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Three Tips for Selling/Showing Your Photos in a Gallery

by Steve Brown, January 2012


There are few industries as heart-wrenching as the fine art business. It’s a six-car pileup at the intersection of art and commerce and the amount of opinion and hyperbole that is somehow labeled as “fact” is just terrifying. The gallery business is an entire industry based on getting people to part with money in exchange for an undefinable emotional response (best case scenario) or under the impossible-to-keep promise of long-term investment (worst case scenario). Then you pile on the general pressure of running a business selling a luxury good during an economic downturn and you’ve got a lot of really miserable art being shown by really miserable gallery owners.

Assuming that didn’t discourage you and send you running back to shooting car shows and weddings, here are a few things that you should know about showing in galleries that most gallery owners probably won’t think to mention.

1. A lot of people don’t think photography is worth as much as paintings

That sounds really awful, doesn’t it? It’s true. Those droves and droves of people who picked up a Nikon D40 kit on clearance at Target and suddenly think they’re photographers? Those people know how much a cheap frame costs and they know how much photo paper costs and they think that if you add those two things together, that is how much a photograph is worth. So when your beautifully framed photo triptych of landscape details from your trip to Joshua Tree, complete with acid-free archival mattes and UV-resistant museum glass is hanging on that pristine white wall, here is what a casual art buyer sees:

  • Pack of Avery Photo Paper: $18
  • 3-Opening Photo Frame from Target: $17
  • Pretty Trees: $10

Total acceptable price: $45

Now at this point, the gallery owner should step in and save the day. The gallery owner’s duty is to assist informed collectors in furthering and expanding their collections, to represent their artists with total professionalism, and to inform inexperienced art buyers in the value of what they are seeing. If someone looks at your magnificently framed collection and shrugs, insisting they could take a picture of a tree and frame it for $45, the gallery owner has an obligation to at least try to inform this person better about what they are looking at…right?

Well, they do. But most gallery owners don’t actually know any better themselves. If hard pressed to justify the cost of a painting, anyone can speak eloquently (or at least convincingly) about master technique and the near invisibility of the brush strokes and the layering that allows for this and that etc etc etc but when you start talking about photography…most gallery owners are just as clueless as the guy staring at your photos and scratching his head. They acknowledge photography as fine art, but only because a few photographers distinguished themselves enough already to prove it…not because they fully understand it.

So as the artist, you have to pull double-duty here; you need to inform the public about why your work has value AND you need to inform the gallery so they can understand and sell it better. Every photographer is telling a story with every single photograph…the story of the old Leica you used that was your grandfather’s or the history of that ravine where you took pictures of all those glass bottles in the water and how they got there or the name of the little girl sobbing and holding scissors in one hand and beheaded paper dolls in the other. Just because a picture is worth a thousand words doesn’t mean that the words aren’t important…as an artist you need to be able to speak confidently about your work and make sure that anyone involved in selling it can do the same.

2. Framing is 50% of the piece

So much effort goes into the photography…the location, the subject, the lighting, the angles, the shadows, the white balance, the colors…the litany of technical details that need to be dealt with on the way to getting a great photograph seems never ending. Then you have to deal with processing and developing/printing and making sure that the physical output looks every bit as amazing as it should. And if you get into any of those nifty processing tricks for developing film, you can end up throwing away dozens of prints before you get a single one that you like. Then, finally, the image is exactly as it should be and you can pat yourself on the back and move on to the next one!

Nope.

Just as you didn’t want to show up for the prom in your finest formal wear and your mom’s battered ‘86 station wagon, you can’t just throw that photo into any frame and call it a day. Framing is one of the most overlooked aspects of fine art, and can be the difference between a piece that sells and a piece that gets wrapped in brown paper and stuffed in the back of a warehouse to die a slow, lonely death.

Oh, and since most of us simply buy frames to insert our standard-sized photographs, here’s something you might not know:

Good quality fine-art framing is really expensive.

