Thursday, August 15, 2013

Preparing for a gallery exhibit, part 3: printing and cost

As I mentioned earlier, a consideration I made when deciding on which images to show at the exhibit was the potential to sell. I may be way off the mark on some of the choices I made, but I tried to come up with several images that could best represent my work on Biscayne Bay.

So with that, I knew that I would have to lay some serious money down to get all my gallery images ready for hanging. I was fortunate to have found a fine art print shop in Miami (and only a short distance drive). The shop, Prints Giclee Shop is run by print professionals that are also artists. It's a small operation but they do it all; printing, framing, matting, canvas wrap and accommodate all sizes. During my first visit to the shop, I learned about my options and was given an initial price quote for various print and canvas sizes. Now I had a pretty good idea of what the total cost might run into and this would factor into my decision on print number and sizes and whether or not a print would be framed or wrapped. There are lots of choices that go into the final product, and the combination of choices ultimately determines the cost.

For printing, I decided to go with the more expensive fine art paper vs photographic paper. In my opinion, the type of paper can make or break an image and it also has to do with durability. Concerning frames, I decided to go with relatively inexpensive wood  mold black frames. For some images, I will include matting. Like the paper, I believe the matting can make or break an image, so I will go with quality matting and work with the artists at the print shop in deciding on mat type.

Within my budget and always with the intention of trying to sell each piece, I had to decide on the less costly option of canvas wraps. It works out to be about 20% less than framing a print. I also think canvas wraps are more appealing to some because frame and mat choices can differ individually. For the wraps, I am using 1 1/2" thick frame. You can go with a narrower or thicker width and it affects the cost somewhat. The printers at the shop use a museum-wrap technique whereby the image expands into the sides. This is initially done in Photoshop by either mirror-imaging the edges of the image or using content aware and expanding the image into the sides. Or, a solid color can take its place. Regardless, the entire image will be seen in the front and the sides will just be an expansion of sorts.

The advantage of using a printer in Miami is that I can go to the shop and study the proofs before they go into print. This is the most interesting part of the process for a couple reasons. One, I get to see the image on the fine art paper (I chose to use photometallic for all my prints). This gives the image another quality that is missing from the computer screen. But the best part is I get to work with the artist at the print shop. From the digital image, the printer works with it to enhance it in preparation for printing. This was most evident for those going onto canvas where some of the vibrance gets lost in the print. I can also look at the proof for any tiny flecks of distractions that can be easily removed.

Once proofed, the image goes into production. For the Biscayne gallery, I will have about 30 images on display. That's a large number of prints to sell! So, parallel to the work of getting the pieces ready for hanging, I also had to think about how I set up to sell my prints online or otherwise. For the next entry, I'll talk about the frustrating and expensive world of online photography gallery webhosting.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Preparing for a gallery exhibit, Part 2: choosing the images for display

If you have hundreds of photos to choose from, it becomes a daunting task to narrow them down to a handful to be exhibited. Naturally, we have our favorites and there may be a small handful that will, without a doubt, go into print. Because my exhibit will be specific to Biscayne Bay, I already have a relatively narrow focus, but I still had hundreds of images to review. I decided to create subcategories for these images and came up with about five categories (i.e, silhouettes, water, mangrove blurs). Because the gallery is quite large and I will have approximately 75 feet of horizontal wall space to work with, I could pretty much include a batch of images from each category and organize them on the walls accordingly. To help me make my choices, I asked a few people their opinion by giving them two or three to choose from at a time. This helped a great deal. Images take on a whole new look with a fresh eye.

I think, however, one of the most important factors in making my decision on which images will go into print is the goal of ultimately selling them. Seeing an image framed or wrapped hanging on a wall is much different from seeing it on a computer screen. Art fairs and galleries are the best places to show one's work, and therefore, the most likely places to help you sell your work. At least, that is my opinion. Personally, unless I have seen the artist's work in print already, I would not purchase an image if all I have to go by is what I see on a website and the artist has never shown his or her work. So with selling in mind, I chose my gallery prints.

The next step is to figure out how they will be displayed and in what sizes. For the sizes, I knew I wanted to hang images as large as 20x30, 12x36, and 16x32.  The size of the print is somewhat determined by the camera's resolution and quality of the image. Now-a-days, I use a camera with 24 mp and large prints look awesome with amazing resolution. From what I have seen in galleries, 16x20 or larger is common, but as small as 12x15 or 12x18 could work if mixed with larger images. It also depends on the type of images. For birds that fill the frame, I personally like them to be small to medium-sized (up to 16x24), and when the bird is part of a larger scene that includes other things like mangroves and grasses, a larger format (20x30 or more) can look great.

