Showing and selling your Photography at Festivals

March 02, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Showing and selling your Photography at Festivals 

By David Snyder

Almost 5 years ago, I decided to take my landscape and wildlife photography from a hobby to a profession.  I’ve been taking classes and workshops since my 20’s and have learned a lot.  I received encouragement from friends and family and I had significant marketing experience in my career.  So I thought, how hard can this be?

5 years later, I now understand I have more to learn than I already know.  As I don’t do portraiture work, I had to find a way to sell my work.  I have tried Facebook, galleries, festivals, direct cold calling, talking to art consultants, real estate agents, and networking.  I’m sure I haven’t done this all right, but I have learned.  However, the experience has been very rewarding and my work continues to improve significantly.  I hope some of these thoughts help you with improving your craft and selling your work.  Good luck !!.  Some overall do’s and Don’ts…. https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/13-do-s-and-don-ts-to-stand-out-at-an-art-fair

Creating a portfolio

No matter what road you take, you have to create a coherent body of work to sell.   You have to decide what integrates your work? What type of clients are you looking for?  A collection of “random” images tends not to interest people walking by.  You will need a “wow” piece that brings people in that is prominent in your booth.  Once you have “found your voice” or figured out what you do, write it down.  You will need an artist’s statement (from 50 – 500 words depending on the show) to apply to festivals.  I recommend taking this statement and starting a document that contains all this type of data.  It makes it easier to apply to festivals and is consistent.

Starting an official business (LLC)

Before you read this section, I am not a lawyer, or an accountant.  The concepts provided below are what I did, and not what you should do.  I am not liable for issues arriving with your implementation of an LLC.  However, It is all pretty easy.  I’ve done 2 now.  The activities took about 2 hours to do everything below.. I mean everything… even going to the bank.  I personally don’t feel you need to pay someone to do this.

  1. Check to assure that your name isn’t taken:  Check here:  http://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/BusinessEntityCriteriaExt.do?resetTransTyp=Y&org.apache.struts.taglib.html.TOKEN=80f3abe1b5f3d4ea6e8252f07c76d7fa
  2. Recommend creating a unique email based upon this name either through Gmail, or through your provider.
  3.  Create an LLC with the State of Colorado (assuming you want to do this  here)  http://www.sos.state.co.us/biz/FileDocNameAvailCriteria.do?transTyp=ARTORG_LLC&org.apache.struts.taglib.html.TOKEN=80f3abe1b5f3d4ea6e8252f07c76d7fa    This costs $50 and is really the only expenses… other than ordering checks in this whole process
  4. Submit a request for an EIN (Tax number):  https://sa.www4.irs.gov/modiein/individual/index.jsp
  5. Recommend that you consider starting a Facebook page to document your business.. www.facebook.com/business
  6. Go to a bank (I use US Bank) and get a free checking, savings, debit and credit card.. basically no fees here at all
  7. Order business cards.. typically $20 out the door for 250.  I used www.Vistaprint.com.. wait for at least a 40% off sale.  Note that if you order 250, they give you a great deal on another 250 at the end of the checkout process.  Don’t order 250 right off the bat.
  8. You will need to file a Schedule C at tax time, however, as you are not a full incorporation, you will submit this as part of your personal taxes.

Improving your work

The quality of your photographic images will always improve with experience, mentorship and feedback.  I am a firm believer in learning from others.  Early on I went to college for photographic technical experience.  This helped me understand the fundamentals of photography.  Next I started with workshops which provided me the opportunity to network, get field experience, and learn in real lighting conditions.  I learned from some excellent nature photographers who have worked for Conde Naste, National Geographic, even Pulitzer Prize winning photo journalists.  For years, excellent photographer friends of mine, Doug and Laura Bennet tried to convince me to enter a photography professional organization and participate in Print competitions.  I was reticent to do this as I didn’t believe my work was “good enough”.  I quickly found that the entering completion, though frustrating at times, significantly improved my photographic eye (I didn’t take anywhere as many images), improved my editing and SW skillsets, and I met nationally renowned level landscape photographers and am proud to call them mentors.  In addition, I met other photographers that I could go out in the field with, develop workshops and industry contacts I would have never developed had I not started this process.

How to find festivals (Nationally and locally)

I had a friend who had been showing at festivals for years.  This accelerated this part of the process significantly.  First, I had to find out when and where were the festivals, how much they cost, and when do you apply.  The results where somewhat surprising, and expensive.. let me explain.  The higher end the festival, the more expensive it is, but also the earlier you have to apply.  The summer and fall shows typically have application due dates 6 – 9 months prior to the festival.  They are difficult to get into.  I have applied for one for 4 years.  Still haven’t made it in yet.  The other big surprise was cost.  I  used to have a woodworking business and showed at art and wine festivals.  I found that the shows were about $200 for a weekend.  Now $200 is a deal and most are $400 - $600 for a weekend show.