Some photographers are totally fine with simply offering their prints unframed and leaving the framing up to the end buyer. Usually, that’s just fine…but not if you’re planning to hang your work in a proper show at a gallery. First impressions are everything, and if the first impression of your work is a loose photograph hanging from padded binder clips, then that lack of interest in presentation will end up being mirrored by collectors’ lack of interest in buying your work.

Avoid chain store framing at all costs. Yes, there are some great framers and handlers working at some of these places but they are far and few between, and mostly it’s just people who can use a hammer, glass cutter, and a screwdriver. I worked briefly for a framing shop in my 20s and with most places there is a total and complete lack of interest in whatever is being framed. The goal is to turn things over as quickly as possible while using as little glass and frame stock as you can. Turn it over quick, and don’t cut yourself. And since your work is going in to a frame, a lot of these places don’t really care what it’s going to look like when it comes out. I saw family heirloom photographs get taped to foam board with packing tape, I saw the edges of paintings on wood panels actually get sanded to fit in a frame that was measured incorrectly before it was cut, and I saw other crimes against art that still make my blood boil to this day. If you want to preserve the physical integrity of your work in any way, avoid chain store framing at all costs.

Many local galleries will offer framing as an additional service. In these instances, the quality of the work they show will often bear a glimpse into the quality of the framing you can expect. If you see a lot of bad photography and warped still-life paintings of pears and dolls heads, keep walking. If you see a lot of high-ticket work by artists of note, chances are good their framing team will consist of people with years of handling and framing experience…people who won’t damage your work just to stuff it into a cheap frame and then charge you triple.

Call your local museum and ask to talk to their preparator. This is someone who knows more about framing and art conservation than probably every gallery in your city. They’ve likely got a degree (or several) in this, and if anyone is clued in to where to get the best framing done in your city…that’s the person who would know.

There are a ton of options with framing, so keep in mind that you still need to frame and price this piece appropriately. Don’t opt for the 1,000 year archival triple-thick matte board and museum glass for a photograph that you plan to put in the gallery for $100….the framing alone will cost at least 3 times that much. At least. Figure out the appropriate pricing for your pieces, and then go with the best quality framing you can manage that will keep it in that price range. And no matter the price & quality of the framing materials you’re using, make sure the actual framing is being done by someone who knows what they’re doing.

3. Be really careful about who you show with

For every gallery that treats their artists with respect, pays on time, handles the art properly, and promotes their shows well, there are at least a hundred that do none of these things. The horror stories come fast and easy as soon as you dip your toe into these waters, and you’ll hear them all. Sculptures being knocked off the wall by an intern and destroyed 10 minutes before the opening reception, artists getting paid for a show so late that they forgot the show happened, artists being told their show sold out only to have half the pieces returned, postage due, a year later; the list goes on and on. Artwork stolen, rude gallery staff, artists being denied entry to their own show…it’s absolutely insane the kind of things that you’ll hear once you start asking around about galleries.
If you’re looking to begin showing in galleries, start local. Go to openings, talk to the artists and the patrons and the staff and get a feel for what kind of buyers attend which galleries. Make note of which galleries are selling a lot of work and which ones aren’t. Lots of sold artwork denotes several things…the talent of the artist and the quality of the work for sure, but more importantly it shows that the gallery has a solid buyer network and contacts and knows how to close a deal. If you really want to see how a gallery treats people, go to a packed opening and buy a small piece of inexpensive art. That transaction will tell you a lot about the gallery and their staff and give you a pretty good indicator of whether or not you want to deal with them. It’s similar to the old adage “Someone who is nice to you but not to the waiter isn’t a nice person.” If they’re really busy and still handle a very small dollar transaction with someone they don’t know and they do it with ease, grace, and appreciation….THAT is a gallery you want to be in business with.

