Art fairs really do get people thinking.
Here you are, visiting an Art Fair, chances are you think you’re not particularly artsy-fartsy yourself (but you probably are, in some way or another — but that’s another post for another time), and you’re looking at things you’ve never seen before, let alone that you would conceive you could make. Soon you start asking, “how’d you do that?”, “where do you get your ideas?”, “what’s this made of?”, “what kind of tool did you use for that effect?”, and on and on.
And so it is in my booth, too. Artists generally do enjoy talking about their work — it’s another way to share, after all. I know I enjoy it, especially when I get to talk with a young Artist-In-Training. I visualize them on a meandering path through the Career Fair, gaping at all the possibilities. Much like this Ladybug on its Pilgrimage.
1. Where do you take your images?
I take most of my images at botanic gardens, arboretums, and parks. Since I’m shooting close-ups of flowers, bugs, small animals, natural textures and patterns, and the like, I find an abundance of subject matter in these places. But the point here is you need to go to where your subjects are.
Yes, this goes without saying. But what if you don’t know what your subject is to be? Meaning… what if you haven’t decided on what type of photography (or any art, for that matter) you want to concentrate on? Then you’re in a good position to justify doing all kinds of things and trying all kinds of variations and even changing up entirely and doing something completely different until you find your calling!
Throughout all of my photo’ing life I have always gravitated toward shooting the small, seemingly unspectacular elements in nature; hence my work in close-up and macro photography. But I have also tried shooting street candids, ‘portraiture’ at family gatherings, architecture, and many other types of spontaneous snaps. But none of those artistic styles struck a chord with me. So I ‘found’ myself — and find myself — in botanic gardens, or my own backyard, where my mind’s eye goes wild!
2. What type of camera do you use?
Ansel Adams said. “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” I have to agree. My complete equipment list includes: an Olympus E-30 DSLR, a 50mm macro lens, a 50-200mm telephoto zoom, and occasionally a polarizing filter or a reflector or diffuser. That’s it. But this equipment is all driven by the same computer — my brain, as it is directed by my Mind’s Eye.
You see, it is not the equipment that makes the photographer; it is the photographer’s vision and visualizations. I would take the same images I am now even if I had $1,000,000 worth of hardware. No better. No worse.
I think the secret answer to the equipment dilemma is this:
** Learn your existing camera and lens(es) — go through the user's manual over and over to learn all the tools, bells, and whistles and what they can do for you.
** Figure out what they can do and what they can’t — don’t expect it to be a 500mm telephoto and a 10x macro simultaneously… unless it is!
** Determine whether they are capable of producing the images that you’re visualizing — assess how well, or even whether, your equipment is suited to your photographic vision.
If you don’t yet have a camera and lens suited to your goals, but have researched and know generally what parameters this new equipment needs to satisfy, then employ what I just decided to call the Minimum/Maximum Rule. Buy only the minimum amount of equipment that you'll need. Now go Maximum… figure out what the absolute maximum is that you can afford to spend, and boost that by a ‘little bit’ more.
This will get you the best quality possible of the essential tools you need, without your ending up with a lot of pieces of questionable-quality equipment you really didn’t have any need for in the first place.
3. How do you get your colors to be so vivid?
Lastly… my colors. What I answer here can apply equally to Black and White images because it is less about the actual color than it is about, oh, everything else.
It begins in the ol’ Mind’s Eye. After I’ve found a great hook containing a stunningly poignant visual and a heart-wrenching emotion, I look for more than just the presence of color. I want great color contrast, color juxtaposition, color coordination, color depth — or softness, color framing elements within the image, color balance… (or all these same things in B+W).
Then it’s to the darkroom. By that I mean I’ve got my computer and printer set up in a dark… room. ;-) About 12-15 years of Photoshop experience now comes into play to do adjustments to the images such that the printer will print them to appear as close to real life as is possible. I use an Epson 3880 wide format professional printer using a system of nine, highly-pigmented inks together with art papers and print resolutions as high as 2880 dpi. Finish it all with black mats to make the images “pop” in your mind’s eye. That’s ‘all’ there is to it. Easy Peasy.
When you find yourself a few years shy on your Photoshop experience or a couple inks short in your printer… do not despair. There are a billion contract printers available who would love to help you realize your vision. I have always done my own printing so I regret that I don’t have any direct referrals, but I can suggest some selection parameters:
- Find a small shop, possible even a one-person place. You’ll have a much easier time communicating your wants and desires and life’s dreams with a person like this.
- If you cannot visit with them in person (maybe too geographically inconvenient) be sure they are accessible via phone! Talking about subtle visual differences will be hard enough without adding in the impossibilities of email.
- Clarify with them whether they will provide any samples of their work ahead of starting up with you. It can have a big “SAMPLE” across it, who cares?, it’s a sample. Also, how many changes will be permitted before final proofs and whether these proofs will be provided via a print — on paper — or via email. You want paper.
- Establish pricing and timing. Consider sizes, quantities, paper types, rolled or matted, and any other thing that comes up in the conversation. Even if the prices are a bit higher, you will very much appreciate the increased communication, better working relationship, and flexibility you’ll have with a small shop.
Now get out there and let’s get shooting!
Thank You for visiting,
P.s. What is your top question? Or your biggest dilemma? Do you print your images or do you have them printed at a print shop? How is that working? Have you found any pitfalls that others should avoid? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and we can start a conversation.