Making the jump from a hobbyist to a professional artist takes not only skills as a photographer, but also requires a good deal of business smarts and acumen. For some, the stock photography market may offer many viable options; however, stock photography isn't for everyone. If you find yourself longing for your images to hang from a collector's walls or gracing a gallery hall, keep reading for a few tips on how you can break into the fine art marketplace.
Branding – Establishing a brand for yourself as an artist is a craft in itself. Artist branding goes beyond the logo you use to watermark your images, your brand is who and what people identify you as. As a brand, it is important that you use a common theme among all your publicity outlets such as your business cards, social networks, and the person you present yourself as in a professional setting. Consistency is key when it comes to marketing yourself. For example, don't call your brand John Smith Photography on your Facebook Fanpage and Fox Creek Photography on your website. Choose one and use it universally. Streamlining yourself into one brand will make it easier for fans of your work to find you.
Putting Together a Portfolio – A portfolio can single-handedly make or break an emerging photographer. The photographs in your portfolio are what people are going to use to evaluate your skills as a photographer; because of this, it is of utmost importance that only your very best photographs be added to your portfolio. A common mistake emerging artists make is padding a thin portfolio with shots that they feel are just okay. If you have seven outstanding images, but are considering rounding your portfolio up to an even 10 images by adding mediocre shots to it–forget it. Leave it at seven, you want people to think that all your work is outstanding, not just 70% of it!
Understand Your Market & Do Your Homework – Once you have established a clear personal style within your artwork, it's important to recognize it's qualities so that you can identify who it will appeal to. Art collectors and galleries have the tendency to gravitate towards specific genres of photography whether it be landscapes, portraiture, flowers, or otherwise. Know what niche you fall into and do some research on galleries that specialize in that same niche. If your work consists of rural landscapes, you will not be doing yourself many favors by approaching a gallery which deals only in war documentary photography.
Expanding Your Territory – Now that you have a portfolio and have researched possible outlets, it is time to have your portfolio reviewed. Not just by a fellow photographer, but by someone who specializes in portfolio review. Someone whose job it is to evaluate art and maintain a broad network of professional contacts that can help you get your work seen by potential buyers. Utilize the lists of such organizations that have been curated by any number of arts foundations on the internet. Starting your search at your local or regional arts council can often be beneficial to unknown artists, but it is also worthwhile to check out national and international councils as well. The New York Foundation for the Arts and the Regional Arts & Culture Council both have extensive databases of individual collectors, galleries, competitions, grants, and a whole boatload of other helpful resources that are free for the reading.
Taking Things Into Your Own Hands – If you prefer to take a more hands on approach in showing your work to potential buyers, one option is to host your own art opening. Many coffee shops and cafes regularly allow local artists to display and sell work in their storefronts. Keep in mind, however, that it is still your responsibility to promote your art and spread the word about your opening. Assume that the cafe is giving you wall space and nothing more.
Tiffany Mueller is a professional music and fine art photographer. She has been published in various publications including magazines, art journals, as well as photography books. Tiffany is fortunate enough to have been in a perpetual state of travel since her youth and is currently working on a 50-states project. You can keep up with Tiffany via Twitter, Google+, or, on her personal blog, Life Is Unabridged.
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