There are a few things I recommend looking for.  I typically apply to juried shows.  This means that somebody with at least some art experience is looking at the applications and cutting out those that resell items, are make cheap “crap”.  However, I have attended some juried shows that have comcast, real estate agents, political booths etc.  I stay away from those rows if I can.  Music festivals.  I tend to stay away from these as people come for the music and get drunk early.  Now, a show that sells beer and wine is typically good for vendors (till after 4:00), but the music scene makes this happen early and people get very drunk, don’t by and are generally a bother.

Here is a listing of where I find festivals and shows:

www.Zapplication.org, www.festivalnet.com, https://coloradoartisttour.com/

Specialty Shows:  Home shows, Garden Festivals, Log home shows, rodeos (yes, I have done those also).  Check out the major venue schedule and you will find just a ton of shows that might be targets for you.

Printing your work

                Find an excellent printer.  There are a few here in Colorado, but don’t be afraid to send work out to labs in the US.  You will need to download the .icc files from each printer.  You will need to calibrate your monitor and you will need to go back and forth for a while with the printer on test prints to get them to print out the way you want.  This can take a few months to get this right so make sure you leave enough time.  After you print with them for a while, you can expect discounts from 10% - 50% depending on the vendor.  I have visited all the printers that I use and talked to the staff myself.  I am picky about what my work looks like.

Colorado: www.duraplaq.com, www.reedphoto.com, www.cgproprints.com

US based printers (there are a ton of these so don’t take this as the best list)

Bay photo lab www.bayphoto.com

White House Custom Color:  www.whcc.com

                Magnachrome (metals)  www.magnachrome.com

Pricing your work

Before you start applying to festivals, you will need to come up with the dreaded pricing model.  I had no idea how to start this and cover all my expenses.  I’ll pass on what I was told, use it or not.  A gallery owner recommended that I use between 2.25 and 3 times my cost to create a print (printing the image, framing, etc…).  Matting and framing tend to be the biggest expense and tripling that expense can make your images just too much for people to buy.  So, the answer may be a sliding scale, or different depending on the vendors that you use.  Finding discounts for volume, high quality vendors that sell at a reasonable price is essential to make this work.

Getting a Booth setup


To apply to festivals, you need a picture of a booth completely setup.  This was a surprise for me initially.  You will need to make a few decisions.  Will you be doing only indoor shows or both indoor and outdoor shows?  Will you require electrical (e.g. how will you light your booth)?  By the way, you will need some type of lighting for your images.  Sunlight is too harsh and indoor lights are too dim.  If you are outside, the tent won’t let in enough light to illuminate your fine art images.  There are many places online to look.  Here is a pretty decent article: 
https://www.artsyshark.com/2019/02/27/art-fair-show-tips-booth-display/

Tents:  There are many options here but I highly recommend that  you stay away from the Walmart, amazon or Costco brands. The first big wind or rain storm and the tents blow away and your entire inventory is ruined.  Spend money here.  A good article can be found here:  https://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/on-purchasing-a-fair-festival-tent.  They recommend the Flourish Light dome tent.  This is the best tent on the market, however it is heavy, takes a long time to set up and is expensive.  I went with get under cover tents: https://getundercover.com/  Go for the commercial or professional tents.  They are in the $250 - $350 range for a tent

Weights so you tent doesn’t fly away.  There are many options here but you need about 40 – 50 lbs of weight.  Some make theirs out of PVC pipe and cement.  I went with the simple solution.  Canvas sand bags (4) for $10 and a bag of sand.  Home depot carries these: https://www.homedepot.com/s/festival%2520sand%2520bags?NCNI-5

Straps to hold down you tent to the bags (many shows won’t let you use stakes).  I bought adjustable straps at Harbor Freight.  Don’t buy the orange ones.  They look terrible in pictures.  Get white or black if you can.

Walls: There are so many options here, it is difficult to provide a recommendation.  You can spend a lot of money ($1500 easy) on pro panel walls and accessories.   I recommend looking for used equipment and purchase the best you can.  I made my first set as I am a woodworker.  Some people make them out of lattice.  Some tents have fabric walls that you can hang things from.

