Planning an exhibition

Lille UlvenLille Ulven Registered Users Posts: 567 Major grins

I am going to have my first ever photo exhibition next year :)
The location is going to be in the village in Germany where I grew up – abroad from where I live now.
But I am wondering if anyone else here has some insight in terms of planning and execution.

What I have so far:

  • there will be 25-35 photos of mine in the exhibition
  • size 20x30cm
  • I want to provide a guestbook (I will only be at the exhibition for two of the four weekends, the other weekends my parents will be so kind to help out)
  • costs:

    • frames
    • photo prints
    • insurance
    • 10% of sales are going to the cultural asset (which in my opinion is more than fair)
  • I know I need some sort of press-map but I have no clue of what to provide

  • I do want to have some information about every photo that is presented in the exhibition for visitors to take home (an exhibition catalog would be super cool, but far beyond what I can pay for), every photo should have some short information attached to it
  • business cards will be available of course
  • selling: prints (to pick up after the exhibition ends) and postcards
  • someone is going to give an introduction speech (not me) and somehow I suppose I will have to say a few words too
  • I am going to arrive there a few days ahead to put it all up and the framing and printing should be done (mostly) by Christmas
  • Announcement in the press will be done by the cultural asset
  • I am thinking about setting up an Event on FB for this and of course announcing it on my website and blog (and no, unfortunately with my smugmug plan I don't have access to the events module, though that would be nice)
  • costs: I am expecting something around 1000€
  • sponsorship: well I doubt they would start sponsoring someone from abroad...so I am planning to cover the costs myself, hoping that some of it can be made up for by selling prints.

Theme: Landscapes from three continents (title is likely to change)

So if some of you have had the experience of having a solo photo exhibition, can you tell me what traps I should avoid and maybe what else to include in my plans?

Thank you!

Lille Ulven

https://www.lilleulven.smugmug.com - The Photos of my travels


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    Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Registered Users Posts: 2,294 Major grins

    First, congrats. Solo exhibitions are always cool.

    Make sure to use simple frames, there are some people who get stumped by the frame and not buy a print even if they like it. Black is the obvious choice, so people don't assume that they cannot pull the image out of the frame.

    If you use any matting, be sure to keep that simple white. Again, colored mats can confuse people.

    I would suggest that on each postcard describing the image that you put a QR code on it. This will get the curious people to interact with your images instead of simply walking by them.

    I would also suggest using one as a mailing list near the sign in book, for those that enjoy tech more than traditional means.

    If the images are going to be a limited run, be sure to tell people that. Limited print runs usually inspire people to buy. Especially if they will only be able to get it there at the gallery.

    Do not rely on the gallery to send out press releases, do this yourself (even if the gallery does it). Send releases to any and all newspapers, magazines, radio and tv within a reasonable distance. If it happens to be a slow news day, you might just get in. (most can be done via email)

    Reach out to any art bloggers, camera stores and art supply stores in the area also.

    Keep your social media up to date on the showing, don't overwhelm everyone, but maybe once a week or ten days, mention it. Don't show the images though, keep that part for those attending. If people can see it online, there is no reason to get in the car and go.

    Sponsorship's are usually not possible for your first show, but it is nice to talk about with art and camera supply stores for future consideration.

    On your description cards, you can list manufactures (camera, tripod, bag, etc) and post a picture on your social media of your card. This may inspire sponsorship for future shows.

    One last thought. Have a prize of some sort. Make it simple, like an 8x10 print (not framed) for anyone who signs up for your mailing list. This will get people interacting and that is the key to a successful show.


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    Lille UlvenLille Ulven Registered Users Posts: 567 Major grins
    edited May 14, 2017

    Wow, thank you @Cygnus Studios there is plenty of good advice I would not have thought of!
    Maybe photos of the preparations for the exhibition could work to get people to come...something like framing without showing what photos are framed and the same with the day prior to the exhibition a photo of arranging it at the venue and else possibly photos of the place where the exhibition takes place. (It is not a gallery though, but a cultural asset.)
    So thanks again for all those tips!

