Upcoming Show


Between darkrooms
Mar 20, 2005
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Living in Snapshot reality.
Well, it's settled. I got called out today, and I've suddenly got a reputation to live up to.

You see, there's an upcoming BBQ Festival, complete with concerts, tons of BBQ booths, a beer line that's all kegs and some 70 yards long (all-you-can-drink wristbands available), and an arts and crafts show.

Turns out, the head-shed in my company is wanting to rent a booth in the arts & crafts fair section, wherein anybody related to the company can show off and sell their arts & crafts. I was specifically pointed out as an example. "For instance, [me] is a photographer; he might put out some of his best photos for sale." I can't not do it. I'm the example; I'm the poster-boy.

So now WTF do I do? I've got a handful of photos I'd be willing to show anybody in that setting, and I've no idea whether they'd ever sell a single copy. Of course, I can take more photos (I'm going to have to!), but what of? I work almost entirely in black and white, in my own darkroom, but I'm still quite the novice. Will B&W sell to the masses? Will the photos that I make sell to the masses, even in color? What do people want to hang on their walls or put on their mantles or display in their bathrooms? How many photos should I offer? How many copies will I need of each? What sizes? What should I be charging? How did I get into this mess?

I'm just a guy that bought a camera and happens to get seen with it a lot. Nobody seems to realize that they never actually see the product thereof. For all they know, there's no film in the damned thing.

What's more, this is going to be a little expensive. 8X10s (if that's what I print) are going to run me a little more than a buck apiece. Ten photos, ten copies each, and that's a hundred bucks, plus what I need to get the print right, plus the prints ruined by mistakes. Plus film. Plus chemistry--although I've got most of that. Plus processing for color photos.

I'm thinking that any color photos can be done on the computer (much as I hate to do it that way), and perhaps Ed will give me a quantity discount (though I won't ask for one; he needs all the income he can get to keep the shop open, and I seriously want him to stay open). BW photos will be done in the darkroom, per my intense desire to engage in analog photographic processes. Still, this is going to be a serious, effort-driven endeavor, and I've got about a month and a half to get it all lined up.

Bah. Nevermind me, I'm just venting rambleously.

I just love getting volunteered. :meh:
I agree with mysteryscribe. Art show buyers can be fickle and it can be hard to know what people are going to buy. There are certain kinds of images that you can look at and figure they will sell easily, but they tend to be the kind of thing that show up in National Geographic calendars. Looking at your website, I don't see anything that jumps out to me as a real sell. The cowboy might be attractive to someone who likes them and wants an "arty" feel. A lot can depend on where you live too.

With everyone having a digital camera these days, I think you need something that stands out from the crowd to have much of a chance at selling. That could be a unique style or top-notch quality. If you only print a couple of each, you can test the waters and see what your area is like without investing a huge amount of time and money. I don't mean this as an insult. It's just that people like to look. Even if they like what they see, it seems like it really has to grab them for them to want to spend money on it.
This isn't really going to be an "art show." I probably should have phrased it a little differently. It's an arts & crafts show. It's pretty likely that I'll be the only photographer out there. Not that it matters a bit.

You're absolutely right, I have very few photographs that really make a grab; most of them are portraits, and unreleased. (Plus, who would want a portrait of someone they've never even heard of?) The images on my website are gradually coming off, except for the ones I personally like best, and new ones will be going up as I print them. My focus when I made most of those images was basically a show-and-tell about the things I'd been taking pictures of lately. Most of them are scans of Wal-Mart one-hour-photo prints, heavily tweaked in Gimp to make them look better (in my opinion at the time).

Since then (rather recently, in fact) I've started getting serious about working in the darkroom to produce the best possible print I can, but I'm just beginning. I'm also just figuring out why I like which images, and trying to focus on taking more photos that capture those qualities.

In short, I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing.

I suppose that's what I'll do, then: make two or three prints of what I think are my very, very best images, print them, and cross my fingers. I do have one thing going for me, however: Fort Rucker, where this thing is being held, is the Home of Army Aviation. There are a lot of pilots and aviation types here, so such-themed photos might be a shade more likely to sell.

And, since I keep detailed notes of every print I make (even the initial test prints), reproduction doesn't take long. If a photo sells like wildfire, then I can always make a quick few extra and get back. This thing runs a couple of days, so I should have a good idea after day one.

