Organising a low-budget photo exhibition

At night

At night

The reason for today’s delayed posting because yesterday was the opening evening of my photo exhibition in London. It was my first one, and I’d been keeping myself so occupied that it all kind of snuck up on me. But I thought I would report on my findings here, just in case anyone else needed some advice.

Finding a place

Hanging up an exhibition is usually expensive business. Prime galleries in London will set you back at least £1000 pw, and most art galleries that ask artists to hang artwork is usually not wildlife photography. But being asked is the highest recognition of your work.
It’s worth sharing a space with others to begin with, or being part of a camera club that hangs artwork as part of its annual competition or something similar. At least the people that go there will specifically venture there for photography. But at the same time you are limiting your potential audience.
The route I went down is a café that looks to make use out of its wall space. There are plenty out there that don’t ask for much to hang your work up if they like it. So you’re getting a next-to-free hanging permit, in a location with a variety of visitors. If you present the café with a selection of your work that gives them choice, they are more likely to allow you to hang certain things up (i.e. they preferred my ‘travel’ and ‘ethnic group’ stuff to wildlife as such) and then you can tailor it a bit as long as you hang your images up following some sort of theme.

Printing & framing

This will most likely be the most expensive step but it will be an investment – if you don’t sell them now, you can use them again in the future!
Printing quality is of course extremely important, so make sure you use a good printing service, and always ALWAYS proof your images with a colour profile they provide. The last thing you want to do is not have good prints. I would strongly recommend ProAm Imaging – good fast service and reliable quality, though the largest they print is 18×14.
Frames is a tricky one – you want to get something decent, but not too expensive if you don’t sell. Most people will buy a framed photo as it comes rather than making adjustments to it, but then again transporting x-amount of glass frames is quite tough. I reckon you can always go for Wilkinsons or Ikea frames to hang up but then when selling specify that you’re using hand-made frames which justifies the cost, perhaps?

Size-wise I went for 20×16” frames. I wasn’t sure at first, but I felt that it was a good size, and anything smaller would have felt like it was being drowned out in the space. A nice wide mount gives the photo breathing space and neutral colours means that everything works together as a unit – I went for black frames, white mounts and photo prints at 16×12”.

Contracts

Now that you are hanging up in a café it is still their territory – it is your work, but being sold by them. Therefore you will get a contract (and make sure you get it early to avoid nasty surprises) stating what level of self-branding you’re allowed. I am allowed to state my website and my brand but not lots of contact information as the sales go though the café, which is fair enough.
The other thing to look out for is commission. They are expecting something back from selling your work, in monetary terms. After speaking to several people I was told that 30% is a reasonable amount for a place to ask – some will even ask for 50%. And see what their terms are if no work is sold: it’s all about avoiding nasty surprises!

Hanging and opening nights

It is easiest to have everything ready when you go to hang your work – and I mean everything! Have everything printed, framed, and ready to hang on the spot! I spent a while fumbling around attaching my wire to the frames before even beginning to hang them in the morning. I tried to find some transparent wire, which apparently isn’t so easy to come by, so I improvised meaning I also had to improvise a safe way to make my transparent wire stay attached to the frames.

Hanging takes longer than you think – and if you can bring a spirit level. You need to get them all at the same height, hanging straight and in a good order – with your strongest prints at the front.

In terms of opening night, I can’t really speak from experience. I didn’t have a big do, with drinks and catering. If you’re just hanging in a café, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal, but still try and advertise it as much as possible – and this is where social media can be your friend! Ask people to tweet about it, with a nicely designed poster, and if there is any retweeting all the better!!

Pricing

This is the worst part, and one that I, frankly, am trying to avoid. I’ve been struggling with the question: do you display prices or not? You don’t want to undersell yourself, but not displaying prices can give people the impression the artwork is expensive. But I haven’t wanted to price my work in case it’s incorrect.
In the end, what people are willing to pay for it is what it’s worth, and you’re displaying work that doesn’t carry a name (yet?) and is easily reproducible. There are some helpful apps for it like fotoQuote pro that might give you a better idea.

But I went for £50 framed, and also mentioned that unframed is something I’d be open to doing. I advertised my price on little bios rather than directly on the prints, so as to remain discreet but let it be known that they are for sale.

EdR Photography exhibition poster at Freud cafe

EdR Photography exhibition poster at Freud cafe

So there you have it. Here are some photos of the exhibition, and if you’re in Londontown around Covent Garden over the next month, do feel free to pop by Freud café and take a look at my final result.

Wall 1 - Wildlife/landscapes

Wall 1 – Wildlife/landscapes

Wall 2 - Local peoples

Wall 2 – Local peoples

Wall 1 again

Wall 1 again

Me!

Me!

Bar angle

Bar angle

Happy hanging!

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5 thoughts on “Organising a low-budget photo exhibition

  1. Pingback: Unit 14 Exhibition Budget | rozdoherty

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