Create a Series That Targets Your Audience
So speaking about galleries, designers, art fairs, I wanted to just touch on why you might wanna go that route. What is it about galleries, designers and art fairs that can benefit a fine art photographer? Why might you wanna pursue them, do some research on them? One of them is portfolio reviews. So a lot of art fairs in particular, will have a segment of the fair where you can have your portfolio reviewed, where you can sign up and give your work over to a bunch of galleries or publications or different important people in the industry and they'll say, "Great, your work is awesome. "I'm gonna hang that in my gallery," or they'll say, "It's really good "but you can work on this," or they'll say, "This is terrible," and sometimes that happens and that is awful but sometimes that happens. Portfolio reviews, we will get to that later on but just so you know, it's a really good place to look for that. Art festivals, super super good way of selling your work. If you think about it, it's so...
rt of like, you know how there are all these photo conventions that you can go to? You go and then suddenly you're like in this really overwhelming space with about 2000 other photographers and people selling things and people on loudspeakers talking and you're just like, "Oh my gosh. "What am I doing here? "I feel really out of place." Well that's how I feel with art fairs, with festivals but the good thing about it, is that just the same with photo festivals, you go and there are 2000 and photographers with an art festival, there are hundreds of other galleries there and artists so you can go to these festivals and it's an amazing way of finding galleries that you might wanna pursue. You go, you look at who's hanging, you know who is actually representing their artist in a way that will benefit the artist, will actually make the artist some money. So that's really good. Art festivals, I can't say highly enough, it's just really good way of finding galleries and we'll talk about that as well and then juried shows. So if you find, let's say, a website that might give you a list of different galleries who accept submissions, that would be a juried show; where they're saying, "Okay, I've got a show coming up this summer. "We're doing a Wonderland theme. "It's going to be really whimsical. "Any artist who has something that fits that, send it in." Juried shows, awesome, super super simple. You just send in what works and see if you get it and that's actually how I started my career; was doing these juried shows. I would send out emails, oh my gosh, so frequently to galleries that only did juried shows, where they made their money by artist paying money to send in their images and then they would do a show with those artists where you printed your work and framed it and brought it in and put a nail in the wall and hung it up and then took it down at the end of the night and that was it and I didn't really sell anything doing that, I'm not saying that you won't or that you can't. Just that, at the time my work was not selling then but it was such a good way to build my portfolio and to just add to my CV, to my resume, to be able to say, "I've had these shows. "They accepted me into the show," that's an important part of that and then doing your research, sending emails. Nobody likes to do that, I mean it's it's really like... I don't know if you guys have ever written to galleries before but there's a moment where you've written the email and you've already read it about 26 times and then you're like, "I'm gonna hit send. "Okay, I'm not gonna hit send yet. "I'm just gonna walk away for a moment "and then read it again," for the 27th time, "and then I'm gonna hit send." But I like to do my research, I like to send emails to galleries, I don't like to go into galleries, I don't like to just show up and be like, "Hey guys, here I am. "I'm gonna be your newest artist," because that's probably not gonna work. Everyone's busy. Nobody wants that. So I have a list here of art fairs and you don't need to read it necessarily, I will make this available to you but these are art fairs that I have found personally, to be really helpful in finding galleries and if I had to say perhaps any one, like the easiest way to find galleries, it's to go to a website like the Affordable Art Fair where they have 10 different shows a year, something like that in all different cities around the world so if you're in Germany and you want to have your work hanging in art fair, it's very likely that you find the Affordable Art Fair coming to Germany or to a country near you. (giggles) That's so good, like selling the art fair. So the Affordable Art Fair is a really good one for that. There's the Affordable Art Fair, New York for example. So maybe you think; okay I'm in that region of the United States, I'm gonna go to the Affordable Art website, look at which galleries are showing in New York for this particular season and then right there, so simple, you have a list of about 40 galleries with links to their website and you know two things; one, that you'll be able to find the information about if they take submissions, how to get in touch with them because their website is right there but number two, you know that this is a gallery that is actively promoting their artist so they are not just like hanging out in New York City, in their space that they pay for every month. You know, maybe they send out advertisements maybe