any other pod. Theirs is streamlined and looks good on the screen yours / mine does not.
    I sell but smug is my weakest performing sales channel by a long shot

    So what you going to do about it?
    All these nice blog posts dont fix it

    1. Hi John and thanks so much for your feedback. We get that this is a big issue with many pros looking to sell and we are hearing you loud and clear. Thank you!

      1. I hear you saying that. But when and what are you going to do about it?
        I might be a smug mug newbie at just over a year but i have found it to be one of my biggest bug bears in that time.
        If you guys say its an issue with many pros looking to sell then you should be coming up with a resolution ASAP.
        Smug is starting to look a bit dated now with the imagesphere shifting with new looks on Flickr 500px etc.

        I rarely do event or wedding shoots so my need is for an easy to use cart and previewing of the image as this is what the buying public expect now.
        The printing quality is spot on from Loxely so the end result is in the bag its just getting them to that point. Even i have difficulty navigating the buying cart and because of this i have dropped down my actual sizes to the most basic to prevent customers getting confused.

        Do you have a timescale for real fundamental changes?

  2. I paid for the full deal. I had a customer last week tell me she couldn’t figure out how to buy off the site. All the rodeo people want now is a cd with photos on it because Smugmug is too difficult they say. Out of several thousand photos, I got about 5-7 sales, a few 5×7’s and I marked them down low!🙂

    1. Thing is Jamie we have paid our cash Smug tell us they are listening but dont come back with time scales or actual tangible fixes for the problems
      they still get money till the end of the year its just the 15% now you have made a sale tax they dont get!

    2. I had the Assoc Editor of the WSJ, a very smart guy, the guy that took their paper digital, tell me he had trouble figuring out how to buy from my site. That is bad for business. I had to self fulfill the order or lose the order

  3. “1. No Buy Button
    Is it there? This is possibly one of the most dire but easiest flubs to fix.”

    How about giving us the option to make the buy button f*©%en’ noticeable?!

    1. HI Jamie
      Its the worst layout ever but you can make the “buy” button bigger by adding this
      #buyButton { font-size: 30px;}
      into the CSS (optional) box in the advance site wide customisation section
      Its only a small thing but it makes it bigger.. That is till you press on the image and it makes it larger. Then you are back to the pathetic little shopping cart. the one no body can find!
      PS when you make the buy button larger it also makes the “give smug mug” button huge
      you only see this when you are logged in the punters don’t see it, but its a bit like rubbing salt in the wounds..

  4. I have had over 42,000 views in the last 2 years of stills and videos so there is no problem getting people to my site and in this time I have had only 2 sales. Admittedly until recently my videos have not had watermarks (because you can’t add watermarks on videos in Smugmug) so I believe a lot of the traffic was screen grabbing my work.

    But I have had a lot of people mention how poor the sales process on Smugmug actually is. There are other problems like captions or filenames not showing under thumbnails when in Smugmug display mode. So why don’t I use thumbnail mode? Ah no, because there appears to be no buy button when you select a photo, only a little shopping trolley. Oh that’s the buy button! How obvious (not).

    Let’s try video in thumbnail mode. Click on a thumbnail, up comes the preview, Ah, there’s no shopping trolley at all. So I have to remember the file name and then go back to the gallery and click the buy button and then the “select photo” [well it’s a video] button and then I get the whole gallery but no caption names – so which one do I want to buy… ah there’s an info button when I hover over the thumbnail… only 143 to hover over then… oh I give up, where’s Shutterstock?

    The whole purchasing system, but especially for videos, is very weak and needs overhauling. I appreciate Smugmug’s advice emails and it has driven a lot of people to my Smugmug site, but if people find the purchasing process unintuitive they will give up and go elsewhere.

    1. Hi Scott and we are so grateful for your detailed feedback! We have heard similar comments recently about the interface and the challenges for translating browsing to sales. Thanks for taking the time to write all that out and we are certainly listening to make some improvements.

