How to show my work publicly?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by CraniumDesigns, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    Hey Everyone,

    So I'm starting to get a decent portfolio together. I've got at least 10 images that I'm really proud of and that are quite popular (meaning I have at least a 5-10% favorite rate on flickr for them. haha). Now I wanna start showing and selling my work, so I need to get some exposure. How do I get my work shown off in exhibits, galleries, shows, wineries, etc? I have no idea how to go about this. I just have nice pics, and I wanna grow my fanbase and maybe pay off a little of this camera debt. Haha. Thoughts?
     
  2. HikinMike

    HikinMike No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think your prices are way too cheap. I'm selling a 8 x 12 for $25 (no mat) and I'm probably going to bump that up to to the $40-$50 range.

    I've only done Arts and Craft shows and my website, so I'm not much help with setting up a gallery etc. Here's a pic of my booth:

    [​IMG]
     
  3. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    noted. thanks for the tip. i guess ill look around and see what others are charging.
     
  4. FinerWorks

    FinerWorks TPF Noob!

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    Hey Steven,
    Getting your work in a gallery is important step to success.

    As owner of a printing company that works with artists and photographers every day, I frequently am asked asked about the best approach to take with galleries. The information I provide below is not based upon my knowledge of printing but knowledge as both an artist as well as a small business owner.

    To start, where the artist becomes unsure and unsettled is the thought of making that first approach or getting rejected. If you have made some half-hearted attempts you may remember spending the morning getting ready driving to a gallery or two and finding our the gallery owner is not in or on vacation or just does not seem interested in even talking. I have known some people that with the first setback, they give up and do not keep on trying. One individual I knew spent months getting his portfolio ready, but only contacted a few galleries then gave up the notion completely and never looked back. He now drives trucks for a living with no thought of ever pursuing the original dream he had. Not that driving trucks is bad but the point is he gave us after barely starting. To not keep trying is the worse thing you can do and giving up after the first , second and even 10th (yes that is realistic) try is a recipe for failure.

    Before I go on you must take a little test while being honest with yourself, are you the type of artist that dreams of being able to live a stress free simple life and make a living creating your art? Well if so, then that is a worthy cause and don’t let anyone tell you that you CAN’T. The second question is are you the type of artist that is trying to live that lifestyle right now but also trying to get discovered? Here is the honest truth: You probably have a better chance of inheriting a vast fortunate from a distant relative after spending the night in a haunted house than this happening.

    There are a few exceptions but those artists who are still alive and living the life of a successful artist had to work hard. Working hard entails investing your own money, lots of time, lots of networking and yes, lots and lots of shows. Essentially they spent as much time, if not more making an “art” out of marketing themselves versus actually engaged in their art. It became a full time job for them, some having to work another job just to make ends meet of if they were a photographers it might have meant alternating your weekends between photographing weddings and traveling around and entering shows.

    With galleries it will be a numbers game. The more you approach, the greater the chance one will bite and choose to showcase your work. For you, this means being part salesman and part presumptuous, all in a respectful sort of way. In other words, approach them in person with a very confident professional demeanor. The last thing you want to do is assume your work will speak for itself. It won’t. Most gallery owners are going to make up their mind before they even see you work. If they make up their mind to see your work, only then your work has an opportunity to do some talking.

    Just remember the gallery owner is usually a small business owner who gets solicited every day by people trying to sell everything from copy machines to Internet service. To add to this, they are approached constantly by artists such as you. In most cases they will be a little more open to artists since after all art is their business but I have found many of them will assert a certain amount of self righteous cynicism when approached. This should not bother you it you perceive this. Simply accept this as part of their demeanor until they have had an opportunity to warm up to you.

    Now this nasty stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about the technique. You want to make a list of the galleries in your area. This may mean searching the phone book or performing a local Internet search. The Internet yellow pages are ideal since you can usually print out a map and plot out directions.

    You should dress professionally. Business-like is good but if you are a starving artist then do the best you can. Just don’t wear cut offs and a t-shirt. After that, load up your best work in the car. Have some originals, prints, and several copies of CDs with images. Any digital images should be well photographed or scanned. Mainly have your pictures in as many formats as possible since not all galleries will be the same as to what they prefer to see. I am not big on slides but you might want to have some made anyway. There are still those gallery owners that prefer slides.

