With the explosion of NFTs and particularly NFT photography in August of 2021, I have received many questions as to how I found success with my Ebb and Flow Collection, how to approach releasing one, and best practices on how to get the eyes of collectors onto your work.
First of all, I don't have anything figured out. I don't think anyone does really, and with how quickly things are moving and changing in the NFT world, all of this advice could be completely irrelevant next month. I don't feel like I know what I'm doing and I'm even hesitant to offer this as "advice". I'm just doing what I think is the next right thing and I think it's important for anyone else to do that as well. It's easy to follow what everyone else has done, but the people who go on their own path with conviction and passion seem to be trailblazers in this community.
With that being said there are some things to note that I value about my own collections and which will act as the foundation for how I continue to navigate this new world, at least for now.
I ONLY RELEASE WORK THAT COMES FROM MY HEART AND THAT I HAVE A DEEP PERSONAL CONNECTION TO.
This is important to me. I do not create work simply for the sake of NFTs as that is disingenuous to my motivations for photography. The primary reason that I take photographs of nature is not to create a photo, but to use the camera as a tool to build intimate relationships with the things in nature that call to me and to connect with them in my viewfinder. That is where and when I find what I'm looking to accomplish with nature photography: peace and solace. The photo is merely a byproduct of that experience, but a byproduct that I appreciate deeply.
Everyone is different and people have different goals with their photography, but the work that speaks to me the most is the work that feels personal, that has a purpose beyond the photograph, and that tells a story about the photographer.
I BUILD PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THE COMMUNITY.
There's a lot to be said for building those personal relationships. Not just to get to know people but more to contribute to the world in a positive way. Be selfless and supportive. Champion others. Community drives this space and being a positive force is not only noticed, but it makes you feel good too.
Just be a genuinely good person because you are. Be sincere. Be kind.
I TELL THE STORY BEHIND MY WORK.
My story is what makes my work personal. It's the purpose behind my photography and when your work has that deep personal meaning, it helps people relate to both you and your photography.
In fact, none of my work sold until I was able to find an audience and a platform to tell my story on. When I was able to speak about my work from the heart and let my passion and emotion come through, that's when my collection started to sell.
I make sure that I'm not overly pushy with telling my story. I don't pander to any audiences. I simply let conversations happen organically, invite people to reach out if they want to hear it, and only speak from my heart with vulnerability. That's just who I am as a person.
Your story is unique to you. If you are creating work from your heart, then your work will also have that story embedded in it which I feel is translated to the viewer.
FOUNDATION OR OPENSEA?
These are the two most common NFT marketplaces I get asked about. Of course there are places like SuperRare, MakersPlace, Ephimera, Rarible, etc but I am not too familiar with those and a few of them you need to be apply to and be curated in. Many of these websites have better discoverability and/or social aspects built into them, such as following artists.
There are a couple of things to consider here. The first is structure. OpenSea makes it very easy to have "collections" while Foundation does not. This can work in your favor as it allows your collection to be viewed as a whole. Many artists are using OpenSea for their collections and Foundation for their standalone work. Keep in mind that while you can set up a profile on Foundation, you need a fellow creative who has sold on Foundation to invite you onto the platform in order to sell.
The second thing to consider is the fee structure. I don't know about the others but Foundation takes a 15% fee while OpenSea takes 2.5%. This is a pretty big difference.
Another difference between OpenSea and Foundation is that on Foundation you are paying both a minting fee and a listing fee for each piece. At the beginning of August this was usually under $20 each. With the busy network of today it's usually over $100 each and sometimes even into the thousands. With OpenSea you are paying a one time account initialization fee, but after that each minting is free to you if you are listing a fixed price sale, with some exceptions. You can find out more about that here: What Are Gas Fees on OpenSea?
For royalties the loose standard for photography is 10% and I think collectors are used to seeing that and accept that as part of the market.
WHICH COLLECTION SHOULD I RELEASE?
Again, I feel that work that is created from the heart and not just thrown together under a common theme simply because you HAVE them has a better story behind it and thus a better chance at success. Though obviously that's not a hard and fast rule, just something that's important to me personally.
I feel that the collection should have cohesion and if possible, have been in the process of being pursued even before it was considered an NFT collection. I do realize that not all photographers think in themes or projects and perhaps the entry into the NFT world can change that, but having projects that I "explore" is a big part of my creative journey that existed long before NFTs. It allows me to build deeper relationships with the things that call to me. It's what helps me to understand myself, learn about my motivations and what my photography brings to me, and create work that is more personal.
So personally I would not throw together a collection of a theme that wasn't motivated by the above and simply because I have a lot of images of a particular subject. That just doesn't align with my own personal values around my art.
WHAT SHOULD I PRICE MY COLLECTION AT?
Find the intersection of what your work means to you and the "market price" of work that you feel you can compare your own to.