If they don't sell at all... well, you can sell anything on ebay... right?
You want the really really bad news....

My wife convinced me to frame some prints and they sold ten times better than portfolio prints. It's expensive so I would make darn sure that I had something that would sell before I framed it.

If you are going to do 'real' photography.... sorry I couldn't help myself there. You need to find something that digital doesn't do as well. Black and white for sure. Old Old subjects, building scenes people do best in black and white. You can also go the other way. Choose your favorite print make or have a big one made frame it very nice and ask about five hundred bucks for it. It might not sell but it will sure make you fell better than not selling a ten dollar print.

That isn't much help but it's the best i can do. also believe it or not posters do pretty well at craft shows. Not great nothing does.
mysteryscribe said:
also believe it or not posters do pretty well at craft shows.

Charlie, I thought about this, and it sent me into a sudden fit of giggles.

See, all I need to do is find a dolphin jumping out of the water at sunset.

Yes, I'm odd; but considering prior discussions, I just found that too funny.

Please excuse me while I go giggle madly more.
Just out of curiousity, would this arts and crafts show also be a place that might be a correct 'market' to sell blank Greeting Cards with your pictures on the front? Seeing as Hallmark cards these days are selling for $2.50 a piece, I am certain there will be people willing to purchase a batch of a dozen cards or so for $15-$20, which after determining development and cardstock costs might be profitable.
My deal is completely different, but I thought I would share it none the less. Mostly hang my work in restaurants etc. I have been in group shows in galleries but that is a close as I have come.

What I feel most from those experiences is an intense pride. Love watching people's expression when they look at my photos. Question that scares me the most is; a group or x amount of cool shots. Mostly I go with a group.

I say get the work mounted and frame the highlights. It will be expensive but ultimately you are in the finishing process. For me it is worth every penny. Do not worry about people buying your photos. Concentrate on getting them to look at your work. As time goes on things will become a lot more clear.

Have to say that I have never sold a photo. That is why I do commercial photography.
Here's a great place to get frames: http://www.americanframe.com/
There really is something special about framing your work. That's the only way I sell mine unless it's a contract. Even if you only frame a couple, I agree that it's the way to go. If they don't sell, hang them up at home or use them as gifts. You'll have to charge more, but if it's going to sell, it's going to sell. Plus you are saving them the hassle of getting it framed. Personally I would recommend a black metal frame with a white/off-white matte.
Sounds like the event will be visited primarily by Joe Sixpack and family. Matted and framed 'calendar art' shots of local stuff will probably sell. Just remember H. L. Mencken on underestimating.
James: you're getting a lot of good advice here. I'll throw in my two cents. ;)

If you're going to have to do it, have a "booth" and be there as "the photographer" all day - then do it right, as best your budget will allow.

Charlie is right - choose only your best images, and only make a couple prints of each. Go to an inexpensive place that sells frames and pick up plain black 11x14 frames with an enclosed 8x10 mat. For each image, frame one, and have the extras matted only, slipped into a plastic bag and set in as nice-looking a box as you can find.

You will spend more time & money getting the framed pieces up on your booth walls, but that is what people will wander in to view. If they like one, they have the choice to pay more for the framed piece or less for the matted-only. In every instance, sign the images, either on the print border or on the mat.

You can make up a business card and print those at home, too - if you're of a mind to. For a buck at a place like staples or office depot, you can pick up a cardholder. Put those out at the display, as well.

Your idea of sticking with aviation is a good one. Anything that spark a pleasant conversation with potential customers and lead to an eventual sale. So you already have an idea of your audience. But throw a couple odd ones in there, as well....local places or points of interest is never a bad choice. I agree you should stick with B&W, so you can assure folks they are getting an archivally processed silver gelatin print.

And bring something to read or do to help pass the time, and a comfortable chair with an umbrella for shade. Water and snacks in the cooler so you don't have to rely on the food vendors. Have a buddy come visit to booth-sit, so you can wander around and see what else is happening. You might love it, you might hate it.

Bring lots of small bills to make change. A receipt book from one of the above stores is cheap and adds a nice touch, as well as some sort of bag to slip the piece into.

But enjoy it! :) When you meet the customer who is really appreciative, it's all worthwhile.

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