Ready to take your photography beyond your computer? A photography exhibition is a great place to start. Most photographers are more than a little scared of doing a photography exhibition, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to be a serious artsy type to show your work and get people interested in it. You just need a place, a time, and a theme. The rest is all details.
Step One: Pick a theme
You already do this whenever you take individual photos. Now you’re taking the same principle and applying it to your presentation. What you decide not to use says almost as much as what you decide to use. Carefully select photos from your portfolio that make sense within a larger overall theme.
If you’re struggling to find a good theme, think about places you’ve been, certain emotions, sunsets, the color red, youthfulness, sports/action, and I think you get the point. There are tons of ways to theme your work. You just need to step back and consider all of the possibilities.
And if you just can’t find a theme from the work you currently have, you might want to reconsider doing an exhibition. Beginning photographers might struggle with this, simply because they haven’t created enough work for an exhibition to be feasible. If you have less than a hundred good images, I’d wait.
When you take the time to think of a theme, you provide yourself with more inspiration for your next photographic outing. Think about what you need to capture, images that fit directly into the theme you’re trying to present. I am in no way saying you should go and intentionally look for fighting couples if your theme is “jealousy,” but it doesn’t hurt to have the idea in the back of your mind.
Step Two: Identify the venue
You can show your photos anywhere. You don’t need to get into a fancy schmancy art gallery or anything like that. Consider showing your work at your church, a local coffee shop, the library, or an upcoming festival. So many photographers get hung up on the venue, but it’s probably the least important part of the decision. Just pick a place, talk to the person in charge, and setup a time.
It helps when you can get a few other photographer friends in on it. That way, you can provide some diversity in the work being presented. It also boosts your marketing which, if you’re showing your work at a coffee shop or other local business, will definitely interest the owner.
Step Three: Framing and printing your work
This is arguably the most costly and time-consuming part of showing your photos. Frames and prints aren’t cheap, at least, the good ones aren’t. Always print your images on high quality glossy photo paper even though it costs more. There’s simply no sense in bringing a bunch of people together to show them poorly printed images. Your work should look at least as good as it does on your computer screen.
Expect to spend around $15-30 to frame each photo you plan on presenting. Try to pick a frame style that matches your venue. Coffee shops and businesses will appreciate this, plus it will increase your chances of getting an extended viewing period for your work. You might recoup some of your expenses from the sales you make later on.
A quick note about making money
Photography exhibitions are great for your photography career, but not in the way you’d expect. You won’t make a lot of money from selling your work at the exhibition. The true value you get comes from the marketing leads you generate. When more people see your work and know your name, they suggest you to their friends, and that means clients galore. i can't tell you how many times photographer friends of mine have gotten work from customers who saw their photos in the local cafe or restaurant, liked what they saw, and asked for a photo shoot.
In other words, photography exhibitions are great for advertising yourself and networking with potential clients. Plus, they sure beat sitting on the couch watching American Idol on a Friday night. Do them because they’re fun, and you want to show your work to others. If you get into it for any other reason, I can guarantee you it worn’t be a success.
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