Funding my passion

Photography can be an expensive hobby, especially if you have diverse interests and less time than you would like to make better economic decisions.  Over the years I have balanced spending money on equipment, travel, models, and other project needs, with time available to research the best options.  Inevitably, I tend to try make informed decisions, but quick decisions given my time constraints.

I have long had an ambition to somehow commercialize some of my work to help fund this hobby and allow me expand my creative outlet even further.  I have deliberated probably longer on this aspect of photography than any other.  I have tried to distill what the essential ingredients would be for me and my work to provide a light touch commercial outlet, whilst providing high quality, positive experience for my potential customers and patrons.

So this year I made a promise to myself to take steps in this direction.  Serendipity helped catalyze the process when visiting friends in their new home in California this summer.  A double height wall in their living room was crying out for a large artwork, and we quickly agreed “Lone Tree” would fit the bill.  Three weeks later a 6 foot by 4 foot canvas print of “Lone Tree” was hanging proudly  in that space.   It was clear to me that my landscape and seascape works have great impact in large format, and this was the largest format I have seen my own work to date.  I was hugely encouraged to figure out how I supply large format versions of my work worldwide in a variety of formats.

I engaged print and frame suppliers as well as fine art shipping companies and learned there are many options and costs involved in providing a worldwide large format solution.  First of all I need to clarify what my vision and goals where in creating my final product.  The following are the main criteria I had in mind:

  • Final Artwork ready to hang, no print only sales.
  • High Quality, fine art (to archival levels), excellent value for money, but not “cheap”
  • Variety of formats, but Metal, Canvas, Frame Prints in various sizes all a must.

Additionally, order fulfillment and supply chain management were critical for me.  I want to spend my time behind the camera, not behind the desk in the future:

  • Low order processing effort
  • Worldwide shipping at reasonable cost.
  • Accept online orders, with multi currency and credit card support.
  • Someone, or some way to manage sales and marketing without me being heavily involved.

I knew this last point was a weak spot for me.  I see so many successful photographers becoming successful after inordinate amounts of self promotion and becoming online vloggers or spending many weeks each year conducting workshops and delivering training.  These are noble endeavors, and in a past life I have spent years delivery training so I know that’s not necessarily something I want to get back into to help promote my work.   I understand the value these activities bring to these photographers but for me there has to be another way.

So, in July the opportunity arose to have my first solo exhibition in Santa Cruz, California.  6000 miles from home, many asked why I jumped at the chance.  To me the best way to learn is by doing, and by putting a steak in the ground to “put my work out there”, was a great way, I felt, to jump through the various hoops to satisfy the exhibition needs and many of the commercial critieria I called out above. With only two months of prep time, I made myself busy trying out metal formats with Irish printers, Fine Art Shipping companies in Ireland and the UK, print suppliers in USA. 

In the end, for the exhibition and my online store I’ve settled now on one company offering the closet match to my criteria.  Fine Art America produced the majority of the images for my exhibition and I have now integrated their catalog of my images into my website seamlessly.  Watch this video to learn more about their products and services.  The one limitation of their solution is the inability to print larger than 5 feet. images.  For larger format prints I have found other Irish and USA based suppliers who can provide them if needed.  The logistics and costs for these larger format increase significantly, but I do believe the end product justifies the costs.  I experimented with metal print with an Irish Fine Art Print company – Frametastic and Gavin Byrne, whom I had used in the past for other works.  Gavin is able to supply more metal formats than FineArt America, so I’ll be keeping him in mind for future needs.

The exhibition is a great way for me to connect with the public and potential customers.  The curation of the works was done by Miriam Anton who promoted my work and the event.  It is fascinating to see how other people curate your work, and equally fascinating to see the public response to the works.  Over many years I have been involved in photographic competitions at club level, nationally, and internationally. All these events have photographers judging photographers, and give a distorted view of your works.  It is vitally important I feel to get more balanced public feedback on your work, especially if you desire some future commercial outlet of said works.  I’m planning to use future exhibitions to continue to listen to and learn from the responses the public have to my work.

Some images courtesy of Jacques Boutin from the exhibition night…