From Photographer to T-shirt Mogul: An Essential Guide

Are you a photographer? Have you ever wondered if you could make some extra cash by selling customised t-shirts? Then this is the post for you!

Being a photographer can be glamorous and get you access to lots of different types of events, not to mention the endless line of friends wanting pictures taken, which of course means you will never be without a model. It also means being responsible for the official photos on birthdays, missing the fun of the pose and sometimes being the notable absence from the family album.

Lenses, cameras, tripods, flashes, memory cards and maybe now some cool printed t-shirts. In the bag of a good photographer, professional or enthusiast, there’s always room for cool gadgets (Photojojo fans please raise your hands). Whether you’re an old-school, dark room lab rat or like taking pictures with your smartphone and then putting them on Instagram, I’m sure you’re always looking for new ways to make a profit of your passion. Have you ever considered selling t-shirts?

how to design a promotional t-shirt checklist

How to make money off your art

You’re a photographer and have been thinking lately about how to make your business more profitable. Covering events and doing studio photo shoots is fine, but you want to go to the next level. Have you thought about creating some merchandise? How about t-shirts? Before you roll your eyes at me, consider some of the reasons why you should start your very own online shop:

  • Increase exposure of your work
  • Make some extra income
  • Every day more and more people are buying online – especially when it comes to unique design items they can’t get on the high street
  • Setting up an online shop is easier now than ever before

In this day in age, it is relatively easy to set up an online t-shirt selling business and, when done well, it can earn you a considerable amount of money. Don’t think you have what it takes to run your own merchandise selling business? Then reflect on the following:

Do you have a following?

Are there people currently waiting for you to publish new material? Do you have social media profiles? Do you update them often? (at least once a week) Do you engage with other people through these profiles? Having an audience will ensure that when you start selling your products, the announcement won’t fall on deaf ears. There’s no metric here, but according to Kevin Kelly, the executive director of Wired Magazine, any creator needs to have at least 1000 “true fans” in order to make a living of selling merchandise. A “true fan” is a person that constantly engages with your content and will buy your stuff no matter what. This is just a theory, and you may not want your entire income to come from selling t-shirts, so take it with a grain of salt.

Do you have a niche?

If you have a following, then you probably already know what your niche is. For those who don’t know, a niche is a specialised segment of a market that you cater to. Adults from 18 to 50 years is not a good niche. That’s way too broad. 20 to 30 somethings who do photography as a hobby during the weekends, for example, looks more like what you should be going after. Even then, you could make it more specific by kinds of photography (fashion, nature, portrait, architecture, etc…) Having a niche will make it easier for you to design a product that someone will appreciate – instead of a random creation that no one will want to buy and will remain floating as a mockup in the cyberspace forever.

Do you have enough material?

One of the reasons people don’t venture into this type of business is because they don’t have the ability or resources to come up with their own designs, but when you’re a photographer, you don’t need a graphic designer since the photos themselves will be the artwork. Do you have enough material to come up with a handful of great garments? Use your favourites to start with and from there, see how people react to make future decisions.

How to set up your own online shop

Luckily for you, you live in the age of one-click (ok, several) virtual shop creation. All you’ll need is a working computer and connection to the internet. You can even leave your wallet at home since some of this services are for free (at first, at least) and will only charge when you start selling your products. Some of these platforms are:  

Most of these platforms offer on-site integration of their online shops. Which means your followers will be able to buy your merchandise without them ever leaving your website.

In order to make a profit, these businesses will ask for a minimum order before they start printing your products. As everything in life, this has pros and cons. On the very positive, you don’t need to pay for products that may or may not sell. Many have gone bankrupt by investing on businesses that don’t pick up in the end. This new model of e-commerce prevents that from happening to you. On the bad side, you will need to reach a certain goal before you can sell anything and that might mean leaving a couple of potential customers waiting before they can get their hands on your fabulous tee. Since today everything is next-day delivery, many will find it annoying. Also, at first your earnings may not be as fabulous as you might expect.

A couple of tips to get your new venture up and running are:

Promote your brand

If you don’t have money to spend on advertising, then this will mean running a social media campaign. To get some ideas, check out our post on How to promote your t-shirt brand in 2016.

Sell quality

This one might be obvious, but still, there are many instances where people will sacrifice quality in order to save a couple of quid. The key to a successful brand is to sell quality products that your clients will want to buy again. Also, chances are that if you sell a good quality garment your customer will recommend it to someone else. Some might also ask, “Where did you get that cool tee?”. It’s all about the word-to-mouth.

Tips on how to make your t-shirts look awesome

To be successful in the online business jungle, where socks-delivered-to-your-door services are now a thing, you need to make yourself stand out. This usually means to offer something different from what everyone else is doing. We already mentioned a good quality garment, but now we’re going to talk about design which is just as important. Luckily for you, as a photographer, you’ll be able to develop your own style which will set you apart from the rest.   

Be authentic

Sometimes being authentic is more important than being original. The difference is that when you’re authentic, you’re honest to your real voice. Being original is just creating something different and when creatives do it just for the sake of it, the result can often be plain. If you’re loyal to your message then it will resonate with your clients.

Select the right printing technique

If you’ve contacted a trustworthy printer then they will be able to advise you and you shouldn’t worry too much about it, but still, you need to know what’s right for you. If you’re printing high-quality photos (as you should) then the correct technique will be DTG (direct to garment) which will replicate all of the colours and details with fidelity.  

Do some mockups

A mockup or a template will give you an idea of what the end product will look like. Subscribe to our t-shirt blog to get a set of entirely free mockups or visit one of our most famous articles where you’ll find over 100 t-shirt templates.

Get some feedback

Before you go into production, get some feedback on your designs. Create some mockups using a template and share them to get some thoughts on it. To receive honest comments, reach strangers on the internet for their opinion. Your friends and family have your best interest in mind, which is why they might not be the best people to approach for this task. Try social media and forums for truthful information.

Some cool examples

Our selection of printed t-shirts and designs for Photography lovers ranges from the classics Rollerflex and Polaroid to funny illustrations like the clever Camera Sutra. It also brings the lovely creations from Ice Cream Tees and my personal favourite printed t-shirt: La Mémoire, from Young Love Apparel. I hope you enjoy this selection:

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Final Words

Having a t-shirt selling business may not be for everyone, but it’s still an interesting venture for any creative to visit if they want to find new ways to make a profit out of their artwork. Remember to document yourself before committing to any particular online-selling platform, double check your designs before going into production and whatever you do, be authentic.

how to design a promotional t-shirt checklist

Got any tips on how to run your online t-shirt shop? Then drop us a comment below or contact us via any of our social media platforms. In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.


Printsome is a T-shirt printing agency in the UK based in London that delivers all across the UK, from printing T-shirts in Brighton to York and anywhere in between. So, if you’re after a T-shirt or custom clothing, get in touch for a quote and indulge yourself in some awesome customer service.

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