    Lille Ulven

    https://www.lilleulven.smugmug.com - The Photos of my travels
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    Cygnus StudiosCygnus Studios Registered Users Posts: 2,294 Major grins

    Here are some other things to consider.

    Layout of images.

    If you have any say, make sure that middle of the images hang 5 foot 6 inches from the floor. This will put them at eye level for most people. Advertisers (food, books, etc) fight over this shelf height for a reason. Normal people have been for a lack of a better word programmed to see the best items at eye level.

    Another important part is arranging your work. Group images by blank space within the shot. Images that have more blank space to the left go together, and those with right go together. Top, then bottom.

    When hanging in the space, items with more blank space on the left all go on the left. Those with blank space on right go on right. The goal is to funnel people towards the center of the exhibition. The blank space in the image will naturally lead the eye in the direction toward the scene. Use this to your advantage. Same thing that advertisers use daily.

    Mix your price points, make them random throughout. Be 100% that you are charging gallery prices or slightly more. People expect art to be expensive and you need to fall in line with that.

    One caveat. Don't sell the same print on your website cheaper than it is at the gallery, that is just bad business.

    If possible, promote the fact that these images are limited print runs. One of the major problems with photography is that it is so easy to make lots of prints, there is not really an original like a painting or sculpture. If you are going to promote one or more as an original, make sure that no copies (virtual or otherwise exist). Everyone wants to own one of a kind.

    Next part, engage the other senses if possible.


    If possible, have the gallery play classical music. People associate that music with the finer things. However, make sure the music is just barely audible. The brain will hear it even if the ears do not.

    Taste and touch:

    If possible, match your finger foods (if serving) to the basic thought of the images. If the majority of your images are light and airy, serve soft textured and colorful foods like fruit caprese. White wine, apple juice, lemonade. If you have darker images, red wine, grape juice and darker foods like steak bites. If your images are rough like rocks and mountains, serve foods that have a rough texture like deep fried cheese balls. Darker drinks also work with textured type images.


    This one is harder until you have a history within a gallery. However, it is always worth trying. Get small pedestals 4x4 or 6x6 around 3 feet tall and arrange them around the gallery near your images.

    Place a nice fragrant group of flowers near any images that are open space or floral. If you have images of trees, place pine scented.

    Nothing over powering, soft scents that you have to be within 5 feet to even notice.

    Last thought on exhibition itself:

    Your appearance. If the majority of your images are colorful, wear black and white. This is a visual contrast and while you are at the show will draw the eye pleasingly.

    Marketing before show.

    Begin weeks before the show, People's calendars fill up far faster than most realize, so you want to get their attention. I would recommend this be done weekly, but every 10 to 12 days would also work. Repetition is what works best. Decide how many weeks out you want to promote and adjust your marketing posts accordingly. Do not overwhelm your potential audience, you don't want to be annoying.

    Week 1. Post show date/time/location.

    Week 2. Promote a small giveaway for anyone who is sharing your show through social media. Make it small like a postcard. The goal is interaction.

    Week 3. Promote show date/time/location.

    Week 4. Promote the type of work that will be seen. Limited prints, special prints, etc.

    Week 5. Promote show/date/location.

    Week 6. Interactive promotion. Just post a big QR on your social media that directs everyone to share the post to have an extra chance to win a prize at the show. If you are going to give away a prize.

    Week 7. Promote show/date/location.

    See the theme?

    Every promotion, before and during the show is about getting people to stop and interact. This is what creates sales.

    That is everything that we do for our yearly exhibition. We simply try to incorporate all the techniques of the advertising world. People are used to it because it works. Advertising/marketing is almost a pure science and has been time tested, use it to your advantage.


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    Lille UlvenLille Ulven Registered Users Posts: 567 Major grins

    @Cygnus Studios thank you so much, this is an amazing wealth of advice which for sure will help me create a great exhibition!

    https://www.lilleulven.smugmug.com - The Photos of my travels
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