 

Art hanging system:  So, you have a tent, walls, and some prints.  Now you need to hang them up.  Sounds simple but you need an adjustable system that doesn’t tear up the walls.  Many people use drapery hooks.  Cheap, very adjustable, easy to get and are pretty sturdy.   This is a great idea:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/524106475362148130/  a bit expensive, but they are very sturdy. Or you can make you own with some materials from your local home improvement store.

Lighting:  This has been the most vexing part of the process for me.  I have had 3 different lighting systems and I still don’t have the answer. You can’t count on getting electricity at every show so you need a capability to work off of batteries and to plug in.  One the better articles I have seen is here:  https://www.propanels.com/battery/  I am making my own system however there are great ideas in the article and for those who are less adventurous, a great solution.  Here is what I purchased:

Battery:  Interstate deep cycle marine batter 125 AH  31DC

Lighting Fixtures: 3 light track light: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Hampton-Bay-3-Light-44-in-White-R30-PAR30-Large-Step-Linear-Track-Lighting-Head-Kit-804759/310684162

Track light plug adapter: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Hampton-Bay-1200-Watt-White-Live-End-Linear-Track-Power-Feed-with-15-ft-Cord-Plug-and-Switch-804919/310684197

Light bulbs:  1000 lumen 60 degree, long neck Par30 bulb:  (12-Pack) Satco S9438 13PAR30/LN/LED/60'/4000K/120V/D 13W PAR30 Long Neck Indoor/Outdoor Dimmable LED 60° Flood Lamp (4000K)  pack of 12: https://www.amazon.com/Satco-13PAR30-LED-4000K-120V/dp/B01GK6G7TU/ref=sr_1_15?keywords=satco+4000k+led+par30&qid=1582840873&sr=8-15  you can get less, but you will need about 9 for a single booth.

Charger: Schumacher SC1359 6/12V Fully Automatic Battery Charger and 15A Maintainer.  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0789697JT/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Inverter: BESTEK 500W Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter DC 12V to AC 110V Car Plug Inverter Adapter Power Converter with 4.2A Dual USB Charging Ports and 2 AC Outlets Car Charger, ETL Listed  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B082MDRC64/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Extension cables:  Common purchase

Outdoor Dimmer:  Otronics 800W Outdoor Dimmer for LED String Lights, Wireless Remote Control dimmer control,100Ft Range with 8 Brightness Mode, Timed off, Memory Function https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KHWKVVX/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Cable Ties Common purchase

Lighting support system:  here is a decent one from propanel:  https://www.propanels.com/product/light-bars/  This heavily depends on  your wall system.  Your track lights could also be cable tied to your tent or wall stiffeners

Another overview article: https://hubpages.com/art/artist-display-lighting  This provides all types of solutions from the very cheap to the more advanced.

Submitting your work to festivals

OK, so you have a body of work, you have your business set up, and you have images that you feel can be used to sell.  Congratulations, you are ready to start the process.  To submit your work, you will need to create a few things. First you will need to upload your work.  There are size restrictions, resolution requirements, file size, recommended color space etc.  You will need a picture of your booth without any identifying marks (e.g. no banners and you should not be in the image).  Recommend that some of your work that you will show (in the submitted images) is also in the picture.  Jurors have recommended, no people, no desk, no banner, no garbage or debris on the floor, great lighting.  This means you realistically have to have a tent, wall, and have tried to set this whole thing up prior to ever applying to a show. This was a surprise to me and really delayed my submittals.

This may take a bit to upload, describe and price each of these images.  Next artists statement (see step one).  This describes your work. You will need 3 – 5 excellent examples of your work.  Each festival requires a different number of images.  You may need to get the license plate number of your vehicle, and/or trailer.  Typically, jury fees are $35 – 40 each to apply.   If you are approved, they will ask for the entire fee up front.  As a photographer, wall space is everything.  So, look for spaces that are either corners, or have spaces between booths so that you can put inventory on the outside wall

Inventory

Inventory is expensive to purchase.   You will need large and small items ($20 or less is great if you can create these), you will need examples of each type of media you sell (metal, plaq, paper, acrylic, etc.)   You can make test prints or small prints of each to provide this option.  Big prints, well lit bring people into the booth.  Fancy frames can be difficult to sell.  Everyone has different tastes.  However, provide examples (much like a framing store) on your options.  Matted, framed glass prints are selling as much now.  Acrylic and Metals tend to sell more.  Plaq Prints were very popular, but not as much lately.  If you have items that are not selling, or people aren’t interested, don’t hold onto these.  Sell them at cost, have a discount bin, or go to the affordable art festival and sell them yearly!

