I'm freaking out just a bit, because I've just realized that I'm in a group on facebook with Robert Cornelius. And how flipping awesome is that?! He posted this amazing blog today about the self deprecating comments we make that are actually pretty harmful- and how we all just need to calm down and realize that with work and time we can all be "as good as" our favorite photographers. Go read his blog post and then come back to me, because I have some stuff to add. -------> "YOU CAN DO IT- BY ROBERT CORNELIUS" <------------
Did you read it? I love every bit of what he says and it's really really true. All of it. I remember when I first got back into photography after a long hiatus, and at the time, I was internet stalking family photographers and still life photographers and getting frustrated that my work didn't even come close to theirs. So, I practiced, and then I learned through a multitude of failures and very few successes. I asked questions mercilessly of every advanced photographer who would talk to me, and eventually I made a picture I was very proud of. It does happen! Have you ever heard this quote?
"The difference between a novice and a master is that the master has failed more times than the novice has yet to try"
It's true. You cannot beat yourself up when things don't go the way you want- your only true failure would be if you take nothing away from the experience.
If you line up all the work you've created from start to finish, I'm guessing you'll be able to see a great improvement if you've been at it for any length of time. If you don't see improvement- then ask yourself what you love about each piece, and conversely, what you hate. Think about the result you got vs. the result you wanted and if you don't know where you went wrong, don't be afraid to ask someone. Facebook has some really amazing groups for photographers to share knowledge and ask questions. You just have to develop a bit of a thick skin and be ready to accept critique. (Yes, some people can be real douchebags, but just blow those idiots off and listen to the ones who can be respectful and helpful)
Secondly- I'm going to parrot what Robert says in his blog. Be mindful of the language you use and how it hurts you mentally. If you are constantly telling yourself that "you'll never be as good as..." or "It's never gonna happen for me" you are eventually going to believe it. Instead, change your language. It worked miracles for me. Instead of saying "This work sucks compared to... " I started saying to myself "I'm not that good, yet- but I am getting closer" or "When I have mastered that, I will create this" Or even, "This might not be what I wanted to do right now, but when I improve, I'm going to try it again"
Those are truths you need to start telling yourself. You WILL improve, You WILL learn, You WILL reach your goals if you put the work into it. Don't let that negative voice in your head tell you the lies that suffocate your creativity and drive.
I thought it was awesome that Robert added a slideshow of his very early work, So I thought I'd show you mine. It goes from my earliest attempts at photo manipulations, back when I was still using Paint Shop Pro 8, to some of the stuff I made over the last few years. Try not to laugh too hard...
Here are a few exercises you can do to help you grow and learn:
1. Start a 52 or 365 project- This is where you make it a priority to make an image once a week or once a day for a whole year. It does take some stamina, but it is so worthwhile. Make the most out of it and make a list of things you feel you need to work on, or would like to try- use that list as inspiration.
2. Hit up websites like CreativeLive or Phlearn.com and make a point of watching one video or class a week, and then apply what you've learned to your own work.
3. Find some like minded photographers or artists (in the real world or on facebook) and set up challenges with them. Keep it fun and keep the competition at a low boil. That will motivate you to do your best and try your hardest.
4. Take Self portraits. The thing about self portraits is that nobody has to know you're even shooting!! So, if you come up empty handed, if your image just doesn't work out, then there is nobody to know but you. That takes SO MUCH pressure off and leaves you free to create and experiment. I cannot count the number of times I've set up my living room and tripod and just shot stupid stuff. I wanted to experiment with lighting- so I did, I wanted to try an idea... Whatever! Who's watching? NOONE. Be as weird as you want to be.
5. Quit being afraid to fail. That is where you learn!! I can't remember who told me about this, but she said that whenever someone in her family suffers a failure, they throw a "failure party" to celebrate the chance they've had to learn something. The celebrate it. Because it's not really a failure- it's a learning opportunity.
I hope that this has helped you, if you're feeling like you'll never get there. Trust me- every single artist out there is feeling like that too. Even the ones you think are amaze-balls. They still have that self-doubt. The really successful ones have learned to stuff it in a corner and pep-talk their way out of it.
Good luck out there!
