Monday, August 24, 2015

Part 3- Photographing your Art to SELL

Getting the Beauty Shot 

The beauty shot is much more than a pretty picture. Beyond accurate color representation, it must also clearly show the artwork’s true form and accentuate its shape and curvature. To do this, I test photograph a variety of different set ups and possible positions with one piece of art in a series. I experiment with props and move lights, until I get the best most artistic photo composition that satisfies all of my image criteria. In an ideal shot, the artwork fills the frame. I also aim for rich color, high contrast without glare, engaging reflections and attractive angle with crisp focus.
If this prep work seems overwhelming take heart. Once you find the perfect setup, taking the pictures is easy. Simply swap the first piece of art out for the second, and then the third. I cycle each of the pieces in the series through the photo tent until I’ve taken pictures of each one in the exact same position. By keeping the photo composition constant, I provide a clean distraction free presentation of the entire collection. This focuses full attention on the subtleties and nuances of the individual pieces of art. 

Once a piece is staged inside the tent, I take a minimum of three pictures using three different aperture settings. This bracketing, as mentioned earlier gives me options, so I can select the finest quality image for each and every piece of art.  

What constitutes a series?

Before moving on, let’s clarify.  A series is a collection of pieces that share a similar theme. The common link can be any number of things, including: subject matter, size, shape, color, technique, medium or story. Grouped, the pieces complement each other and make a bold, showy statement. And yet at the same time, each piece is uniquely individual and can stand alone. 

Signature Collection
Why work in a series?  

Simple, strength in numbers. A collection of pieces has a greater longer lasting impact on perspective buyers than a single piece. A series portrays confidence, longevity and a serious commitment by the artist to the craft. It also builds trust, by showing consistency in the quality of your workmanship. In addition, working in series, generates residual sales. Costumers enamored by your work are likely to buy companion pieces for themselves, or gifts for family and friends.  

The number of pieces in a series varies. Each of the forms in my Signature Collection has twelve individual pieces. In the past, I’ve had a series with as few as three pieces. 

Getting down to business. 

In general, I wait for the series to be finished before moving into the marketing phase, which begins with taking high quality images. I wait, primarily because the photo equipment is bulky. When not in use it’s stored out of the way, in a closet where it stays in pristine condition and clean. Then, when a series is completed, I transition from hands-on construction to cataloging.   

For organizational purposes, each piece of art it tagged with a small strip of masking tape with a number. Later each piece will be given a unique title along with a fairy tale description. Initially numbers are used to quickly match the art with the corresponding picture. 

Props for stylizing your art.

Props may seem like trivial things but used effectively, they are vital components that make your work stand out. My purpose with website and catalog images is to show the natural beauty of the material and the art’s graceful form. To keep these pictures uncluttered I lean the artwork up on clear glass blocks or clear acrylic stands that go unseen in the photo. I avoid metal plate stands, even though they make set up easy, however they hide part of the artwork.

Assorted clear props.
Now when arranging other marketing images, I consider photographing the art on a textured backgrounds or in a setting that creates an inviting mood. Some great textures are bamboo mats, smooth river rocks, rice or sand. These all suggest a serene, organic theme. While nuts and bolts, rough cement or corrugated cardboard send a totally different hard-edged message. This is where you can show some personality. Get creative and make your images as unique and interesting as your artwork. I don’t think of this extra effort as a chore, but rather as another creative outlet; it’s another ripe opportunity for self-expression. 

Side view of artwork raised on glass curve.
If you’re still wondering why I go through so much effort to take my own pictures, consider this. It gives me the freedom to extend my creativity beyond the art form and actively build my brand by crafting my own stylized images.

Side view of artwork raised on glass sqyares.
If I can do it, you can too. 

The backup plan. 

If you’re not on a position to dive this deep into equipment and supplies, consider trading talent with a local, professional photographer. You might offer them a custom piece, maybe a bowl or light fixture in exchange for their expertise and time, to set up and shoot picture perfect images that SELL! 

You got this!