And beyond the type of gallery you show with, you also need to be very careful about the kind of show where you allow your artwork to be displayed. Be very wary of group shows of any kind, and avoid them if at all possible. A group show is a gallery’s way of trying to get as many people through the doors or to their website as possible by essentially hedging their bets. If you host a show with two artists, you are depending on the market for two artists. If you are hosting a show with 40 artists, you’re dipping into a much larger buyer pool and have a far greater chance of selling the majority of the show. As a gallery owner, a group show is a great way to add new buyers to your list, try out working with artists you haven’t made up your mind about yet, and generally increase the profile of your gallery.
To an artist, they are 99 percent worthless.
Being one small name on a 4″ × 6″ postcard with 40 other artist names doesn’t increase your profile. Neither does having one piece (likely a small one) hanging in a gallery with 40+ other pieces of art really showcase your work. You will barely (if at all) be mentioned in any press for the show, and if any media or bloggers show up to photograph the show the chances of your piece being pictured in any post-show coverage is incredibly slim, at best.

Even worse are “theme shows”, which have become all the rage among lazy gallery owners. For these shows, the owner usually cuts a deal with some entity…like whoever owns the copyright to “The A-Team”. The copyright owner says “Yeah, we’ve got a new DVD box set coming out that we want to promote” and they pay the gallery a lot of money to host a special “The A-Team” themed art show. The gallery calls a ton of artists, woos them with promises of all the press coverage that will be there along with a special appearance by Mr. T, and a bunch of really great artists do a largely forgettable pieces that are specific references to The A-Team.

The end result is that you’ve done a piece of work that has nothing to do with your usual subject matter, the gallery got paid before a single piece of art was hung and they got all the press already so they don’t care if your piece sells nor will they make any effort to place it, and no one remembers or cares who was in the show because hey, Mr. T was there. So you’ve essentially “sold out” for less than nothing, since you paid for time and materials to create the piece, frame it, and ship it out or deliver it. And when that unsold piece is eventually returned to you, good luck finding someone else who wants that brilliant photograph that you staged of your neighbor’s topiary garden from an angle that makes it look exactly like Mr. T’s haircut.

Every once in a while a group show can be a great opportunity to work with a gallery you’re curious about or show with artists that you might feel are a notch or two above you. But approach any gallery and especially any offer of being in a group show with a heavily critical eye, and don’t waste your time and talent if it looks like anything other than a slam dunk for your career.

As with everything, there is a lot more to selling your photography as fine art than just these few things…but they’re the most common problems that I’ve encountered and things that can really make-or-break a fledgling artist as they try to break in to the gallery scene.

Remember to dress nice at your openings, smile at the critics even when they tear you apart, and never have more than two drinks if there are buyers there.

Good luck!

About the Author

Steve Brown is a Cleveland-based art dealer, owner of the online Steve Brown Gallery, and a partner with Shinbone Creative. Working with fine artists to help them show, sell, and monetize their work, Steve has shown and produced multiples for artists such as Sean Mahan, Travis Louie, Chris Ryniak, Jeff Soto, and many more. SBG has shown and represented artists at Art Basel Miami and will be opening a dedicated gallery space in Cleveland in 2012. Steve lives with his wife, two children, and two enormous dogs in North Olmsted, Ohio More »


Original text ©2012 Steve Brown.

Article created January 2012

Readers' Comments


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E. J. , January 20, 2012; 08:18 A.M.

I would like to find an agent or gallery to represent my work. I had one back in the '70s, but that world and the agent are long gone. I would be very interested in a piece on photo.net about the process of finding and vetting an agent/gallery that represents photographers.

Ramon Silcox , January 20, 2012; 10:01 A.M.

Excellent article

Barry Carlton , January 20, 2012; 10:55 A.M.

Excellent article. I would just add that it isn't really all that expensive to buy the proper equipment and learn to frame yourself. You need to get a good mat cutter and you need to learn about conservation materials and how to measure, and you need to learn non-destructive ways of mounting your art to your backing, but none of that is particularly difficult, and once learned, you reap huge savings, and have the assurance that the job has been done correctly.

kat Sheridan , January 20, 2012; 11:27 P.M.

I liked this article as I think the next step for me as a photographer would be to show. I agree with the commenter who suggested that it's a good idea to learn how to frame your own work. At the very least mounting your own photographs would be necessary and save you money (and be better quality than someone else doing it). I'm pretty sure all I'd need to frame would be a corner jig and some saw blades so for people with any kind of workshop it seems doable. Hm don't know about the glass... seems like the next article is how to frame your own work!

