Art Fair Insiders

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Our daughter is a budding photographer,  mostly taking photos of sunsets and flowers.  There are evenings where we become sunset chasers as opposed to storm chasers!  LOL

What advice would you give her for starting and growing a photography business?  Where do you recommend she print her photos?  What formats do you recommend she offer ... size(s), matted or not, framed or not, canvas, etc?

If you recommend framing, what are good sources?  We do have a local frame shop that can do custom, but more expensive, framing.  Same for matting.  We also have a Hobby Lobby if that makes any difference.

She does not have a lot of $$ to get started.  The 2 photos are just 2 of many photos.

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Key thing is to shoot, get feedback, shoot more, and get more feedback. One of the best places to do this is The FB groups are usually pretty much worthless when it comes to meaningful critiques and feedback. The same goes for and Flickr as far as being worthless as all they do is give likes and pats on the back. One FB group that has some outstanding floral work is, and she will need to ask to be in the group. They do share technique so she can learn some things there.

An affordable learning tool is that has a fairly low monthly fee that can be cancelled anytime. She can go as fast as wants and no extra charge. She should also subscribe to several photo magazines to see what's current.

For now she should concentrate on shooting and building an inventory of images. Part of the process should be learning to be brutal with the self editing. Tell her that her work is only as good as the weakest image she has. Work on quality, not quantity.

Photoshop is her friend as it is the modern darkroom. She can sign up for Adobe's subscription plan that will get a package of Photoshop and Lightroom for $9.95/month that used to cost around $1200 to buy, and it's updated constantly at no extra charge.

Start off modest with a good photo quality letter size printer, not a 3 in 1 type that is a compromise on all functions and has ink cost. She needs to print her own initially as a learning tool. The larger stuff can be farmed out later.

The other issue is to learn a distinctive style of her own before taking the plunge. If her work is nice and competent, she won't sell a thing if Joe or Jill Sixpack think they can do the same thing. Nothing straight out of the camera sells, the photos have to be adjusted, tweaked, and have the snot beat out of them to make them in her distinctive vision.

I'm on the road now and typing this on a phone, so have to give up and go to bed. We can continue this later :-)

Robert had some good advice. There are a few places I would differ or add to. Not really the reason I started this forum but it's not a problem.

In the 40 years I've done shows I never done my own printing. Sam's Club, Walmart or Costco has inexpensive prices for good quality prints if you get the color space correct. If your computer monitor is close to color corrected you shouldn't have a problem getting accurate prints using the sRGB color space.

Everyone starts out with images that end up in the garbage because they print what they think is their best instead of what the public likes enough to purchase. I spent years shooting daily and built up a body of work without even thinking of selling anything and my first art shows didn't go well at all.

It's easy to recommend things to do or not do and things to buy or not buy, because I've (any experienced artist) has already been there and tried it and found what worked and didn't work. But it starts with having a body of work. Those two images you posted need editing, cropping and maybe reshooting. There's no excuse when shooting digital to not shoot around a subject, milking it to get that one excellent image. Jay Maisel (look him up) is famous for stating that you should be aware of every square millimeter of your frame. Little things in the frame that don't belong are rookie mistakes and can be avoided with experience.

Robert stressed creating your own style. I couldn't agree more. Fortunately I've always been able to create bodies of work in unique styles. They juried well but not necessarily sold well.

Some resources besides Art Fair Insiders

My photography forum with over 1,000 photographers discussing art show issues:

An article I wrote on how much inventory when starting out:

Larry Berman

I completely agree with Robert. He gives excellent advice. Larry suggests using sRGB for a color printing space. To that, I would have to disagree. I strongly recommend using Adobe RGB. It provides more pop to the colors, which the overwhelming majority of people prefer; and, should your daughter ever decide to sell to magazines, art directors also prefer it. 

Also, Sam's Club, Walmart and Costco may offer cheaper prices if that's what you want, but always remember - YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. I recommending working with a professional lab that turns out truly professional work. Once she begins putting her work on the market, please do not cut corners on printing, or framing. Use only the best materials.

Unfortunately, the majority of labs in this country turn out only "good" work at best. It takes a discerning eye to see the difference. It's important to cultivate that ability.

I also recommend joining a local camera club. The majority critique images during their meetings. Even if your daughter elects not to show any of her images as she begins her journey, what she learns as she sees other images critiqued will be invaluable.

I'm very fortunate. The lab that handles my photographs, not only prints my photographs, they also frame and ship them to my clients.

For color labs, there are two I can recommend; H&H Color lab for metal and paper prints, and Denny Mfg for canvas prints under their Denny Novelty group. Both require setting up
an account before placing orders.

My two cents worth. 

I don't want to alienate these fine folks who have graciously offered their expertise. Robert and Larry are kind and knowledgable. We just tend to disagree on some points.

If digital is the way she wants to go then:

A) Do NOT use sRGB, instead use Adobe RGB. sRGB has a reduced colorspace and I would only use it for online viewing.

B) Straight out of camera IS the way to go. Learning that every shot has to be manipulated lends one to not do what should have been done in the original shot. I come from a world of serious darkroom work. Manipulating in the darkroom because the shot was not done as well as it should have, was very difficult and time consuming. Hence I learned how to shoot the right way. If she can make a good shot with post processing from a so / so shot... just think how great a shot she would have if it was shot at the best methods, originally. Depending on PP to improve a shot lowers the threshold for what she will learn and grow with.