they don't. They're actively taking the art physically into a new space, putting it in front of new people, specifically art buyers who go to these art fairs and they're promoting their artist in a really big way. Art fairs are superexpensive to do for the gallery. Oftentimes anywhere from about $10,000 to $30, for two to four day art fair. That's a lot of money and so if an artist chooses, this specific gallery chooses this specific artist to be a part of this art fair, that's a really big vote of confidence, isn't it? To say, "I'm gonna spend $20,000 on this booth "and I'm gonna take you with me into this art fair "and you don't have to pay me anything. "You just come with me and I'll hang your art here." Sounds like a really good deal and now we're like, "Ooh yeah, galleries are great," we'll talk about that. I think they are but we'll talk about that in more depth. So this is a list of art fairs, really good to keep in mind, great way of finding galleries. Then we have art and literary publications. It's really important when you approach a publication that you have a portfolio, that you have a really simple link that you can send people to, that's clean that's organized where you have, I would say anywhere from 10 to 30 images on there, just showing the breadth of your work, showing what kind of work you do, always good to have a portfolio which I will say over and over and over again as these slides come up. It's really good to have a series of themed images and specifically with publications what you'll notice is that they'll come to you or they'll put a call out and they'll say, "We've got this new publication, "this new volume coming out and the theme is; "woodland creatures or something like that. "So if you have anything, submit that work." So if you have a whole series of themed images on woodland creatures which, who doesn't, right? We all have that so that's what you'll send in of course. You know you're not gonna be like, "Oh look at my whole portfolio "where I take pictures of airplanes," because they don't care about airplanes, they care about woodland creatures. So always good to have themes in your work that you can easily send to people to just be aware of the work that goes together that you've already created. Juried magazines, this is what I'm talking about where a magazine will say, "Hey, we've got this idea. "This is going to be, we're gonna fill this magazine issue "with everyone that we've chosen from the submissions." That happens a lot with magazines I find with literary publications, art publications, there're will be a theme, you submit and there it goes. So create for a theme and then these are just a few of the art publications that I have found that take submissions that are very open to artists sending in work. They might feature you, they might not. Some of them are in print, some of them are not. So it's just a mix here and again, I'll make this available but just making sure that you've got a good set of materials to submit to, I think is really important for advertising your work. What we're looking for really, when I'm searching the web, when I'm trying to find resources are websites that will show me exactly what I want to see. So where can I go to find a list of galleries? Where can I go to find a list of publications? And other things that you might be searching for are exhibitions like specific juried exhibitions, grants, fellowships things like that, opportunities that will award artists money or experience to be able to do their work and educational materials, of course. So this is just a really quick list of the different websites that I go to personally to find those resources. Lenscratch in particular is I think one of the best. I go to that website about once a month or so. I just make sure that I'm looking at all of the new opportunities that are coming up for artists; specifically grants and exhibitions, that's what I'm really targeting but you might look for something else, whatever your target market is. So then we have book publishers and writers and this is going to be very similar to music artists so we're gonna zoom right through this but what you're looking to do is send them a portfolio. Have you guys ever written to book publishers before? Okay, it's a little bit of a scary thing because you don't wanna send the wrong thing, right? Like that's the issue is you have this idea in mind and you're like, "Oh, my picture would be perfect on a book cover," but if you don't send the right materials, that could be terrible or the right portfolio so making sure that your catering your portfolio; specifically to what would work on book covers can be really helpful or just sending them to your website and letting them see a general array of what you can do. I target small publishing companies. So instead of going for those really really big ones. Instead of being like, You know what? "I've never done a book cover but I'm gonna get Penguin "to take my book and this is gonna be perfect "and everything is gonna be good." I try to go for smaller companies because, first of all, the small companies are almost all connected to a bigger company. I have dealt with a lot of small publishing companies and they're always saying, "Oh well, our parent company "our partner company," and it's always something slightly bigger and they're all connected. I feel like it's just one big family and like every family member is running every single one of these or something but, so go