Preparing for a festival

  • Have a way to take credit or on-line payments
    • There are an amazing number of ways to take on-line payments (they are all free to set up by the way) Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Zelle, Venmo, Paypal.. you get the idea
    • I also have square.  I paid the extra for a chip reader.  The magnetic version is typically free!

 

  • Insurance:  Yes, you will most likely need your own insurance to participate in a festival.  This is separate from what you already have.  I have used a couple of different ones:

Steve Burkholz:  Allstate  http://www.allstateagencies.com/HBurkholz/Welcome

ACT: https://www.actinsurance.com/compare-policies?gclid=CjwKCAiAy9jyBRA6EiwAeclQhNOOskqZcZsJT8OYlC1jScT0YKXV4aRhN64QOBsiHoqSjY-jQe2tLhoCLygQAvD_BwE

  • Sales Tax:  This is a complicated subject that you can write a whole paper on.  I’ll focus on Colorado as this is my home state.  Again, I am not an accountant, I am not a lawyer.  I am not responsible for any issues that you have with sales tax in the future due to the descriptions I provide below.  This only admires the challenges ahead.  It is not to be taken as guidance or a checklist on what to do.  Each festival is different.  Some festivals will ask you to write a check at the end of the festival to pay for the sales tax.  Some don’t.  Some cities have a “Home Rule” law that says they will collect sales tax separately (like boulder and Denver), others are good if you submit this with your regular taxes.  Each location is different.  Many festivals are identified as a “special event”.  You will submit sales taxes to each of these separately from your normal quarterly taxes.  Adding to the complexity is operating and selling in multiple states.  So, I’ll attempt to walk through each major concept starting with the state.  Confused yet?  Sorry, it is a learning process.

Colorado State Sales tax:  You will need a state sales tax license.  This website will “explain it” though it is clear as mud: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/tax/how-apply-colorado-sales-tax-license.  You can apply for a license here: https://www.colorado.gov/revenueonline/_/  ( look for the yellow/orange buttons). After that, go to the same page on the bottom and sign up for a login ID.   You will have to submit your taxes quarterly most likely.  Quarterly taxes are due:  1/20, 4/20, 7/20 and 10/20 each year.  Some cities allow the state to collect sales taxes for them, others collect their own.  You can look here: colorado.gov/pacific/tax/local-government-sales-tax to get a listing of those cities that are considered Home Rule.  You will need to most likely get separate licenses and submit separate tax forms to each of these.

 

Special event license:  Once you get a state sales tax license, you can get a “multiple event” Special Event License making it easy to submit sales taxes for each event (that is registered with the state)  Details are here: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/tax/how-apply-special-event-license.  Taxes are due the 20th of the month following the month in which the special event began.   These taxes are not included as part of your normal quarterly state or local sales tax.  If you happen to only do Special events, you could get away with only filing special event taxes as they collect for everyone.

 

Home rule cities:  You will need a separate license and submit a separate tax form (often with very different due dates from the state) each quarter.

 

Some tax recommendation:  As you can see the this is a very complex issue. 

You will need some very detailed tracking on each sale.

Separate out the taxes for each location and meticulously.You will need a way to add taxes for each “event

Track the dates for when taxes are due for each location in a calendar and watch this almost weekly so you don’t miss anything.

The state and some cities require you to file zero income forms (so even if you don’t make any money in a quarter, you still have the opportunity to submit a tax form)

Track all taxes paid and make sure that this is documented in your yearly federal taxes.

There are some additional rules around where you sell the image, and where it is going.If you sell and deliver at a show, charge tax based upon the show location.If you take an order once you get home and mail it/deliver it to another location.. well the tax implications are different

Before a show starts, read the materials the show organizer provides.Most likely they will explain the rates for the shows and a bit about sales tax.

Update any software (like square) with the correct sales tax before the show.

  • Tent (if you do outside work).  see above
  • Walls.  see above
  • Logo:  Develop a logo by yourself, using a designer, or use something like https://photologo.co/.  They make amazing logos at a very reasonable price.  I was able to take the basic logo and derive 6 different logos that I can use in different use cases.
  • Business Cards:  Vistaprint (and other).  These take about a week to get and they can take photoshop images.
  • A comfortable chair to sit in.  There is often long lulls and you will need a place to sit.  I have a director’s chair.
  • Packing material and a tape gun for the items you sell
  • Totes to put all your stuff in.  If it isn’t in a bag or tote, you will get very tired of carrying it.
  • Microfiber cloth for cleaning.  Your prints will get dirty and dusty.  Have a few cloths to clean off your items.
  • Packing materials for your prints.  OK this is a big item.  Prints get damaged very easily.  I am on my 3rd system to protect my images and it still isn’t working very well.   I have seen many different ways of doing this from wrapping in foam, to purchasing  double bubble reflective foil insulation from your local home store and creating large envelopes.  Someone even took the time to go to Harbor Freight and purchase a bunch of moving blankets and sewed them together to make envelopes.  In the end, expect breakage, scratches, dents, and sorrow.  It goes with the territory.
  • Getting there (truck, trailer etc..)
  • Dolly to transfer the tent, walls, and inventory to the festival.  This can be about a block at times.
  • Water, food
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Comfortable shoes