Stefan Frauenfelder , January 21, 2012; 08:37 A.M.

Great article! I would also love to see an article about how to frame your own work that goes a little further than the "Fine Art Print Presentation" video on YouTube.

Robert Buelteman , January 21, 2012; 01:47 P.M.


White Clematis

Gosh, I don't know where to start here.  As a person who has been fortunate to have  over 50 solo exhibitions and 25 group exhibitions, I feel like the luckiest guy on earth to have made fine art photography my life.  

First, selling luxury goods during an economic downturn is the only way to go!  The rich are the only people with money right now.

Second, if your work is any good, it will be seen as such.  No amount of talk will ever substitute for a thoughtfully executed image.  

Third, Based on your "cost per unit" thesis, any photograph is worth more than any painting (cost of canvas and paint).

 Good advice on framing, though the biggest mistake photographers make is pricing their work too cheaply.  No serious collector will EVER buy a cheap photograph.  The answer is to increase your pricing so that the framing is never more than 10% of the price of the print.  

With respect to group shows, they are worthless as the writer suggests, but only if your work is the same.  Believe me, when you participate in a group exhibition and your work sells, NOBODY forgets it.  

Last, I agree again about dressing well for the opening and being nice when people are ctitical, but would also suggest that the suggested 2 drink allowance is 2 too many.  What are you doing there?  Getting a buzz on or showing up to work?

Working as a fine artist can make for a profoundly fulfilling and satisfying life.  It takes guts and persistence, but more importantly, a vision to share with others that is powerful enough to allow you to endure the slings and arrows of the professional art world.  What do you have to contribute?  What is your vision?  What gets you out of bed in the morning?  These are the things around which to create you art! 

The water is fine, dive in!

Sheryl Bury-Michals , January 21, 2012; 08:58 P.M.

Enlightening - the framing tips are just as important for when you decided to frame your photo work to display at home - proper framing showcases photos to their best advantage.

Rob Moore , January 23, 2012; 01:06 P.M.

Good article, now I know I'll will keep my photograph on my and friends walls and enjoy my art.

Image Attachment: filen2hDMY.jpg

John Crosley , January 23, 2012; 06:34 P.M.

Steve Brown,

I found your article well-written, entertaining, authoritative, and . . . just one problem.

It was too short.

Several hundred well-written words may have been ideal for a Photo.net blog, but I know that a certain substantial number of PN members are thirsting to learn more about the 'secret world' of galleries - how to approach them, how to deal with them, how to choose them, and how to maintain good relations with them from the initial contact through a continuing business relationship.

The problem is that most photographers here don't even know how to frame the questions,  I think, and I am hard-pressed to name any authoritative source for the answers to the questions named in the paragraph above.

Your few hundred words with three tips might easily be a whole book with thirty or more tips, and I suggest it might easily be an 'evergreen' - a book that continues to sell from year to year. 

Once long ago when I was a law student/clerk a young lawyer acquaintance, a hippie, wrote a paperback book published my first year in law school about lay people finding land in the country and negotiating legal hurdles to avoid lawyers.  That publication still brings him substantial royalties today, decades later! 

[ "Les Scher, Finding and Buying Your Place in the Country". 200,000 copies in print]

A word to the wise. 

There always will be a market of photographers aspiring to gallery representation now that photography really is accepted as 'art'.   Why not write that book?

I had no 'photograph art' aspirations when I joined Photo.net eight years ago.

I gave them up in the late '60s when I met Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Seeing the greatness of his work caused me to  promptly gave up my photographic aspirations while still in my early 20s, and I had a plum photographer's job for AP then in San Francisco.

But several years ago I was befriended in Los Angeles/Hollywood by a Lucie Award winner, who had more personal friends and business acquaintances among famous photographers, gallery owners and museum curators (worldwide) than probably all but a few individuals in the world.

