Photo exhibition planning

In September, I will be displaying some of my photography at the Raw Sugar Cafe, on Somerset Street. With September 1st just six weeks away (and I will be unusually busy in the interim), I should start thinking about a theme. In total, it would be plausible to display anywhere between nine and 18 medium-to-large prints, with one horizontal level in the first case, and two in the latter. Including a few rather large prints among the moderately-sized ones would be an option, as well.

The first major consideration is choosing photos that strangers will want and appreciate. Portraits of people who I know are unlikely to fit the bill, unless perhaps they are very clearly artistic in conception. Basically, they need to be the kind of thing a stranger would be likely to want on the wall in their home or office.

A second consideration is image quality. Producing 8″ x 10″ or larger prints that are good enough to sell requires either files that came from my new digital SLR (purchased in November 2008), or shots taken under good conditions with previous point and shoot cameras. In particular, high-ISO, low-light shots may not be of acceptable quality.

One possible theme would be photos from various cities, from Paris to Ottawa to Istanbul to Vancouver. Conversely, I could probably come up with a suitable number of decent nature photos. Relatively abstract photos would be another possibility, such as close-up shots of objects and architectural details.

The exhibition will be divided between two walls: one shorter and suited to about four prints per horizontal level. The longer one would probably be best with five. As such, it would be possible to make the two walls contrast with one another: for instance, with colour prints on the longer wall and monochrome ones on the shorter wall.

Do readers have any theme suggestions? Alternatively, do they have any photos they particularly like and think would be suitable? My page includes more than 500 of my better photos, though it isn’t especially well updated with recent ones. More links are on the ‘my photos’ section of this site.

[Update: 31 August 2009] The exhibition opening party / music gig has been mentioned on the blog of the Astronaut Love Triangle.

[Update: 9:02pm] The event is also mentioned on David Scrimshaw’s blog.

[Update: 1 September 2009] Hella Stella has also drawn some attention to the event.

[Update: 10:57am] Zoom also has the story.

[Update: 11:01am] Incidentally, the photo exhibition is now fully planned. More information on the photos chosen is here. There is also a contest where you can win a mounted print for commenting.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

34 thoughts on “Photo exhibition planning”

  1. I have generally been drawn to photographs of nature. It is generally of widest interest. They can also be consistent with the casual nature of a cafe.

    Depending on how long your exhibit will remain, is there an opportunity to break the exhibit in two time periods. For example if it runs for two weeks then having two different themes for each week.

    You may also want to ask the proprietor of the Cafe if they have suggestions or preferences.

  2. My favorite photographs of yours usually incorporate architectural details in some interesting way. I think my favorite is the one of Meghan and her sister standing in Vancouver in such a way as they appear to have angel wings.

  3. I was thinking similarly to Oleh, that you could have a couple of themes.

    You could have a wall of lively, fresh things – and maybe a wall of deteriorating architecture.

    It’s difficult to say what people might want in photography, but the Raw Sugar crowd is pretty artsy. I’d take advantage of that, and use some of the photography that you find most rich and interesting, no matter how aesthetically pleasing or not, it is.

  4. Like others have said, go with a couple of themes, colourful abstracts and/or your still lifes and then perhaps b&w architecture and geometric shapes, those two types of photos of yours jumped out at me the most. Though I have not looked through your entire photo repository yet.

  5. Should I got for one row, with around nine prints in total, or two rows, with around eighteen?

    I am leaning toward the latter.

    Also, I might go with 8 x 12″ prints, if I can find affordable frames for them. That way, I won’t need to crop any images shot on film or my Rebel XS.

  6. I love some of your portraits, travel photos and old decaying things. Te trick is to create a story or a message the way curators do in an art exhibit.

  7. There are some complex trade-offs on the economic side of this.

    I want the prints and frames to be decent quality, but no so expensive that they force me to sell the prints for too much. I also want them to be affordable, but don’t want to lose money if not all of them sell.

