David Manns

Selling photography NFTs

By David Manns

Why I entered the NFT space and why you should consider it

Lakeside NFT on Foundation.
Lakeside - NFT minted on Ethereum and available on Foundation.

Early last year I started an NFT photography collection on the OpenSea marketplace. During the first few Months, of a bit of trial and error, I ended up scrubbing the original collection that I started. I then created collections on the Tezos blockchain, deployed my own smart contract on Ethereum, and even made a few sales. Nothing to write home about but the first sale of your own work no matter how small is always special. To paraphrase a great film director - “You can only sell your first NFT once.”

Why did I decide to do this? Curiosity of new technology is one reason. I've always been mucking around with new technology. I'm not talking about the latest smart watch and the like - that kind of thing doesn't interest me. As kid in the late 90s the internet was this new world of possibilty. I guess it's what is refered to as web 1.0 now. If that was the interesting part of the internet, people creating, experimenting with what could be done. Well, web 2.0 was the organised kids taking over, making everything polished, and err... boring. Web 3.0 strikes me as just as exciting as web 1.0. Learning how smart contracts work and their potential applications for artists was interesting, I wanted to be part of it.

Getting into the NFT game

At first, it was just to play around and see how I could mint my own work. However, I quickly found a great NFT community on Twitter and, in particular on the Tezos community. After minting originally on OpenSea on the Polygon blockchain I removed (burned) and re-minted some of my collection on the Objkt NFT platform.

Even though I’ve only made a small amount of money and probably spent as much on gas fees and buying NFTs as I have made, I still believe this is going to be part of the future of the photography business. To what extent and exactly what place it takes I'm not certain. I don't think, and neither should it, take the place of the physical print market, which I also love. A physical print on a nice c-type or giclee paper elevates a work greatly. A physical print is photography. Ideally, in the future, an NFT would be complimentary to the physical editions or maybe the NFT would be used as the digital certificate of ownership.

So with just small progress under my belt why am I continuing in the NFT game? One reason is it's been a bear market in 2022, progress has been slow for everyone. Things will turn around when the market turns positive again, especially for those that pushed through the slow times. Sometimes it's hard for artists to see work they are proud of sitting unsold, or selling at low prices. For better or worse the NFT photography/art market is linked to the broader cryptocurrency price movements. We just have to accept that NFT art prices are linked to whether cryptocurrency is on an uptrend or a downtrend, and 2022 was definitely a downtrend. This is one reason not to take slow sales to heart. The NFT market is so small that cryptocurrency price fluctuations have a massive impact.

90s ecommmerce vs 2020s blockchain

Another reason is I have seen the effect on local businesses that got into the eCommerce space early, when some businesses thought the internet and ecommerce was just a curiosity while some businesses took it seriously. Have a guess which businesses survived. Even in industries like the photo business that have generally fared quite badly over the last decade in particular, the businesses that adopted ecommerce are still alive and well. It's my belief a something similar will happen with NFTs. We are at the beginning of a new technology that will shape the next generation. I want to be in at the beginning.

Dusk - abstract landscape photography NFT on objkt marketplace.
Dusk - Abstract landscape NFT minted on Tezos and available on Objkt.

NFT technology - Why it matters

Why is this significant and how does it apply to photography and art? Crypto/Blockchain is just an evolution of the internet, I believe we are supposed to call it Web 3.0 now - less intimidating or something. NFTs are created (minted) on one of the blockchains such as Ethereum, Tezos, or Cardano and are like a digital certificate of ownership.

It’s important to distinguish what an NFT is exactly. It’s not the image, it’s the "non-fungible token" that is minted on the blockchain. This is the digital 'certificate of ownership' that I mentioned before. The photograph or other artwork associated with the token are part of the metadata. Hence, in some PFP projects you may have heard of, the images can be “revealed” after purchase.

Thinking of an NFT as a certificate of ownership gives it some obvious applications to the art. For one, digital scarcity is now possible. It also follows that monetisation is also now possible. Natively, on the internet rather than just as an eCommerce sales platform. An exciting development that will have implications far beyond the art world and the mass of PFP (personal profile picture) projects that it is currently used for.

Which platform and Blockchains did you mint your NFTs on?

After a little trial and error in the first few Months I have settled on minting my work on the Ethereum and Tezos blockchains. I have generally created multiple editions on Tezos and 1/1 NFTs on Ethereum, more recently I’ve minted on 1/1s and editions on both. I’ve noticed some artists creating on the Solana blockchain recently too, so that’s an option to consider. For me, I’m happy sticking to Tezos and Ethereum.

Why these two blockchains? For me, Ethereum has longevity - the second biggest cryptocurrency by market cap and a strong network effect means it’s unlikely Ethereum will go away in the foreseeable future. It also has the biggest market for NFT sales, if you want to sell your work for higher prices look there.

Afternoon - A Day at the Lake NFT collection image.
Afternoon - From 'A Day at the Lake NFT collection on Foundation.

Why Tezos? I got into Tezos because I saw it had a strong photographic community that I wanted to be part of. The photography on Tezos is top draw and the Objkt NFT marketplace is easy to use. Also gas fees were, and are, significantly lower than Ethereum (although 2022 saw low gas on Ethereum too). Prices are low, which is good for collectors, but hopefully that changes gradually in 2023 and it would be great if Tezos prices would rise higher during the next NFT bull run - it would be well deserved as it has some of the best photography on it in my opinion. If you are looking for a way into NFTs, I recommend looking into Tezos and Objkt marketplace. It is easy and cheap to mint your first NFT or you could start collecting great photography for not much money (as of start of 2023).

Which marketplaces? OpenSea is the biggest NFT marketplace on Ethereum, I also use the Foundation marketplace, while on Tezos check out Objkt.com, browse there to get an idea on the space. If you’re wondering which wallets to use check out Metamask for Ethereum and Temple for Tezos. There are other wallet options but these two are what I have used. If you have a significant amount of crypto or NFTs please use a hardware wallet - Trezor or Ledger are easy to use and NFT friendly.

Why do I this when I could be selling physical prints? The answer is they are not exclusive. A physical print, especially a hand made darkroom print is a work of art in itself. I can see a time where 1/1 NFTs in particular could compliment physical print sales, boosting the prices of both. *Disclaimer: This is not a promise, just a theory, a theory of mine at that.

What happens in 5 - 10 years from now? This is a nascent industry that is only going to grow, which blockchain is going to dominate or what trends will take hold is less certain, but I for one choose to be involved at the beginning and roll with the punches as it is certainly an up and down market, and will continue to be for a while.

Success or otherwise the people in this community on Twitter, especially, I've found, on Tezos, make being involved in this space worthwhile. So all the best to anyone thinking of entering the NFT game, start small and check out a platform like Objkt.com, and get used to using a web 3.0 wallet before you do anything big.

For more NFT and photography related chat connect with me on Twitter.

**Disclaimer - This post is about selling photography and other artwork as NFTs. It is not promoting or endorsing any particular cryptocurrency as an investment. Do your own research and use a hardware wallet if dealing with significant sums.**

Southshore sunset