Archive for Useful Things

Handout for “A Print by any other Name” (Norwescon 2013)

Since last year the discussions got technical, I’ve made a handout covering some of the vocabulary and issues, with links to various tutorials and resources.

Notes on making art prints/reproductions for sale

Comments off

I love white space.

Before and After magazine has a lovely tutorial video about how to design without images; I spend almost all of my time designing without words, but I find that the use of white space, as discussed here, to be just as crucial. Often, a single image on a page with a generous blank border is more effective at bringing out the story in that image than would be the same image, full bleed, and certainly better than the page filled with small images with no room to breathe. White space (which is not necessarily white, of course) is crucial to directing the eye and giving your actual content space to speak.

And, completely unrelated, but hey, it’s also a video, one of my favorite giclee clients, Lynnette Shelley, has done a new time-lapse video of her recent painting The Forest King:

Comments off

Useful Thing: Copyright myths debunked

Copyright Myths Debunked from Bryan Cave’s Art Law Blog.

The one about the envelope is a perennial favorite. The one about architectural plans I had not heard before, but it interesting (if not applicable to my work. #11, about the U.S. equivalent of “moral rights”, surprised the hell out of me… and suddenly makes me want to do only limited editions, and cap them all at 200 or below.

Comments off

Useful Thing: how to know what to be when you grow up.

I came across this graph at Dopp Juice (following breadcrumbs from Genderfork, which I am ridiculously pleased to discover):


I mean, really, on the “how do I know what to do with my life” eternal question, it sums it up quite nicely. But read the whole post (linked from the image) for more.

Comments off

Useful thing: Jessica Todd Harper on being an artist

I’ve sometimes had difficulty explaining to people why I keep making art when often I’m not making any money from it. I thought this was, therefore, a rather useful quote from photographer Jessica Todd Harper:

“I think being an artist is not so much something you choose as something that you are born being. You are an artist and then you work around or with that. There are a lot of people in medicine in my family and I have often envied them for the logical progression of their careers: medical school, residency, patient care. It’ s not like that with art. There are no guarantees that if you work hard enough, or are talented enough, that you will be successful, be able to support yourself, or importantly, make a meaningful contribution to others. But in the meantime, if you are an artist, the art just comes – weather you like it or not- because you can’t stop it. Even when I have been very busy and don’t actually make pictures, the world keeps presenting itself, day and night, and I can’t stop wanting to make some sense of it, to describe it, to honor it, to record it. And I get this restlessness that is not relieved until I make some pictures. I keep working in this field not so much because I am inspired (though there are many I admire!) but because other than making pictures and putting them under my bed to show no one, I have no other choice than to be in my field.”

(Excerpted from this interview on the Two Way Lens blog, found via A Photo Editor (I think))

Comments off

Useful things: How to sign a fine art print

I end up having this discussion with most of my giclee clients when we are determining how to size the print in relation to the window in their mat, and was delighted to find this article by Brian Auer that both more concise and more thorough that my attempts. (While he is specifically discussing signing, the “visible border/no visible border” question is nicely covered.)

Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

Personally, most of my work is matted with white space so I can visibly sign, especially if it is an editioned print (I hand-write the title and print number/edition as well.) While for me this is mostly a hold-over from the “print it full frame with hand-filed border” technique of my art school days, I feel it is even more useful in the days of digital, as it is the most material evidence of the “hand of the artist” in my all-digital work. Some prints just don’t look right that way, and with my open-edition botanicals, I tend to do a bit of both depending on where I’m showing it.

Comments off

Useful Things: Photojojo on starting a photo business

First, the meta: I would like to post to this blog more often, but since my art process tends to be boom or bust, I want to be able to fill in with useful and or pretty things on those weeks when I don’t have anything new of my own to post. So, in theory, Useful Things on Mondays, and Other People’s Art on .. some other day. We’ll see how this goes.

I had already written a different Useful Thing to post today, but then this new post from Photojojo came into my mailbox, and I know I have a lot of friends and acquaintances that have been thinking about this, so it jumped the queue. 🙂

link: Photojojo: on starting a photo business

Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait.

My further thoughts on this, as one who has done it, failed miserably, and is trying it again (like Zack Arias, only not nearly as successful yet):

Think really hard about your working style:

  • Do you meet your internally set deadlines, or do you work better with a manager?
  • Assume a year minimum before your business starts to break-even (and that is optimistic). How are you going to pay the bills?
  • Are you good at promoting yourself?  I am, for example, hella shy, and this is probably the hardest part of running my business, is finding a way to find “meet” new customers.
  • Take a good look at your market

  • How many people are doing the kind of photography you want to do in your local area (or if your focus is non-local, like stock/fine art, check the competition there). Are they making a living? (Seattle peeps especially take note; this town is chock full of photographers, particularly wedding/portrait photographers with day jobs in tech that don’t need to worry about making a profit, or at least didn’t until that last round of layoffs….)
  • If your market is saturated, is there a way that you will enjoy that you can differentiate yourself? Sure, maybe there is a wide open market for technical product photographers in town, but if you hate doing technical product, don’t go there just to fill the niche — you’ll likely end up hating your camera, even if you can pay the bills with it.
  • If you decide to dive in, think carefully about your equipment needs. Sure, it’s nice to think that since you turned pro, you really need the newest, greatest camera/set of strobes, but it is unlikely to be true — do your clients really need that size of file? Are you really going to be using 5 monolights — perhaps you should read up on Strobist-style lighting and get by with a couple of Vivitars until you are actually breaking even. I lived this one — not with the camera, which I have always been pretty cautious with (and from a budget perspective, being a Pentaxian rocks; my favorite lens is almost as old as I am and I got it for a song on eBay.), but I do have a significant investment in studio lighting — that was (and is) absolutely overkill for the shooting I actually do, and that’s one of the things that helped kill my business the first time. Most large cities have equipment rentals; track what you rent, and if you are renting something constantly, then buy it.

    So, given this, why am I trying again to make a living in photography?

    1) I have had entrepreneurship thrust upon me.  My almost-full-time job became a very part-time job, and there are very few similar jobs to be had, and a lot of competition (did I mention that I live in Seattle?).  And I really don’t want to go back to receptionist or barista land if I can avoid it.

    2) It was already in the works to head back to full-time imaging — albeit planned for several years from now.

    3) I learned a lot from both the first time I tried (and failed) to do this, and from what I did in the interim – namely, working pretty much every possible job from studio manager to production at an established, well-run, excellent studio.  This kinds of follows along with the inevitable “find a photography and assist for them” suggestion that is always made in this kind of circumstance — but it may help more on the running a business front, and frankly, a lot of good photographers have people asking to assist them for free everyweek, so it’s not nearly as easy a gig to get as it used to be.

    Do I expect to make “a good living” doing this?  No, not really, not for a long time, maybe never. But at this point, the choice to do things that satisfy my non-monetary needs, as long as it keeps me in peanut butter, is better for me overall than making more money and being less happy.

    Comments (1)