Anatomy of a Photography Show, Part 4 – Putting It Together

4th installment in a 4-part series of  “Living Your Dreams… Lessons Shared”, featuring much of what I learned and experienced whilst putting on my first photography show in Truckee, California…

Putting It All Together

You’ve got your photos selected. Check.
Print lab chosen. Check
Print materials and images matched up. Check and check.

Now you just wait for it all to show up and away you go, right? Ummmmm… not quite.

My show included this group of images, which range in size from 6′ across to 30″ across. It’s not huge: only 13 prints:


Transporting & Installing

The bigger images (snowy train, train tracks, car) each had their own wooden crates. The biggest one weighed 100 pounds!
The rest were ingeniously packed in 2 large, custom made, cardboard boxes. They were awkward, but not too heavy.

I had to get the lot from home to Coffeebar… and I didn’t have help lined up! I’d been traveling so much, my timing got goofed up – and I ended up at the last minute without sufficient manpower to wrangle those dang crates. The hubs would’ve done it – but he had to work out of town that week, so I was determined to do it by myself if I had to. As blessed luck would have it, a friend of ours came through in the 11th hour and helped. WHEW!


Lesson: Plan ahead for transporting your work – and the manpower to help move and install it! Yeah, I know that sounds basic… but these things always take more oomph than you think… and a measuring tape, hangers, possibly screws, a level and a pencil – or something to mark a point on the wall!


When it comes to installing… you need to know ahead of time how you’re going to hang your work. Find out ahead of time; each space is different. Some of the basics:  What kind of wall? Cement? Drywall? Does your work have a wire? Box frame on the back with a lip? Will you use screws to hang each piece, picture hooks – or some other kind of hanging system? What tools do you need to bring with you? (bring a level!) You need to make a list and have all the potentialities figured out ahead of time, so you don’t waste time NOT having something you need.

We had about 2.5 hours to put my show up… and it was late at night after all the stores closed, so no running out to pick up anything I’d forgotten!

Our friend Dennis is a whiz at hanging art and getting it right the first time. Lucky me! We only had 2.5 hours in which to get everything up – so no mucking about with uncertainty about how and where to put everything. Luckily, I’d planned the arrangements and where each piece was going… we just had to CAREFULLY measure and use a level to make sure everything lined up. We used two screws or picture hooks on each print; even though they aren’t super heavy, having two makes it less likely that they’ll end up crooked if someone touches them.

Here are some shots from the big installation night, including the awesome Dennis with his level and measuring tape;



Lesson: Plan EVERYTHING for installing ahead of time, including exactly what print goes where within the space. Have every tool, hanger, measuring tape, level, cloth for cleaning fingerprints off your work – WHATEVER YOU NEED – lined up and ready to go. Chances are, you’ll need to get the job done quickly, so think it all through carefully as many times as necessary to have your Plan A, Plan B and Plan C at your fingertips. 


Once up, this is how mine looked…


The Extras

Since I wanted this show to be a mock up for my “big gallery extravaganza”… I wanted to have the same sort of elements included. At Coffeebar, I noticed that few of the previous artists had their bio available – or if they did, it was just a photocopied piece of paper full of text. Not impressive presentation. I’m big on presentation. I asked my peeps at DaVinci how the big boys do it. They told me they create a bio piece that gets hung on the wall along with the art. So they created one for me, with text and photos that I sent them:


When I pulled it out of its packaging, I discovered that it measured about 2.5 feet high. I thought “DANG… that’s sure a whole lot of me!”. I felt rather self-conscious putting it on the wall, but I was determined to see this through. I have to admit, it’s been a large part of people’s positive response to the show so far.

Each of my photos always has a story. So instead of just doing the same-old, same-old of putting the name and price on the small card next to each piece… I included each one’s tale. I’ve noticed people going to each and every print, reading them, so I know it’s going over well. I giggle inside when I see that happen.

I also have new business cards, which I designed very simply at . Great prices, super product! They’ve each got an image on one side, my info on the other. I had 10 different designs made, so each one is like a little gift. I picked a couple of business card displays and left them in two places for people to discover pick up.

Finally, I bought a wall hanging display to put the 5×5 cards I had made as takeaways. I love this idea, since even though someone may not buy a piece… they can walk away with a small piece of the show for free. It’s a gift. I wanted people to feel treated to something special – that they were respected and given to, just through the show. These extra touches are cool ways of sending that message to each person. What’s more, I named the show “Life is Light”… and had a quote put on each card that relates:


Lesson: Don’t just throw your prints on the wall… go the extra distance and really present both your work – and yourself. Do something extra, make your audience feel special, create a way of saying “thank you” before they’ve even done anything. Surprise people! Maybe you create takeaway cards that contain your name, website, your art and philosophy. Use your imagination to make everything about your show branded, special – and especially… genuine. It doesn’t have to cost a lot… but that extra mile makes your show memorable. 

The Party

I wanted to to an “Opening Night Party”.  I mean, this is how real art openings go… you install, you have an event. Only hitch: the show was installed on July 2… and the next available night was July 19. But I said “Let’s do it!”. Because here’s the other thing that happens: there’s lots of interest in a show in the first week or two – then it wanes. An event done halfway through can re-energize and re-focus people’s attention on YOUR show. I mean, why put one up if you’re not going to draw attention to it?

I’m writing this before said event. But I’ve hired a band… we’re figuring out food and a potential wine tasting… working out doing a G+ hangout (recorded) and generally raising the roof! Truthfully, this is when I’ll put those 5×5 cards out, so there’s a little something extra for that night. I also may order some small prints from SmugMug and sell those that night, so there are very low cost pieces folks can purchase. You could also sells cards, or whatever small items you choose – if you want to have something for every sized budget.

Above all, I want this to be a FUN event that doesn’t break the bank. One that gets people excited about both Coffeebar and my work. Let the party begin!


Lesson: If you can, put on some kind of special event or party for your show. Even if it’s home cooked food and you doing a presentation about your work. Every major art show has an event to bring people in, introduce yourself and your work, make them feel welcome – and generate interest in purchasing, following you – and becoming your fans!


Getting the Word Out

Marketing is not a dirty word, in case you were wondering. I like to think of marketing as… making sure that no one who wants to experience this show and event will miss out!

There are lots of ways to market – and I’m not pretending to be the pre-eminent expert on what anyone else should do. But my plan for this event is a combination of social media, sending out an Evite to everyone I know, having a friend who’s the top real estate agent in this area do a blitz to her email list and word of mouth.

The point is to send the energy out in as many ways as you can… so that everyone who wants to be there (even if they don’t know they want to yet) WILL be there!


Lesson: Market your ass off to make your show a success! Think about marketing as an invitation to something that can truly change a person’s like in a wonderful way. You wouldn’t want them to miss THAT, right? So make sure everyone who wants to be there – knows when to be there!


If you decide to do a show, you’ll have your own details – your own story to tell. I hope you share it with others who wish they could do what you’ve just done. Because it may be humble beginnings… but dreams require action. The Universe doesn’t care how small… only that you’re willing to make the effort and take the first step!

Now, go get ’em!!