    2. Hi Robert
      I found a sort of solution in a VERY VERY old post on a forum about the cart button being too small
      Effectively you need to change the icon for it to something else and insert some CSS in.

      The original is here on the dgrin forum but i adapted it slightly to bring the button over to the right and just above the image

      The original posted had it way over on the left hand side

      Here’s my adapted code which should be added to the CSS box in advanced customisation

      .cart_add {
      width: 150px !important;
      background: url(“”) no-repeat scroll 0 0 transparent !important;
      height: 30px !important;
      vertical-align: middle;
      display: block;
      position: fixed;
      top: 5px !important;
      right: 300px;
      visibility: visible !important;

      the original thread i got it from was here
      So lets not kid ourselves Smug Mug know its there all i did was a google search and came up with it
      I recommend you download the image i created or create one of your own
      you have to paste the link in from the share menu rather than straight from the url as it wont work OWNER SHARE> GET LINK then select the largest one
      replace the code relating to my site with yours as above you dont need to am not gonna be moving that file so you could paste exactly as is and it will work

      Hope this helps

  5. I cannot understand that SmugMug does not, after all these years, make improvements on the mail list…. This can be a better and more valuable tool, yet has been ignored….So here is my reason HOW my sales can improve….. SMUGMUG ARE YOU LISTENING???

    1. Hi Robert, we’re very sorry to hear that things have been frustrating for you, but we aren’t permitted to share details about what we’re working on and when we’ll be releasing new stuff. SmugMug is built on the feedback of our customers – we do listen to every comment and we really do hope that you’ll continue to share your feedback with us, no matter how big or small.

      1. Comments and suggestions and requests from SmugMug users have been made for a number of years so please spare me such rhetoric. Its like “Hope Springs Eternal” with this subject. Communication and filtering clients (those who buy and are added to the SM mail list) would provide a wealth of information, opportunities to ask clients for referrals based upon their purchases, data about specific clients for a cumulative account of their purchases, etc. etc. et al.

        Yet, when you make such a big announcement like fixing bugs or “Android compatibility” it does make me, and I would wager, many others, jump though hoops. That doesn’t help generate business and/or if it does it, in my opinion, it is a remote addition and maintenance oriented.

        Saying you aren’t permitted to share details means there are no details and such, after so many years of people talking about it, is not a trustworthy nor promising statement.

        The generation of new tools to market our services can also begin from within the data we have at hand and I hope you can take this seriously enough to have some higher level discussions among those that make the decisions. If you can’t, then just, please, let me know to whom specifically I should make contact……But don’t ever, please allow me such a response as above….I’ve been around the block many times.

  6. It wasn’t until I had purchased my site built the homepage and loaded the galleries that I noticed that you needed $500. in sales to collect. Plus i also had complaints about finding the buy button.

    1. so If I quit smug mug and don’t have $500 in sales, what happens to the rest of my money?

    2. The feedback about the Buy button is a great one, thanks Hewett! And to clarify how our profit payment works, you can opt for automatic profit payout once you hit the $500 mark in profits. BUT you don’t have to do this – you can withdraw your money at any time by filling out our simple request form.

      This page has all the info about your reporting, so please read it carefully. We know it’s not the most fun info, but it’s important because it’s your money:

  7. I agree with everyone about the “Buy” button and Cart navigation needing to be more user friendly. It would also be nice if there were more “Easy Customization” options for those of us who get lost looking at CSS code. (and yes I’ve read about it at more than I’d like to admit)

  8. I just don’t believe that fixing the buy button is going to be the big fix here. A majority of our customers, for whatever reason do not buy online and I do not think it has anything to do with the smugmug layout. We only post to smugmug when someone pays us to do so or has bought so much onsite that we don’t mind the extra work posting online.

    In my opinion, we need software that allows our customers to view and purchase photos onsite, via their smart device, on a local network. Then when the photographer has an available internet connection, the photos will be automatically posted online. Impulse buying is 95% of our sales and there are only 4 or 5 companies that have local viewing software solutions. Maybe 5% of sales are online, yet there are dozens of companies that are setup to provide that service.

