Gwulo sells out

Submitted by David on Fri, 10/30/2009 - 12:10

You'll have noticed that Tuesday's photo is a bit different from the usual. But what won't have been obvious is that it's a first step towards selling old photos on Here's the story so far....

From time to time people ask if they can buy copies of the photos shown on this site. Each time I've explained that 'sorry, they aren't my photos, so you'll need to contact the owner.' Then a couple of months ago the lightbulb went on and I thought, hold on, if people want to buy old photos of Hong Kong, why shouldn't they buy them here?

So, for the last month or so I've been buying old original photos. It's been a mixture: some that I think people would like to buy, some that I think will be interesting to talk about, and some that I just liked the look of.

I've used up the money set aside for that, so now I'm posting them up on the website, starting with Tuesday's photo. There are a couple of differences you'll notice from the other photos on

  • The watermark is the obvious change, hopefully showing people where the image came from if it gets copied to other sites.
  • The better resolution is the other difference. If you haven't tried yet, see how far you can zoom in, eg to look at liners berthed at the Kowloon wharves, small sailing boats in the harbour, and people on the streets in Sheung Wan.

Next I'll have to find a way to sell them. I'll be selling reprints rather than the originals, so I'll need to find a way to sell them online. I've got some ideas, but I'd also be interested to hear any recommendations you might have.

If anyone buys, the first step will be to pay back the costs of buying the old photos. Second will be to buy more as we sell more, so that sales support buying more photos. The third step, if we get there, will be to make a profit. I plan to try it for a year and see how it goes - in the worst case if noone buys anything, at least I'll have some nice old photos to hang on the wall.

Of course this only applies to the photos I have the copyright to. Don't worry, I won't be selling any of the photos you've uploaded!!

That's what I've been working on for the last few weeks. Wish me luck and, of course, let me know if you have any questions.

Regards, David



Submitted by on
Fri, 10/30/2009 - 13:25

Hi David, This is a good idea. Good luck! Besides targeting HK people as potential customers of the photos, perhaps you can try to increase exposure of to communities of former expats in the UK and Australia. Regards, C

You should be aware that just because you have purchased a physical photograph, or have a digital image of one, you actually don't own the copyright and, hence, don’t legally have the right to sell a reproduction of the photo. For very old photos, depending on when they were taken, and when the photographer died, and when and if the copyright was extended they could be in the public domain. However, most of what I have seen on your site doesn't fall into that category. You may, or may not get legally popped for selling the photos, but do be careful. Many museums, libraries, digital collections, etc, put far less obvious watermarks in the pixels of what they own and do make examples of people.

After a few false starts, I've found a printer I'm happy with. So, photos are now available for purchase.

  • The photos are listed here.
  • Each photo is 10 x 8 inches, with a half-inch white border around to make framing easier. BUT note that most photos don't exactly fit the 10 x 8 shape. eg if you look at the 1880s photo of the harbour, its size is appx 10 x 7.3 inches, so with the border it will be 11 x 8.3 inches.
  • There's no '' watermark on the photo you receive!
  • You are buying the photo for your own, personal use. You are welcome to display it in a public place, but it may not be scanned, copied or reproduced in any way.
  • Each photo costs HK$480
  • That includes free shipping worldwide
  • These are reprints of old photos. Some of the originals still look very sharp, some may be blurred in places, or show damage due to aging. Please check the quality is acceptable to you before ordering. You can check the scanned copy on this website, and zoom in to get a close look. 
  • If you are not happy with the photo you receive, send it back to me in it's original condition for a full refund.
  • To order, check the list of photos for the one you are interested in, then make a note of it's reference number. eg on the harbour photo you'll see "Reference:  A02 ", so the reference number for the photo is 'A02'. Send me an email with the reference number, and we'll take it from there.
  • My email address:
    David's email address
  • Delivery will almost definitely take several weeks for the first orders. Things will run slowly as I work out everything that needs to be done. Thanks in advance for your patience.

Any questions? Please leave a comment below, or send me an email.

Thanks & regards, David