Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

The philosophy of choosing jury photos


#1

I’ve looked in the archives and haven’t been able to find a suitable
discussion about my current dilemma, so here it goes. I’d like some
advice about the philosophy behind choosing which photos to send in
to juries (I’m currently aiming for several shows in FL in February
2008). I have read several articles about presenting a “tight body of
work” or having a “theme,” and I have all of the Bruce Baker CDs, but
I want some specific advice. I braid and weave sterling and gold
wire, including a lot of Viking Knitting, with which I do things I’ve
never seen anywhere else. Do I present three different VK chains (all
are necklaces) as a “tight body of work,” or should I also include
pics of my other techniques (flat weave bracelets, multi-strand
braiding)? My booth shot does show bracelets and earrings, though not
close-up. Will festival auditors freak out when they see not just my
Viking knit chains, but other kinds of wirework (same materials and
solderless ethic)?

I have been getting into smaller (?) shows with my old portfolio that
did include one photo of each type, but my perception is that the big
shows in south Florida may require a different presentation of my
work.

Thanks!

Jan Raven (from Minnesota, but in the midst of a show tour in
Washington and Oregon)


#2
Do I present three different VK chains (all are necklaces) as a
"tight body of work," or should I also include pics of my other
techniques (flat weave bracelets, multi-strand braiding)? 

Could you post some pictures somewhere, maybe flikr? And let us
advice you that way, when we can actually see them?

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#3

Jan,

I recently juried the Couture Awards for a show in New York and
culled through about 400 images. This is the first time I have been
on the jury side, so it was interesting for me to see exactly what I
have been promoting for my students for all these years.

  1. There is no substitution for poor craftsmanship. Even if you have
    the best photographer, if the work isn’t there, it won’t make the
    grade.

  2. Inconsistent lighting. Some of the shots in a grouping of five
    had perfect lighting with consistent drop shadow which really popped
    the work. Then the fourth and fifth image had really poor lighting. I
    gave lower marks on these because the grouping did not convey a
    professional look. I’m a juror and you need to impress me first.

  3. Project based work. I look for style or a personal “look”, not a
    series of items that were products of various workshops. I’ve been in
    the business long enough to know when a piece was made in a hydraulic
    press workshop, and then one with John Cogswell, and then a mokume
    gane workshop. Those pieces said nothing about the intent and style
    of the maker.

  4. Interesting and novel work. There is no substitute for this, even
    if the lighting is not perfect, if the work is fresh and well made,
    this is a joy for us to jury. If the light is spot on, your mark will
    go higher.

  5. Textural backgrounds. No. No. No. Your work is not about what it
    is sitting on, it is about you. No piece of wood, fabric, black beans
    or rice will make your work look better than it is.

  6. Details. These can help. Choose only one and make sure that it
    has no solder seams, no grit, no dust or cat hairs. One detail is
    good; one shot and four details is not.

  7. Drop shadow vs. all white backgrounds. My personal favorite is
    the subtle drop shadow. It pops the work and it is easy on my eyes.
    Reflective shadows are fine, but only if the photographer knows
    exactly what they are doing.

  8. Progression of skill level. As each of us gets that first amazing
    piece fabricated we run out to a photographer. Good choice. But then
    we see the persons work change and improve. As a juror, I don’t want
    to see your pieces from the last five years as you progress. I want
    to see five pieces of your best work.

Get the requisite number of images of your work and that are your
best and that are lit well. It won’t matter what you put out, what
matters is what the judges want for the look at their show. They are
asking, will your work represent the kind of show we are putting on,
will the person’s booth be of the highest professional standard. If
you can answer yes to both, then there should be no problem.