    Currently our customers use our viewing stations and this works pretty well. However, when I give them an IPAD that is wirelessly tethered to my camera the sales numbers go thru the roof. I would pay a lot of money for software to be able to integrate onsite and online viewing seamlessly and I truly believe this is the only way to make serious money with action photography

    1. Not sure what market you are in but
      i rely on online sales not offline so the buy button experience is critical in making it apparent that the image is actually for sale.
      This should have been one of Smugs TOP concerns its been getting raised for multiple years but multiple people

      The real problem is they say they are listening but offer NO info on what the listening becomes

      Similar to the problem i have with the local supplier (loxely) for canvas
      Smug have only taken on canvas wraps which went out with the dinosaurs
      No one wants wraps anymore they want plain sides.
      I had to stop offering them for sale because my images were being absolutely destroyed in the stupid cropping.
      I spoke with Loxley and they made it clear its a smug mug problem not theirs
      they offer these but smug choose not to take them.
      It leaves me only able to sell prints when canvas is still a lucrative market

      Another thing they dont listen to

      SMUG MUG do some listening and let us know what you are doing
      We dont care for inaction for $300 per year we want action or you will be losing more to zenfolio etc who offer and deliver not just remain exactly the same year after year!

  9. What is the reason that Smugmug won’t accept Paypal or am I missing something? Maybe there is a way of doing it, but I can’t find it in account settings. Smugmug are happy to pay me via PayPal.

  10. skip the word PRINTABLE, and replace with FOR SALE. I know that printable means for sale now, but until smugmug I always thought printable was synonymous with stealable, so I can see hoe a newbie would not want to make their images stealable

  11. I agree that I have heard nothing but complaints from my customers about how confusing the buying process is. Even if my customers find the buy button they don’t know how to select from the buying choices. I think part of the confusion is the separate tabs for products on top is not obvious. Also the example of the products are very small on the left side of the buy page. The fact that you don’t go to an entirely new screen and the page behind is softened is not a crisp, clean cut way of doing things. I have had to go as far as creating my own video tutorials and posting them on my site just to try and help my customers navigate and purchase. I’m not a professional videographer so they don’t look professional but what else can I do. I have even made my own advertisements that I list as the first few pictures in each gallery to give pointers to navigate the site and buying practices. It might be of great help if Smugmug could have a video of buying practices as a button right on the buying page. The same could be done as a navigation button on the home or gallery pages. My biggest hurdle is our YOUTH can navigate most webpages well. Unfortunately they don’t have the money and tend to screen shot everything even if I watermark them to death. They just don’t care in this world of Facebook and other media sharing sites. They just think it is cool to see themselves on the internet and share with their friends. I hate to say it but the site needs to be dummy downed for adults who for the most part don’t know how to navigate or work these pages on the internet. They are the ones with the money and who make the buying decisions and if it is not clear, they just leave the pages. I know this for a fact as I do portraits and at my last shoot of over 40 kids I have had 5 sales total. I would think Smugmug would do everything in their power to make buying easier since they make a percentage off of all sales. I know I would.

  12. Wow! I’ve done over $105,000 in my profit over the years, the only complaint I’ve had was that they still squeeze me for the yearly fee even though they’ve made tens of thousands off me, that and the cookie problem dumping orders. Now I’m wondering how many sales I’ve lost from those unable to figure out how to order.

  13. I am so glad that I came across this thread. I complained to you folks at Smugmug a long time ago that my customers had problems figuring out the ”new/improved” how to BUY prints. It is ridiculous that I have to give them a list of steps to figure out how to buy a photo. Rarely do I convince a family from a Family Beach Shoot to buy off the website, no matter how much I brag about the Smugmug quality or warn them against going to the corner drugstore. Plus my prices are competitive.
    I also have numerous photos that have won awards, sold at other venues and get lots of views at Smugmug, but rarely a sale at Smugmug. I wonder how many potential customers did not buy, because they could not figure out how to order?

