Top 7 Tips to Impress a Gallery
Guide for Emerging Photographers
If you are a photographer hoping to get your work into a gallery, this guide is for you! We decided to share some insight from a gallery perspective in the hopes that it may offer some direction to those just starting out. If you don’t have a huge portfolio or impressive sales history, don’t fret! Everyone has to start somewhere, and keep in mind many galleries love “discovering” emerging talent new to the scene.
Naturally, each gallery has their own criteria and process when selecting artists to work with (often found on their websites) so this guide is not the end-all-be-all, but as a gallery we have developed a reasonable set of expectations. If you follow our Top 7 Tips, you may just improve your chances of getting picked up by a gallery. Best of luck!
- Artist Statement. Don’t brush over this important opportunity to stand out from the crowds. Tell us who you are, your background in photography and how you got into it, what inspires you, and how you describe your style.
Pro Tip: Keep it concise - a couple paragraphs will do the trick. No need to write a novel!
- Portfolio. The most important component but also surprisingly where many photographers go wrong. Think less is more! This is your showroom, your first impression. Select only your very best, whether that’s 10 or 40. As your techniques improve over the years or your style changes, replace old images with new. We like to see a clearly defined style and artistic personality in the images you choose to include in your portfolio.
Exceptions: Naturally, many photographers are multifaceted and dabble in various sides of the spectrum (i.e. photo realistic, impressionistic, etc.). Ask yourself - do your images from different style categories all represent how you define your style currently? If yes, organize them accordingly in your portfolio. If no, do some spring cleaning.
Pro Tip: Name your photos! It doesn’t do any good if a gallery or potential customer can’t communicate easily which image they fell in love with. Spare them the confusion and name your photos. Whether it’s “Introspective Requiem” or “#205”.
- Be professional. If you want to be taken seriously, present your photography business accordingly. A business email separate from your personal email is a must. An online gallery is a must. A big step up from online galleries like SmugMug would be an actual website. These days, there isn’t much of an excuse - not only do web building sites like Wix and Squarespace make it very affordable, but the now standard drag and drop interface makes it super simple.
Don’t know where to start? Upload your Artist Statement and gallery of images. Add your contact info and social media links and voila! You’ve got your website.
- Sizing. A good rule of thumb is to stick with standard ratios: 2:3, 3:4, 1:2. Life will be easier when it comes to printing, framing, pricing, etc. No need to reinvent the wheel or overly complicate things.
Exceptions: If you are getting creative with your cropping, going larger than life with a giant pano or triptych or otherwise a non-conformist, go for it! Don’t limit yourself to stay within the confines of the ratios, just be aware that it can complicate things.
- Pricing. We expect photographers to have their pricing in place when they are ready to approach us. A tricky and completely subjective matter, pricing your work depends on many variables. How established are you as an artist? What are your costs to produce each finished piece? What are competitors selling their work for? Are your images limited edition? Finding the right balance of valuing your work and time fairly, while not pricing it so high as to miss out on sales is an art form unto itself. Spend some time comparing price structures of competitors and crunching your costs. Your pricing is 100% up to you. And remember, you can always raise or change your prices later.
- Ready to hang. Be prepared to make some alterations to make your work compatible with a gallery’s individual hanging system. Most photography we see is either framed and wired or “frameless” with a French Cleat. Many galleries have wire and hook hanging systems in place. Wired pieces are good to go, but to hang pieces with French Cleats, we ask for the photographer to add d-rings to the cleats. Ask the gallery what works best for their hanging system.
- Have Patience. Be understanding that often galleries have a large amount of submissions. A professional gallery should give you a response one way or another. If you don’t hear anything after 3-4 weeks have passed (unless otherwise specified), it would be appropriate to circle back, but be cautious not to check back too often.
If you received a rejection letter, try not to be discouraged. You should be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there. Submitting your artistic work to be critiqued by strangers is very personal and vulnerable. Many would-be photographers have never even gotten this far - their photos destined to remain trapped for eternity in Instagram cyberspace.
There are various reasons you may not have been chosen. The timing may have been off. Your work may not be the right fit at that particular gallery. There may have been an influx of submissions making getting wall space highly competitive. Or perhaps this is the time to take a brave step back - ask your friends and family for honest feedback and seek ways to improve your body of work. Remember, everyone had to start somewhere - even many of the pros had to climb their way up after years of rejection letters. Don’t give up and keep shooting!