He took me to famous galleries and openings in the LA area where it seemed 'everybody' among the photo glitterati knew him, and it seemed ALL respected his opinions about photography.

He offered without fee his services to me for the pleasure of 'introducing me to the world of photographic art exhibition', but wanted me to stop taking photos ('You have enough fabulous photos already'), move to the Los Angles area, and concentrate only on 'getting into the gallery/museum world' 'at the highest level'.  He'd help with all he had.

But at the time of meeting I had not yet vetted him fully, and was loathe to give up shooting in Eastern Europe where I do much of my 'street' work.  I saw him periodically, but continued to shoot in Eastern Europe.

He did promise, no matter what, 'when you are ready to be shown', to use his personal 'black book' and fabulous list of personal acquaintances to open doors for me with highest level galleries and museums, however regrettably, as three years has passed, he has become permanently disabled and his help is no longer available to me.  

So, I'm searching for a successor who can help me navigate the treacherous shoals of introducing myself to galleries and museum curators, (or finding someone who will do that for me), and who will believe in my work, as he certainly did.

I have 40 years experience in photography behind me, with a very substantial hiatus during my middle years, but some of my work now is historic.   (Nixon, Berkeley, etc.)

I photograph daily, and dislike the idea of moving to major US cities to schmooze with gallery owners; I'd rather keep shooting, and  hopefully produce something significant for my collection of 'Life through My Eyes'.  However, if I must move, I would do that.

I'm far less worried about how to achieve quality prints and framing (certainly nothing to be denigrated, as they are absolutely essential), than in how to open those gallery doors when gallery owners say publicly 'we're not reviewing new artists or material'.

My former mentor informed me that's a big lie -- those galleries are always open to new artists and material IF THEY ARE APPROACHED BY THE RIGHT PERSON IN THE RIGHT WAY.

[f my work is not gallery-worthy, then someone with authority quietly tap me on the shoulder, tell me so authoritatively, and I promise to go quietly.]

If my work is worthy of that man's praise, I need some fresh guidance; I'm mourning the loss of a friend and his once fantastic help.

And seeking a new friend (or several).

john

John (Crosley)

Steve Brown , January 23, 2012; 10:50 P.M.

Wow, thanks so much for the great feedback!

@Barry - I'm always in favor of DIY for everything possible, but I've always regarded framing to be as much of an art as painting, sculpture, or photography. To me, it's a matter of deciding if you really want to spend the time learning a completely new skill or if you'd rather outsource that work and spend your time working on your photography. Plus, when I tried it I proved to be TERRIBLE at framing and mounting, so I've always preferred to leave it to the pros. ;)

@John - Thanks for in-depth and well thought out reply! I've considered writing something longer for some time but I've got my gallery business, two startups, and a pair of beautiful children that are all vying for my time and attention....writing anything longer than a thousand words or so just isn't in the cards right now! As for finding a new dealer / gallery to represent you...start local and build up from there. The best thing you can do is be very active and in-control of the growth of your exposure. Build up a fan/collector base and build good relationships with smaller galleries...it will become obvious when it's time to move up from there, and a GOOD gallery owner will help you make that jump instead of trying to keep you for themselves. Good luck!

 

Robert K , January 30, 2012; 01:14 P.M.

A great topic. However, providing some *context* would make the "tips" more meaningful. Examples:

- Galleries can range from a Starbuck or a library to MOMA, and everything in between. Exhibits can range from an absolute beginner's first show to a maestro's lifetime retrospective.

- A photographer's goal for an exhibit can range from showing for exposure and feedback to expecting $$$$$ in sales.

There are appropriate "tips" for each of the above permutations.

I started showing my work about a decade ago, and had posted my experiences in the forum.  Here's a summary:

Showing my work has been a great learning curve and experience for me, in many ways.


- It forces me to show *only* my best work. A good lesson in critical editing.


- For every new exhibit, I'm motivated to produce new work, forcing me to finally work on those images in the back burner.


- Each exhibit teaches me something new: the material cost, the effort, the good/bad of a gallery, the selection and sequencing of my images, etc.