Here is a good example of excellent work.
http://www.craftboston.org/artists.asp

M E T A L W E R X
School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854
www.metalwerx.com


#4

I think this is an interesting query. I’m by no means a “show
expert”, I’ve been doing “real” shows for only a few years now, but
I’ve done research & I pay attention, all in efforts to get my own
show materials up to snuff. I’ve also heard that it’s best to have an
array of images that look like the same person did the work, not an
effort to show how broad your skill set is. That being said, if I was
a juror looking at 5 images of Viking Knit, I might assume that the
artist only did Viking Knit. I also do Viking Knit, and I am proud of
the fact that I actually make all of my chains, and I like the jurors
to know that the pieces will really all be made by hand, that the
work is different than the norm, but at the same time try to keep the
general feel of the pieces similar. Not the technique, just the
general feel, the general style. My overall collection of pieces is
actually QUITE varied in both technique and style, but there are
certain things I like to focus on when I’m showing a jury or some
similar group of people what I do, certain things I like to promote.
Those are the types of pieces I then put into my slides. I know that
there will be enough examples of those types of piece such that it
doesn’t look like I misrepresented my work, it’s just that I do a lot
of things & I can only show a bit for the jury. I would submit pieces
that show your different ways of making your chains, that in itself
is a body of work, I think. Just make sure they do look like the same
person made them. I live in PA, though, so I can’t really say what
the juries of south FL are looking for, but that would be my 2 cents.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#5

Hi

Inconsistent lighting. Some of the shots in a grouping of five had
perfect lighting with consistent drop shadow which really popped
the work. Then the fourth and fifth image had really poor
lighting. 

Thank you so much for such an informative post. The jury process
mystifies so many of us.

Sorry for the newby question, but, when you refer to a “drop
shadow”, are you just simply talking of a shadow kind of outlining
one side of the work?

Project based work. I look for style or a personal "look", not a
series of items that were products of various workshops. I've been
in the business long enough to know when a piece was made in a
hydraulic press workshop, and then one with John Cogswell, and then
a mokume gane workshop. Those pieces said nothing about the intent
and style of the maker. 

I had absolutely no idea that people did this. I am naive, I know. I
thought, because the rules of the shows typically say it, that
projects from workshops are not really allowed in jury photos.

Drop shadow vs. all white backgrounds. My personal favorite is the
subtle drop shadow. It pops the work and it is easy on my eyes.
Reflective shadows are fine, but only if the photographer knows
exactly what they are doing. 

What is the difference between a drop shadow and a reflective
shadow?

Here is a good example of excellent work.
http://www.craftboston.org/artists.asp 

Your link only went to the start page…were you referring to one
artist’s work in particular or all who got into Ctaft Boston?

Lastly, I am pretty local to Boston. Do you know of an area
photographer who understands the jury process well. I took my own
shots last year and, though I still made it to pretty much the same
place on the wait list, I can’t help but think I may have gotten
right in if I had hired a professional.

Thanks again,
Kim
Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#6

Thanks for the suggestion, Elaine. I have posted the photos on
flickr under the username “jan.raven”. Three are of my proposed set
of jury photos (the shows all want only three, otherwise I’d put
them all in), plus two more of bracelets using different techniques.
I am hoping that the pendant, hook, and earrings in Photo 3 indicate
sufficiently that I don’t " just" make VK chains!

Jan Raven


#7
I think this is an interesting query. I'm by no means a "show
expert", I've been doing 

I’m even less of an expert than the quote above. I was talking to
Elizabeth Shypert lately and I asked her how one goes about jurying
7,000 slides - that was for the Lark Pendant book. For one thing she
said it took about 24 hours - 2- 10 hour days plus 4 hours. What she
said, though, was that first they went through and tossed all the
bad or marginal photography and also pieces that were “wrong”, such
as a finger ring on a chain does not a pendant make. That is
photography for publication, but still…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#8

Hi Jan. This is a tough one. Have you read any of the stuff by Steve
Meltzer in the Crafts Report magazine on the subject of jury photos?
It’s very helpful. Look in the October issue. He does his annual
review of jury photos submitted by readers. I was fortunate enough to
have my own pictures named “Best in Show” a couple of years ago.