for the small ones because you're much more likely to get a response back faster. Stock photography websites are good for this as I mentioned so we'll talk about those in a minute. Go directly to the source. If you like a writer, write to the writer. You know they like being written to because they're writers. Are those funny, right, get it? So anyways, (laughs) I really like to go directly to the source, there have been a number of authors that I really like that I've written to on twitter, they write back, we start a dialogue and I've actually created book covers for them in the future just by having a dialogue, a really authentic dialogue. I do the same thing for musicians. I'll write to musicians and I'll just say, "Hey, I love your music. I'm a photographer. "If you ever want anything, I'm here." It's good because you're not saying, "I'll do it for free," but you're just saying, "If you want anything, I'm here," and then maybe you could talk about price later and we'll see how it goes. So I've done that many times. This is the same as book publishing. Going directly to the source can be really great. Stock photography websites also will help you sell your work and it's really good to create samples of the work as well. So commissions, this is the thing that's like on the edge of fine art and maybe it's not, maybe it is. How can we do it so that it is? But, I'll say very quickly about commissions which is, in our case photography, photographing somebody that wants their picture taken and making it into art. So if I'm going to advertise to somebody who might want their picture taken, I'm going to make sure that I'm advertising the service. Not just the photo that they'll get, not just my work but the experience of having their picture taken because we're all doing very unique things. I really believe that. I think that everyone in the world has a way of doing something really unique and what would my experience be then for this person who wants their picture taken? I took her picture for example and when I did that, I went through this whole process of saying, "What do want out of this experience?" Not what picture do you want, but what experience are you looking to have because if anyone knows anything about me, it is impossible to book a shoot with me and expect not to get dirty. Like that's not gonna happen. There's no way that I'm going to take somebody on a photo shoot and promise 100% cleanliness. I mean like, I can walk down the street for two minutes and I'll come back dirty and I don't even know how it happens but it just does. So they have to expect that. So that's part of my experience that I'm advertising and you might think that I'm crazy. You might be like, "Don't tell people they're gonna "get dirty if you're trying to get them to hire you "for a photo shoot." Well no, it's exactly what I wanna do. I wanna tell people, "You're gonna get dirty "on this photo shoot and it's gonna be freaking awesome "and it's gonna be so much fun "and you're gonna be in a swamp "and you're gonna love that swamp by the end of it." That's what I'm gonna say because I'm not the person that doesn't do that, I'm the person that does that. So advertise your service, create a sample, take your friend out, go do a shoot like as if it was a stranger, see how it goes, see what comes of it and just make the process really simple for that person. I know that there's this whole other world of portrait photography that I've never been in and I honestly don't understand very well but I remember approaching a wedding photographer when I got married, nine years ago and I said you know, "I don't know anything about photography. "I just need a wedding photographer," and they were like, "Okay so, I shoot raw images. "Do you know what raw images are? "Because I shoot raw images," and I was immediately like, "Oh God, what am I getting myself into? "I don't know what raw images are. "I don't care what raw images are. "I just want to know that you're gonna be at my wedding "and take some pictures and we're cool," and so I was really thrown off by all this information that was being bombarded at me when I was trying to hire someone for an experience. That was my take on it. So I'm trying to make it really simple for the people that are hiring me. How can I do this in a way that's going to be really easy for everybody and make it really clear what to expect without bombarding them, you know. I could have said to this girl, "If you hire me, "I'm gonna give you the raw images," and then she'd be like, "Okay. I don't know that means. "I'm not a photographer. I don't care about raw images. "What does that would mean?" So instead, it's about the experience. So if we just dive a little bit deeper into galleries, I think it's important when you're approaching a gallery that you have a cohesive series, that you have something to show them that goes together. If you think about why would you wanna create a series and that's what this class is largely talking about, is creating a series so, why though? Why bother, what's the point in creating a series? Well to me, the point is this; if you have two images on a wall. Let's say this image and then something totally different, something, I don't know, like in a forest with totally different colors, totally different subject, it's just something really different, both hanging on a wall, it's not very likely that somebody who loves this picture, is then also going to love the other picture if everything