- I assemble a set of mats/frames which I can re-use repeatedly, and know my limits of the grunt work involved. [Since I compose carefully in the viewfinder with the intention of minimal cropping later, almost all my prints have a fixed aspect ratio. I can therefore keep my mats and frames the same, and re-usable. I learned to cut my own mats, and started with smaller prints, working my way up to larger ones. I use the same matting and framing material so that the prints have a consistent look in an exhibit. Over time, I accumulated enough mats and frames for showing 20-30 prints. For a new exhibit, all I need to do is to print, and re-frame.]


- Over time, I learn to screen galleries for exhibits. I started with local libraries, senior centers, cafes, and worked my way up to real galleries. [I always scout a gallery before showing there. The criteria I evaluate include: location, foot traffic, hours, wall size and condition, lighting, exhibit terms, insurance, publicity, past exhibits, etc. My absolute horror is to put up an exhibit but nobody comes because the location is not easily accessible, or the hours are short, or the gallery runs poor PR, etc. Attending others' exhibit receptions is a good way to scout a gallery.]


- The inventory of my better work keep increasing.


- I had a realistic expectation from the get go: to show and not necessarily to sell. If sales should come along, it's icing on the cake. [I do make sales, but the feedback, friends and contacts I made, and exposure are the real rewards.]

Robert K , January 30, 2012; 02:02 P.M.

For those who are interested in matting and framing, here's my experience.

- Early on, I decided to have custom mats and frames (i.e. NOT pre-cut) while keeping the cost low. Yes, good stuff cheap. I've also decided that the mat and frame must not overwhelm the print. I ended up with off white mats and matte black metal frames.

- To arrive at a custom size mat I like, I visited numerous galleries and museums and pay close attention to matting (I brought along a measuring tape.). In particular the borders' widths and the positioning of the windows. I like wide borders and a slightly wider bottom border. Custom mats is the only way to go.

- Since custom mats are expensive, I decided to purchase a mat cutter and learned to cut my own. It took a little learning curve and effort, but the money I saved after many exhibits is well worth it.

- Since I plan on re-using the mats, I mount my prints with corners.

- I looked for the best prices for frames, and found one online vendor that will cut them to size (to 1/16").

- I found a local frame shop that would cut glass sheets to size at a reasonable price.

- I assemble the frames myself.

Tim Byrne , February 15, 2012; 04:32 P.M.

I think there's much good wisdom here, regarding showing images at a gallery.

I hesitate to support "doing your own framing" with limited basic tools. That's sort of like the photographer using a new point and shoot camera to make images at a wedding, portraits, or wanna-be grand scenics naming their business A. Adams Imagery (sorry Ansel) and trying to compete with photographers who have learned the craft. If you are a photographer, be one. If you are a framer, be one. In either case, be the best you can be. But I doubt you can be both. If you make images, leave the framing to those who are the pros at it. Home-made frames look it and do not enhance the value of your product. Obviously there may be exceptions, but my bet is to be one or the other.

Steve Lowther , March 08, 2012; 09:46 P.M.

Isn't there anything positive?

Being realistic is one thing.  Whining the whole article long is another. 

I found Robert Buelteman, John Crosley and John K's comments actually more helpful than the article itself.  I think you have some good experience to share, Steve, but part of an author's job is to encourage and inspire unless his motivation is to discourage competition.

How about a little realistic encouragement?!

David Bebbington , April 06, 2012; 01:12 A.M.

An interesting article by someone who clearly speaks from experience. A couple of points:

1) There are many pitfalls to warn about, but being relentlessly downbeat is a bit excessive!

2) Framing: I have always taken the attitude that I cannot know what color scheme prospective buyers have in their homes and therefore select frames which are just expensive to look respectable but cheap enough for buyers to discard in favor of their own choice. I can't see the logic of spending a lot on a frame which pushes up the price bracket of your pictures considerably but may actually lead a buyer to decide against your pictures.

3) Group shows: Not as good as solos, for sure, but still worthwhile, I think.

