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

PinExt Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 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.

120x72 Albert Bierstadt Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains 600x353 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

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.

46x34 Rembrandt Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts 442x600 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

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.

Waterhouse gather ye rosebud 39x32 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

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

Cole Thomas The Voyage of Life Manhood 52x80 600x394 Wall Portraits   Why That 8x10 Is Stealing Your Career:

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

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