March 3, 2017

Do Artists Really Need Photography?

Interesting question... The answer to this is one of the most important things I can share with you, not only as a Photographer myself, but also as a Marketer, a fellow Artisan and even more simply as a potential Buyer. Let me paint you a hypothetical picture:
You're a talented Artist, and you make beautifully crafted pieces that catch the eye of quite a few buyers. You find that your work sells really well when people see it in person, but you struggle to get enough opportunities to sell. Maybe you apply to every art show in your area, hoping you'll be accepted for at least a few. How great would it be if you could be accept by most, if not all? Then there are those of you who decided to take your offline success and have a go at online sales, but your work isn't moving. Other artists with equal talent seem to be selling. What are you lacking? 
Both of these scenarios bring me back to the basis of why I'm in business. You need quality photography that shows off your work in the best light for people who can't see it in person.

You want art show juries and potential buyers to value the detail and careful craftsmanship you put into each piece. Without images that clearly show your efforts, you're easily overlooked. Let's face it, Arts & Crafts are highly competitive and subjective. Whether you shoot your own photography or hire a specialist like me, the most important thing is how your work is represented.

Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:

I. Lighting & Color
Without light there can be no photograph. Make sure you have enough illumination to capture detail in your piece. If your work is 3 dimensional, from sculpture to jewelry, you should keep an eye on how well the shadows show shape and contour. From a color perspective, the type of lighting you rely on will determine whether or not your piece is represented accurately. Natural light from a nearby window is often the best, but photographic lights can also do a nice job of setting an even color tone. Using most other sources will require some digital white balancing when editing final shots.

II. Equipment
As smart phone technology continues to advance, we're blessed with increasingly better cameras at our fingertips. You can take good photos of your artwork with an iPhone, but know that there will be limitations. For higher resolution images required by most art show juries, you'll need a more sophisticated digital camera with interchangeable lenses or a friend like me you can call on. Lighting is also important as mentioned above, and there are lots of options, from table top kits to flashes to studio strobes. Then there's the editing software to process your images according to the specs of how they'll be used. Truth be told, that only scratches the surface. It's up to you whether or not you want to invest in this gear or budget for outside support.

III. Retouching
Most photographers will recommend composing your shot as if you weren't going to make edits after shooting. The more thought you put into the setup, lighting, framing, etc., the less retouching you'll need on the backend. And yet, retouching can take a good image and make it impeccable. From correcting the color and lighting to removing unwanted dust to resizing for outlined specs, the work done to images after shooting adds the finishing touches. I never give unedited photos to my client just as you wouldn't sell an unpolished piece of jewelry. It's a crucial last touch.

IV. Composition
Some Arts & Crafts photography is simple. You just need a straightforward image that includes the whole piece in the frame. However, images that aren't well composed make it hard to focus your audience's attention on the quality and craftsmanship. It's worthwhile to consider how your work should be framed, what angle to shoot from, what else can be included in the scene. All of these factors determine the aesthetics of the shot. I'm sure you can think of many images that made you cringe because the art wasn't done justice in the poor composition.

V. Backgrounds & Staging
A large part of composition, beyond how the photographer frames your art, has to do with what other elements make up the shot. Every image needs some sort of background or setting, be it a simple colored fabric or little scene of related items. Jury photos for example often call for just the backdrop so the judges can see your work with no distractions. When shooting for your online store however, you may want to stage a scene to help people understand scale and intended use. The more you can do to help them envision owning your work, the better. So jewelry makers should consider model shots while potters might shoot their work in a table setting.

VI. Size & Resolution
The final consideration in making your photos usable is cropping and resizing. Where are you going to place these images and what are the required specs? Each art show application, website template and social media outlet has details on the photo dimensions recommended (usually in pixels) as well as the ideal resolution (pixels per inch or quality of the image). Most image editing software can change these factors. If you don't, your photos could get distorted or be too large to upload. Be sure to keep an eye out for these specs so your images appear as intended.

As a lover of photography and an actively practicing professional, I could go on and on about how to get the best shots, but these considerations should give you a good starting point to evaluate what you have and decide if you need to reshoot. You can opt for DIY or hire a photographer to highlight your work. Just be sure to plan ahead according to the above points, and please feel free to reach out if you have questions.

Photography by Crafting Exposure

Artists featured above in order from left to right & top to bottom: 1) Annemarie, 2) PrettyKiku, 3) BDJCraftworks, 4) Bills & Gills, 5) Glenda Kronke & 6) Pearl Kissed