Tips on Holding a Successful Photography Exhibition
You’ve gradually been building a collection of great photographs and slowly but surely you’ve started to gain a reputation, so now you’ve been offered the chance to exhibit your work or you think it’s time to exhibit your photographs. Exhibiting can be a great way of showcasing your talents to potential clients and art buyers.
It can feel overwhelming to organise an exhibition, but if you plan ahead and get the right support, you’ll be organised and ready to resolve any problems that occur. Of course if you’re exhibiting through a gallery, the owner’s experience of past exhibitions should be an invaluable resource.
When it comes to exhibiting here are a few tips to help make your exhibition less stressful than it needs to be.
Are you doing a solo or group exhibition?
The benefits of a solo exhibition is it’s all about you, your photographs, your voice, but also this means all the pressure is on you. Just like marmite your audience can either love it or hate it. Whereas with a group exhibition there will be a range of styles and subject matter on display and also the responsibility of the exhibition is shared. Though group exhibitions could mean you have limited space and you can’t just do things how you want, you won’t have total control of the overall vision of the exhibition.
Choosing the exhibiting space or assessing the gallery
There is only one way to be sure you’re choosing the right venue and that’s to physically go and see it. Also have a wander around the immediate area, get a sense of how this venue sits within the local community, is it thriving? How accessible is the building and is it clearly signposted? Is there parking available? How approachable are the venue staff? If it’s a gallery how helpful are they? Are they accommodating or is there a strict terms and conditions policy?
A venue or gallery space can tick all the right boxes, but trust your gut feeling, if it doesn’t feel right, then start looking again. There may be something more suitable just around the corner. Also don’t forget the cost, if you’re hiring the space or using a gallery based on commission sales, work the costs out, don’t be blinded by the modern white space.
Booking the exhibition space
At last you’ve found a venue that fits your style and has the room to really exhibit your photographs or a gallery has offered you an exhibition and everything sounds good. Now you need your head to rule your heart otherwise you could be just about to embark on an expensive, never recover from, exhibition.
Before you sign on the dotted line and leave it all to fate, make sure all the things they said they’d do are actually in black and white on the form you’re about to sign. This way it’s clear for all to see who agreed to what, when disputes or miscommunications happen at a later date. If you find at this stage you’re the one doing all the adapting, walk away, the idea of the exhibition is that it works for you and clearly this isn’t.
Make sure you know the terms and conditions and that they work for you. Don’t forget this is a business transaction. While you’re working out the terms, make sure you’re aware of the extra costs and what the final figure is. Also you may see a healthy number of staff on your visit, but this doesn’t mean they’ll all be working when it’s your exhibition. Minimum staff numbers can be added to the contract as can the level of catering facilities. Who will be taking orders and dealing with payments? If you’re exhibiting with a gallery when do you receive commission and what monies will be taken off your commission before you receive it. The gallery is working for you so it’s understandable they have to be paid, but this needs to be proportional to the selling price of your fine art photographs.
Using a professional photography printing company
So you found the venue and you’ve booked it, so you know well in advance when you’ll need your photographic artwork for exhibition. You’ll already know your theme and the overall look you want to achieve with your fine art photographs.
So don’t compromise on the finish and quality of your fine art photography prints. A great venue alone will not sell poor quality photo prints. You’re doing an exhibition to showcase your talents as a professional photographer, to sell your artwork, to raise your profile and to increase your opportunities.
Your exhibition photography artworks need to be the best examples of your work, displayed in the most flattering light. So it makes sense to use the services of a professional photography printing company, that specialises in fine art. They should use their expertise to your advantage, advising on the colour matching of your images, the best suited substrate for your work, what sizes the images work best at, how best to mount the fine art prints, and which is the best archival print process for the longevity of your fine art photography. They can advise on limited edition prints and produce certificates of authenticity to add credibility to your fine art prints. They will also use their knowledge when it comes to the best lighting for your fine art prints. You are putting on a show, that should have a “ wow factor”, so use the wise skills of a professional photography printing company who understand fine art.
A good fine art photography printing company will advise on the most cost efficient process that won’t compromise on the quality of fine art printing. It is in their best interests that you remain a regular customer.
Some galleries offer an in-house printing service, but take a look at the costs before committing and the quality of their printing services. Putting all your eggs into one basket may not be the best solution and can add pressure, especially on a tight schedule. Also weigh up if you’re looking for a long term relationship with the gallery, if that’s the case it may be worth using their add on services. Though do bear in mind some galleries are happy to accept payment for use of their building and facilities, their printing, mounting and framing services and see the actual sales of your work as a sideline to the guaranteed up front payments you have already made. There are some amazing supportive galleries out there, but it’s worth considering the arrangement from all angles.
Spread the Word
You have a venue, you know the date of your exhibition, you have an exhibition title and you have already chosen some of the images. Now is the time to spread the word on all social media platforms, email all your contacts and current customers, tell all members of any society you belong to and basically as many people as you can. Also you’ll need a consistent design for all printed promotional material, of course you’ll have chosen one specific fine art photograph to be the star of the show. A fine art photography printing company can offer advice about promotional print and invites.
Send out more invites for the private view than the venue actually holds, guaranteeing a good turn out for your exhibition. This isn’t the time to run out of steam, you need to be driven and if you want to invite certain influencers or companies you’d love to work with, then send them an invite, you’ve nothing to lose. Don’t forget this is a showcase of your abilities, don’t waste it.
If you’re exhibiting through a gallery they may send out invites to their customer list and may even have art influencers on the list.
Also let the local press know and they may even turn up with a photographer of their own. Be resourceful use your creative skills to find other ways of spreading the word, without breaking the bank.
The date of your exhibition is nearing and you should have already looked at a floor plan of the venue and measured the actual size of the walls. You should have organised a model layout of your fine art prints to scale, so you don’t have empty spaces or over crowded corners. The whole layout should flow and allow viewers room to linger.
If you’re using a fine art printing company they’ll probably be the ones transporting your fine art prints and hanging them in the venue. You need to consider how you’re going to transport other fine art prints that are coming from a different location. Do you hire a courier company or do you hire a van (measure the fine art prints in packaged form, before hiring the van).
If you’re organising the transporting of your fine art prints then organise reliable packaging. Nothing worse than offloading the van to find several pieces damaged during transit.
What are you going to say
You’re the photographer, the artist, no one understands your work better than you, so don’t hide in the corner. Though you don’t have to be a brazen exhibitionist either, both extremes do not encourage buyers.
Be approachable, be friendly and hand out your business card as an ice breaker. Generally clients won’t ask in depth questions about your art, but have an already worked out answer (not too technical) and don’t change it depending on who’s asking. You can refine it, but overall keep the core of your answer the same.
and finally enjoy it…
It has been a long slow process, but you had an ambition to hold an exhibition and you did it. Along the way (not just at the exhibition) you will have made some great contacts and learnt a lot. At the exhibition you’ll make more great contacts, gain more opportunities and maybe even sell some work. Bear in mind some opportunities may not come to light until well after the exhibition.
The exhibition will be over all too soon, so enjoy it..