is different; the color palette is different, the subject is different, the concept is different but if it's all very similar, if the images relate to one another, if there is a visual through line, a conceptual through line isn't it much more likely that that art buyer is gonna can say, "Oh, these two images go together. "I'm gonna buy both of them?" And that's what a gallery is thinking about. So put yourself in the mindset of a gallery and you have art to sell. You've got like a really high price rent on your gallery. You have to pay the rent, you gotta pay your assistants. You have all these expenses and then you have these artists who, let's say, half of them don't have anyone to advertise to, they're not really bringing anyone in to do the buying, so it's up to you. So if I were to bring, let's say, I've got five prints with me. This is how I carry my prints and I'm like coming up to you and I'm like, "Hey guys," you're the gallery owners. Then I say, "Hi gallery owner. "I've got five prints to show you," and they're so different, they're so different. Like maybe even different genres of art. You're probably gonna be like, "Okay well, "I think I could sell that one "but these have nothing to do with that "and I can't sell them to the same client "so it doesn't really make sense." But if I show you five images that cohesively go in the same series, you as a gallery owner, either you're gonna hate the series so you'll be like, "Nah, I don't want that art," or you're gonna say, "Oh, I do like this art and wow, it goes together. "I can sell this to the same person. "We're much more likely to make a lot more money "in one night than the alternative." So, good to have a series. Not necessary, I should say. You don't always have to have a series. It's not like galleries will turn you away necessarily if you don't but it in my experience, the better the gallery, the more high-end the gallery, I should say. Not better because better is the worst word that we can use but the more high-end the gallery, that whether selling for higher prices, that maybe they have a more selective group of art buyers then typically they will ask for a series and a unique perspective. I've had some really interesting experiences lately with portfolio reviews and the reviewers saying a mixture of things but one of them consistently, has been unique perspective. I was preparing to give you guys this information earlier this year and I was at a portfolio review and I thought this is the perfect time to do market research to tell you guys what I'm finding out with these portfolio reviewers. So I sat down with every single one of them and I said, "What are you looking for in a portfolio?" And every single person out of five people said, "A unique perspective," and I said, "Above technique, above anything else?" They said, "Above anything else, the unique perspective," and that was really eye-opening for me because, I didn't expect that, I thought first, they would say, "Well of course the technique has to be perfect "but, you know, we would like a unique perspective." But no, they were like, "You know what?" "If your technique is off, we'll fix it. "You can get better at your art but it's not very often," they said, "That we find someone who's technically amazing "but somehow was able to revolutionize the way "that they think to have unique perspective." So it's a very interesting thing and it totally changed how I'm approaching my art now in terms, perspective is king. I really do have to think about; is this concept, is this visual that I'm presenting interesting enough, unique enough that an art gallery will say, "Yes, that's worth putting on my wall." And opinion. Opinions are sort of scary, in my opinion. Because opinions are... It's like... It's like Facebook. You put an opinion on Facebook and then you get attacked for your opinion on Facebook. It's like that's what Facebook is now, right? Like basically Facebook is opinions and being attacked for opinions and it's really interesting dynamic because either people love to give their opinion and they love starting those little online controversies or you're like, nope I will not give my opinion because I hate controversy and I'm gonna back away from this as much as I can which is me. I'm like, I hate controversy. I will not engage. I need to go cry in a corner. I'm done. So it feels a little bit weird to say, "Put an opinion in your work," because that might not be natural for you. You might not want to assert yourself in that way and I wanna be clear that I'm not saying that you have to. I'm not saying, "A gallery won't take you "unless you put an opinion in your work," but it can help a lot because here's the thing. There are a lot of people on this planet. We all have opinions and it's one of the few things that's really going to separate one artist from another. So if you have an opinion on a subject, create from that place, from that opinion place and it's not like you have to say you know, "I believe that mermaids should be saved," or, "I believe the mermaid should be extinct." I don't know, this is a weird one too but anyways, whatever your opinion on mer-people, you should say it in your art if you're gonna create a series about mer-people. We're moving on from mer-people. You get my point though. Be provocative and this is another one where it's hard for me, just being who I am, to say, "Be provocative," because I don't like doing that naturally. It's the direction that I'm going