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How I prepare my first photo exhibit


PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: I am almost ready with my first photo exhibit. In April I will exhibit a collection of 14 landscape photos from my home commune, Ås in Norway. 

I love to take photographs. And I love to share them! Everywhere, basically… Here on Sandvand.net, on my Facebook page, on Pixoto, 500px, Flickr and other places.

But never before I have had a photo exhibit. Until now. I April I will exhibit 14 local landscape photos at Ås Stasjon, the old railway station building in Ås, the commune where I live in Norway.

What used to be a station building is now a cozy cafe serving small food, coffee and drinks. It also doubles as waiting room for commuters taking the train to work in Oslo.

Every month a local artist exhibits his/her work. A few months ago I was approached whether I would like to exhibit some of my local landscape photos in one of the months in 2015.

I did not need much time to think about the request.  I had already noticed how posting my landscape photos to the Ås Facebook group always gained lots of likes, sometimes more than 200.  My answer was yes – and April was agreed as the month for the exhibit.

But how do I prepare a photo exhibit?

One thing is to agree for a photo exhibit. The much bigger challenge is to prepare for and produce the exhibit. I would soon realize that takes lots of planning and work.

First step: Pick the photos

Winter night by the Østensjø lake is one of the photos picked for the exhibit. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Winter night by the Østensjø lake is one of the photos picked for the exhibit. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

I started picking photos already in November. I wanted it to be a selection that fit well together as a whole, but still with distinct differences. And at least some of the photos should be taken in places in Ås most people in my local commune would know.

Also I decided all times of the year should be represented. Deciding this I realized I lacked suitable winter photos. Therefore part of the Christmas holidays was spent filling this gap.  The photo above is one of the photos that were taken during the holiday season.

Picking photos was a tough process. I had many to choose from and could only present a limited number.

I ended up with a list of 14 photos that I decided to use. Almost all were photos I had earlier shared on social media and received positive response on in the local community.

Second step: Decide on production

Finally I can study the first ready produced photos at Lablab in Krakow. This is a photo of the old oak in Ås.

Finally I can study the first ready produced photos at Lablab in Krakow. This is a photo of the old oak in Ås.

Having picked the photos, the next step was to actually produce them. And this was a completely new field for me. Although I take, edit and share a lot of photos, very few of them had so far been produced on print.

Production of a photo exhibit also can have a hefty price tag.

I started studying different alternatives. The cheapest option definitely would have been to order big prints mounted on kapa, a very light material. It is extremely light – and very easy to put up on a wall. But I was also afraid it would not only be cheap, but also look cheap.

I decided I wanted a more elegant look. I have put a lot of efforts into those photos – and therefore it would be better to invest in a better presentation.

My work brings me to Krakow every second week – and I already had some contact with Lablab, a very professional photo lab with long experience in producing exhibits for photographers.

During our first meeting they had printed a selection of my photos on numerous different paper types. Some were glossy, others were matte. Some had metallic structure, others had more texture.

Choices were as numerous when it came to framing and mounting. Wooden frame? Aluminium frame? No frames? What type of glass? Acryllic? Matte?

I came home very confused. It was hard to even remember the numerous choices.

I will not bore you with the details. In the end I ended up with a solution I think looks very elegant. The photos are printed in 60X40 cm on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta 315 g paper. This paper has a very nice texture in my opinion. The photos are mounted on 2 mm dipond. The 4 centimeter deep frames are in black wood and of the shadow gap type, leaving 1 cm open space between the photos and the frame.

Now they are all produced and ready to be brought back to Norway.  And I must say I was very happy when I saw them at Lablab for the first time earlier this week! In fact I was very impressed by the photographer 🙂

The final photos are printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta 315 g paper and mounted on 2 mm dipond aluminium. The photos are then framed in black wood shadow gap frames with a 1 cm gap between the photos and the frame.

The final photos are printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta 315 g paper and mounted on 2 mm dipond aluminium. The photos are then framed in black wood shadow gap frames with a 1 cm gap between the photos and the frame.

Third step: Plan the marketing and sales

Ås Stasjon is not a gallery as such, but is offering local artists to display their work on their walls. And since many people naturally drop by the cafe every day it is a great opportunity to show my work in the local community.

In the agreement I am responsible myself for all the marketing. So I have been thinking about how to do that.

The first decision was made early: I want to make the photos available for sale. Many of them show well-known landscapes in the commune and I hope there will be an interest in buying.

I am also putting them up for sale to finance the costs of the exhibit. Photography is an expensive hobby – and the elegant printing and framing puts a hefty price tag on top of it. So I am hoping there will be a market for buying the photos.

So I want people to come to the exhibit – and I hope some of them will be interested in buying.

What to do to market?

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I will have regular postings in the local Facebook group. It has almost 6000 members in a commune of 18.000 people – and is a very good channel. But of course I have to make sure not to spam people.
  • I will spend some money on Facebook ads targeting people in the community with interest in photography
  • I am considering organizing an opening photo night at the cafe.  If I do it, it will be organized as a Facebook event invite as many as possible.
  • And yes, this blog post is part of the marketing campaign, in case you wondered about that 🙂 It will also be shared in local channels.
  • I have made a sales page on Sandvand.net where people can order photos. I have made it very simple, with an overview of all the 14 photos and an easy way to order from me.
  • I will prepare a press release that I will send to the two local papers, including photos they can use
  • I will prepare a small folder to be distributed at the cafe, of course with link to my sales page.

Any more I should do?

Now I am struggling with the crucial question: How should I price the photos? That is a tricky part, and at the moment I have not yet decided.  I guess pricing depends on many factors:

  • What are people willing to pay? I don´t know yet as I have never tried selling photos this way.
  • What are my costs? And what costs should I include? Only the actual costs of producing the photos? My time in preparing the exhibit? Part of the costs of investing in expensive equipment?

For me this will be a very interesting learning experience and test.

Fourth step: Hang up the photos

There is of course also the practical job of putting the photos up on the wall. I will need to decide which photos go where, think about how I put them together, what fits each wall, etc.

But there are also small details that needs to be taken care of. For instance I want to have a small piece of info to each photo about where and how it was taken. And I want to present some info about my photography and tell people how they can buy the photos. Small details, yes, but still tasks that must be taken care of to give visitors the best impression.

Fifth step: The exhibit

And then, finally! The exhibit!

Actually this is probably the easiest part. The photos are there, people take a look at them and hopefully will enjoy it. There is not much for me to do.

Except if I want to make an opening event. That part I haven´t decided yet.

And I have to spend time responding to people who might be interested in buying photos.

It will be indeed be exciting to experience my own photos on exhibit like that – and I am looking very much forward to the feedback I will get!

I hope you will come! You are most welcom!

Sunset in Ås.  Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Sunset in Ås. Photo: John Einar Sandvand


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