The fall colors are beautiful and I know all my photographer friends are planning their fall projects, if they haven't already started. The bright and most beautiful colors are still a couple weeks out for me, but I got a jump on it with this super simple DIY crown project. I can't wait to shoot with it.
Right now the craft stores are brimming with fall colored foliage. You can find most of what you need in the floral section, but for the crown itself, you can get what you need right outside your door. This crown used the following:
1. Sticks- bendable, pliable sticks . You should be able to bend them without breaking them. 2. Twine or floral wire 3. Floral light string LED with the little tiny battery pack.
4 fall foliage floral picks 5. Hot glue and glue gun. 6. silk leaves 7. bobby pins, empty floral picks, or just plain wire.
Step one: Make the base of the crown.
Use your sticks and weave them together, lashing them with your twine or floral wire. You may hot glue them in several spots to make the crown more secure. Not too much though, or you won't be able to add your decorations.
Step Two: Weave your LED wire around the crown, with the battery pack at the base or the back. Secure with wire or twine. Hot glue will melt the wire, don't use that. If you want the lights to stand out more, you can wait until you've added your decorations, but it is more work to weave it in and keep the wires from showing. For my crown, I just wanted a hint of fairytale glow.
Step Three: Demolish your picks and make your filler leaves. The floral picks you bought are probably little bits of leaves, raffia, fake pumpkins and random bits held together by floral tape. Tear them apart and toss the bits you don't like. I threw out the stupid fake pumpkins and gourds but kept the acorns and baby pinecones. I also liked the little berry looking things. Make your filler leaves into picks by hot gluing several leaves to a bobby pin, floral wire or pick.
Step Four: Stick your picks, leaves, and random bits into the holes between the sticks on your crown. You can make your crown as full or as spare as will suit your needs. Hot glue where needed to secure, or lash with floral wire or twine. Keep in mind where the "back" of your crown is and where the battery pack will fall when on someone's head. You can always add more leaves to fill it out after you're done and they work well to hide any of the wire that might show through.
Step Five: Upload your finished work to my facebook page so I can see your beautiful creations! I'll feature my favorites and shoutout to your business pages.
I recently posted on my Facebook page that it's been just over a year exactly since I took my first "fine art" image. There's a fun way to organize on Flickr so that you can make an album and organize it by date taken- So I've put together an album of every fine art piece I've done since that first one- The good, the bad and the really really awful. You can see it HERE, if you like.
What have I learned in the first year of creating storytelling images? Tons. I'll share some "been there, done that" style experience with you in the hopes that you can use it.
1.Learn to use your camera in full on manual mode.
One of the scariest things about photography for me was taking that giant step into learning the manual settings of my camera. I much preferred the safety net of the auto setting, but I was finding that each picture was exposed differently and often, my whites and lighter colors were completely blown out. For composite images, this is a big deal. It is ten times harder to composite images together if they are all exposed differently. (You want each image to match so it looks seamless) Just take the plunge and learn in manual. Practice!! Nobody has to see your mistakes unless you want them to!
2. There are days and even weeks when you will feel uninspired.
The cheerleaders in the art community would have you think that "every day is an inspiration" and that you can find something to create and make beautiful every single day. I know they mean well, but they need to knock that crap off. I read the blogs and books of all the big names in fine art. They all want to preach about how easy it can be to be inspired, and how they wake up every day ready to create masterpieces and tackle new obstacles. It made me feel horrible, because I did not feel that way. In fact, there are a great many days when I wouldn't even get out of bed if someone didn't pour water on me (true story) If you are one of those people who can be inspired everyday- Good for you. I'm talking to the other 98% of artists who don't. It's okay to be uninspired. You never know what will inspire you and you can be bumping along for weeks without a single idea, then BAM! There it is and you spend the next two weeks mass producing masterpiece after masterpiece before you hit another dry spell. You know what? That is OKAY. Inspiration and Creativity are not infinite resources and sometimes your batteries need to recharge. You should absolutely let that happen. Let yourself relax and enjoy the process. If you force it, people will be able to tell.