in my work personally right now and I'm going to start work on a new series that I think will be quite provocative, that will give an opinion, that will have a unique perspective and that's exactly why I don't wanna do it and that's how you know that you're on to something, right? Like when you're creating and you're like, I don't wanna do this but you feel it inside of you, you have to do it, of course and I think that it's good to be provocative because, if you go into an art gallery and let's say, that you walk and you're like, "Okay this art is nice and it's pretty "but I don't feel anything, like I don't get why "they had to do it." It's so good when you walk into a gallery and you think, "Whoa, I don't know how I feel about this "but I know exactly why that artist felt compelled "to create this work." That's gonna sell to people in a much more profound way. Thinking about an art buyer, you're an art buyer, let's just say. You walk into a gallery. You might hate the art in nine of the 10 galleries that you go in but if you go into one gallery where you do connect with that art and it's very clear that that art is making a statement, aren't you much more likely to get that art if you agree with the statement that it's making? Sometimes even if you disagree with it... I had a really fascinating experience very recently where somebody came to me, they said, "I would like to buy a print of yours and they said, "But I have to tell you the story of how I came "to buy this print." And their story was so interesting. They said, "I saw your work about five years ago "and I hated it," they said. And I was like, "Let's see where this is going," right" Okay but clearly they're buying a print so I'm like. "Okay, so how did we get here?" And they said, "I hated it because it showed me something "in myself that I didn't wanna see at the time." And they said that they had been through a few different experiences which I won't recount and that now, five years later, they looked back at that same image and they saw it in a totally different way and they said that still, it's hard for them to look at and they don't necessarily love the image but they love the way that it represents their journey and a change that they made from being one person to being a new person. How interesting is that, like how provocative a piece of art that they could see their new selves in it and still not love it but want to buy it and I thought; wow, that's really interesting. You know, being provocative doesn't have to be negative. I think that it has a negative sound to it, being provocative. It doesn't have to be. It can just simply mean that you're provoking a response from somebody, you're provoking an emotion or a feeling or an experience that somebody is had and then, have an interesting process to your work and I'm talking about literally how you're creating so what makes your process different? What makes it unique, what makes it special? Is there anything that you can do to just put it over the edge a little bit, just a little thing that's interesting and I wanna point out, you might be sitting there thinking; nothing, nothing makes my art interesting. I have no interesting process. I just click the button like this and I'm a really normal person and I just do this. Don't think that because that's not true. That's never true. So for example, I do self-portraits. Does anyone do self-portraits. Okay, a couple of you, which is good because that's 50% and so, you guys know then what it's like to do a self-portrait. That's not interesting to you necessarily. If if I said, "Guys, "I've got the most interesting technique. "I take pictures of myself," you'd be like, "Okay, so?" And then we would be sitting here really awkwardly but if you've never done that before, trust me, it's a conversation starter. I've been on trains before with strangers who say, "What do you do?" And then I'll say, "I take these weird pictures," and then I'll show them and then I'll say, "Well, I set up the tripod and that's me in the picture," and they'll be like, "That's you? "Oh my gosh!" One time someone said, "Oh, I thought that was a man." Really, that happened. I was like, alright, well you know, that's cool too but it's a conversation starter so it doesn't have to necessarily be something that, you know, maybe it's really normal for you but it might not be normal for somebody else. Just think about your whole process start to finish and what might surprise a stranger about it. That's how I like to think about it. Maybe it's my Photoshop process that I'll talk about to somebody, maybe it's the way that I conceptualize my images and all those things might be uninteresting to you. That's okay but not to certain people in trains who think that I look like a man. I would recommend when you're writing to galleries that you have 10 to 30 images, at least and if you're bringing a print portfolio in, that you have that many; 10 to 30. It can be 20, it can be 18. You can have 27, doesn't really matter but just somewhere in that range and we're gonna talk a lot about how to order your portfolio, how to choose images for your portfolio. We'll do that later so just know that this is a really good range to have on your website. You can have more of course, on your website. We're not trying to overwhelm people with our genius, you know, you don't wanna be like, "I've made 900 photos "and here they all are," but again, we'll talk about that later. So 10 to 30 to show the gallery