When I first looked into NFT art during the initial rush at the start of 2021, there was already a fairly wide choice of marketplace sites for buying and selling NFTs.
However, it was clear that only a handful of these were serious contenders. And none specifically catered to photographers or photography enthusiasts.
Since that time, pretty much everyone and their dog has set up an NFT marketplace.
Inevitably the number of photographers expanding into NFTs has grown significantly too.
And a couple of the newly-launched NFT marketplaces have been created specifically with photographers in mind.
As we will see, though, this doesn’t necessarily make them the best option for photographers wanting to get in on the non-fungible action.
So which are the best NFT marketplaces for buying and selling photography? And how do you mint your first NFT as a photographer?
This guide to NFTs for photographers and photography collectors explains all!
These are still Wild West days. The NFT market is relatively new, and since blockchain art went mainstream with the $69 million Christies Beeple auction earlier this year, everyone is looking for a piece of the action.
This means that any advice or recommendations I offer here are subject to rapid change. With that said, I’d strongly advise you to do a little of your own research before acting upon any of the information contained in thus guide, as it could change quite literally overnight.
Strangely the photography industry’s uptake of NFTs has been rather slow.
Meanwhile those already well-versed in all things crypto evidently don’t consider photography to be high on their list of priorities.
The result is that, at the time of writing, there is only one serious-looking photo-oriented NFT marketplace (although some less convincing ones have also launched).
This means that as photographers we must navigate our way through more generalized NFT platforms, where we must compete against glitch animations, regurgitated memes, 8-bit doodles, indescribably ugly illustrations of Elon Musk, and even farts.
These matters aside, ideally this would be a simple guide outlining which NFT marketplaces are best suited to photography and reviewing their various services.
That way you could just choose the one that makes the most sense for you as a photographer and start minting.
In reality, though, it’s often not so much a case of you choosing the platform, as the platform choosing you.
Indeed, despite the huge number of NFT marketplaces now operating, several of the better ones remain strictly invite only.
And even many of those that have a more open door policy still require new artists to go through a demanding vetting process before being accepted.
Realistically, then, which marketplaces you can gain access to will depend in large part upon what level you are at in your career as a photographer (or, at least, your ability to shout about your career on Instagram).
Some NFT marketplaces are open to all, but the downside here is that your work will be drowned out by the endless torrent of NFTs uploaded daily – many of which are of quite questionable quality.
Other sites are more selective.
But if you are a good photographer with a decent social media following, or notable career achievements to your name, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get accepted.
Others still will probably not be interested in you unless your name is Annie Leibovitz or Steve McCurry.
With that rant out of the way, here are the top ten NFT marketplaces currently minting photography tokens, followed by all the basic info you need in order to start minting NFTs as a photographer or collecting them as an enthusiast:
What You Need to Know:
- Mostly home to high-end artists who are well-known within (and sometimes also outside) the NFT art scene.
- Joining doesn’t require an invite, but you will be expected to undergo a stringent vetting process that starts with a survey asking about your longterm career goals and involves uploading a video introducing yourself and your work.
- Nifty Gateway takes only 5% in fees on the sales price, plus 30 cents in transaction costs. Keep in mind, though, that this is in addition to the gas fees you will incur when minting a token.
- Artist’s are paid 10% royalties on the sales price of all secondary market auctions of their work.
- Nifty Gateway uses a number of novel auction formats, such as closed bidding; a raffle-style prize-draw (designed to stop bots from winning all auctions); and open editions – in which there is a time limit for minting copies of the NFT, but no limit on the number of pieces that can be minted.
- The search function only allows you to search for a specific artist, not genres nor tags, so it’s very difficult to look for just photography NFTs. I had more luck using Google to track down photographers on the platform.
- Note that Nifty Gateway was recently the victim of a major bout of hacking which saw users lose thousands of dollars in tokens. However, improved security measure have apparently been put in place since.
What You Need to Know:
- Ephimera is a dedicated platform for buying and selling photography and video art NFTs.
