Maybe you’ve never submitted an online show application, or maybe you’ve been waitlisted or not accepted to a few shows where you know your work would fit in and sell well – it might be a good idea to take a look at how you are presenting your items in your application. Certain categories can be especially competitive (ahem…jewelry…cough), so making sure your work is presented in the best light possible can make all the difference between a ‘Yes!’ and a ‘We’re sorry…’ letter.
After 7 years of organizing the Hoosier Artisan Boutique I think these three things are the biggest mistakes people make when submitting their work to our jury for consideration.
1 – Using a picture that shows 50 items all at once.
2 – Placing your item in front of a distracting background.
3. Not having enough light or using a flash
Read on for quick fixes to your item photos that will help your application stand out.
If you are going to include more than one item in a single image –
You want the jurors to be able to clearly see the quality and care with which you make your work. If you are snapping a picture of 20 bracelets on a table from 6 feet away to include as many of them as you can in the picture, they can’t really see the details that set you apart from other people that might be making a similar type of item. Let’s be clear, if you make one design in several colors or want to show a feature like storage pockets, having more than one item in the picture isn’t an absolute no,no. Tamara Hoffbauer of Decorative Design Works does an exceptional job of displaying a grouping of her work without it detracting from the item itself. If you absolutely feel that you need to show more than one of an item to tell it’s whole story to the jurors that’s OK – but limit it to no more than 5.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule – Lisa Rupp of Mixed Media Max breaks the no more than 5 items rule with this grouping of vintage spice tin figures. For her, it works because they all follow a single color scheme and don’t visually distract from each other.
Pick a neutral background and try to use it on all your items
The larger your work, the harder it is to avoid a distracting background. The key is to find a surface that will give a nice neutral background so your items can really stand out! Try to avoid things like hanging a bag from a door knob, especially if the door, trim and walls are all different colors or textures. A table top near a window or under good lighting can work if you can avoid getting your shadow in the picture. If most of the items you make are on the large side, it’s worth investing in a photo backdrop or piece of paneling from the hardware store that you cut down to a size that works best for you. It’s always best to have it be larger than you think you’ll need so you can get angle shots of your item without having to reposition and fidget with it each time. Kendra Parlin of Sew Hoosier keeps the focus on her items with a neutral whitewashed wood background.
Light it up!
Lots of us make things in our ‘spare’ time, at 3am… or we don’t have a window with good lighting (north facing windows rock!). Whatever you do, resist the urge to use your flash! Figure out how to turn it off and then do whatever it takes to get enough light onto your item to make it work. If you absolutely have to shoot pictures at night, unless you want to spend hours editing and tweaking the white balance on your camera, it’s worth investing in daylight spectrum lamps to light things up. You can either put daylight bulbs into an existing fixture or if you’re going to go all out and buy something new, look for the style that have a frosted face plate to cover the bulb and diffuse the light. (These are the kind I have and use, I’m not being compensated to include them and if you use a coupon you can usually score them at your favorite big box craft store for around $20)
If you’ve got strong light coming in from a window or un uncovered bulb, the key is to diffuse the light. Use a thin white sheet or sheer curtain between the light and the item, architect’s paper or tissue paper will also do in a pinch. And if you’re getting harsh shadows on the non lit side, bounce some of that light back with a sheet of white cardboard or anything flat you can stand up and cover with the not shiny side of aluminum foil. If you just can’t get enough light and keep getting blurry images, use a bag of beans or a tripod to hold your camera and set the timer so you don’t get any shaking from your hands. Most cameras will compensate with a longer exposure under low light conditions and if the camera doesn’t wiggle, you should still be able to get some good images.
To see more examples of item images, visit our Participating Artists page.
Did this post help you solve a problem or point out something you could tweak in your item images? Still have questions? Let us know in the comments!