A photography exhibition – some tips

Hanging the photos

My photo exhibition opening now happened just over a week ago and I think I’ve recovered from its preparation and the opening. (Read how my exhibition came about in the first place).

I finally got all the work ready. This is what I did, and I don’t recommend you do the same if you ever have your own exhibition.

I wanted to do it on a fairly tight budget because I know that to get anything professionally framed costs a lot of money. So I started collecting frames about seven months ago. I bought some from op-shops, I bought some new ones and I was given some.

This was great but then I had to work out what sizes to print everything, that is after I chose what I wanted to show. Don’t forget I had 365 photos to choose from. I asked for friends’ opinions then didn’t really take their choices into account because I hadn’t documented what they liked. I’ll remember, I had said. No I didn’t.

I measured the frames very carefully and numbered them and wrote down the measurements, except for the A4 frames you can see in the photo above.

However, I also needed to have mattes cut and because hardly any of my frames were a standard size I had to get the measurements for those right too.

Thank goodness for Photoshop and the rulers within Photoshop. For each print (apart from the A4 frames that already had mattes) I created a Photoshop file, put the photo in as one layer, created a ‘matte’ with another layer with pretty even proportions which then gave me the measurements of the photo size and the matte size (remembering you need the outside and the inside measurement). I was then able to get the photos printed and I gave precise matte proportions to the matte cutter. I was cutting things a bit fine time-wise then so when they said two weeks I did a silent freakout and realised that it still gave me two weeks to put them all in frames and a little bit of time incase anything went wrong.

If I ever do this again, I would buy frames and mattes of standard sizes so any suggestions of good places to do this are welcome.

I got my photos printed at Atkins. They were very helpful with some questions I had and their online ordering software is pretty intuitive.

In the meantime I got the bits and pieces necessary to put hooks and wire on the backs of the frames that didn’t already have them (not too many thank goodness), some acid-free tape and some other tape for some of the backs of the frames.

The Photoshop mockups for the sizes worked a treat except for one which was 1-2mm too big on the inside edge. I just got a larger print done which solved that problem.

I mounted all the prints and got some help from The Surfer getting hooks and wire on the backs of the frames and they were all done.

And there ends the bit that I would not recommend you do. The rest worked for me.

In the meantime I organised invites, got some help with a press release which I sent to a few places of which one online publication ran with, and invited just about everyone I could think of. I also printed out the list of work and prices, and a little card for each one with the name and the price.

As I’d been able to prepare the work without spending too much money, I was able to keep prices down for the pieces I’m exhibiting. I’m glad I did as nothing’s sold yet. But it was never my aim to make a lot of money from this. It was more a personal challenge for me just to have an exhibition.

All that was left was to hang the work. This was done the evening before the exhibition.

I’m so glad I got The Surfer to help me with this too because otherwise it would have taken a lot longer than it did. I had a rough idea of what order I wanted to hang things and that worked out fairly well and I had the right amount too I think – 23 photos in all.

The exhibition itself went really well. People turned up and filled up the space. I saw people walking around looking at the photos. Lots of people commented to me on their favourites. And one friend turned up that I used to live with in London whom I haven’t seen for ages.

I would have liked to be able to supply some free booze for the punters but because of the type of venue it is I wasn’t allowed to organise wine sponsorship and I didn’t have the budget to have a bar tab.

JJ came along and I made sure he had a belly full of food, and luckily there were some other kids there to help keep him occupied. He was great. At one stage I noticed him sitting down with a couple of other kids that he knows just chatting. Actually all the kids there were really good.

A couple of repeated comments from some people I invited to the exhibition:

  • I didn’t know you were a photographer! (this happened as I was inviting people).
  • Are all 365 photos here? (even though I had written that I was showing a selection of the photos on the invite).

I was exhausted at the end of it, but happy.

Oh, and I also put the photos up on Redbubble so if people want to buy a print that way, they can. (There are a couple of extra ones thrown in.) I don’t know how this will work but it didn’t take too long to do so I thought it might be a nice added extra.

If you’ve any questions for me please ask in the comments. Or if you’ve had an exhibition yourself I’d love to hear your story.