3. Not everything you create will be golden.
Yeah... a good bunch of my stuff is crap. Pure, unadulterated rubbish. But I am blessed from time to time with a piece that I am truly proud of and will defend to the death against anyone who says it isn't awesome. Don't be afraid to create something awful. You'll learn from it. Even if the only thing you learn is not to do THAT again.
4. Critique can sting, but it's essential to growing!
I'll admit that when I joined the critique groups, I did so for the purposes of harvesting praise for my latest works. And that dream evaporated exactly .05 seconds after I uploaded my work. If you find a great group, who is truly invested in helping you grow, you will gain invaluable insight into your work and how you can improve it. They will pick it apart, down to the bones and then tell you all the places you went wrong, and if you have a really wonderful group, they might even tell you how to fix them. Sometimes, any critique at all can sting, and especially if it's a piece that you are exceptionally proud of, but those are the times when you should calm down, set your emotions aside for a moment and really look at what people are telling you. It's an asset.
5. Create it all and don't apologize.
After I did my very first fine art piece, the people on my facebook friends list freaked the heck out. They didn't understand it, it was wayyyy darker than anything I'd ever done and they took it entirely wrong.
If it hadn't been for my model Ella Paloma piping up and saying how she thought it was awesome, I might have given up right there. I am blessed and cursed with people in my life who will tell me exactly what they think and hold no punches, so when I think about making an image- a little part of me wants to wave her hands and scream NOOOO WHAT WILL THE PEOPLE THINK!?!?!? To that, I answer, "Let them think what they will, this is my art, not theirs" There is no subject that I will not touch if it speaks to me. When I finally release that image, and those people have their say, I never ever apologize. I simply thank them for their consideration, and let them know that my work is not intended to appeal to everyone. We create for ourselves after all, not the masses.
6. You will learn your rhythm through doing.
What I mean by this is that we all have a unique way of creating that will yield us our best results. When you begin on your path, you will have NO IDEA what your way is, and the only way to find it is by doing your thing and noting what works best. For instance, my favorite images are not the ones I intended to take, but what comes from the extras I took while we were out. So, from that I can deduce that I am a spur of the minute creator. The best laid plans will often fail for me, so I always throw in a few extra props so that I can create something on the spot. Another thing that I know works for me is deadlines. So I have to set a few arbitrary ones for myself now and again- with rewards for meeting them. These little bits of insight into my creative flow have come to me over many many many shoots, and now that I know what works well for me and what does not, I can adjust my workflow accordingly.
7. Success is defined by you and you alone.
I want to be successful artist. When I first began, my mind was filled with ideas of being just like Brooke Shaden and Lindsay Adler. I wanted to sell out workshops and have sponsors, and travel and get my own show on CreativeLive or the Framed Network. But that is not my idea of success, actually, it's theirs. My idea of success is simple- I want to be happy with what I create. I want to have some recognition, sure and someday I would like to perhaps teach or put out a book, but the idea of being so in demand that I get off a plane from one workshop and step onto another immediately just exhausts me. I have a full time job that pays me well, I have no need to make money from my work (it would be nice.. mind.) So I am free to create without imperative. Your idea of success will surely be different. The truth is that success is really about where you will feel content. When you will sit back and think "There! I've done it!" By my standards, I am successful.
There you go. Everything I can think of on the spot about what I've learned since I stepped on this path. I hope that I can put some things in perspective for you, if you are also beginning, or maybe further along on your path. Don't take it too seriously.
I'll finish up with another new image- with the help of my ever so patient husband Dan, and my niece Maci and daughter Eve. (The floated the boats for me!)
This part of the process made me want to rip my hair out, make a noose, and hang myself.
Because at this stage I was almost wishing that I had just gone with the galleries option to print and mount for me and save myself the cost and headache of shipping.
I'll start with packaging the smaller prints you plan to sell.
Any packaging that will touch the print itself needs to be archival and acid free, because if it isn't, it could cause the print to fade quickly over time. It can also cause discolorations and warping in some cases. You can purchase acid free archival materials from a few places, my favorites are
Bags Unlimited and Clear Bags
It's a good idea to get the backing board, so that your prints aren't in danger of being easily bent, and the bags are a good idea to keep them tidy, prevent fingerprints from handling and it makes it easy to stuff a business card and certificate of Authenticity in the back. I really like the bags with the sealable flap.
