5 Tips from the Experts: Create and Sell Yearly Photo Wall Calendars

5 Tips from the Experts: Create and Sell Yearly Photo Wall Calendars

You might think that wall calendars are a thing of the (quickly disappearing) analog past, but don’t dismiss them too quickly.  Recently we caught up with a few PhotoShelter members who not only find them to be an excellent revenue generator during the busy holiday season, but also a cost-effective marketing tool that can delight your previous clients and keep you top of mind for the next 12 months.

The best part? Wall calendars give you a timely excuse to reach out to your current and prospective customers, you can easily sell them directly from your (PhotoShelter!) website and, as luck would have it, with a whole new year just around the corner, the time for action is now!

Each year, photographers Jennifer Squires Ross, of London, Ontario, Canada, Art Wolfe of Seattle, and Grant Kaye, of Truckee, California, produce specialty wall calendars using their images. By focusing on a niche, or carefully selected theme, they can more easily market them to right audiences. Read on to find out more about their techniques, as well the 5 tips you need to keep in mind while creating your own calendar.

Grant Kaye's 2013 Calendar

Grant Kaye’s 2013 Calendar

Grant Kaye’s calendars feature his landscape work, and cater to people who have shown an interest in his imagery before. Aside from the calendars themselves being a sell-worthy product, he’s also seen marketing benefits as well.

“I have had some clients approach me because they have seen my work in the calendars,” he said. “They do generate business for me throughout the year. Any way I can get my work out there is worth it.”

Jennifer Squires Ross 2014 Calendar

Jennifer Squires Ross 2014 Calendar

Jennifer Squires Ross traveled quite a bit in 2013, to places like Pelee Island and Toronto, so she created different 2014 calendars featuring both of these locations.

“I created a collection of photographs while I visited and it turned out that I had more than enough to put together calendars dedicated to each, she said. “I really let the photographs dictate whether I’ll be making a calendar, if I seem to be getting a nice variety on a particular theme then I start to think about what would be needed to round out a set of twelve images.”

Both Kaye and Squires Ross design and sell their own products with the help of Photoshop and a few third-party online printing services like Vistaprint and Next Day Flyers (for Kaye), or a local print shop and MagCloud (for Squires Ross). They also market their calendars on the blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and their own email lists.

Art Wolfe Calendar

Art Wolfe Calendar

Art Wolfe, who started making calendars in the 1980’s, takes a much different approach by working directly with calendar publishers who have all of the production, promotion, and distribution responsibilities.

“In the heyday of stock photography in the 1990s, I did self-publish a couple calendars for promotion & sent out hundreds of them,” Wolfe said. “People loved them. People love free stuff, especially quality free stuff — and they remember you.”

“It’s an amazing way to stay top of mind with past clients and a fantastic piece to use when contacting people we haven’t worked with before,” said Squires Ross. “For past clients it’s more of a thank you for being awesome than a please hire me and from the emails I receive they really appreciate it. For prospective clients it’s a nice way to send a collection of photographs that they can hold onto all year.”

5 Tips from the Experts: How to Create Successful Photo Wall Calendars

Jennifer Squires Ross 2014 Calendar

Jennifer Squires Ross 2014 Calendar

1) Start early.
A good time to start taking orders is early November. This is when people start planning for the new year, and suddenly realize that have a need for a new calendar. Don’t wait until the last minute, or into the new year. Timing is critical.

Jennifer Squires Ross:

“Calendars are definitely a worthwhile pursuit but they do take time to put together, so start early so they’re ready in time.”

Art Wolfe:

“Calendars are very time-sensitive so planning is critical. You might want to consider using the same design for a few years so your audience comes to expect it and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year. John Paul Caponigro, for example, sends out a lovely small calendar every year. It is beautiful and elegant——we expect it.”

2) Find an editor.
I’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again now: Photographers can be their own worst editors. You should seriously consider getting someone else involved in the editing process (bonus points if its one of your customers!). At the very least, have someone you trust give you honest feedback on your selection before sending it off to the printer.

Grant Kaye:

“Like many photographers, I’m not the best at editing my work. I sometimes show my selections to my wife and some close colleagues to se if they agree with my picks.”

Jennifer Squires Ross:

“It’s hard to balance my favourite photographs from the past year with what seems to be popular among buyers, and put it together in a cohesive package that not only represents who I am but the direction I’m heading. I definitely go through a few iterations before settling on the final selects. It’s actually something we start on in midsummer and it can take weeks to finalize.”