- An invite is not required in order to join Ephimera as a creator. However applications are only accepted at certain times, so you’ll need to follow Ephimera on social media in order to know when the next round of applications will open. For buyers, the application process is of course a lot simpler.
- Rather than unlocking extra content off-site at the end of an auction, you should upload your works as high resolution files as you mint your NFTs.
- You can only mint 1/1 artworks, not editions. However it is possible to create a series of thematically linked artworks.
- For primary sales of an artwork, Ephimera takes 10%, and as the creator you keep the rest. For all secondary market sales, the platform takes 5% and you get 10%.
- The quality of work on this platform is generally quite high, so expect the application process to be fairly competitive.
What You Need to Know:
- Foundation only launched in early 2021, but has quickly established itself as one of the more exclusive and higher-quality marketplaces for NFTs.
- For creators, Foundation is by invite only. So you’ll need to have friends who are already on the site (or beg everyone you know until you find someone willing to invite you). To start buying NFTs, however, all you need is a MetaMask wallet.
- No initial fees, but you’ll need to pay for gas and minting each time you produce a new NFT, and these costs can easily add up to $40 a shot depending on current gas rates. This makes Foundation a poor choice economically if you plan on minting more than just a couple of NFTs. On top of which, once you find a buyer, Foundation takes 15% of the sales price too (higher than many other NFT marketplaces sites).
- There’s quite a lot of photography on Foundation. And thankfully it’s much easier to search for than on most other NFT marketplaces. However, despite the invite-only policy, not all of it is of amazing quality. Although the standard is better than on many competitor sites.
Hic et Nunc
What You Need to Know:
Hic et Nunc (meaning “here and now” in Latin) is unapologetically techy. To give you an idea, clicking various FAQ entries takes you off the site and onto GitHub.
This makes for a UI layout that, in its bare simplicity, can actually be slightly confusing to non-tech folk. This techiness is also somewhat reflected in the type of artwork that is available to purchase.
Although the general quality appears to be towards the higher end when compared with some other platforms.
- An invite is not required in order to join Hic et Nunc. However, the process of creating a profile is no less techy than anything else on Hic et Nunc, and some may find the whole experience a little intimidating.
- Unlike most of the NFT marketplaces we look at here, Hic et Nunc doesn’t run on Ethereum, but instead uses the Tezos blockchain. This means that it won’t work with Metamask or any other ETH wallet. Instead try Kukai. However, apparently it also means that considerably less energy is consumed when minting, which makes this site a way greener option than most.
- On Hic et Nunc tokens are called OBJKTS. Minting fees for OBJKTS are much lower than most other NFT marketplaces: typically less than a dollar. And the site charges its 2.5% “maintenace fee” to the buyer rather than the seller. This makes it a very economical site to sell from and as a result prices for NFTs are typically lower here than elsewhere.
- Hic et Nunc’s search function actually works pretty well, and so finding photography is pretty straightforward. As is the case with many of these marketplaces, though, the quality is extremely variable.
- Hic et Nunc is one of few NFT marketplaces that seems to tolerate nudity in photos. So if you’re an erotic photographer, this could be the place for you.
What You Need to Know:
- OpenSea operates an open-door sign-up policy.
- The sit is fairly easy to navigate and it shouldn’t be too difficult to work out how to mint your first NFT.
- Unlockable content.
- OpenSea also serves as a marketplace for NFTs minted on other platforms.
- The one-off initial set-up fees are quite high (a little over $100), but after that it’s basically free to mint as many tokens as you want – making it a very good option if you plan on producing a lot of NFTs.
- OpenSea is probably the biggest marketplace in terms of volume, so you certainly can’t count on getting noticed on the site itself. You will need to do some hard promotion elsewhere if you are to make any sales.
- As a percentage of total tokens minted, there’s not a huge amount of photography here. The site caters more to illustrations, animations, and general crypto-geekery. Also doesn’t seem possible to narrow your search of the marketplace down to only photography, which makes finding the few photographs that do exist here somewhat tricky.
