Learning how to market yourself and drum up in interest in your work can be one of the more difficult aspects to a creative career. In this post, Kara Lane, author of From Photographer to Gallery Artist, discusses six marketing tools that will help you attract attention to your work.
When you’re creating fine art photography, you’re an artist. When you’re ready to sell your work, you become a marketer. Regardless of your talent, you will have a hard time selling your art if you’re unknown. Six tools that can help you market your fine art photography are a website, portfolio, biography, résumé, artist statement and one or more promotional pieces. Art galleries look favorably upon photographers who use these tools, but you will find them helpful when marketing your work, even if you’re not seeking gallery representation.
Your artist website is extremely important, because it may be the first exposure people have to your work.
Your website serves six functions:
- It gives you a place to display your images. Your website gives gallery owners, potential clients and other interested parties an easy way to view your images.
- It allows you to highlight your experience as a fine art photographer. You can include a full or abbreviated résumé of your artistic experience on your site.
- It lets you share information about upcoming events. Your website provides a convenient place to show people what you are doing.
- It shows galleries and collectors that you are a professional artist. It may not matter to the public, but gallery owners and collectors want to see that you’re a serious artist who treats photography as a business, not a hobby.
- It gives you a place to link back to when you’re featured in the media. This makes it easier for people to contact you and to find out more about your work.
- It allows you to build your mailing list. If you include a sign-up form on your website, people who are interested in your work can join your mailing list. This gives you a convenient way to stay in touch with them.
Your website should look professional and be easy to navigate. Keep it up-to-date with your latest and best images, arranged by body of work. Additionally, include news about upcoming shows and events, and be sure to include your contact information.
Your portfolio is your most important marketing tool if you’re seeking gallery representation. Even if gallery owners initially view your images online, they will want to see your actual portfolio to view the quality of your prints.
When you’re putting together a portfolio, think like a curator. Select ten to twenty of your best images centered around a common theme or other unifying concept. Jumping back and forth from black & white to color, from landscape to portrait, or from one subject to another, is disruptive. Be consistent within each body of work.
Pay attention to the technical quality of your images, such as luminosity, tonality, sharpness and composition. Edit your portfolio so only your strongest work is included.
Also, think about the sequence of your images. There should be a logical flow from one image to the next. The order of the images should help viewers understand your vision for the body of work.
Gallerists will be expecting to see exhibition-quality prints. Your portfolio should include original prints, not copies. Print your images on high-quality paper and use the same paper for all your prints. Most gallerists will want you to sign and date the work, and to include the title, print size, and number of editions.
Your biography is a brief story about you that highlights your experience as a fine art photographer. Bios are used for publicity. Your bio should be short, simple and written in the third person. Keep it to a page or less. Include the following types of information in your bio:
- Where and when you were born
- Where you currently live
- Where you received your education as a fine art photographer
- Your philosophy on art and who has influenced you as an artist
- What you’re working on now
- Your significant achievements
Collectors like to know something about the artist behind the work. As you’re drafting your bio, think about what might interest a collector. You may especially want to emphasize anything unique about you or your work.
Your résumé includes the relevant information about your education and career as a fine art photographer. You will need a résumé when entering juried exhibitions and contests, applying for grants and schools, and trying to get into shows at galleries or museums.
Most résumés are one to two pages. As you acquire more experience, you can delete older, less impressive information. Most résumés are in reverse chronological order.
Key components of the résumé are:
- Your name and contact information
- Your education or training as a fine art photographer
- Any grants or awards you have received
- Your exhibition record, including shows at galleries, museums and alternative spaces
- Your bibliography, including reviews, articles, books and other published information about you and your work
- Teaching or other experience related to photography
- Other pertinent information, such as galleries that represent you, collections you are in or publications you have authored
The artist statement is a marketing tool you prepare for each portfolio. It introduces and explains your body of work. Keep it very short–no more than a page.
Your artist statement is about your vision as an artist. It explains the purpose of your work. Explain what you do and how you do it. Briefly discuss what you’re trying to say with your work. What themes, issues or ideas are you addressing with your fine art photography?
You will need to tailor your artist statement to different audiences. For instance, if you are applying for schools or funding or entering competitions, be sure to follow their instructions for your artist statement. If you are providing an artist statement to gallery owners, museum curators or publicists, check the artist statements of their current artists for clues on what to include.
The primary reason for preparing business cards, postcards, brochures and similar promotional pieces is to provide your contact information to people interested in your fine art photography.
In addition to including one or more images of your work, be sure to include your name, phone number, email address, mailing address, website and social media information.
Which promotional pieces you need will depend on which marketing strategies you pursue. For example, you could hand out brochures at art fairs. You could give your business card to gallery owners at portfolio review events. You could send postcards of your images to museum curators.
This may seem like an overwhelming list of marketing tools, but you do not have to create them all at once. Once created, your tools can easily be updated with new information.
(Article excerpted from From Photographer to Gallery Artist by Kara Lane)
Kara Lane is the author of From Photographer to Gallery Artist: The Complete Guide to Finding Gallery Representation for Your Fine Art Photography. © 2015. She lives in Carmel, Indiana. You can find more information about her books at www.karalane.com.