and of course, a professional website which does not need to be harped on, I don't think. Finally, a knowledge of the industry. I used to approach galleries knowing nothing, literally nothing; I would go into a gallery and say, "Here are my photos." This is the voice of me 10 years or whatever. "Here are my photos and this is what I do," and I was really quiet and I didn't know what I was doing and I didn't know anything about the sizes of the work or the additions of the work or anything and I would simply show them and then they would say, "Okay well, what addition "do you put on your work?" I would say, "I don't know," and they would say "Well, what sizes do you offer?" And I would say, "I don't know," and then they would say, "What paper is this?" And I'd be like, "I don't know, "I didn't look at at the box." And then, there we are and I know nothing and you're the gallery owner, again. Okay so you're the gallery owner and I come to you and I have some works and you're kind of interested and then you're like, "Okay, what sizes do you offer? "What additions do you have?" If I don't know those answers then now whose responsibility is it to help me? It's your responsibility because you're trying to sell the work so then as a gallery owner, you're like, "Do I want that responsibility? "Do I wanna bring this artist up in the world "and help them with their work or am I just gonna go, "find someone who knows what the heck they're doing?" Probably you're gonna not waste your time. Sometimes they will, I'm not saying that won't happen. I was really fortunate to find a gallery who did help me with those things and it was amazing but I also recognize how few and far between they are. So I'm gonna tell this to you, I'm gonna tell you everything about this industry and then you're gonna go to a gallery and you're gonna be like, "I already know all these stuff," and it's gonna be great. That's at least my hope. So what you need to know is the pricing, the additions and the sizes of your work and we're gonna talk about this in such detail and hopefully you'll walk away thinking; yes, I know exactly what my sizes are, exactly what my additions are, exactly what my prices are and don't even have to worry and you don't have to have any of those awkward conversations; "Is my art worth this much?" No, no, no, because you're gonna know. Everything is gonna be good. So if we talk about licensing now. Just switching gears slightly. This is what I wanna point out about licensing. First, it's great to have sample works. So I highly recommend that you find a book template or an album cover template like just a blank slate where you can pop your image on there. Not to trick people, let me point out. Not so that you're like, "Oh yeah, "I made these 10 album covers." And even though you didn't, they're just samples. So not for that, just to show the format, how it might look with text, you can even write likes sample of the band name or something like that just so that's it's really clear that it's not real. But good to have sample works. So good to know your terms and conditions and we're gonna talk about all of these things. What I mean by terms and conditions is; if you're going to license your work, if you're gonna be selling and I should say, licensing is selling your work digitally. So you're selling your work digitally to somebody else so that they can do what they want with it, with some terms and conditions then you're much more likely to not; one, get scammed, two, get screwed over by whatever they're trying to get from you which does happen so, it's just good to know; okay what are my terms? What are the conditions that they can use this image and then go on from there. And then we've got formattable works and I'll show you some examples of what I mean but making sure that your image is the right format for what you're trying to present it to. Genre specific, not saying like make a whole new portfolio that fits a certain genre of let's say, books or music or something like that. I find that my work fits really well on like heavy metal albums and stuff. I don't listen to that personally but I have sold a lot of images to these heavy metal bands or it's like lots of screaming and stuff and it's really funny for me because I'm like the opposite of that, like I'm like, I like folk music, and I don't know why this is folk music but it is. And yeah, my work tends to go a lot toward that other end of the spectrum but knowing where your work fits and then possibly curating smaller portfolios that you can send to those people. That's often a really good thing to do and thinking about time period, specifically with books. I know that if you go into any young adult section of a bookstore, you'll see you like about 1000 images of girls in dresses running through a field and stuff and it's like really nondescript. You can't really tell exactly what time period it is. I think that might be 90% of book covers in that section or like a woman with a sword or something like that but it's very nondescript and that's why these images are being used because they're evocative in a way. They have motion, they tell a story but it's not like standing there in their jeans in a field and their striped T-shirt. No, it's like a dress that that flows and that doesn't have really an associated time period. But thinking about where your work fits for other clients, what time period is the clothing that you use or the locations that use, things like that.