The Festival

So, you made it to your show!  Congratulations!!!  You will find every manor of vendor and client at shows.  Some people want to bargain and give you no money, some are scared to come in as many vendors almost jump on anyone who comes into your booth.  My recommendations are pretty simple. 

  • Setup is typically the day before or early in the morning.  First shows have many issues that you need to fix.  You forgot a ladder, you need scissors etc.  Arrive early and be prepared to be tired after setting up. Build up a box of these types of things you will need for each show.
  • You will need to figure out how you will get internet access to invoice/charge people.  Some shows have very poor internet, but provide wifi.  It is a good idea to have a few different ways (even using your phone as a hot spot) to provide connectivity for charges.  Ask these questions even before the show.  Most organizers have this answer already.  I have literally run around a show with my arm in the air attempting to get a signal.
  • Have everything in Totes.  No loose equipment.  Moving is a hastle and they don’t give you a ton of time typically with your car in the area.
  • Have an assistant when setting up.  You will need to move cars, all you stuff etc.  It is relatively secure, but have someone there in the beginning at least.
  • Arrive early before the show and meet the other vendors.  Check out what they have, check out what shows they like.
  • Make sure everything has a price on it.. even a small tag, though a bigger tag and a description is better for images
  • Declutter your booth.  Make it easy for a flow of people
  • When you sell something, have a way to wrap it, protect it, have bags, add a card in the bag, or on the back of your image.
  • For large prints, offer to help hang the print if they live nearby.  You can see other areas where prints might work for them.
  • Be prepared for requests for other prints that you don’t have there  Have access to a PC or tablet that you can show  your work that isn’t there.
  • Once the show starts: Have a story about each image, talk about emotion, talk about smells and sounds (for landscapes not people). 
  • Ask a lot of questions, don’t take over the conversation.
  • Don’t jump on people as they come in.. however welcome them if they stop by
  • I typically have some small images that I give away..  yes I give them away.  I just use COSTCO printing, and use scraps from my bin prints to frame some images of the American flag.  If I see a veteran, Fireman/woman, officer, I stop them, thank them for  their service and give them something.
  • Many people will ask you “how did you take that picture?”  I tell them.  There is little chance that they can do it themselves. 
  • Students often want to talk about photography.  I offer to provide them a writeup on their questions…. (I have 4 – 5 typical ones already prepared).  I however ask their parents first and give my card to the parents.
  • Ask the people if they have art now in their house, what do they like?  What is their color pallet, warms, cools, mixture.  I get “my house is full already” often.  I do suggest rotations with the seasons.
  • Don’t give one price for your images.  Provide ranges based upon size, framing, media.  Offer this to them.  Ask what size were they looking for?
  • Write down people’s name, look for a hook to send them more info and get contact information
  • The difficult part for many is discussing pricing.  Make sure you have a broad range.  Ask what they are looking for.  When you tell someone the price, often people almost apologize.. and reply back almost as a question… Don’t raise your voice at the end, say it as a statement.  Ask if this is the price range they are looking for.  Looking for more or less, provide options.
  • Closing a sale at a show can be challenging.  If you live nearby and they are looking at something larger, offer to bring a print by to show in their house.  If a spouse is missing, offer to join them in a skpe shopping call!! SKOPING!
  • Hand our hundreds of cards
  • Let people take pictures of your images.  Don’t wait for them to ask, offer it.  They can’t print something large with a cell phone picture and the lighting is all wrong anyway.  Offer to talk a picture of your card so they can’t loose it!

Following up on all your orders and questions

  • I typically have a notebook that has a list of every order (or I have an order sheet I fill out) with contact information, size, framing, media, contact info for the client (email, address, phone number). 
  • I take many names that I will follow-up with.  Write down details as you will meet 100’s or 1000’s of people over the show.
  • Send a note at least email, hand written is even better to every client.  They will remember this.
  • For each order, keep your clients informed on the progress of the order

 

I realized I have seven pages of notes here and I’m sure you are glazed over after 2 pages.  Good luck with your art festival and I will see you out there!

 

 

 

 


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