4) I would welcome the author's views on the subject of editioning - yes or no - helps to sell by making pictures seem more valuable?

Firas Ershaid , April 07, 2012; 05:21 P.M.

Fantastic Article, many thanks.

Barry Carlton , April 08, 2012; 11:13 P.M.

Just to expand on my previous comment about learning to do your own framing. I agree with Steve that framing is a complex skill, and I certainly don't pretend to be a professional framer. Multiple windows are beyond me. Double matting is way too much trouble. Colored mats are a minefield. But plain, professional-quality, museum-style framing is definitely learnable. You need the proper equipment, and by that I don't mean an X-Acto knife and a straight edge. You need a mat cutting jig (Logan makes good ones), a dedicated bevel cutter, lots of razor blades, and some training. The equipment will run several hundred dollars. You will need to know about archival materials. But with these tools and this knowledge, you can cut beveled window mats with no overcuts, and produce frames that look very much like what you'll see in a photo museum -- which, in my experience, is a white or off-white mat in a black frame. You do not have to frame many images to recoup your investment. Now, of course, once you take Steve's other tips to heart and your images start selling like hotcakes, then you can afford to pay someone else to do your framing. But for those of us whom the lightning hasn't yet struck, learning your own framing is a good way to save some money.

Michael Axel , April 17, 2012; 12:03 A.M.

Steve, that is very gracious of you to take the time to write this.

 

As for framing, I was lucky to find a really good local frame shop (whose owner was also a photographer), who offered to frame my work for no charge, getting his money when a piece sold. You can always try this route. While I have the tools to do framing myself, I can also attest to it being best done by a pro.

 

A book worth reading (though possibly out of print) is "Getting Hung". Very good ideas that I found pertinent in dealing with art dealers. I know so many friends and colleagues whom I believe are much better photographers than me, yet they don't have the people skills to promote themselves. I really do believe that 80% of your ability to sell work is your ability to sell yourself, and better yet, to find a dealer who believes in you.

Dan P , April 18, 2012; 09:56 P.M.

I've had my share of shows now and may be forming an opinion that would sit rather hard in my heart with regard to photography, most especially exhibitions of local artists looking for success. Before I say this, please know that these are impressions that are not meant to discourage but to look for solace through being enlightened to other opinions. That said:

It's too easy to take a photo and call it art - has it become so difficult to root through the noise to locate and enjoy quality photographs? The effort surely seems to daunt modern collectors who are pushed to older, big name and usually expired artists who were "firsts" in their respective areas. Add that photographs are often not seen with value - not by other artists (when asked in private) nor by gallerists...

In many ways, the gear itself has taken center stage from the art that comes from it - phones, DSLR's, mirror less cameras. It's always been a technical art, but recently it's become so technical that one need not even have interest in art at all. There's nothing wrong with enjoying cameras, but it seems all of this has conspired to make photo arts feel less like a true endeavor and more like the pastime primarily of dilettantes. 

Has photography become irrelevant as art? If one cannot ascribe real value to it, and the visual imagery so overwhelms the viewer in sheer mass, what is the point of photography as art? 

The question used to be that no one practiced photo arts because it wasn't considered "art" - and now it seems to be that the medium is so approachable that without formal training, and with readily accessible tools, it's practiced so much that the art can't be separated from the chaff.

Tough words - I'm open to thoughts. I still shoot and continue to show (and will), but wonder how others feel about the state of art photography. It's no longer the novelty it was in the 60's, nor the rising star it was in the 70's and 80's. So... what now?

-AD

Lionel Stevenson , April 21, 2012; 08:08 A.M.

Galleries only want the work of photographers who are already selling well. It's not their job to discover new talent. Their job is to make money. They want dead photographers or famous photographers. Creating a market for photographs, or any product, is a very expensive thing to attempt, and not something that any gallery will take on. Do your work. Love it.

Van Gogh, who never sold a painting, and whose work sells for hundreds of millions now, said,"After all the galleries and dealers, a painter is a person who loves to paint".

Jean Halter Clink , April 21, 2012; 10:58 A.M.

