Your Ability To Earn Is Tied To Your Unique Talent As a Photographer
The hardest part of being a photographer/artist is putting yourself out there and accepting that you deserve respect and appreciation for your unique talent. A tremendous factor in the level of success that you can reap and the prices that you can charge is your reputation. Regardless of your photographic niche, you are first and foremost, a photographer. If you can create a perception that you are a reputable, knowledgeable and passionate photographer, you are adding value to yourself and your professional abilities. A great opportunity to promote yourself as a photographic artist and network with your community is to share your work with the public, through a showcase or photo exhibit.
Get Past Your Insecurities
Before you embark on anything, you need to move past your insecurities and have faith in yourself, your talents and your abilities! I have a friend that is an incredible painter and every time I tell her to do show, she replies with, “who would want to buy my stuff? I’ve only ever sold to friends”. How would she know if the general public would be interested in her work if she doesn’t try? And why would her friends spend hundreds of dollars on her pieces as a charity? She will only ever know her true potential if she puts herself out there; not by hiding behind a website or by quietly sharing her talent with friends but by physically getting herself out in the community and inviting the world to explore her work.
Last year I was introduced to Susan Bolick, the owner of Brushstroke Studio and Gallery in Downtown Raleigh. She had heard I was a photographer and asked me if I would like to do a show at her gallery. Saying no was most certainly not an option, so without a game plan or an idea as to what I would actually show, I said “yes!” On June 12th, 2014 I had my very first public showing at an art gallery and subsequently have become integrally involved with the gallery. I have come a long way from Googling, “How to Plan a Photographic Exhibit,” and am now working on my second show, which I plan on making even bigger and better than the first!
When planning to do a show, you first need to organize a cohesive theme to work from, whether you’re putting together a collection of your archived work or embarking on an entirely new project. The title of my next show is #TheChefsTable. I do a lot of food and restaurant photography and I absolutely love shooting in the kitchen; not many people get to experience what it’s like in a restaurant kitchen and I wanted to share that experience in pictures. In fine dining restaurants, a table that is literally situated in the kitchen, where guests can watch all the action, is called The Chefs Table, thus, the title of my show. When you have a cohesive concept you can start to approach galleries, coffee shops, pop-up markets, etc.… about showcasing your work.
Visually Organizing Your Images
When you have a collection to work from, you will start to consider how you will display your pieces. Think about how your images compliment each other in terms of color, content, size and orientation; and how they can tell a story or reveal something about you. During this process you will also learn when to let go; you may have a photograph that you love but may not work in this particular series… you can save it for your next show! When you have a basic visual for your story, you can determine how you are going to print your images, whether it’s canvas, photo paper or some other medium. If you decide to make photographic prints, you also have to consider matting and framing. Ideally, you want to keep your matting and framing simple and uniform, as to not detract from the image itself. #TheChefsTable is going to be a unique showcase because I am not displaying images that one might choose to display in their home, so matting and framing would not work – I’ll likely order my prints mounted on foam core and stick them to the wall.
You have your location and your collection squared away… the next step is to get people to come see your work! Of course you will promote to every-single-person you know and you will remind them, repeatedly, to come to your show. But, you will also need to think about whom your target audience is and use social media, community calendars and your network of friends to spread the word. Print post cards and pass them out to everyone you know and leave them at any business that will allow you to do so. Another great way to lure people to your show is to cross promote. You can do a show with fellow artists, which will double your Rolodex, or solicit sponsors and take advantage of having a familiar brand back your show.
The purpose of #TheChefsTable is to promote myself as a restaurant and food photographer to the local food service industry, and to share a unique perspective to foodies that enjoy all things restaurant related. In this instance, I will be promoting to everyone I know, or would like to know in the local food scene, utilizing the platforms previously mentioned. As for my sponsor, it will be Midtown Grille, as all of the images that will be showcased were photographed at the restaurant. This show will be a great opportunity to promote myself but will also be a great marketing opportunity for Midtown Grille. Win-Win.
Your Event WILL BE a Success
If you run a business or have a talent that you would like to sell, every person you meet and every activity you engage in is a networking opportunity for you. Don’t go into your show with the mind set that you have to recoup the expenses of the show or thinking that you have to sell anything to validate your talent. Go into it thinking that this is the first of many fantastic networking opportunities. You have let the world know that you are an artist and because you take yourself seriously, everyone else will too. You have now created a collection of work that you can showcase at the next gallery, put up on Etsy, sell at a pop-up market, etc… You have overcome your fears and put yourself out there and survived! At my first show I sold a few images [to friends], met new people, was offered opportunities to showcase the works at other venues but most importantly, I had a great time!
Some Helpful Notes
- Go to a few local co-op galleries and scope out what emerging artists are charging to give you an idea as to what you might want to charge.
- A.C. Moore frequently has 50% off sales on their matted frames collections.
- Costco does an incredible job with wrap canvases and has the best prices.
- Don’t forget to have beverages, snacks and music at your event.
- Add your event to community events calendars.
- Planning a Photo Exhibit | Tips From a Raleigh Photographer - April 7, 2015
- Raleigh Connections | Using Small Businesses to Carve Out Your Niche - February 19, 2015