Art Wolfe Calendar

Art Wolfe Calendar

3) Put your branding on it!
Treat this like a marketing piece, because that’s exactly what it is!

Also remember that someone may see an image in a calendar that they’d like to buy as a print, or license as for stock, so make sure that each image contains enough data so they can quickly find it on your website (such as an image title or number.)

Art Wolfe:

“If you are going to create your own calendar and spend good money on it, make sure you have your branding in place: a logo, website, and social media sites, included in the design.”

Jennifer Squires Ross:

“Don’t expect to get rich making calendars, yes they do sell more than fine art prints, but the markup is quite low, so slap your contact information on there because at the very least you’re getting new eyes on your work.”

Grant Kaye:

“I’d suggest that people look past the narrow profit margins and realize that you are making an investment in marketing that lasts a year.”

4) Focus on a niche.
Having a very specific theme or subject matter will allow you to better target your marketing to people who share this interest. Some of the best selling calendars have a very specific, and often inspirational, theme.

All three photographers have mentioned that landscape images do extremely well with calendars.

Art Wolfe:

“Every year I sell out of “Berge der Welt” or “Mountains of the World.” This is a huge poster-sized calendar published in Germany and it is beautiful.”

Art Wolfe Calendar

Art Wolfe Calendar

5) Create the product your users want.
This sounds really obvious, but listening to your clients will help to continually improve the product over time. Since this is a yearly product, learning a thing or two should be something you actively pursue.

Jennifer Squires Ross:

“Calendar production is always just that, a production. My 5×7 calendars are designed entirely in Photoshop and the versions that are sold on our site are printed locally here in London on regular 5×7 matte photo paper. Buyers seem to prefer photo paper because they can trim and frame each image once the month is done.”

“We’ve had so many clients ask for a more traditional wall calendar, something with a grid that they can write on, that last year we started offering the same images but in a new 12×12 format that’s ordered and printed on demand through MagCloud. Which is amazing! The quality is quite nice, it’s relatively inexpensive for buyers, and MagCloud takes care of everything for me, I just link to them from PhotoShelter.”

To sell calendars from within PhotoShelter, Squires Ross uploads a picture of the cover and sells it as a “self-fulfilled product”. This way orders go directly to her, and she can ship them out herself.

Have you sold wall calendars before? Please contribute to this story by adding your suggestions below!

And for more holiday selling tips, visit http://www.photoshelter.com/mkt/photography-sales-tips where we’ve curated PhotoShelter “best of” posts and guides to help you sell more this season.

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This article was written by

PhotoShelter co-founder and GM

There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Pingback: Tips on create calendars | koroland
  2. hpm at 12:40 pm

    dear photo shelter,
    I’m about to start building my 2015 calendar but… can’t find a way to do it on Photoshelter!
    Is there no way to build and sell calendars via Photoshelter? This would be a VERY COOL and USEFUL service.


  3. Peter Wiles at 6:29 pm

    I’ve been doing wall calendars of my local seaside town Lyme Regis in Dorset UK for the last 4 years. I’ve built up steady sales through local shops and online through my website. The profit margins are not great, but I like the loyalty that they build and they are good give aways for people, shops etc that I like to thank at the end of the year. It helps to have a good stock of through the year photos. My calendars have been designed by an online company http://www.thecalendarcompany.org and my 2015 calendar can be seen at http://bit.ly/1DVCmFX

  4. Michael at 5:35 pm

    I have recently designed and had printed my custom 2015 wildlife calendar for my new company. We specialize in wildlife photography and have many more specialized calendars on the way with content from specific trips we will be offering in 2016.

    I have never used photoshelter or other products like that. If you want to sell and market yourself getting up Infront of potential clients is the best way to do it. Go to some business meetup groups and announce what you do. I’m 22 years old and I’m pursuing what I love.


    • Charli at 11:27 am

      Michael just wanted to know how were things going now for you are you still doing photography . I’m an up coming sunsets, clouds life photographer. Needed some advice want to sell my calendars or photos as well….

  5. Don Sherry at 12:09 am

    I have created and printed a novelty calendar I would like to know if the distribution company handles mailing and payments What kind of charges might I expect for these services?

  6. George at 1:43 pm

    Has anything changed 3 years on? The digital way of life seems to have kung foo’d the era of print. I would love to hear that people are still making a decent return on calendars, i have an idea lurking and it might need some validation before attempting. Thanks.

  7. Erin at 10:24 pm

    Hey everyone!

    I’m new to the calendar game – wondering if anyone feels comfortable sharing how much they sell their calendars for? I’m struggling with what appropriate pricing is. Thanks!!!


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