Now, for shipping. Remember folks- I work for the postal service. Take my advice on this, really.
There is no reasonable way you can expect any shipping service to handle your packages individually and with the great care that they deserve. It's not feasible. Each carrier handles far too many packages daily to ensure that each package can be treated with extreme deference to it's contents. Of course, we try our best and we don't go out of our way to put packages in places where they'll be destroyed, but it's up to you to package them to withstand the perils of shipping. Doesn't matter who you use.
If you choose to send your prints un-mounted to the gallery- send them inside a plastic bag, rolled and in a shipping tube. Don't forget to tape the heck out of both ends of the tube, because I see it happen all the time that the ends pop off and contents spill out or moisture gets in. Any tracking labels should be affixed length-wish. So that the scanners can scan them. (Laser scanners can't bend around a tube!!)
If you have already mounted your prints, this is where you'll be kicking yourself.
First you need to find a sturdy box, like a really sturdy box. If the prints get tossed in a hamper or truck and something else kinda heavy get's put on top of them, they will bend, even when mounted on gator board.
The UPS store and possibly Pak-Mail have large, sturdy boxes you can buy that should stand up to shipping. Make sure to wrap in bubble wrap and for an extra measure of sturdiness I would add another panel of foam core or something, just in case the box gets punctured.
Shipping costs: Comparison
Probably every carrier will have a surcharge for size. These are large prints and the packaging will make them even larger. So be sure to account for the size surcharge when calculating your prices.
We are going to assume a piece comparable to what I just shipped. The dimensions are
L=33 H=33 and W=6 and it weighed about 15lbs. It's going to Texas from Indiana.
USPS- 77.90 for Standard post- Delivery estimate- 2 weeks.
UPS Ground- $75.74 4 days shipping
UPS Second day air= 164.64 2 days shipping.
Fedex 2 day Am=$94.22 PM=84.20
Fedex turns out to be the best deal for the time. Since I'm a procrastinator, I need a two day service.
The gallery won't ship these back to you for free, and mine had the caveat that if you leave them there for too long, they will be considered a donation to the gallery and you forfeit any proceeds from their sale. So, you'll also need to pay that shipping cost again, to have them returned to you. You can do this easily by asking for a bill of lading or have a pre-printed label to be included in the package. The gallery will re-use your own packing materials and return them to you in the same manner you have sent them. They are not responsible for damages during shipping.
*A note about postal insurance. I have never heard of anyone who has had an easy time making a claim and immediately getting their money back. It is usually a long drawn out process and often ends with the postal service determining that the fault was not theirs. I don't know about the other guys.
Another thing to mention is that you can only insure an item like these for the cost to recreate them. Not for their implied value, but for their actual replacement value. How much would it cost to print and mount them again? That's your insured value. You cannot insure for potential loss of income either. So if the carrier loses your package and finds it after the show has ended, you cannot claim that you lost $10,000.00 in potential sales. Because you can't prove you would have made those sales. Is the insurance worth the cost? It's up to you. If you're willing to fight with them to comp you , sure, go for it. If it's more of a headache to you to fight the red tape, then leave it be.
There ya go! Everything I've learned the hard way from start to finish about approaching galleries, printing for shows, and shipping large prints. I hope I've been helpful for you and if you liked this series of posts, please like and share these with the little links below.
If you have anything you'd like to add, do it in the comments and I"ll update the posts with credit to you!
SHOW YOUR WORK! A beginners guide to gallery shows, told by another beginner- PART DEUX Printing and Mounting
Let me preface by telling you all that I am writing these posts with my first show barely under my belt. So, basically, this is a "What I learned the hard way" type of how to guide. There might be better ways, I could be wrong about some things, but mostly, follow your instincts about things.
So, you've got yourself into a gallery show! Congratulations!!! Get ready to be financially raped by printers, mounters, framers and shipping companies.
Depending on what you've been accepted to show, and how many pieces the gallery has chosen from you, you may or may not be in for some serious costs.