Mine were of bracelets and rings set on black plexiglass, with the
lights moved around between pieces so that each photo had a similar
but noticeably different lighting effect. One thing I think is
important is that all the photos have the same overall feel, like
they were all shot at the same time. And the quality must be
consistent.

As to the choice of three similar or three different pieces, that’s
the hardest decision. I have generally opted for different myself,
but this is where having a consistent photographic look can help to
link different pieces into a cohesive presentation. But if you opt
for similar pieces, I can’t really see a promoter hassling you for
having other stuff too, if the quality level is consistent. Good
luck!

Allan Mason


#9

Hi Jan and others,

I also hope to get some experienced responses to this good question.
I’m a Minnesota silversmith and after the first of the year plan to
send shots into at least 4 juried shows for 2008. Many still request
slides, which I need to have taken professionally, right? Those of
you
veteran art show vendors, please help us out. thanks

Another topic- those darned tents! I bought a new one this spring. A
Caravan tent. The lady on the phone convinced me that Caravan was a
better quality tent than EZ Up. Whether it is or not I don’t know. I
do know that on one of the legs the little pin that goes into the
holes to hold the whole tent up broke off! So, down slides the back
corner. Fortunately I had a resourceful assistant (aka good friend!)
who stuck a little stick in the hole that was just below the sliding
part to keep it up. This was the first time I used the dang thing
too. We had no wind and no rain so the tent was not really under any
stress at all.

I love reading all of the opinions posted on this forum.

Jean in Minnesota


#10

I haven’t done shows in quite awhile but when I first applied I
showed a lot of diversity in my slides thinking that the variety of
my work was an asset. I was rejected over and over. Then I started
choosing slides that made a group. Sometimes I would choose a less
good piece over a better one because the photo fit in better as an
overall group. I stopped thinking of the jewelry and tried to view
the slides as a show. Then I got in everywhere I applied. Also, I
tightly controlled the backgrounds and lighting so those elements
wouldn’t disturb the look of the grouping. I used the same colors
all the time so that wouldn’t influence my choices. You are applying
as a jeweler but what the jury is looking at is photographs.

That’s my 2 cents.
Janet Alix


#11
What is the difference between a drop shadow 

Drop shadow is the look with the gradient gray background. You can
fake it by buy a background, in his book Charles L-B explains how to
create it for real.

Elaine


#12

I must be missing something. Is the jewelry getting judged or the
photography?

And why are slides being used?..slides are archaic. Seems like some
folks are stuck in a time warp.

For the size of the images being discussed, digital photography done
properly and viewed properly (proper post-processing, calibrated
monitors, same color space, etc.), the digital image can far surpass
what can be done with slides. And it is more convenient to use,
store, save, view and transmit.

My few brushes with “juries” revealed that slides were being used
because that was the way it was, basically, and most of the jurists
did not have the technology to do much more than look at slides. I
thought that was weak reasoning at the time, and still do.

But, not being an “artist”, just someone who’s sold a few million
dollars worth of jewelry out of my shop, I could be way off base.
Could someone enlighten me? It just seems like there’s a lot of
beating around the bush to make a sale via great photography,
juries, etc…and now I’ll really upset some folks by saying that
it smacks of the familiar theme of the oh-so-chic gallery owners
basically fleecing the artisans.

Most “studio jewelers”, especially the excellent ones (Noel’s
incredible work comes to mind) don’t need a gallery to relieve them
of half their hard-earned money. They need a marketing plan, and
well-constructed advertising to support it. That is money
well-spent, IMO, and will give greater financial reward to the
artist in the long run. They need to learn the art and science of
SELLING or pay someone to do it. But they do not need to have their
pieces held hostage to the very limited exposure most (not all)
galleries can offer.

In my business, if I want to sell someone’s work, I BUY it, then
market and sell it.

