Putting Your Best Foot Forward

I’ve included below excerpts from an an essay that we wrote for our
guild newsletter.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

One important function of the guild is to provide
opportunities for members to showcase their work. Toward this
end there are non juried, totally inclusive venues (the
Biannual show for example) for all members to publicly exhibit
their work. This is vital to the mission and overall health of
the guild. But it is also vitally important that a juried
component play a role in the exhibition schedule of the
organization. Though exclusionary by definition, juried
exhibitions attract a particular demographic within the guild
that wishes to test their technical, design or conceptual
abilities in a more competitive environment. Juried exhibitions
also offer opportunities for members-often students-to build an
exhibition track record for their academic resumes. Juried
venues raise the bar and attract fresh talent. But who gets in
and who doesn’t in the end boils down to the opinion(s) of the
jury. And while nothing can or should change that, things can
certainly be done to improve a person’s chances.

There is nothing that will block the path towards “acceptance”
in a juried situation more quickly than a poor quality or
unintelligible image-- be it digital or film. The goal is to
convey as much about the piece pictured as possible
without ambiguity or confusion. Relying on the jurors’ having
any time or desire to puzzle out what is going on in an image
will result in an irritated jury indisposed to accepting the
entry. A poor image may indicate to a jury that the artist
doesn’t take their work seriously enough to find a way to
document it well. When the competition is stiff (the amount of
quality images/entries is high) this can definitely affect an
artist’s chances of making the cut. There are certainly
instances when a piece is so strong that it can shine through a
screen of poor photography. But relying on that is faith
misplaced. If the only true acquaintance a juror–be they an
exhibition juror, book or magazine editor or gallery director–
has with a piece is the image taken of it, then that image had
better make a positive first impression.

Obtaining quality images of your work does not of necessity
mean parting with large amounts of hard earned cash. It is
certainly within the grasp of most of us to learn how to shoot
images (film or digital) that, while perhaps not quite up to
publishing standards, are suitable for jurying. With that in
mind we’ve listed below some things to watch out for. The
technical aspects you’ll have to find elsewhere. (Search the
Orchid archives at http://www.ganoksin.com.)


Lighting is perhaps the single most important thing to
consider. If the piece is underlit or too heavily shadowed it
will create confusion. Drama is fine and can actually help to
create a powerful impression. That being said, too much of a
good thing can get in the way. Avoid a slick, magazine
advertisement type of composition. Also, too much backlighting
can create a silhouetted appearance in the slide that flattens
the image and draws the eye towards the periphery.

Consider the background.

Is it:

-somehow distracting?
-too busy or cluttered?
-too dark or light?
-does it bleach out the piece?

Does the object need to be recorded in context-that is, does
it need to be sited on the body, on a wall or somehow

Convey an accurate sense of the piece:

It should be clear in the slide what the object is, and the
character of the surfaces and materials. (Some materials may be
nontraditional, experimental or used in a new way. This is, of
course, fine but how the material appears to the eye-Bits
character-- is crucial.) Yellow gold should appear yellow,
Sterling should be silvery white if not patinated but not the
glaring white of an overly “hot” image. These hot spots draw
the eye and create misleading or distracting focal points.
Highly polished reflective surfaces are tough to record with
accuracy and clarity. They should never include a fun house
mirror reflection of the camera, photographer, light stand or
studio wall.


Label the slide clearly. At the absolute minimum indicate the
orientation of the slide with an arrow (or whatever is required
in an exhibition prospectus) the artist’s name, title of the
piece and the type of object. Ideally detailing
materials, techniques, dimensions and year of completion should
appear on the slide mount. If you are including a slide list to
accompany the submission, then a clear number corresponding to
that list should appear.

Choose carefully:

Even with the best possible images work submitted should be
appropriate to the theme or character of the venue. Production
work conceived and designed to be worn at the office may not be
the best choice to submit to an academic exhibition. And edgy,
one of a kind pieces featuring controversial subject matter may
not be suitable for submission to a church based craft fair.
It’s also instructive to consider the venue in which it will
be shown: if the strength of a piece relies primarily on some
aspect of functionality, will that function be clear from
within the static and remote confines of a display case? Is the
piece strong enough visually to exist without some indication
of its function? Not every piece can be shown successfully, no
matter how interesting it may be, in every situation. And not
every object, no matter how fantastic it is in the real world,
comes across well in the flattened reality of the slide or
digital image. Always go with the image that best blends all of
the attributes required: a clean, well lit, straight forward
image of a strong piece that best suits the parameters of the

Take care, Andy Cooperman


I’ve never read a more complete, succinct description of the process
and what’s needed. Thanks.