Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Hello all!

I'll be taking the leap into my first art show next month, and as I'm hustling to try and get all my inventory and supplies ordered/ready, I have some questions:

1) All my photos are 8x12. I can find mats with windows that are meant for my size, but they all trim 1/4" off of each side of my photos. Some photos this isn't a big deal, but in other cases, it cuts off enough of the print that it just won't work. I do like the window look better, as opposed to just mounting the photo on a board. Would it be considered negatively if I did some photos mounted with a window mat on top, and some where the photo is just matted to a board?

2) Mat color: I've found that many of my photos look better mounted on a specific color board (blue or black for instance). Should I mount a few extra stock ones onto white just in case the customer prefers a white board, or do I just invoke the "I'm the artist" rule and put things out how I think they look best?

3) If I mount directly onto mat board (with no window covering), what would be the best way to mount the photo?I like the idea of using mounting corners, but I don't know if having the mounting corners visible on the matboard is considered a negative.

Thanks in advance!

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This is where you need to either compose differently or crop differently within the 7-1/2 x 11-1/2 opening in the mat unless you want to create different mats for each image.

White is universal and will work in most everyone's home

Don't mount them. Hinge using acid free tape:

Larry Berman

If you have time go to an art fair soon and take a look at what the other photographers are doing. Larry’s advice is spot on. If you’re framing your work you might consider mounting.

Disclaimer: Please do not take any of this as negative nor offensive. we ALL had to start somewhere. We must determine when we know enough and are good enough to be selling to the public at art fairs.

It does not seem like you are ready, yet.

First decide if you want to be someone who just takes pictures and sells them... or an Artist / Photographer.

1) Why are all your photos 8x12? An artist as well as professional photographer knows how to compose and crop to use the finished size to communicate what is desired. If they know in advance they will be using mattes that expose 7 1/2" x 11 1/2" then shoot images that will present best in that scenario.

If the cropping to that matte opening does not work for particular images, either use a different image or get different mattes...or BETTER yet, make your own mattes. Then you can make them whatever opening you deem best.

If these are paper prints - (assuming you did not print them yourself) you cannot frame them without a matte. The glazing being flat against the print will damage it. Good shows will not allow prints to just be in bins, so the rest will have to be hung, which means framing. There are techniques for creating the space with small matte sections that are not revealed but I doubt that is what you are considering.

Just gluing the print to a board is a very bad idea.

2) If you are the artist, you choose the color matte. You should know what works best with your artwork. If being done properly the matting and framing is done conservation methodology. This will allow for easy change of matting without damage to the print. For sales use, decide if you want a uniform booth look with all mattes the same color or various matte colors that will work together for a good presentation.

3) You don't mount the print onto matte board. You can mount onto "mount board", then mount the matte onto the mount board. The matte alone without mount board is not sufficient to carry the print. Even all my bin prints are mounted and matted completely, to be ready to just slide into a frame. Even though I do all my own printing, matte cutting, frame cutting, glazing cutting and all the accompanying assembly. I still do almost all my pieces to fit industry standard frame sizes. This will allow a buyer to place the matted piece in a standard frame without paying for custom framing. 

Again, this is not to dissuade, denigrate, disillusion or condemn what you want to try. It is constructive criticism,  to point out that you want to determine a lot more before trying to sell as an artist. We all have had to do this.

Even if you do everything right, it is a tough enough market for Art / Fine Art photography. You don't want to make a first impression as looking too amateurish. 

First off, I appreciate your input. Personally, I'm confident in my photography, but certainly the "business" side of mounting and selling has been an interesting hill to climb.

Personally, I've never really printed paper photos before. When I have printed my own work out, I've always done so on either a canvas or a metal/acrylic, where having to lose that 1/4 inch all the way around hasn't been an issue.

My terminology  was a bit off in my original post.  In my experience with art fairs (as a visitor), I've more seen photos put on boards with no window mat. That's how I've always been used to it, and what I've seen sell.

(For reference, this is the type they're using:

If my original post made it seem like I was just selling 8x12s, that's my error. My intent was always to sell 8x12s placed on a 11x14 board ready for framing. The only difference is that I was only now just thinking of putting the window style mat on top.

As for the different colors, that's simply a matter of what is popular. Most people I've seen sell their photos mounted on white boards. I think a blue or black works better on some of my pieces, but not all. What I'm afraid is that people would shy away from buying a photo mounted on black as opposed to the typical white. I'm going to use large metals on all my display walls, so may color doesn't affect my hung pieces.

Mike - Thanks very much for the REDIMAT link. I've been looking for somewhere to price/order 8ply mats! Erika

You can purchase the good stuff from Nielsen Bainbridge, Crescent or distributors such as Omega or Decor

There are 2 types of framing thoughts.

A) The matte and frame are complimentary to and add to the photo. They work as one and framing enhances the overall image. Although this seems like a very good idea, if the matte is large and does not "match the drapes", it might lose the sale as people would want to reframe /rematte it.

B) Gallery style wherein the matte and frame are to separate the photo from the surrounding space. They still have to compliment the photo but are not really noticed. Thereby letting the photo speak for it'self. This also allows for the frame and matte to hang most anywhere.

C) Consistent matting and framing in a booth can give a very serious gallery look.

When you talk about metal and acrylic that is a completely different direction

@Larry, Thank You very much for the names of companies to prioritize when buying mat sets. I'm definitely looking to surround my images with excellent quality products. Question: when you started using archival products (that is, unless you used/made archival paper, mat materials, hinging tape etc. from the start) what percentage did you take your prices up to recoup some of the presumed additional costs? I'm comfortable with my current price points (I offer 13x19 matted to 18x24, and 5x7 matted to 8x10 - BTW I would do 11x14 matted to 16x20 however I do all my own printing and oddly the Canon I have does not print that size), yet I presume my investment in archival materials will cut into my current profit margins. Thanks for your insights. Erika

How can your printer do 13'x19" but not be able to do 11"x14"? 

That does not sound correct. Look at your configuration settings. I believe you are missing something.

I did not have to raise my prices when going to archival & conservation grade as I always did it that way.

My prices will not compete with the others. Most do not use the true archival / conservation  grade materials & methods. Very few are doing there own printing. 

I don't try to compete price wise. Nor with subject matter. It is rare to see something in my both that looks like something in their booth. 

One downside of the archival materials... they are subject to damage from water etc, more easily than the cheaper products.

Thank you for the tip re: keeping an eye on water damage. And yes, I hope you are right that I am missing something. The Pixma Pro 100 does not give you 11x14 as a printing option, although it does odd sizes like "A" 11.7 x 16.5, and I have searched in forums where others have been perplexed about this. I've tried a couple of suggestions on generating a custom size but sans success thus far.

I am not familiar with that printer. However, every decent pro printer I have ever heard of allows for custom sizing.  I would think even lower end printers would allow custom sizing. You could just print your 11x14 using the setting for 13x19. You waste a little paper, you might have to trim but that is not such a loss.


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