Unique One Photo
What You Need to Know:
- Another NFT marketplace dedicated solely to photography. And one that appears commited to making sure that contributors get paid fairly for sales of their work; photographers aren’t charged fees, but instead a 2% commission is levied on the buyer.
- Although to be fair it’s very early days, as this platform appears to have only just launched. Still, they need to get some higher quality photographers onboard, and quick, or they’ll risk sinking before they are even out of the harbor.
What You Need to Know:
- Not invite-only. And if you apply you will be largely evaluated on the strength of your portfolio, CV, etc. However, a referral from a creator already on the platform will also help your application (although even this doesn’t guarantee acceptance).
- Either “buy it now” or auction format.
- Fees are relatively high. Known Origin takes a 15% commission on the first sale, and then 3% on all future sales of the same artwork (i.e. secondary market sales), with 10% going to you again each time the work changes hands.
- Unlockable content.
- Known Origin is a rare breed among NFT marketplaces in that its search function actually enables you to find photography. Wow!
- It also appears that the long vetting process required in order to become a creator on the platform serves a real purpose, as the quality of artwork is largely superior to most other marketplaces.
- The photography here often departs from the usual sunsets and landscapes seen elsewhere, with more “arty” images also available.
- Nudity seems to be allowed on the platform, too.
What You Need to Know:
- Anyone can sign up to Rarible simply by connecting their “wallet” (see below). However in order to reassure potential buyers that you are legit, you will want to to get your account verified. And in order to do this you will need a strong social media presence.
- Offers Open Sea integration (see above).
- Unlockable content.
- The general standard of artwork here seems even more amateurish and adolescent than usual (sample artwork: “Sad Keanu” sitting on the lavatory). And in a corner of the art world already notable for being extremely amateurish and adolescent, that is quite an achievement!
- Despite a campaign by photographers earlier in the year to get their work listed in a separate “photography” category, instead of merely as “art”, it doesn’t seem possible to search for only photographic images on Rarible. When I tried I was rewarded with pixelated frogs, Pokemon characters, and yet more Sad Keanus – but little in the way of actual photography.
What You Need to Know:
- Gasless minting makes Mintable a cheap option. But creating a “store” is recommended, and this involves certain costs.
- List at a “buy now” price, or set up an auction lasting between 12 hours and seven days.
- There’s not as much crypto-geekery here as on some other platforms. In practice, however, this just means a little less idolization of Bitcoin and Musk, while most of the tokens simply look like rejects from a third grade art class. I.e. not great.
- There’s quite a lot of photography on Mintable, though, when compared with other marketplaces. Unfortunately the quality is highly variable and the search function is of little use in narrowing things down.
What You Need to Know:
- Invite-only vetted application process for creators.
- Lots of fees involved in minting and selling NFTs and the platform takes 15% of the sales price. 10% royalties paid to artist on secondary market sales.
- Overall quality of artwork is above average.
- Features a working search function that at the time of writing brought up a little over 800 results for the term photography. To put this in perspective, there were 6.5K results for animation, 3.5K for illustration, and 2.6K for cryptoart.
- Nudity appears to be OK here.
A Guide to NFTS for Photographers and Photography Collectors
Because my website primarily caters to photographers, I’m assuming that the majority of people reading this are photographers themselves looking to move into the NFT space.
Nonetheless, most of the information I provide here will be of equal interest to anyone wanting to collect photography NFTs too.
NFTs Are Nothing New (To Photographers)
n many ways the concept of NFTs is no different to how the world of art photography has functioned for decades.
For the first century or so of its existence, photography struggled to be accepted as an art form.
Precisely because it was infinitely reproduceable. Just like a digital file, old analog negatives could be used to make endless printed copies of a photo.
To an art world that prized the uniqueness of the artist’s hand and the rarity of a one-off painting or sculpture, mechanical reproduction wasn’t an easy thing to accept.
In fact resistance to photography from the art world was initially so strong that it wasn’t until the 1970s that major museums began to exhibit photography as “serious” art in its own right – as opposed to just functional images documenting “real” artworks.