    Finally, start hitting the streets. When you walk in, ask for the gallery owner. Be upfront and introduce yourself as an artist to the person you first meet, even if they don’t appear to be the gallery owner. To help offset the feeling the gallery owner might have that here is just another artist trying to get their work in the gallery, ask them if you could schedule an appointment to show your work. If they say yes, then great! Work out the details right then and there and leave them a business card with your contact information and your web site (if as an artist you don’t have a web site then don’t you better get one if you want to be taken seriously anymore). If they are unsure or say no, ask them if you can still schedule an appointment to get their opinion on your work at least. They might be more likely to allow for an appointment and be more receptive since they will not feel pressured. If you still get a definite “no” Thank them, leave them your contact information (a business card with your web site link is good) and hit the next gallery.

    You may find after the 10th definite “no” that it is pointless and give up. If you do then you won’t get seen in galleries. I do not have any stats to share but I am sure many successful artists had more than 10 deny them before getting one to say yes. And do all this as often as possible until all your art is hanging in galleries or are sold and you are just trying to keep up with the demand.

    Sorry for the 12 mile-long post but I hope you found it helpful!
     
  5. CraniumDesigns

    CraniumDesigns TPF Noob!

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    Wow! Thanks for ur in-depth help :) I live in Hayward, CA, so not too many galleries around, but we'll see.
     
  6. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    FinerWorks' post is great but as working artist for many years I can assure you that I don't know one single photographer who makes a living solely from his/her art work. There are some. I just don't know any ;)

    All the people I know do some kind of commercial work to pay the bills.

    Don't get me wrong, there are some. Including a very few who are getting prices in line with painters which is absolutely incredible. But that is the problem, you can count those on the fingers of one hand.

    As far as I'm concerned the age of starving for your art is long gone. If I can't sell my art than, on the side, I do something else that sells.

    I got my first show on my second try and, because I am not afraid of ridicule, I started at the top with the idea of going down the list of important galleries. Although I sold a nice chunk of the show, I lost money when figuring out the costs. Printing, mating, framing.

    Not that I want to scare you away from the galleries but one needs to be realistic about them. Having a show is a great satisfaction that I wish everyone to have but it is rarely a money maker.

    I believe that HikinMike's proposition is much more realistic as a much better opportunity to make money off of you photos so long as you do not get involved in cheap craft shows where most of the work is kits put together by would be craftspeople. There are better shows, including judged ones (you have to be voted into the show) that are a great opportunity.

    You just need to do your homework to find them. And, you'll get all the money instead of giving half to the gallery. :grumpy:
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  7. lawnchair_alchemist

    lawnchair_alchemist TPF Noob!

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    I don't have any experience with trying to sell music, but I have had a lot of musician friends trying to make it in the recording industry and I think some of the same things may apply. I've had several friends get fed up with recording companies' rejections and turn to technology to get their work out.

    You could utilize online social networking tools like Facebook and MySpace and I'm sure there are some more specific to photography that I'm not aware of. I see that you already have a following on Flickr, so you could use that as a jumping off point. Gallery owners may not see your potential or have an interest, but you could tap into a section of the population that loves your material.

    Around here, coffee shops love to have photography and paintings on the wall for sale and I would imagine they would be more welcoming to newbies. I know a lot of alternative venues for music (like churches and community centers) are willing to let you showcase your work to serve the community.
     
  8. Heretotherephoto

    Heretotherephoto TPF Noob!

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    I have tried a couple of these avenues with some being more succesful than others. When we decided to start selling I was living on Nantucket. Deep pockets out there so I felt like I was going to be up against some very high priced art work. First thing I learned was that exorbidant pricing didn't necesarily mean great work or great sales. The first art gallery I went to told me that photography was not art and didn't even look at my work. I was a bit shocked at their attitude but soldiered on. My next stop was well known for selling a wide variety of artwork on the island. The owner of the gallery looked at my work and allowed me to display quite a bit of it there. It is still there a few years later although not many sales recently. For the first year in the gallery my work sold pretty well and was actually paying for the hobby and then a little bit. Beer money mostly.

    Since leaving Nantucket I have tried the craft show thing with mixed results as well as a couple of judged exhibitions. Each resulting in meager sales. We allso now have a website but I am waiting for the SEO to kick in for traffic to really start hitting that.

    Try everything and keep at it. We are trying again at getting into some local stores but so far not much interest. The tough times right now are not really helping either.
     
  9. joanne01

    joanne01 TPF Noob!

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    Good point FinerWorks! Being truly passionate about art helps us to stay motivated. Money will come eventually if you walk by faith and not sight.
     

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