Episode 169 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Steps to Take Now

Steps to Take Now

Hopefully you will get recognition before she did, but nevertheless, she sets the example for the minimal amount of organizing that is necessary to preserve your work and make it easier for others to enjoy it and share it. First step: to begin with, start labeling your work and photographing it. If you are a photographer, begin scanning your images, if they are in film format. If you are a photographer that shoots digital images, then make digital folders and organize them by the year. If you are a painter, sculptor, installation artist, or mixed media of some kind, documentation is essential. Begin today by committing yourself to documenting your work with a camera. Ideally, you should have a professional photographer do it, one who specializes in taking images of art. I can’t overstate the importance of a professional photographer.

Using a Professional Photographer

Throughout my career as an artist, I have had friends who were great photographers, the kind that exhibited regularly and went to school for photography, but unfortunately, none of them could document art very well. That may seem strange, but it isn’t, because getting a good image of artwork is a talent all its own. Once I was working with an artist who was quite wealthy, owned several businesses, and he wanted to document his paintings and even reproduce some of them with the digital images of the work. Rather than hire a professional photographer, he used his assistant. I warned him against this, but he responded with logic, saying that he had bought the best camera for this; he had also bought light stands and had plenty of time to do this with his assistant. He also said that it is a fairly simple process in that all you have to do is bracket the images, meaning take several shots of each at different exposures to get the right one. His assistant, who also happened to be a photographer, began taking the images according to his instructions, which seemed to make sense from a technical point of view. After the assistant shot about ten images over the course of a day, the artist began to look over them. He was very frustrated by what he saw because for some reason, the colors weren’t right in any of them! So the artist spent more time working on the images with Photoshop until he got the image he wanted. The Photoshop work took him hours, and he was unhappy about that. However, he was a consummate entrepreneur and felt that he could figure this out, so he continued to work with the assistant that he was paying $10 an hour.

After another week of him getting frustrated and spending hours on Photoshop, not to mention having hundreds of images of his work that he was having a hard time sorting out, he gave up. He hired a photographer that was more expensive but did the job perfectly the first time. That was a very expensive learning experience for him when you count up the equipment plus the assistant’s time and the artist’s time on Photoshop. What happened? Honestly, it is hard to say what happened here. It seems to defy logic, but in my experience, I have encountered the same thing. So take heed and hire a professional if you want the best images of your work. Find someone who has taken images of artists’ works in the past and look at the work yourself. I have used a guy in New York City named James Dee, but there are many; just find one by asking product photographers or studios if they have done images of artwork.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.