Tag Archive for 'canvas'

So You Take Great Photos, Big Deal… What are you doing with them?

Me with a framed 30x46 limited edition on traditional canvas of Doorway to Winter. Just the start of a long study in how we can better present and display images.

by Gavin Seim: A lot of photos are being made these days. Some bad, some good, some amazing. But what gets me is how little we’re doing with them. Art seems to have become something that lives on Facebook. Most the worlds photographers seem to not even be selling prints to their clients. They just hand them digital file and the cycle of images that exist in nowhere but bits goes on. A few Facebook likes and comments later, the image disappears into the mists of digital bliss.

When we do make prints they tend to be small and cheaply presented. We find the cheapest company to make a gallery wrap that can be bought at WalMart. We buy a plain print, or whatever cheap new product the labs are kicking out in bulk. We take whatever is available. Often it seems we’re not selling heirlooms, we’re selling throw-aways. Has the beautiful art of printing and presentation been lost? Is this good enough?

I say no.. Most images mean nothing until their properly hanging on the wall.

I’m not trying to slam anyone here. I just think serious photographers should think more about the potential of their images and how well their using it. On the business side this is very relevant and wall prints can make a major diffence is sales and profits. Read, Wall Portraits. Why the 8×10 Is Stealing Your Impact & Profit. This stuff matters to our craft.

Sure there are commercials jobs and stock, there are a few projects where prints are not as relevant. But most of the time that’s not really the case. In truth I think we started doing all this because it was easier. It’s a lot of work to make and sell great prints. So we’ve lowered expectations.

Printers and paper options are getting less expensive and have countless choices of presentation and creativity. I bought a Canon 8300 wide format printer last year and just making my own prints has changed the way I think. I no longer just settle for what’s easy. I study mediums, mounting and presentation. I’m getting into mounting prints myself and looking at how I can stand out with unique offerings. While I still offer digital files if needed, my focus has shifted almost entirely to making and selling prints. And it feels so good.

So what does all this mean. Not that you need to go buy your own printer right now, or take your work in an entirely new direction. But you might find you want to do both. My bottom line is that we owe it to ourselves and our clients to start thinking about how we can be better presenting images, what sizes are appropriate. About how we can make more than a digital file and start producing furnishings for walls. Very few people are making really quality wall art. It’s about the only photo market that’s not over saturated right now.

It’s not easy and it’s not cheap to make and display great prints. But so few are doing it anymore that it’s not only satisfying, it’s become a great opportunity to set yourself apart and stand out in a crowded industry. Doing it well is more than just making an 11×14 and buying a frame at Target. It takes time, study and planning. But the reward is like nothing nothing else.

I hope to post an article soon looking in detail and at the mounting and presentation options I’ve been studying and working with. But what do you think? Am I crazy, have you found presentation ideas that are unique and working for you. Share your thoughts in the comments… Gav

Wall Portraits – Why That 8×10 Is Stealing Your Career:

by Gavin Seim: Updated 04/2012:

Have you ever admired classical art hanging in a museum? Maybe Sargent, Bierstadt, Rembrandt? It’s from the painters that we inherited this profession and every photographer should take time to look closer at what they did. You owe it to yourself and your clients to start placing appropriate sized pieces on walls. Photographers have missed much of the furniture quality appeal of their craft. Part of the problem is that they think of themselves as photographers. As camera operators.

We are in a saturated industry that’s in a rut of low grade commodities. But it’s time to change that. Hemingway was not a typist, he was an author. Those that have the skill to make quality wall portraits are not camera operators. They are artisans. Anyone can take pictures, but being a master of photographics is no easier than being a master painter. The mindset we have effects the product we produce. I Am Not a Photographer (see article).

Now it’s not only the fault of digital or too many people with cameras. We’ve trained ourselves and our clients to think small. It’s something that goes back to the early days of the wet plates and small contact prints that we’ve never quite escaped. People walk through our doors thinking in 8×10’s, 5×7’s and wallets. And we encourage them. It’s helping make photography a cheap commodity and it’s time to start changing all that.

Why should an 11×14 hang on the wall? It probably shouldn’t. Chances are the wall is much larger than that. But we’ve fallen into a rut of thinking small is all people want and need. Some tell me that “people won’t want these in my area”. But I’ll be blunt.. If people aren’t buying wall art, it’s because you don’t know how to make and or sell said wall portraits. I live in small town America and have discovered for myself that people love personalized wall art. You simply need to show them the quality and value of a beautiful appropriately sized piece. But first you have to understand the value yourself. Lets look.

120×72 – Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Albert Bierstadt, 1866. Birstadt is one of my favorite Husdon River School pictorialist’s. Amazing work at stunning sizes. Click this one for a large version. It’s amazing.

When you walk into a furniture store are they afraid to show you the larger dining set that fits your room? Do they act like it’s a stupid to buy the Italian leather instead of the cheap import? No. The only reason clients are asking for 8×10’s is because we’ve trained them to. Try showing them a thirty inch framed canvas of their beautiful family and see how they respond. If we do it well, we’re moving towards fine furnishings.

It’s been about 5 years since I first attended Wall Portrait Conference to really learn about all this. I know it can work, because nearly every client I have purchases at least a 24 inch heirloom quality print for their wall (I charge around $600 for those). That’s my smallest wall portrait size. I’ve sold up to 70 inch pieces using these same principles. Not because I’m a hard sell, but because I’m making and showing quality pieces that myself and my clients can really be proud to show.

But rather than simply making my own case, allow history to help. Below are some classical works, listed with their original sizes. We think of these as classics now, but when made, they were often commissions meant to hang on someones wall just like our photographs. Take a few moments to really look at them, then I’ll be back. And if you want to and get inspired in print form, check out some books like Sargent’s Portraits Of The 1890’s, Frederick Church, or J.W. Waterhouse. Or for the lover of pictorials like myself, here’s a stunning book on the Hudson River School era of painting.

46×34, Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts. Rembrandt, 1631. It seems that even 300+ years ago, a wall portrait was a thing of note. Look at the quality of this work. Click for a larger version. Even the catch lights look perfect.


38″x32″ – Gather Rosebuds While Ye May by Waterhouse 1909

The Voyage Of Life, Manhood

80″x52″ The Voyage Of Life, Manhood by Thomas Cole, 1842

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