Have you ever considered showing your photos in an exhibit? Don’t know where to start? Whether you’re considering planning a photo exhibit for your photos, or just displaying photos in your home, I hope some of what I’ve been working on lately will be helpful to you.
I teach photography at my kids’ school, and this past week we put on a photo exhibit as part of the school’s fine arts festival. One of the first steps in planning an exhibit, of course, is to procure your location for the show. That was easy for me since it would be at the school. I had also spent months helping the students work toward a portfolio that would have some photos worthy of the exhibit. So, the only issues for me were how and where to print and frame the photos in the cheapest way possible and still make them look good.
I went through several possibilities for displaying the photos, from printing on plain paper and attaching to a magnetic strip or just pinning to the wall, to attaching with photo corners to a piece of cardstock to look like a photo mat, or buying fancy low-tech framing options like these or these, or installing those ikea wire things with clips, or printing big and mounting on a board. All of these were good possibilities, but in the end I found what I thought was the perfect blend of unassuming, classy, and cheap. And I found it at Ikea of course. It’s part of this series of frames, but they don’t have it on the website. I got the NYTTJA frame in the 12×16 size for $4 (but it’s actually 11 3/4 by 15 3/4″ so I had to print photos at 12×16 and then trim them a tiny bit to fit in the frames). And to save money on matting, I printed the photos with a white border to look like a mat. I also added a thin border around the picture for the artist to sign their work, which the kids loved.
I printed the photos at Sams Club for $3. As most picky-photographers-who-are-also-cheapskates know, when ordering prints from these kinds of labs you can uncheck the box to auto-correct your prints, which means they won’t mess with your color after you’ve already messed with your color and got it the way you want it. I printed one trial photo and the colors were oversaturated, which is easy to do when your model is wearing a neon orange shirt. So I tried another printing with the box unchecked, and it honestly didn’t make a difference. So I wasn’t happy with the color, and as you can see in the close-up above, the prints had annoying lines through them (look at the arms). It wasn’t noticeable in the darker pictures, but on skin tone it was really noticeable (at least to me). But for the cost, I just had to shrug my shoulders and hope nobody else would notice.
In mapping out the area for the exhibit, I decided on a wall that was just the right size for the amount of photos we had to display. I mapped it out in photoshop first to make sure everything would fit. I’m no math wiz, so I just measured the wall (300 inches) and then created a document in photoshop that was 300 inches across, then created an image that was 16×20 inches (the size of our photos) and dragged that onto my 300 inch wall. That way I knew my dimensions were right and I didn’t have to do any math. Don’t judge me. Then I resized my image so it was smaller and easier for photoshop to deal with, and then I used that to map everything out on the wall and see how it would look. Here’s what that process looked like:
1) figuring dimensions; 2) creating a virtual wall; 3) the actual photo exhibit wall
The name plaques I made by printing white text on a black background. I got four nameplates on one 4×6, which I then cut and attached to foamboard. I then attached those to the wall with putty.
My daughter with one of her exhibit photos
It was a lot of work and a lot of preparation, but in the end I spent only $7 per picture and the best part was sitting back and overhearing all the wonderful comments people made as they looked at the photos.
And if you’re thinking of planning an exhibit for yourself, one of the best resources I found was at this website.
As I was putting this together, I also thought, how fun would this be to do an exhibit at home with your own kids, to display some of their favorite photographs they’ve taken. You could serve refreshments and play soft music as you stroll past the exhibit and make insightful comments on the photos. Then you could auction off the prints and hang them in the rooms of whoever bid the most. I know my kids would love that. So I’ll get right on that… as soon as I’ve rested from this one. But let me know how yours goes.