In large part, photography overcame the reluctance of collectors to invest in non-unique artworks by limiting reproduction.
Indeed the difference between art photography and its mundane cousins – commercial and vernacular photography such as advertising and family snaps – largely came down to the fact that a limit was put on how many times the art photograph could be reproduced.
Now art photography was anything that came as a limited edition, whereas everything else could be reproduced indefinitely (and more cynical commentators might suggest that in many cases this was the only significant difference between the two).
By creating artificial scarcity – limited editions of ten, three, or even just one photo – photography became valuable in the same way as painting and other more traditional forms of art.
Now NFTs have done the same thing for digital works. Whether these be photographs, illustrations, animations, tweets, or a video of a burning Banksy.
This being the case, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you as a photographer to get your head around the concept of NFTs.
That’s all very well, but how should you go about minting your first NFTs? In this section I cover all the basics.
Do Your Homework
Different NFT sites have different user bases, and what might sell well on one marketplace might not do well on another.
Be sure to research the NFT platforms I’ve listed above carefully to see what kind of work tends to sell on each of them.
Ultimately you’ll likely want to go with a marketplace that already has a track record of selling photographs that stylistically aren’t too distant from your own.
In the world of blockchain, transaction fees are know as “gas.”
These fees can be surprisingly high.
However, precisely how high they are depends on fluctuating rates, and even just waiting a few hours before minting your NFT can save you a considerable amount of money.
Especially if you will be minting many tokens.
The cost of minting an NFT also depends upon the speed you choose to do it at.
Personally I wouldn’t bother trying to save money by using the slowest two rates (Standard and Slow), as in practice the price difference is usually quite small.
What’s more, I’m told that with the slower rates there’s a risk that the transaction might not go through at all. My advice, then, is to Stick to Fast or Rapid instead.
For up to the minute gas rates, go to Gas Now.
And for an in-depth explanation of exactly what gas fees are and how they work, check out this article.
Note that some NFT marketplaces don’t actually charge you minting fees until you make a sale, and this can help to keep the costs down considerably.
So be sure to check out the small print of any NFT marketplace you are considering using.
Pricing NFT Photographs
This is a tricky one, as the value of a photo depends on so many variables.
If you’ve previously sold physical art prints of your photography in real life, you already have some idea of what your photos are worth as NFTs.
But for those photographers just making their first forays into selling artwork, it can be very difficult to know where to begin.
If you don’t have a lot of experience as a photographer then it’s probably a safe bet to start out by pricing your work fairly low.
This way, even if you don’t have much of a CV, if somebody simply falls in love with one of your photos they are more likely to take the risk and hit “buy” even though they’ve never heard of you before.
In any case, if you’re right at the start of your career, your best work is likely still to come.
Meaning that you probably wont regret selling your earliest works at a bargain price in order to get a foot in the door.
Just make sure that you’re charging enough to cover all the fees of minting the NFT, as you certainly don’t want to end up out of pocket!
For those who’ve been shooting a little longer and have something of a track record, however, my advice would be not to price yourself too low.
For mid-level photographers, undervaluing yourself is a classic mistake. And not only would you be doing yourself out of money, but it may also prove damaging to your image as a photographer.
By which I mean that if you price your work too cheap, you’ll also look cheap.
It’s also worth considering that while it’s usually a very simple matter to reduce the price of an NFT on most marketplaces, increasing the price after a token has been minted typically involves removing it from sale and minting a new one – which of course means more gas fees.
That being the case, it’s probably better to price too high at first, and then drop this later if necessary.
Finally, if in real doubt about pricing, take a look at what other photographers of a similar level to you are charging.
Fixed Price, Auction, Or Descending Auction
Most NFT marketplaces let you choose whether you want to offer your NFTs for sale at a fixed price or as an auction (in which the NFT will go to the highest bidder at the close of auction) – usually with the possibility to decide how many days the auction will run for.
Some platforms also offer a descending auction format, in which the NFT starts at a higher price and is discounted each day the auction continues to run.