If post processing is going to be used then there are techniques to assure the shot is not altered from the original, only restored as RAW strips a lot.

However, if you are going to follow some of the other advices given before ie sRGB, Costco printing etc, then she might as well shoot in .jpg and then there is no restoration required.

She should decide if Subject matter, composition, understanding lighting, DOF, and invoking meaning are what she wants or just over-saturation and unrealistic color and looks to sell her work. 

C) Print everything yourself. This gives you total control, immediate examination and corrections, a better understanding of the complete process, the ability to HONESTLY claim it is all your own artwork. It is possible the shows will crack down and enforce the rule that Photographers must print their own work. Some shows already have that rule. Many, perhaps most others stipulate it must be printed under the direct supervision of the photographer. It is just not enforced very well.

D) Studying other photographers work may teach her a lot, however it will invariably also influence her composition, subject matter etc. to be creative one should try to keep as pure as possible.

E) If you send your work out for printing to Costco, Walmart etc, it will not meet the qualifications for Archival. I believe Dugal in NY, can keep you in the Fine Art arena.

F) Recently I tried a sample. I printed something myself, then sent the exact same file out to a company for them to print in their best quality. Result: Their's was very inferior and different than mine. Their's will never be sold but instead used as an example to show the difference. I'm not the best printer. Never claim to be but way above some of what was recommended for printing companies here.

I'm not the best photographer. But I am a PHOTOGRAPHER, not a digital artist using post processing to create, instead of my camera.

This is only offered to help your daughter to start out on the right track.

I love when other photographers want to know how I manipulated in post processing to achieve a certain image and I let them know.. I didn't.

In regards to the following points

A) It depends. If you are using Lightroom, you only need to think about this at output. It depends how your lab is setup, they might need them is sRGB.

B) Get it right in camera then you can make it even better in editing. No matter how good you are with a camera, the correct editing can make a photo better. A lot of people are not good with editing and make images worse.

C) Retarded rule. If you operate as a business, you do not need to become an expert at everything. Outsource what you can so you can grow your business and not waste your time. As a pro lab printer, you do not need to waste your time learning how to print instead of learning how to shoot/edit. As Weldon said, if you partner with the right lab, it will make it easier on you.

D) Agree.

E) Silver halide prints are not archival, they are the cheapest costing prints. Dye sub prints (ie. what walgreens has switched to) do not yield the best results in quality either.

F) When you get the right lab, they will produce more accurate prints to what the file is than you will. Generally, the bigger the lab, the wider their tolerances are (in a negative way). Pro labs have better equipment and it is their profession. They do it every day, not just a portion of a day a week.

Certainly agree with color space. While Adobe RGB has the best color gamut, it's only as good as the lab. The lab where I have my canvas prints done specifies sRGB and for the most part can't tell the difference except for one piece that has an unusual color that does shift. If you hadn't seen it before,
It would not be noticeable. H&H, on the other hand will print whatever is sent to them. H&H also has retouching services to clean up images for a nominal fee, and the retouched file is available for downloading so you have a copy of the corrected file.

No arguments about getting an image as good as you can get it in camera first. Sometimes that only goes so far. An image I did about 12 years ago illustrates that well. It was an image on Decatur Street in New Orleans in the middle of the French Quarter where I was off to the side of a colorful building and shooting upwards at an angle. The building came out looking like trapezoid with no parallel or plumb lines on the whole thing. It would have taken serious work with a view camera to straighten that out. The original file never sold until I took it into PS using the perspective crop tool to straighten the sides and level the roof and sidewalk. Part of the sky was not there after the straightening but using the clone tool put the sky into the empty part of the frame.
End result was an image that is now salable and looks whole lot better. I had it as good as I could in camera but that wasn't enough until appropriate editing in PS.

Listen to the photographer's here.  Choose what applies to your work and throw the rest away.  Everyone has an opinion, especially when you're new at it.  Keep working on those photos, shoot what you love, know your camera, doesn't matter if you're high end digital, or film (still used by the puriest). Find local photo club and join in.  Experience on your own and with groups. Open yourself to your critics, there will be plenty of them and they can be brutal.  Photography is not for whimps, especially if you're planning on selling it at art festivals.  Print on your printer, control is the key.  This is my opinion and I've been doing it for 25 years and still look at what I can do better.  Good luck from the deep end of the pool. 

Thanks everyone. Will take every thing under advisement & pass it along to my daughter.

One more point.

Encourage her to shoot what she wants. Do it for the love of photography and her art. This passion will allow her to grow and be happy.

If it is done just with the idea of what is "sellable" that will show in her work and she may not be satisfied, for long.

Thank you, Larry. Right now it *is* mostly for fun but she beginning to like the idea of earning a little $$ from her hobby.

Len's get expensive, quickly. Especially if you like Zeiss.

Lee filter system.

Kasserman filters.

Flash units with slave and transmitter systems.

Best place to deal with... B&H Photo in NY. Vast array of photography needs. Very good price structure. Great customer service.


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