Hey everyone, been many years since I've been here on AFI. I did about a dozen shows back in 2014 and 2015 and did very poorly. I stopped doing shows and focused on improving my photography and I've got the itch again to do a few shows with my much improved photography. I've since moved from California to the coastal Southeast and am working on a new concept. 

TL;DR: The next 3 paragraphs are me venting, topic continues 3 paragraphs below....

I'll make a separate post about the concept in the coming weeks, but its more of a mixed media concept where instead of matting my photography, I use my abstract oil and acrylic paintings on canvas as the "matting" for my photography. I think it's something to make my photography more unique and stand out as "art" rather than what most people seemed to think were just my "snapshots". 

Back in 2014, before cell phone cameras were what they are today, I spent most of my time talking to people at the shows about where I took my photos, and then they'd say something like, "I'll have to go up to Yosemite and get that shot myself"....

Now, with phone cameras at up to 64 megapixels, everyone thinks they're a photographer. I even had one guy I was chatting with while Backpacking this fall in the Smokies who said, "you're still lugging around that heavy old thing (my SLR) with all your (camera) gear?"  

Anyways, back to the topic, what are the feelings about doing a show and legitimately trying to sell my Photography, but also having an album of my wedding photography and one of my best wedding photos on display on an easel to help market my wedding photography on the side? Is that unethical? I'm not trying to make my booth a trade show booth where I only market wedding photography, just an idea to help make a show profitable for me. 

With the price of booth fees these days, I can't justify paying $500 for a local show to sell $150 worth of prints like I did in California. Back then shows were around $300 and I still lost money at every single one. 

I love working the shows. I enjoyed talking to people and having them see my photography. I loved it all, even at a huge loss that was subsidized by my real job...

Like I said, I don't want to treat it as a trade show, but I want a stop gap if I'm going to risk the booth fees, and if I could book one wedding from the show, the show would pay off. I do think my new concept is going to be more focused on what I think would be sellable the local markets of the shows (won't be bringing prints of the Golden Gate Bridge or my surf photography from Mavericks and Trestles, two famous CA surf spots, to shows on the East Coast), but I need some insurance if I'm going to drop $500 for a booth when the $300 shows of yesteryear were losses for me. 

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  • Besides what has been addressed by other members, I don't see getting someone to sign on the dotted line (for a wedding) at a show.  First I think the odds of couples being at that stage of wedding planning *and* coming to the show and your booth are not in alignment.  It would be a long shot.  Sure engaged couples go to events all the time but I don't thinkk wedding planning is on their mind.

    I agree to concentrate on figuring out what work (besides wedding) sells best at shows.  As noted by other members, what sells well at one show may not sell well at all at another show.  I am a slow learner sometimes.  There is a show I have done most every spring and fall the last few years.  Last time I did it, a year ago (November), I finally had to say it is not worth it.  I love love love the venue.  I met many great people--other sellers and customers too.  But it is mostly a break even show for me.  As much as I love it, the sales aren't there for me to continue.  I am loyal to a fault, I suppose.

    So this past November, I wanted to go do some "Research and Development".  LOL  Check out stores that sell vintage & antiques.  I also wanted to see if I could find any "hole in the wall" type places where I could find things I could flip.  A friend, my daughter & I went away for the weekend and found some very interesting places to visit.  We bought a little, learned a few things.  One thing we did was go to that show that I gave up.  It was much less stressful going as a shopper rather than having a booth!  Will I stay away forever?  Who knows?  I won't draw a line in the sand either way, will keep my options open.

    Maybe you need to do the same with shows that don't profit enough or have clients looking for your kind of work.  Don't write off the show completely but maybe stop it for a time and revisit it later.  Possibly you could visit some "new to you" shows as a shopper before commiting to have a booth.

  • First of all, depending on what show you are putting the wedding album is a big NO. When you start putting things that do not represent what are you doing for the fine art portfolio it confuse the buyers and would distract from what you want to accomplish at the shows. Set a goal in your mind and be realistic. See what you need to do to accomplish that goal. After you accomplish that goal in regular raise the bar again and repeat. Paying attention to what moves and eliminating what does move is a big part of the process. This process takes at least a couple of years.  Talk shop with another artist after the show. I personally do art installations and art shows. I talk about art installations when I am doing art installations and when I do art shows I only talk art show stuff. I never mix them because is not what people are thinking or shopping at the time.



    • On the topic of showing wedding work at your art booth, as Oscar already responded, it's a no. On the other hand there is no reason you couldn't talk it up in addition to highlighting what is great about the images you are showing. You mentioned doing "about a dozen shows back in 2014 and 2015 and did very poorly". I has been my experience that you need to show up multiple times at the same show in order for people to come around to your work. Sad to say. That's not to say you continue to do the same dog if it doesn't deliver. There are some that are one and done, you can tell by the type of crowd it is. Then there are those that people respond well to your art but aren't ready to commit yet, those might be worth the extra effort and repeat the next year. For what its worth...

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