Effectively this is like a game of chicken with prospective buyers; if they buy too soon they will pay an unnecessarily high price, but if they wait too long someone else might pull the trigger before them and they’ll miss out completely.
If you don’t already have a huge following, a reasonable buy it now price or a descending auction might be the best tactics.
But if you’re confident that there will be a good degree of interest in your work, a rising auction will likely prove the most lucrative method.
Note that some NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea have a minimum starting price that you can set for your artwork.
And if you are not already somewhat well-known, this minimum might be unrealistically high.
When minting an NFT, many marketplaces allow you to indicate that you want to earn royalties on all future transactions.
So, for example, you might specify that if anyone were to resell your artwork – one week from now, in twenty years, whenever – you should be paid 10% of the future sales price. For as many times as the artwork is sold.
From an artist or photographer’s point of view, this is definitely one of the more revolutionary and potentially life-changing aspects of NFTs.
In the old system, a photographer would sell a print through a gallery, collect a percentage of the sales price, and then never see a single cent from their artwork again – even if they became massively famous in the meantime and their artwork started fetching hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction.
Now if your work becomes popular and the value of your NFTs grow in price, it’s not only the people buying and selling your photography who make money from it, but also you.
In order to mint an NFT you will need some cryptocurrency in a “wallet” – think of it as an online account like PayPal, but for Ethereum or other cryptocurrencies.
Probably the most popular payment system is MetaMask, and my experience of using this has been very straightforward.
However, in some countries it’s not possible to directly send money from your bank account to MetaMask, so you will need an alternative method of converting dollars and adding them to your wallet as ETH.
For this you could try using Coinbase.
Also be aware that not all NFT marketplaces are Ethereum-based.
In these case MetaMask will not be suitable.
Which File Format for Photography NFTs?
Most NFT marketplaces will only allow you to upload compressed files such as JPEGs or PNGs.
At first this might seem a little odd; surely you should be able to upload higher resolution files such as TIFFs, or perhaps even RAW files?
Especially given that buyers are potentially going to be paying out hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy your photography.
What’s to stop them from just downloading the same JPEG for free from your website instead?
But this essentially misunderstands the concept of NFTs.
It’s not so much the digital file that the buyer purchases – in any case, anybody can right-click and save or make a screenshot of the image – rather, what they get for their money is the code that says that they are the legal owner of that NFT.
If that seems a little tricky to get your head around, think of it like this; the file you upload to the NFT marketplace is not what the buyer purchases.
It’s just a stand-in, so that potential buyers can see what the photograph looks like before buying.
However, what you provide the buyer with in the way of “product” at the end of the auction is entirely up to you.
Indeed many NFT marketplaces allow you to upload a larger file, or at least embed a link to one hosted elsewhere, and then this is released to the buyer at the end of the auction.
It could be a TIFF, it could be a RAW, it could be a signed physical print sent through the mail, it could even be a T-shirt with the photo printed on it if you really wanted.
This is because NFTs have no set physical form, nor even a fixed digital form for that matter.
What someone is really buying when they purchase an NFT is simply the blockchain evidence that proves that they own the exclusive rights to that artwork.
But if you also want to offer them something physical or digital as an
As with analogue photos or printed digital files, photography NFTs can typically be minted as editions. I.e. multiples of the same image, but limited to a certain number of pieces.
So, for example, you might offer three copies of the same artwork for sale, each individually numbered as 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.
Even just a few months ago many NFT marketplaces weren’t really set up to do this, and artists had to find a work-around.
Today though most NFT sites provide the opportunity to mint artworks as multiple editions.
Essentially the same rules apply here as with physical photographic editions.
Typically, the shorter the edition, the rarer they are, and therefore the higher the price of the individual NFTs.
Can’t Anybody Just Steal My Photography and Sell It as an NFT?
As we’ve already seen, in order to mint a photography NFT, all you need is a JPEG or PNG file of the artwork.
Surely that means that anyone can just go on your website or Instagram account, grab a few images, and then mint them as NFTs without your knowledge?
Well, yes and no.
