Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Was I Thinking

I'm starting a series of posts to delve a little deeper into particular images that I think could be somewhat instructional. I want to go through my thought process during the image-making process. Maybe this series will help you a bit in your own photographic endeavors.

I was walking in a local park this past weekend, trying to get inspired for the coming fall foliage season. I can across a tree with these very unique and interesting seed pods. It was an overcast day, with the fog slowly dissipating (which is normally a great time for nature photography) but I was concerned about the following things:
- Lighting
- Sharpness
- Background

Even before addressing these concerns I must say that these pods were mostly at or above eye level, so I would have had a very hard time setting up the camera to get a quality shot. So I immediately searched out a sample that I could remove from the tree and shoot elsewhere. I found a small branch with a series of pods, and with the last pod already open exposing the seeds.

I initially looked for a place that I could position the branch in the nice diffused light, but have a dark background, possibly a shady area below another tree. There was no wind, so that was helpful. But I couldn't really find a good place where I could secure the branch and setup my camera to make the shot.

So I decided to take the branch home and work with it there. I set it up so it angled down slightly. The background was some dark cloth, and I lit it with a large softbox. I used a good quality 50mm lens to achieve a very sharp image. I made sure the pod branch was parallel to the image plane.

I made a series of images and under such controlled conditions it was not long before I had an image I really liked. I still have the branch in case I want to try different lighting (such as back-light) or different backgrounds. But I am quite please with my first attempt.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting Started

As I mentioned in a previous post there are always a few people at shows that mention that they have a bunch of photographs that they might like to try to sell someday. The startup process can be very trying and very expensive if done right (it can also be done inexpensively if done right). And even if you've done a pretty good job preparing for your first show you may not see immediate results for a while. I have talked to a few first-time artists at shows that did very poorly (I must admit I also did very poorly in some of my early shows).

I don't want to list the steps getting into the art show circuit (maybe later), but I do want to list the risks and other issues that must be at least considered before starting.
- Is your work desirable to the masses? (you may have very unique, high-quality work, but if many people are mot willing to buy then you will have a difficult road)
- Do you have a substantial body of work? (10 good photos may not be enough - 20-40 would be better).
- Is your technique or style uncomplicated? (non-traditional techniques can be confusing to buyers)
- How is the current market for art? (it has been getting softer for a few years now)
- Are you willing to wait a year or two before showing a profit?
- Is your work high-quality (e.g. uncluttered, eye-catching, properly exposed and printed, etc.)
- Do you think you have identified good shows to start out with? (don't be afraid to ask other artists)

Some of these issues become less important if you are specifically targeting a high-end niche market (which I personally am not). But for many people looking to start at local art fairs these issues are very relevant.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Advice: Simplicity

Over the course of a show I get into many conversations with customers and non-customers alike. Many of these conversations are with other photographers, usually amateurs. Sometimes the discussions goes toward what it would take for someone to get starting in the art show business. Many people have a lot of potentially very good images sitting in storage, and they think about what it would take to take advantage of them and begin selling them. I give what advice I can.

During one particular conversation one woman acknowledged what I think is one of the most important aspect of image-making that many beginners pay very little, if any, attention to. And that is: Reducing Clutter (RC). Simplifying an image almost always makes it more powerful. This not only refers to framing or cropping to eliminate unwanted objects on the edges of the image, but also to the background. A bland or out-of-focus background, when appropriate, immediately puts more focus on the main subject. It can be a real challenge to achieve this. Often it takes longer lenses, careful camera positioning, manual removal of unwanted objects, and so on. The extra effort is almost always worth it.

Doylestown Show

I just completed a two-day show in Doylestown, Pa. This is a very nice show in a nice area. Today there was a bike race going right through town, and although it created traffic frustration for many (including myself) it did add a bit of excitement for a few hours today.

I met a lot of friendly people, and although I (again) got tired of hearing "Is this digital?" I also was able to connect with many people and even learn a few things along the way. I sometimes learn details about subjects I have previously photographed. As many of us do I often make photographs without really knowing much about the subject. It's helpful to learn a little history or new details about something I have enjoyed photographing.

I would say I am off to a good start show-wise for this fall. My next show is in Yardley at the end of September for Harvest Day. This is a very popular outdoor event and I hope to see some of you out there. How's this for a challenge: The first person to greet me and say you've read this blog I'll give you a special gift.