Tamron Image Master, Kevin Gilligan has an incredibly diverse background, but when there's a camera in his hands, it's all about the big picture, the landscape. His "mind's eye" has priority over everything he captures and one image after another is stunning, leaving the viewer with a moment to pause, reflect and within seconds be pulled into the image.
This is the second part of a three-part post accompanied by a great podcast. As I said with yesterday's "Part I", there's just too much content to share in one single blog post. Kevin's ability to share this information in such detail is one of the things that makes him such a great representative for Tamron - he's always willing to help.
What I Learned From My First Solo Photography Show - Part II
Tip #5 Find a Place to Show Your Images
Obviously, this is very important. You might even want to determine this first. Many decisions spring from this decision. You need to know what this space will look like so you will know how much space you have for images. How many can you show? How will you present them? The location is also an important consideration for your audience. How far will they travel to see you work? When the venue is available will affect how much time you have to prepare everything. If the location is a gallery or museum, it will likely have a lot of lighting, and it will be flexible to highlight best your art. If the location is not a gallery, you may need supplemental lighting. How much will the location cost to rent? Will you pay a flat fee or a percentage of your sales? Do they allow food and alcohol? Will they do marketing for you or will you be expected to do all of your marketing? Do they have a mailing list to promote you?
Finding the right space took months for me. I had been paying attention to the galleries during my group shows. I was ready to book one gallery and it closed. I was disappointed, and had to start my search over. I contacted real estate agents about vacant spaces, but that never panned out. The real estate agents always wanted too much money for a short exhibit, and they also wanted me to get insurance and pay for electrical hookups and the like. The logistics didn’t work out.
Ultimately I found a local gallery and was able to pay them a flat fee. They had lots of lighting, and they even helped me hang my images, which was great. I also found a very supportive group of artists who were interesting and fun.
Tip #6 Seek Show Sponsors
Putting on a show is expensive. Printing, framing, gallery space, public relations, food and beverages, a catalog….they all cost money. It’s thousands of dollars any way you cut it. Seek sponsors to help you reduce your costs, and give your sponsors billing on your public relations, social media, and gallery space. Hopefully, you have been building your connections as you have exhibited in group shows to this point.
Sponsors can also include local food and beverage companies who may be new and want to expand their client base. I was grateful to have Tamron USA, Pelican Products and a local brewery and chocolatier as my sponsors. You don’t have to provide a full dinner, but some wine and cheese, or beer and chocolate is in order. I did not drink during the show so I could stay sharp and attend to my guests.
Tip #7 Create a Show Flier
Once you selected the show name, images, location, and dates, it is time for a show “flier.” My flier had a key image for the show that would be on all the advertising, dates and times, and names of my sponsors, my website, and email address. I printed several hundred 4x6 postcards and carried them with me all the time. I handed out hundreds of these over the course of 3-4 months and left them at key places like my local photography shop.
Tip #8 Social Media
As soon as you book the date of your show, send out a “SAVE THE DATE” on social media. Use the show flier on social media. Send it out to all your outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, your mailing list. Your sponsors will appreciate it. Vary the message, talk about the process, show the location, your printing, and framing. Don’t overwhelm but give periodic updates. Ask your friends and sponsors to help spread the word. Post images of the show itself, friends having fun, and perhaps even images you sell. Be sure to reach out to people individually before and after the show. Take the time to demonstrate that you are looking forward to people coming to the show, and say thanks to those who do come.
Tip #9 Be Humble and Ask For Help
You are going to need help, probably a lot of it. So be humble and ask for help. I’ve always been a believer in shopping locally. I buy a lot of my camera equipment from local camera stores. Yes, it costs me a bit more in the short run, but in the long-run the help with equipment and questions is invaluable. Plus I like to support my local community. For this show, I spent quite a bit of time working with an extremely talented photographer and printer from my local camera store. She helped me with paper selection, printing and gave me many helpful suggestions. One of the best suggestions she gave me was to create a replica model of the show space.
Tip #10 Create a Replica of Your Exhibit Space
Grab a legal pad, a few pens, and a tape measure and go visit your exhibit space. Measure the dimensions of ALL the walls and draw a diagram while you are there. Next create a model of the space out of foam board. Make every foot equal to one inch and be sure the model is to scale. Height of the walls and distances included.
Write the height and width on each wall. Connect the foam board pieces using clamps and/or nails. You will want to be able to take the walls apart and put them back together again. You are going to print super-small copies of your pictures and post them to the walls using pin cushions. By doing this, you will be able to see which images go together on a wall, which images should be vertical or horizontal. You are going to measure out the distances exactly.
Did this take a lot of time….yes. Did I get frustrated doing this….yes. Was I delighted when I got to the gallery, and I knew exactly where each piece was going to go……? Absolutely. It cut down on a lot of stress on the day of installation.
Coming up tomorrow, Kevin wraps it up with a half dozen more details to consider to make your first photography show a success!