Once I figured out the sizes that I would use, I needed to work out a layout plan. Using my ipad, I downloaded a couple apps to help me with that. Photoshop on the computer also works well for this. With one app, I framed and matted some of my photos. With the other app, I drew the gallery walls with the correct dimensions, inserted the images, scaled them to size and moved them around. This was incredibly helpful to visualize the layout with the real images. I came up with several variations and went with the one I liked most.

The next step involves cost considerations, and where and how the images will be printed. That will be the next blog entry. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Preparing for a gallery exhibition, Part 1: first step in choosing the images

I am currently preparing for three galleries, the first scheduled to hang in less than 3 months. The preparation process has been mind blowing and extremely intimidating. Maybe sharing my experiences can help another photographer new to the "business".

But first, one piece of advice for budding photographers; never forget those that have helped you some way or another. With that, I will pause and give thanks to all those individuals and groups (family, friends, acquaintances) that have helped me on this journey. There are too many to name because there are so many that have inspired me by sharing wilderness experiences in the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and Big Cypress. A special thanks goes to my Florida Trail Association friends that have taught me so much and are always eager to share experiences and photographs of the great places we visit. Then there are my paddling friends that explore the Everglades with me and by doing so, make the experience safer and richer. There are many artists that inspire and teach me and provide me a high standard of creativity to achieve, and to them I give many thanks. Last, a thank you to those that provided me the opportunity to display my work in the galleries devoted to Biscayne Bay and the Everglades.

The gallery exhibit I first began preparing for is specific to Biscayne Bay. While the topic is narrowly focused, my images of Biscayne Bay are in the thousands and span from 2007 to present. But they are easy to find because I keep my images in folders that are labeled by place and date (i.e, 07Aug13 Biscayne). These folders are placed inside another folder that is labeled by place and year (i.e., Biscayne2013). Beginning with the 2007 images, I went through each folder and picked out potential gallery images. Some of the images had already been processed in Lightroom or Photoshop, converted to TIF or jpeg, or both, and/or resized for web display. Regardless of what history the image had on my computer, I began with the original RAW image.

I ignored my previously processed TIF images, particularly the older ones. Why not use the image already processed? It is for the simple reason that I have become more skilled at processing my images on Photoshop and I have picked up a great deal of information from other photographers on what works best for printing. So with new knowledge and skills, I approached my older images with a keener eye.

I also found that I selected images that I previously ignored; like finding a little treasure hidden away. Once I selected an image, I processed it and saved it as a TIF without resizing. These TIF files were then placed in a folder dedicated to the TIF images for Biscayne Bay. Then I saved jpeg files for web display and kept those in a separate folder dedicated to online images of Biscayne Bay. This process took several weeks, but it ended with about 450 images.

The next step was to reduce the number from 450 to about 20-30 images that will be printed and displayed. This involves more than simply choosing the images. The next blog will address this next step.

Monday, August 5, 2013

A little diversion at Fairchild Tropical Gardens

Years ago when I first began learning photography from a DSLR, I would go to Fairchild Tropical Gardens, about a 20 min drive from home, at least once a month. There I used both my telephoto and macro lens to photograph all kinds of flora and fauna. It was like being a kid in a candy store, lots of eye candy to photograph. Artists display their art among the lush gardens, including Chihuly that had an exhibit there back in 2007. So between the artwork, flora and fauna, the opportunities were infinite. Here is one image with a Chihuly displayed.

Over the years, Fairchild has changed. Before the 2010 freeze, iguanas overran the gardens (fun subjects to photograph, but a nuisance for the garden). When I wasn't photographing the flora, I found lots of animals, the iguanas being among my favorite. Here is one of them.

After awhile, I stopped going to the gardens for a few years because it was undergoing dramatic changes that included construction which made the place busier and nosier than usual. Plus, my biggest complaint with the gardens was that it did not open until 9:30 am, which meant that the two best hours to photograph were past before entering the grounds.

Recently, a few of my Florida Trail Association friends were heading over to Fairchild and invited me along. As soon as they told me the gardens now open at 7:30 am, I jumped at the chance to go back. And wow, am I glad I did. I rediscovered this incredibly beautiful place with a fresh eye and the joy of walking among the flora and fauna at 7:30 am while very few bothered to venture in that early on a beautiful, overcast Sunday morning. It was if we had the entire grounds to ourselves.

I brought along my macro and telephoto lens, but never used the telephoto. I had way too much fun with the Sigma 180mm macro which I have not used in a couple years. With the overcast sky, the lighting was perfect for photographing the colorful plants and butterflies. Not only that, the thicker foliage areas were bursting with goldensilk orbweaver spiders, my favorite insect to photograph. In between spider shots, I played around with some abstract images, something that was created as "Plants As Art" from my Fairchild visits. So for this post, I am highlighting that aspect of the day spent at the beautiful Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

FYI, if you are in the area, during the month of August, the cost to get into Fairchild (normally $25) is $7.50 on Sundays.