This is a hard question to answer and one that changes by the week. When I released my collection, Ether was $2,400. The only other collection out there that I knew of was Justin Aversano's Twin Flames. He priced his work at .55Ξ initially so I priced slightly below his and slightly above what I felt like I SHOULD price it at which was .5Ξ. I was trying to step outside of my comfort zone with my pricing. Back then, combined with my story and everything else, that worked for me. This is very different now.
I think the bigger question is "are you in this for the long game?". If so, providing a lower entry point around .25Ξ could make it more affordable to more people and allow you some secondary sales out of the gate because people WILL try to flip them for a profit. This is good for you as every secondary sale is money in your pocket. It also allows you to get more collectors "in your corner". The higher percentage of unique collectors that your collection has, the better.
This is another reason that I am only going to release collections that are important to me: these collections are forever and I know that they will always be a part of my creative journey. I have PASSION behind my collection because of what it brings me and how it started. That passion is what gives me the fire and energy to continue to build the value of it not just for me, but for my collectors as well.
It takes an immense amount of energy and attention to build the value of a collection. If you don't have passion for it and you're only throwing it together for a quick cash grab or because of FOMO, then it could become a burden to you if you want to grow the value longterm.
HOW DO I GET MY WORK IN FRONT OF COLLECTORS?
In the current market, this is one of the hardest things. Realize that this is a very new market and there aren't many collectors out there compared to other markets. A few of reasons that it's hard to get your work in front of collectors are:
- With the boom in collections and NFTs in general, there is a lot of "noise" and it's hard to be heard through it all.
- There aren't just a lot of photography collections out there, but there are a lot of PFP projects, generative art projects, etc. that you are also "competing" with. With how much attention some of the projects get, it takes away opportunities to be heard.
- When Ether is pumping/rising in value, many people liquidate their NFTs to convert into Ether and ride the wave.
- I spend a lot of time in Twitter Spaces. Like... a lot. This is where I am able to build deeper connections because it's done through voice and not text.
- I try to not only spend time in Spaces with other photographers, but I also make sure to spend time in the Spaces of NFT collectors, influencers, etc. This allows you to build relationships with them, gain alpha on what they appreciate/don't appreciate, and just builds the depth of your community.
- I don't participate in "shill" threads. Shilling is a term that comes from the old carnival days where the entertainers would try to rope in their customers with loud attempts at engagement. Think of a carnival barker trying to get you to come over and play their game. Most of the time these threads are just meant to ramp up engagement of the person who posted it with little actual interest in the responses, though there are exceptions.
- I let conversations around my collection happen organically. If people buy into my collection I want it to be for the right reasons. I want them to connect with me, my story, or my work. I don't want to pressure people and I certainly don't want to come across as desperate, because I'm not. I am in this for the long term and I am focusing on building sustainability through organic growth. It's a marathon.. not a sprint.
Just like any other business model, getting your work in front of the right people is the goal. How everyone does that is up to them, but the above ways are things that I do on a daily basis.
Things to avoid
- FOMO (Fear of missing out). FOMO can cause you to compromise on your work for the sake of a few dollars. To me, that's not something that I'm willing to do. Again, we are so early in this that there will be plenty of opportunity.
- Throwing collections together that don't have personal meaning to you. Remember.. this lives on the blockchain forever. If it doesn't have meaning to you it's going to be hard to keep the motivation behind your collection.
- Burnout. With everything moving so fast in these early days it can be hard to step away and take care of yourself. Take some personal time. Go out into nature and forget about NFTs for a bit. Look at pretty things through your camera to let your mind and soul rest. Breathe in some fresh air and never forget why you chose to pick up a camera and point it at things you love in the first place.
- Letting your success or failure define your creative journey. Some people work hard, some people get lucky, and some people have a really hard time gaining any traction. But NONE of that defines their art. Don't let the NFT world dictate your passion for creating. Your work is more important than that.
- Promising too much to people who collect. Are you going to be doing a monthly airdrop for your collection? Do you intend to do a monthly airdrop FOREVER? Are you offering to ship prints all over the world when someone spends .2Ξ on your work? Think long term and don't let the goal of your first sales dictate the path you take.
- Releasing too many collections too fast. I want to focus on building the value of my collection. Like I said.. my collection is deeply important to me and if I were to release more collections then it takes energy away from building and also dilutes the value of that collection.
I will add more to this as I think of them, but I doubt you'll ever come back to read. ;-) Again, these are just my thoughts. They could be right, but they're probably wrong. And what works for one person might not work for another. So at the end of the day just follow your heart and keep doing what you've already been doing. Your long-term happiness and satisfaction with your work is more important than anything else in this space. Don't forget that.
TLDR: Post collections that are meaningful to you, be a positive force in the community, build personal relationships with those around you, don't let your success or failure in this market define you as an artist, tell your story, and take care of yourself.
If you'd like to discuss anything further, ask questions, or simply be part of a growing community, please consider joining us on the Ebb and Flow Discord.