Photo exhibitions are great opportunities for excited and ambitious photographers to showcase their work beyond just the safety of their friends and family. They’re also a stellar opportunity to develop a thicker skin, as your work will be subject to critique, but that’s all part of the territory that comes with getting more exposure as a photographer, which is what all artists should strive for.
Beyond that, they’re a great way to advertise yourself as a photographer, both your talents and your availability. Think of it almost as the artist’s equivalent to having a booth at a tradeshow when you’re selling a product.
First Things First: New or Old Work?
Before you do anything else, it’s imperative that you make up your mind about what you’ll be showcasing at your exhibition. You only have two choices, when you think about it: brand-new work that you’ll shoot especially for the exhibition or archival stuff that you’ll just pull out for the exhibition.
Neither is really an indicator of your caliber as a photographer so much as it’s really just a matter of convenience, sometimes. Shooting new work for an exhibition is very time-consuming, so if you’re on a time crunch, then just pulling out stuff from your archives is the smarter decision. If you do decide to pull out old photographs, remember how technology has changed as the years have worn on.
Brainstorming Involves Budgeting!
This is another preliminary-stage consideration that you should get out of the way from the get go. Unless you have a wealthy sponsor paying for your exhibition (you should be so lucky!), you’ll likely have to shoulder the costs yourself, so it’s required that you make a budget. You’ll have quite a few things to think of as you plan for your exhibition.
Besides the basics like renting out the space (potentially, unless you know the owner), you’ll need to cover printing and frames. After that, it’d be a really good idea to also buy some food and drink for your guests!
All of this should be what you budget for before you even worry about how to display your photography in the gallery.
Being Creative When Finding the Exhibition Location
It’s a given that you’re creative as an artist, so use that God-given creativity in picking a memorable spot. Yes, it’s definitely more challenging if you don’t live in a city that has a dedicated downtown area teeming with places like art galleries and various art spaces.
For more unorthodox places in which to hold your exhibition, consider any of the following with confidence:
- Community centers
- Small coffee shops
- Specialized retail stores
- Public libraries
- Places of higher learning
- Public parks (weather permitting)
When you’re pitching to potential venues the wisdom of having them hold your exhibition, just remember that you’re offering them value in the first place. Having them hold your exhibition at their location means you’re going to be bringing in friends, family and those in your industry, all of whom will be consuming food and drinks, which the place can make money on. Plus…there’s also the free advertising that’s inherent in having a huge crowd of people descend on any place.
Establish Relationships With Local Manufacturers
This tactic should help you save on costs because holding an exhibition is pricey! The more you get to know and form bonds with your local art supply store, framers, printers and mat cutters, the more you’ll be able to get good deals on all the equipment and tools you require to put on a dynamite exhibition.
The goal is to allow you to buy your supplies wholesale to cut down on costs, on everything from prints and frames to mats.
Getting your suppliers under control is going to be a huge godsend when you see the cost of the other aspects you still have to contend with, like venue-space rentals and food and beverages.
Go for Broke: Find an Established Gallery to Display Your Work
Full disclosure: This is going to be very hard if you’re putting on your first show and don’t yet have an established name. Still, in spite of the great odds against you, it’s still worth a shot to see if any known gallery would let you show your work at their location.
Having your work displayed in a known gallery isn’t just making it easier for people to spot and find your exhibition, but it’s also a subtle endorsement of sorts from the established gallery in that they’re willing to have you in the first place.
So pick up the phone and try to get in-person meetings with gallery owners, as these are harder to dismiss than just your regular, old phone call.
Okay, so after all of your careful and plotting preparation, the day of the exhibition is upon you. That’s awesome. Perhaps the biggest rule is that your presentation should be appropriate for your audience, but, still, at the end of the day, it’s your call as to what to show. Don’t let that get compromised.
In addition to the considerations of your audience, also ensure that everything is meticulously in place and ready to go. This means that all the frames have to be secure and the glass within has to be so shiny that it’s spotless. You want your exhibition to look and feel as professional and seamless as possible.
No Time for Intimidation
There’ll be no time for feeling intimidated, particularly if it’s your first exhibition, because of all of the sheer, hard work you’ll have to put into it to make it a success. Put another way: If you even have a bit of time to worry about how daunting this task is… then there’s a good chance you’re not actively doing everything you must to ensure your exhibition goes off without a hitch.