Photographing Your Artist Books – Part III

Photographing Your Artist Books – Part III

Hiring a Pro and Finding Community Resources

Here at 23 Sandy we are currently in the heat of Uncommon Threads, a national juried exhibition of artist books. Entries are rolling in and it looks to be a fantastic show.

One of the hardest parts about entering a juried show is providing good quality images of your books for submission. Unfortunately, about 25% of all books submitted to our juried shows suffer due to incorrect resolution settings, poor tonal balance or even out-of-focus photographs.

When you are entering a juried show, your photographs will be used for curating the show, but they may also be used in printed or online catalogs. We always recommend that you put your best foot forward as you never know who might notice your artwork. Maybe a coveted librarian or museum curator will see the catalog and want to purchase your book. Making sure your images are the best quality possible will help you cinch the sale and get you into the show.

There are times when you either don’t have the equipment or software necessary or just don’t have the time or the brainpower for all the technical digital details. In that case, there are other options.

Above photo: Jovenes by Barbara Gilbert. Photo by Dan Kvitka

Hiring a Professional Photographer

One option is to hire a professional photographer to shoot photographs of your books. This is always something I highly recommend. Not only will you use these images now for your exhibition entry, you will use them for many years to document your career as an artist. From web sites, to library catalogs your images will travel far. Professional photos are a good investment in your work and your career.

But, finding and affording a photographer can be another story. Some professionals charge by the hour, some by the item, and some have a flat minimum fee. Within that first hour you can usually get multiple shots of a few different books. When the job is done they will provide your images in several different sizes and file formats.

Ask other artists in your area who shoots photographs of three dimensional artwork or who does good “product shots.”  Referrals from other book artists are always a great way to get started. Show the photographer images of other artist books so they have an idea of what you like for background and lighting options.

Here in Portland we have more photographers per capita than almost anywhere I have ever been. Two that I can highly recommend are Stephen Funk and Dan Kvitka. Both have full studios with professional lighting and backdrops set up and ready to go.

Above photo: Displaced by Lauren Henkin.


Utilize Your Local Photography School or Center

Check to see if you have a local a community resource to help you make your own photographs. Many non-profit centrs have darkroom and digital labs that can be rented by the hour plus an extensive roster of workshops—including workshops on studio lighting and product photography.

Another idea: perhaps your local university has a photography department and can refer you to some students who need a project for a class assignment. Someone just getting started as a photographer might be less expensive or might even be able to barter for the work. But beware: the old adage about getting what you pay for is really true. (Believe me, I've been down this road. You'll see plenty of not-so-good shots on my own web site.)

Explore your options when you get ready to enter a juried show. Good photographs are vital to your success. The investment you make in your work today is worth the extra effort and expense in the long run. One sale of one book just might make it all worthwhile.

Good luck and write to me if you have any questions.