I mean, if I’m going to spend a lot of money on an artwork, I will want to do a little homework on the seller before I commit.
Firstly I will want to know that I’m really dealing with the artist in question, rather than an impostor.
And if the photographer is at all established, or at least has a social media presence, then this should be fairly easy to check.
Simply get in contact with them off the marketplace to verify that the auction is in fact genuine (whether it’s the artist selling or a secondary market sale, it seems safe to assume that the artist would be aware of the origin of the artwork if it is in fact theirs; that’s what the blockchain is for, after all) .
On top of this, I’ve already noted that as a photographer minting an NFT you have the possibility to “unlock” other files or media for the buyer at the end of the auction.
And as a buyer I would probably want to know that I’m getting more for my money than just a record of the blockchain transaction.
In short, yes it’s entirely possible to rip off somebody else’s work and sell it as an NFT.
But if you are a buyer, it’s only common sense that you do due diligence on any photographer you are considering purchasing from – especially if you will be spending big money.
Meanwhile, as a photographer selling NFTs, you should keep in mind that most sensible buyers will likely be cautious of NFT auctions that don’t provide any safeguards against fraudulent activity.
This means that you should run your auctions in such a way as to reassure potential buyers that the sale is legit.
You might do this by making clear that you will be providing the winning bidder with a high resolution file, a print, or something else that reinforces the impression that you are not a scammer.
Of course, it’s not impossible that a scammer might have got hold of original high res files that they don’t own.
Which is why, as a buyer, if you have any reason to doubt the veracity of an auction, you should definitely try to contact the photographer off the marketplace before bidding, just to make sure that the auction is indeed official.
And as a photographer, this should serve as a reminder never to upload your high res files to anywhere from where they could be downloaded by people you don’t know.
Its Not What You Do, It’s Who You Are
All this talk of legitimacy and off-platform verification brings us to another important point: as a photographer you cannot expect to mint a few snaps as NFTs and just sit back and watch the money come pouring in on the strength of your photography alone.
Photographers – and indeed artists of any persuasion – who have made major sales of their work as NFTs have invariably done so because they already have a well-established presence and reputation elsewhere.
And as with any form of art, buyers are not just buying an artwork, but a small piece of the artist her- or himself.
By which I mean that a painting that looks exactly like a David Hockney but in fact isn’t a David Hockney is likely to be worthless. Simply because an artwork’s value is always tied to the person who created it, and – above all – to the arc of their career.
Hence this anonymous crypto-artist with no previous record of sales seems a little optimistic in trying to sell a pixelated turd on OpenSea for $1,700.
Aside from the merits of the “art” itself, they have provided almost no information about who they are, and have only a handful of views to their auction page.
Either it’s the next Banksy, or the artwork really is an overpriced piece of s**t.
In short, you really need to support your NFTs with all the resources you have available to you. However, even if you don’t have a history selling art elsewhere, don’t despair.
You may still be able to sell your photos as NFTs. But don’t expect to make a killing on your first drop. Or necessarily to make any sales at all first time round.
The occasional anomaly aside, establishing a career as an artist takes time.
Before he became the third most expensive living artist in the world at auction, Beeple had been slogging away uploading a new “artwork” everyday for 13 years!
What’s more, the Beeple auction was also heavily hyped. And even if you do already have a strong curriculum as a photographer, you will still need to pull out all the stops to promote your NFT auctions via social media and other channels if they are to attract buyers.
On some of these auction sites, the volume of NFTs being minted is so huge, and the rate of turnover so rapid, that mere seconds after you have proudly minted your first photography NFT, it will already have been buried under an avalanche of “punks” and “cats” – never to be seen again.
Or at least, not unless you are highly proactive in sending people to your auction.
There are undoubtedly great opportunities ahead for photographers exploring the possibilities of NFTs.
However, this brave new world is evolving more rapidly than anyone can keep up with. Look on this guide to NFTs for photographers as a work in progress.
I’ll likely add new information to it from time to time as things evolve.
But if you believe I’ve missed anything, or you have anything to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!