Thank you for the article, but one thing stood out, not even having my photos up on my Photo.net page yet, I wouldn't mind at all "Being one small name on a 4″ × 6″ postcard with 40 other artist names. . ."  If my work does not stand out, that is a good way to find out, and it would be a provocation to put more into it!  I have never worried about starting small, in fact, there is a lot of wisdom in it.

Thank you Robert K. and others for your helpful comments also.

Ngoc le minh , April 27, 2012; 09:17 P.M.

An article was helpful for me. Thanks

Ngoc le minh , April 27, 2012; 09:25 P.M.

An article was helpful for me. Thanks

Michael Seewald , May 01, 2012; 04:19 A.M.


Seewald gallery 1985

If it's your dream, don't give it up. It's a lot or work, but possible to make it happen. You sometimes have to be as creative in your pursuits to make it as you do in creating great, unusual art. If you have a day job, don't give it up, keep it to support your hobby, until you can make the switch. Even then, expect to starve! I've starved most my life now, but would have had it no other way.

Personal Art , May 04, 2012; 02:40 A.M.

Thank you for sharing!

regards

james Von , August 11, 2012; 06:36 A.M.

I just want to bring up a few points, One is that professorial framing results take time to procure.

And time is the key, Not that it will take you years to become a good framer, but it's the time it takes to frame itself. There is a trade off here, depends on the amount of framing you have to work at, I say WORK and don't kid your self it's work like  anything else it takes time.Really great photographers don't want to get caught up in the framing process they would much rather be taking photos. Many times they don't find this out until they have got into it for awhile.

You can save a good amount of money just make sure you always have new images coming. This goes for any 2D Artist out there.

The other point is the framing equipment. As we all know you get what you pay for this goes for framing equipment and type of supplies. There is a whole host of cheap mat cutters, miter gigs and saws ect that at best make you feel like your a pro. Think again  it really makes a difference as to the quality they yield and how long they last. It could take  $6000,  to get into good quality framing equipment and that could go up very easily.

It comes down to time savings again the better the equipment usually the easier and faster it will perform. You need a good amount of time and practice materials and it helps if you have a good teacher.

     

James Von       

Rafael S , August 16, 2012; 11:37 A.M.

As both a painter and photographer I would say the reason photography doesn't sell at the same price as a painting is because a photo is a basically a print that can be reproduced over and over again. Especially today if you are using printers and archival paper, it is still fairly easy to reproduce an exact copy. Not to say photos can’t sell as high. They do in some cases. The ones I’ve seen sell as high as paintings or sculptures are when the prints are done in darkroom on silver printing or one of the classic techniques. Most gallery drawings and paintings are one-of-a-kind originals. The artist painted it once and the original is sort of like having the negative. Prints of that painting can be made and sell for a whole lot less, but high end collectors are looking for pieces that are unique and rare when they are making an investment in art. A friend of mine who sells pieces numbers his prints and once they are sold, he never reprints them again. That is a also a good sales technique to mark up price.

Steve Gubin , August 30, 2012; 11:20 P.M.

Not much for me to add here other than to say thanks to Steve, and to the other posters here who offered some very helpful comments and suggestions. 

Bob Wilkinson , November 05, 2012; 02:03 A.M.

I can see the benefit in using the same kind of frame for each photograph such as a black frame and white mat.  The buyer can change it or not.  But I recently had five pieces framed for an exhibit and each frame was selected to enhance the photograph as was the mat.  This was a photography club exhibit and since each piece looked different as to the frames, size, and content they were placed in different locations among the other pieces.  This was ok.

Since the five pieces cost a total of $800 to custom frame I need to reconsider.  I am looking forward to getting at least one piece in a gallery but in the future I will have them framed in black, off white mat, and all photos at 16x24. I don't want to get into cutting mats and framing.  I am retired, photography is a hobby, and if I sell a piece once in awhile that will be great. I would rather spend my time shooting and processing.  Leave the framing to the local professionals knowing I can get a lower price with all black frames and not mix sizes with some in wood and some in metal.

Bob


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