How to Exhibit your Photography, Part 1

So… you’re onboard with the idea? Great! What now? We’ll move on to where you can exhibit but first the how to prepare an exhibition.

1) Decide on a theme and curate your images.

Do what now? An exhibition is far more cohesive when themed. Some photographers shoot projects that centre around a theme but others, as was the case with me, just get on with it and don’t plan ahead in such a way. But that’s ok!

Hopefully you already have an idea of your best images – but if not, start the crawl and put your best images to one side (flag it within Adobe Lightroom etc, or make a copy to another folder). Review your strongest images and start to explore if there’s commonality in style. My images were all seascapes and landscapes – and mainly of Sussex – some were long exposure, some were abstract, some were square crop. Tricky.

It wasn’t until I’d thought about what attracted me to the place, composition, shapes, colours, and how I felt at the time, that I realised how important photography was to me as not only a creative outlet but as a form of escapism. My images, in my eyes, showed peace and serenity with the occasional splash of drama.

The chances are, your photography naturally says something about you as a person. Dig deep to understand why you took the photo and find the unity between images. Ask others to describe your style if you get stuck.

Now, you’ll have a selection of images that fit a theme. What that theme is will come down to the previous steps. Perhaps it’s sunny landscapes that feel light and happy, moody seascapes taken on stormy days or even a particular single colour or colour palette. Depending on the exhibition – aim for a shortlist of 30-40 images and whittle down to 20 or so images. Use fellow photographers, artists, friends and family if it helps. Objectivity will come easier than others than it will to you.

Of those images – choose 4 or 5 hero photographs alongside the 15 or so other final images. These heroes are your proudest achievements and need to take centre stage.

Finally – create a title that reflects the theme. My first exhibition was ‘a moment of peace’ to reflect the feeling of calm and serenity I experienced at the time – and that I’d hoped others would also see for themselves.

2) Print your photos

You now have a final selection of photographs and an exhibition title. To complete the realisation of your photography you must of course consider the potential minefield of printing and framing. Fortunately, I’ve made plenty of mistakes so hopefully you won’t have to!

Where will you print your photos?
On your own printer or by using a photographic print provider?

How will you ensure prints are accurate to what you see on the screen? There’s nothing more upsetting, and frustrating, than reviewing a print and discovering it looks horrific. Where has all the shadow detail gone? Why does the image look flat? It doesn’t look very sharp, does it!?

The answer here is to use a colour profiling device to calibrate your display for accuracy. Then use soft proofing (e.g. in Lightroom) to simulate the print on screen. These topics are articles in their own right. Search online for detailed guides.

Printing proofs is also not a bad idea – at least the first time you print. A decent print provider can print small photos for you or just a strip of the image to compare to what’s on screen.

Printing with framing in mind
Before you hit print or place an order – please stop for a few minutes. How will you frame your prized photographs?

Always include a plain border (circa 8mm) around your photographs to allow overlap with a window mount, or opt for a larger white border in place of a window mount. This looks smart but keeps down cost and effort and can usually be selected when uploading files to your print provider. The small downside is the photo will be in direct contact with the glass and may lead to condensation forming in some cases.

3) Choose Paper & Finish

Ask your print provider for a sample pack showing the different paper and print types, or even show them your images and ask them to recommend a finish or two for you to trial print.

Briefly – C-Type is developed as per a traditional film but from a digital file. Available finishes are matt, gloss, or lustre. The latter being somewhere between the first two. Subject matter, style and personal preference all play a part here. Giclée prints look beautiful in certain situations and are common in fine art. A pigment based print allows a large choice of different papers – including many that are lightly textured and can give a luxury feel. In some cases the texture can reinforce the image you’d visualised all along e.g. textured subject matter.

I use mainly use C-Type gloss but some of my portolfio images work much better as a Giclée print on photo rag textured paper. Exhibiting different finishes side by side can work well without standing out or jarring.

4) Choose Sizing

Now for the size. Hmmmm. Large can be very powerful and some images scream out for it. But small can work well for many images and will save on costs. I would recommend a mix. A selection of large hero images and smaller images can help to maintain balance and manage costs.

Off the shelf or Bespoke Frame?

Off the shelf frames or custom made? This could become a big topic. If you need to keep costs down and see a finish to fit your style – this is likely the best option for you, at least initially. Keep in mind that your choice needs to suit your future customers – so no psychedelic frame colours unless your target market are psychedelic fans!

It can be difficult finding frames that fit the standard 3:2 picture ratio of most DSLR / mirrorless cameras. Many frames will only suit 4:3 as is used on compact cameras. Off the shelf frames will often use Perspex instead of glass. Perhaps that’s ok, but again, think about who your customer is and the price point you’re pitching at. No one appreciates flimsy Perspex when paying hundreds for a photo!

Choosing a frame

Decide on either the desired frame or photo size and work the rest from there. A 2″ mount around the image is a good starting point and remember to make the bottom part of the mount slightly larger than the rest e.g. 2.25″ this helps to anchor the photo and just looks right. Small touches can make a big difference. Mounts can be provided by the framer, made yourself with the right equipment or ordered separately online.

Keep sizing consistent where possible to avoid having many different mount and frame sizes.

In Part 2 we’ll cover where to exhibit and the remaining details that can make all the difference…

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