    My general thinking at this stage is that I should aim for final prices of $100-$150 for a framed 8×12″ print, with a break-even point somewhere around 60-70% sold.

    It remains to be seen whether I will be able to find a framing place that would make that possible. Assuming 10 prints, at $100 per print, that means a total cost per print of around $60, about $10 of which will be for the actual photographic print. The first framing place I called wanted $95 per print, just for the frames.

  8. Apparently, nobody has successfully sold a photo at Raw Sugar so far.

    Goodbye $30 frames, $20 mats, and installation charges. Hello inexpensive lamination onto solid backing.

  9. My sis-in-law sells some of her photography work at a couple of shops in Hintonburg and she swears by Ikea frames… Cheap yet clean looking minimalist frames in the Scandinavian tradition… Mind you, you won’t get non-traditional sizes, but for photography where you have set sizes and photoshop to get them there, its a non issue.

    OTOH don’t do mixed media art in non-standard sizes, the framing costs will kill you. The wife found that out the hard way.

  10. I think I will go with lamination and float mounting, which costs $18-$24 per print, plus tax.

    Even if IKEA has 16″ x 20″ frames that are significantly cheaper than the $30 ones at Wallack’s, it would still be $20+ to get custom mats.

    Part of it is that I want to preserve the original aspect ratios of the photos, rather than cropping. As such, and photos from my old A510 or A570IS will be 12″ x 16″ while photos from my Rebel XS will be 12″ x 18″. While 12″ x 18 ” is a standard print size, 12″ x 16″ is not.

  11. The Ikea frames need no matting, it’s a glass on glass design. However as AR (and artistic vision) are paramount they would be out of the running for you because of the 12×16 prints.

  12. Dutch auctions for selling photography

    Contemplating the economics of selling photographs in coffee shops and small galleries, I had an idea about how such a sale might be conducted. Selling by means of a Dutch auction could be an effective approach: combining a mechanism to encourage a reasonable return for the photographer with a mechanism allowing buyers to express their preferences through their response to falling prices.

  13. The IKEA frame idea is a good one, and one that I might use in the future.

    Given that I need to have the whole show together by September and cost cutting is of the essence, I will probably have my prints made and laminated at Vistek within the next few days.

  14. I don’t know if its feasible, but I quite like mounting photos on hard fiberboard backing. I don’t think there is a good place to have it done other than Costco, however.

  15. I made four test prints to check if my 3.2 megapixel shots would work better as 9×12″ or 12×16″ prints (both work fine). I got them printed at GPC Labworks, at 273 Bank. They also offer the lamination process I will probably go with. There are two different finishes available: a higher contrast but more reflection-prone glossy option and a matte option with more of a subdued look. I chose the glossy for the test prints.

    They are actually laminating my four test prints now, but it takes 6-8 days. With the show at the start of September, I will need to send them the full set before I get the test images back.

  16. I got to see the full set of prints today, before sending them off for lamination.

    One thing that photographers should note is that things can look rather different on paper than they do on a backlit screen. This photo, in particular, looks very different in print form than it does on screen: darker overall, with more contrast.

    If I ever do something like this again, I will have some 4×6″ prints made from candidate images, so I can make any appropriate alterations to the digital files.

    All that said, the printed images look very good, and I am excited about getting them up on walls next month.

  17. If it is not sold at the show, I would like to get the Ottawa sunset photo, or the Sea wall in morocco. It is a lovely selection.

  18. For a title, how about “Revels” or “Revels and Revolutions” no, that sounds bad.

  19. Here are two collages showing all the photos that will be in the show:

    The first shows images taken on either my A510 or my A570 IS. They have a 4:3 aspect ratio, like a television. The second shows photos taken on my Rebel XS. They have a 3:2 aspect ratio, like film.

  20. I am glad to see that your show is getting so much attention. Best of luck for the opening.

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