    Regarding Viewer Controlled, the Smugmug STYLE is NOT my favorite style. I have suggested to Smugmug in the past that If a gallery is set to Viewer Controlled, I would prefer to be able to set the default view that the customer sees, rather then the Smugmug STYLE. ( I dont know if my suggestion was ever passed along, since I don’t recall hearing back from anyone) Here is an example on my issue>> If I have a gallery of a triathlon or other event with over 1000 images, I want the participants to see the gallery in THUMBNAIL style, so they can scroll along quickly and find photos of themselves, rather then go page after page after page etc… ( if they even notice that there are many pages of photos) We need to make it as easy as possible for potential customers. From the feedback that I get from customers they dont even know that they have viewing choices. On most galleries, I end up writing a line or two on viewing options.

    Sorry if I am repeating a previous post, but with the current set up, if I have gallery set for Viewer Controlled and the customer uses the THUMBNAIL style…once they click on an image there is no Buy button. They would have figure out that they have to go back to main page of that gallery, hit Buy button, then click on Photos In This Gallery from the drop down menu and then click on the image. Once they click on an image, all they see is the price for a 4×6. There is a CHANGE PRODUCT button in the upper right corner, but it even took me awhile to figure out that this meant other size prints and other products.

    Why not have all Viewer Controlled Style Buy buttons like the Smugmug Style or Slideshow style, instead of making the Thumbnail and Journal Styles Buy buttons difficult to figure out? Or is this a glitch on my website? thanks in advance, John

    1. Thanks for the detailed feedback, John. We have had a lot of great ideas and opinions voiced in this post and we love it. We do know that you want things to be as easy as possible for both you as well as paying clients, so we’ll take all of this into consideration in future improvements. Thanks!

  14. Regarding the email I just received-The “Why Haven’t I Made Any Sales?” Checklist.

    It would help immensely if the Smugmug ”keywords” would show my photos A LOT more on google and yahoo searches. I use specific location and event words as directed by S.M. to promote myself in my area, but hardly see any of my Smugmug gallery images when doing an image search. But when I post an image at somewhere like it almost always is near the top of searches.
    Suggestions welcome. I sure need the exposure and sales if we are going to have more sales.

    Also, please review my comment again from June 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm (#32). Still hoping that S.M. can improve the Gallery issue that I mentioned.

    Regards, John

  15. I sell videos. I haven’t sold them on Smugmug because it is not the right place to host them and the system is not robust/safe/effective (and many other adjectives) enough to do so. There was great hope when the whole site was overhauled and I gave it time to develop, but video is hard to get right, much,much,much harder than hosting stills and Smugmug has failed to deliver.

    I looked at what I was about to pay for another year of hosting and it didn’t take a spreadsheet to work out that there was no point in continuing and I have cancelled my video account.

    My sister company still has a pro account because it does event photography and for that Smugmug is brilliant.

    My suggestion is that unless Smugmug really, really wants to host videos it actually stops doing because people are paying a lot of money to have their material hosted either without protection and available to purchase or not available and… well what’s the point?

    Finally in Smugmug’s defence there isn’t a good alternative out there and I have ended up building a WordPress site that hosts everything from web size videos to 4K material securely and available to download as soon as payment is completed, so it can be done.

    I left and returned once before, let’s hope I will again.

  16. Nice place to display you’re work. But, appears only ones looking are other photographers. No one pursuing the photos to purchase?

    1. Hi Angeleyes, this is a great comment. We’ve found that there are quite a few people that use the SmugMug Search page to find photos that meet specific requirements, which can include sales. So it’s important to fill in keywords and captions for all your images, so that they show up in these search results.

      It’s true that we may not have as directly-obvious community features like other large photo sharing sites, but we have photographers that vary from wanting to make tons of sales to wanting everything locked down and completely private. So we leave it up to you to promote your photos and your business. Hence this post!

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