The number of professional photographers is growing at a faster rate than ever. Although there are also an increasing number of photo galleries, there is still a shortage of wall space to show the work of every good photographer. What can you as a photographer do to increase your chances on earning a place in a gallery?
A good portfolio costs a bundle
Before you even start dreaming about your photographs hanging in a gallery, you have to ask yourself one thing: am I good enough? You will find the answer to that question in your work. Try to create distance between you and your work and ask yourself if your photos have a consistent style, choice of subject(s), technique and quality. If you think that your work meets these requirements, you can lay everything out in a ‘suitable’ order. Take a day off to do this and move your pictures around as much as you like.A good selection is made up of around twenty photographs and always starts and ends with a strong image. Ask your friends, acquaintances and family - regardless of whether they know anything about photography - for their opinion and take it to heart. If you have faith in your own work and are convinced of the right order, then you can make a portfolio. A not of caution here: composing a good portfolio can be quite expensive but can be a very worthwhile investment.
It is important that your portfolio looks slick and professional. Always show prints. CD-ROMSand especially e-mails with attachments are strictly forbidden, so are huge portfolios that are unpractical and may even put people off. If you truly believe that a large format does your work more justice, make sure that you have pictures of your work exhibited on a wall and insert this at the back of your portfolio. Having established the order, you then must protect your photos. Including a pair of velvet gloves in your portfolio is not practical because this only offers protection against greasy fingers not against scratches or stains. Instead, put your prints in transparent photo folders (Secol bags). This also costs money but your prints last longer. Finally, make sure that you insert your name and contact information somewhere in your portfolio. After all, you want to make a name for yourself. Now that your portfolio is in top-condition, you are ready to hit the road.
It pays to be picky
Do your homework properly. Select galleries where, in your opinion, you and your photos would fit in. Do not hesitate to visit galleries or even talk to the curator. If a gallery you like happens to promote the interests of a photographer with a style similar to yours, crossit off your list. The chances that a gallery will represent two photographers with the same style are very slim. Be picky. Don’t rely too much on a gallery’s size or fame but trust your intuition.
After choosing one or more galleries, you should call them up and inquire about their requirements and preferences for submissions. Never approach a gallery via e-mail - that simply does not work. Find out the dates that the gallery will be judging portfolios and make sure that you are there to deliver yours. If you decide to send your portfolio by mail, for whatever reason, don’t forget to enclose enough postage stamps so that the gallery may return it free of charge. This sort of consideration is always appreciated.
Someone else’s eyes
Try to imagine that you are someone else looking at your portfolio. Often you will be asked to leave your portfolio so that they can take a look (90% of the times you won't be there yourself). A curator doesn't have time to go through many portfolios in detail; instead he will scan them quickly. Since you are not there to explain the photos, your portfolio should be self explanatory. It should engage the viewer, like a good book. The importance of consistency of style, choice of subjects, technique and quality is, once again, reiterated here. Admittedly, this all costs time, energy and money but it is worth it and it will get you ahead. Actually, it’s just a matter of thinking logically and practically. Good luck, and keep us posted...