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5 Important Tips for Exhibiting Your Work

When it’s time to prepare for a gallery showing, there is so much more to the process than simply framing some prints. We want you to be educated and informed about the many details you may encounter as you work on this exciting milestone in your artistic life! 

Here are a few tips for you when you’re planning to exhibit your photographs:

  1. Give some consideration to where you will exhibit your images. 
    • Do you care about visibility? Does this location receive lots of foot traffic?
    • Does it matter if the location sells images? Some spaces do not.
    • Does your photography coincide with the mission of the gallery space? Your work does not belong in every gallery or coffee shop. Do some research and go to some of the openings to see what the space is interested in aesthetically.
    • Who installs the framed work? Are there requirements for framing?
    • Does the exhibition space do any marketing or is it up to you to do it?
    • Will there be an opening? Do they provide food? Do you?
  1. Do yourself a favor and give yourself plenty of time to frame the work.
    • If you are framing it yourself, allow extra time for materials to arrive.
    • If you are incorporating experimental methods, give yourself time to experiment. Do not assume that your idea will work without making adjustments.
    • There are plenty of DIY framing ideas out there. Start googling and pay attention to interior design websites. Do the research before you need the work. Also, go to art openings. They are filled with ideas. 
    • Build a relationship with a picture framer. They are worth it. It’s less expensive to order your frames online with a company like Framebridge, but do not expect that everything will arrive without issues. If you order online, give yourself enough time to reorder if necessary. Good local framing companies generally take 2-3 weeks to frame a show.
  1. Will your work be archival-quality?
    • Does it matter if your prints shift in colors in a short amount of time? If it does, be sure that you frame using a UV-protected glass or spray. And if possible, choose archival paper to print on.
    • If you want to market your work as archival, then the framing materials (mat and mount board as well as mounting method) need to be archival, too.
  1. Do you want to make money selling your art?
    • As a new artist selling your work, you will likely need to be able to either print your own work or frame it. Both can be expensive. But, it’s really nice to trust it to the professionals if you can afford it. You are more likely to make money, though, if you can do it yourself.
    • Frame your work as if you will own it at the end of the exhibit because this might become the reality. Another common guideline for photography is to use  black metal Neilson frames as it’s easy to switch out images which is great if you repeat the same standard size from one exhibit to another.
    • You need to promote your exhibit multiple times throughout the show. Writing one Instagram/Facebook post is not enough. Think about how to promote it at least once a week during the show; and I recommend starting the promotion effort before the show opens. I tend to post once a week in the month prior to the opening and again once a week during the exhibit. Let go of the whole “I don’t like to be a salesman.” It’s about keeping your project on people’s minds. Not everyone can make it to your opening. They could use a reminder that it’s still available to see.
    • Basic pricing guidelines for printed photography is to triple your costs. From there, my pricing adjustment is based on my instincts.
    • If possible, get contact info for anyone who purchased your work at the gallery and send them a personal thank-you note. Gratitude is a wonderful way to live. And add these people to a mailing list so that you can let them know when you have another exhibit.
  1. Set yourself up to enjoy the process!
    • Consider the layout of the show…the rhythm of the images on the walls.
    • Live with test prints on your wall as you create so that you can see which images stand the test of time. 
    • Avoid accepting exhibit invitations that cause stress. Photographers are often called upon when galleries need something to hang at the last minute. Do you really want that? My experience is that this often results in less than ideal quality of your work and your framing.
    • Treat yourself well on the day of the opening. Don’t rush anything. I think bubble baths are a great way to chill out before the big opening.
    • Most importantly! You are your audience. Celebrate yourself.

If you think through each of these points before displaying your work, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s. The next step is to enjoy seeing your work on public walls and to make connections with your local community!

If you’re local to the Missoula area, check out post author Marcy James’ July 2022 exhibition at the Radius Gallery, titled “No Man’s Land: The Library.” Work will be up from 7/1 to 8/8. Opening is from 5-7pm on July 1st; artist will be in attendance.

Here are some examples of the work that will be on view:

About the Author

  • Marcy James grew up in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Early work experiences significantly influenced her view of the world and her approach to photography. When she was 20, during an internship for CBS News in London, Marcy was relocated to the Middle East to cover Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This experience opened her eyes to the complexity of journalism, the unique cultures that journalists work within and some of the realities of war. When she was 25, Marcy moved to Los Angeles where she worked in the film and television industry for a few years. This experience expanded her love for fiction, storytelling and the elaborate process involved in creating. The most influential experience, however, was a self-imposed, nearly 10 year residency in Butte, Montana where she photographed what she believes is the backyard of American Society. It was in this place where she merged documentary practices and methods with fiction and storytelling. It is in her nature to work in an immersive manner where understanding the 'story' of a subject from various perspectives and drawing upon history, social science, news, politics and, at times, the spiritual drives her approach to create. Her photographs are layered in metaphor and association. Marcy’s work has been exhibited nationally, and is in numerous private and museum collections. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including the catalog for Houston's biannual Photography festival, Fotofest, as well as the Codex Foundation’s exhibition catalog for the international exhibition “Extraction: Art of the Edge of The Abyss.” Marcy owns Paper & Ink Printing Studio in Missoula, Montana and is an instructor for Rocky Mountain School of Photography.

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