For example, my recent experience:
The gallery was specific about the size of prints they would accept. The print itself had to be exactly 30x30 inches, with a 1/2 inch white border all around. They had to be mounted on white backing that was not mat board and ONLY french cleats were acceptable hanging hardware. The paper used had to be gallery quality archival satin or matte finish and if it didn't fit these rigorous standards, they reserved the right to not hang your art.
Okay. No problem. Let's do this thing.
FINDING A PRINTER:
Wal-Mart, Target, and Meijer do not offer the kind of quality paper that galleries will accept. Get that out of your head right now. Neither does Snapfish or Shutterfly.
If you want to do this online, you need to search for print labs that are capable of producing archival quality giclee prints. (museum quality also works in a search)
A comparison of online printing prices for a 30x30 unmounted print-
The gallery also offered a print package- at $100.00 per print with an additional hanging and mounting option of $30.00.
Now, That is really expensive. And you don't get to see the print before you pay. I used a local printer in our town and I was able to sit down with him and he was able to advise me on paper choices, whether or not my file size was big enough to blow up to the size I needed and he had a "guy" that he used to handle the mounting- At no risk to me if damage occurred.
His prices were great- $49.00 a piece on fine art giclee satin paper and the mounting was an additional $42.00 each. He didn't have the brand of paper I was hoping for, but offered to keep it on hand for me if I wanted to buy the roll for myself and just use him for his printer and ink. Also, before he printed he pointed out a few mistakes I had made and gave me a chance to fix them, then he triple checked with me the sizes and quantities.
The important thing to note here is that I was not responsible for damage if it occurred while in his or his mounter's care. Everywhere else I checked did not offer that, you would be responsible to replace the print if damage occurred through shipping or mounting.
Finding a local printer wasn't as easy as a quick directory search. I kept getting directed to Wal-Mart and CVS and another instant photo lab, but nobody who dealt with Gallery quality prints. (Though be careful, because they all claimed to be best quality!!) Finally, I called the camera shop and asked him and he referred me to the guy I found. You could also call the art gallery and ask them for recommendations. They oughtta know!!
If your gallery has given you the opportunity to have on hand smaller prints for sale, consider these things:
Offering a smaller size of the large print will give a buying option to all price points. Maybe someone isn't ready to drop two grand on a gigantic piece of art, but they may be willing to drop $150-$400 on smaller prints.
The trick is to make these smaller prints as desirable as you can, and you can boost their perceived value in the eyes of the art buyer by using a few tricks.
Limit your edition size. Limited editions give an image that "Get it before it's gone forever" kind of urgency. This is a binding agreement you make that says you will only print so many of this image, in this size, on this kind of paper and once these are all sold, they won't be available anymore. The more exclusive the edition, the more value it will have to buyers, who covet the "one of a kind-ness" of an art piece. The larger the print size, the smaller the edition size should be.
Mine goes something like this:
8x8, editions of 30- $150.00
10x10, editions of 25- $300.00
12x12, editions of 15-$600.00
20x20, editions of 5-$900.00
30x30, editions of 3-$1200.00
Add a "Certificate of Authenticity" to each print. Here is a helpful link regarding these:
It's an added layer of assurance that the print the buyer is getting is indeed one of a kind.
You should also, sign, date and number the print on the back with either a pencil or an archival ink slick writer pen. (WAIT FOR THE INK TO DRY BEFORE YOU PACKAGE!!!)
Sign the print on the front. It will increase the value of the print to have it signed by the artist. Use the same kind of archival ink that you used to write on the back, and your signature and year created should go in the lower right hand corner, and the title should go in the lower left hand corner. Smallish.
Your smaller prints should have at least a half inch border all around to make framing easier for the buyer. Now, make the image size 8x8, but the total paper size will end up being 9x9 because of your half inch border all around. (The first 3 editions of "Bipolar" and "Innocence" in sizes 8x8 and 10x10 don't have this because I forgot to instruct the printer to do that.
My Fellow Fine Artists
Tammy Zurak of Z Photog Studio | Memphis, TN, USA | Fine Art/Illustrative Photography Gallery:
Pam Korman of District Photography | Philadelphia, PA, USA | Fine Art Photography:
www.bonniealrifai.com Fine art photography
Handy Andy Pandy