8 Essential Steps to Landing Your First Gallery Show


Life as an artist will take you places you never thought you’d go – both pleasant and unpleasant. When we start, most of us aren’t even sure where we want to end up, but headlining gallery shows throughout the world is dreamy, healthy goal. During her most recent course on CreativeLive, fine art photographer Brooke Shaden explained to us that with a little focus and organization, anyone can live the dream of having their work hang from the walls of prestigious galleries.

Here are eight crucial business practices that helped Brooke successfully break into the fine art genre and score the coveted gallery show:

1. Create a portfolio of 20+ images.  

A cohesive portfolio is essential. The art in your portfolio needs to articulate your style and assure the viewer that all of the images were taken by the same same photographer. Before you show your portfolio to anyone, make sure you are satisfied with it on a personal level.

It’s okay to have more than one portfolio to keep dissimilar works separate. For example, you might have one portfolio to show galleries and another for your commercial clients. Separating and organizing your art demonstrates that you’ve given thought to your work.

Fine art photographer Brooke Shaden. Photo via Facebook.
Fine art photographer Brooke Shaden. Photo via Facebook.

2. Create a series.

Including works from a series shows the gallery that you can do create work that flows together. Develop a through-line in your work by being consistent with lighting, crop, angle, color, theme, subject, styling, expression, pose, or location. Be able to discuss how the images in a series fit together. Galleries usually appreciate series, because works that are linked will sell together. It is best to include this series in your portfolio versus having it stand alone.

3. Create an artist statement.

Base your statement on a description of your photography, your inspiration, and your intention. A concise artist statement helps others see what you want them to see in your work.

4. Figure out your print sizes, editions, and paper.

Put thought into how you will make prints. Try out different sizes, papers, and techniques to make informed decisions. Galleries will see that you’re serious and knowledgeable if you’ve done the leg work ahead of time.

5. Create prints for a physical portfolio.

Your goal is to display beautiful, physical prints, meaning you need a printed portfolio. Use quality materials and make sure its design matches your style. Have your portfolio ready to show anybody at a moment’s notice.

6. Contact galleries for a show or representation.

Artists are rarely contacted by galleries. It is your job to reach out on a regular basis. Look at the gallery’s website for submission instructions. Send short, simple emails introducing yourself and what you do. Include a link to your website. Be sure to research each gallery and include a personal note that shows that you understand what they and the art they exhibit represent. It is best not to call a gallery unless it is just to ask if they take submissions and how they prefer you send them.

courtesy of Brooke

7. Create a spreadsheet for your print sales.

Start keeping track of your sales now; it will only become more difficult later. Maintain organized records just as you would with any other type of business.

8. Write a CV (curriculum vitae).

A curriculum vitae is, essentially, a list of all your accomplishments. Keep track of everything you’ve done, the publications in which your work has appeared, and the dates of your exhibitions.

Seeing your work in galleries can be more than just a wish if you; prepare yourself, stay organized, and adopt a business model mindset. Learn more about growing your fine art business – watch Master Your Craft with Brooke Shaden.

For more fine art tips, check out Brooke’s course catalog. Also, don’t miss Miss Aniela’s Imaginative Fashion Photography course.

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​Nicoal is a freelance writer and photographer with a penchant for learning as much as possible. Her imagery ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Connect with her at nicoalprice.com.