Your First Photography Show
April 2004 by Lauren E. Darcey
Preparing your photography to sell can be an expensive business, but for a relatively modest sum, you can pull off your first show professionally without breaking the bank.
Matting, mounting and framing only showcase your work, it's the print that is the centerpiece you will sell. In order to maximize the impact of your gallery booth, consider the following factors: consistency, image quality and print quality. Select images which reflect your best work in terms of originality, technical excellence, composition, action, drama and overall impact. Try to keep to a theme or genre so that your gallery has some consistency, and make sure you use the highest quality prints and materials you can.
Acid Free Matting and Mounting
Secure the print to the mat using acid free mounting tape. Use acid free mounting tape to lightly tape the matted print to the acid free matboard. Do not tape all sides - tape only enough to make the print secure to the matboard. If you tape it down too liberally, you may have puckers or warping later if the temperature and humdity change significantly. You want to allow the print to move a little with changing conditions.
The Personal Touch
Whenever possible, sign each mat with a pencil. If you insist on signing the print itself, make sure you use an acid free pen that is smudge-proof.
Now that you've got such a polished presentation for each of your prints, you'll want to protect them from fingerprints, dirt, and dust. Shrinkwrapping can be very cumbersome, but clear acid free plastic bags now come in all the normal print sizes with convenient adhesive flaps.
For a nice professional touch, include a quarter sheet of paper with a short photographer bio and include as much information as possible about the print - title, location, copyright at minimum. You could also include technical details about the print like the camera type, film type and camera settings. If you do your own printing, you might include the printing process you used, the type of paper you chose to print on and what makes your process unique.
Pricing Your Work
Pricing your work can often be an uncomfortable task and if you're uncomfortable with the price of a print, how will your customers feel? Go to some shows and note the prices and sales techniques at other popular booths. It's best to price your work ahead of time, considering print size, matting/framing, collectability of the work, and such. You might want to offer discounts for people who purchase more than one piece. Another fun trick is to create your sale sign specifically for the event you'll be attending, so people see this as a special opportunity to purchase your work.
Artwork Display and Storage
How you store your artwork - in transit and during the show - is critical to a successful venture. Most important of all, you must make sure that your work is protected from the wear and tear of transport and days of customer rummaging.
While you're much more likely to sell your unframed prints, it is your framed prints which are most likely to draw people into your booth. Make sure you have at least a handful of framed prints hanging to entice people into your area!
For smaller pieces like matted prints, consider converting a cardboard box with the top cut off into a print display unit. Cover the sides of the box with inkjet print versions of your chosen prints and your special sale flyers. Place these boxes on milkcrates or plastic lawn tables, covered with table cloth. Use an accordian portfolio in a portfolio holder to allow customers to peruse larger matted prints easily.
Lastly, don't forget to have a bunch of your business cards and other marketing materials you might have, available for those interested.
Now you're well on your way to a successful first show. Good luck!