Wayne


#13
I was talking to Elizabeth Shypert lately and I asked her how one
goes about jurying 7,000 slides - that was for the Lark Pendant
book.[snip] What she said, though, was that first they went
through and tossed all the bad or marginal photography 

A few years ago, I attended a mock jury where Bruce Baker spoke,
then we were shown all the slides for an actual show, at about the
same speed the jury sees them. We were encouraged to score the
slides like jurors.

One thing Baker said that I found to be true is that after a while,
you are looking for any way to save your energy. That means ignoring
bad or marginal photography unless the pieces really grab you by the
throat. It also means rating people whose work you recognize by what
you know, not what you see.

It was an exhausting process, absolutely mind-numbing. It seems that
slides need to be beautiful works of art in themselves, different
enough to pop out at stupified jurors, but not so different that
they don’t understand what they’re seeing (an objection that has
been suggested for my own work). Sheesh! The best solution, clearly,
is to get yourself into so many national publications that the
jurors pass you because they “know” you… ;>)

Noel


#14

If I had to choose today from your 5 slides, Jan, I would choose the
three necklaces, because:

  • the background and lighting are all the same for them

  • the rock in the one shot is more of an advertising or postcard
    shot, it’s distracting

  • the other bracelet shot, the lighting is not the same as the
    necklaces. If that could be fixed, or re-shot, I would say two
    necklaces and the bracelets, perhaps.

Thanks for being so brave and posting your photos for everyone to
see!

Here’s the link for Jan’s jury slides if you had a hard time finding
them on flickr.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#15
I must be missing something. Is the jewelry getting judged or the
photography? 

Hi, you make some really, really good points, but I can only speak
for myself. I think, after a while with this jury thing, I am just
going through the motions and figuring that, if the jury likes me, I
must be onto something. Sometimes, you just put your head down and
"do" without really stopping to think “wait, what is my goal again?”

The show thing for me is important because I have talked to many
local people who do shows and they have said that a lot of money can
be made at a single show. I need to acquire capital to move forward.
I figured, if I got into a couple of big shows, I could put my money
in the bank and I would be that much closer to opening my own place.
Admittedly, I thought the jury would have passed me into something by
now :slight_smile: Also, (though I am sometimes very outspoken on the forum) I am
incredibly shy with the customer. A show is the ultimate challenge
for me. I picked a show in Westchester County. This is a hot spot for
the kind of customer that not everyone would want to deal with
(sorry). They’re intelligent. They make a lot of money. They want
what they want and they want it now. I figure, if I can get through
that show, I can do anything. It is for confidence.

It just seems like there's a lot of beating around the bush to make
a sale via great photography, juries, etc....and now I'll really
upset some folks by saying that it smacks of the familiar theme of
the oh-so-chic gallery owners basically fleecing the artisans. 

I don’t think it is the fault of the galleries. I think a lot of us
just don’t know exactly what to do, so we look around and say "well,
it looks like being in shows is what everybody else does…so that’s
probably what I should do.

Funny, funny story. I was up in Vermont last week for the annual
Fair. We got to the entrance and needed a couple of tickets for my
sons…we saw a long line and figured “that must be it”. My brother
went walking to find the entrance. He came back a couple minutes
later with the tickets, laughing. It turns out, there was probably a
guy kind of standing near where you buy tickets. Someone came along
and thought he was “the line” so they stood behind him, and so on,
and so on…until the line was 100 people long…but it didn’t lead
anywhere, the guy was just standing there, waiting for something
else. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Most "studio jewelers", especially the excellent ones (Noel's
incredible work comes to mind) don't need a gallery to relieve
them of half their hard-earned money. They need a marketing plan,
and well-constructed advertising to support it. 

Noel’s work is beautiful, I agree completely. I admit readily, I
can’t figure the marketing stuff out. It seems like everything is
beyond my budget right now, but then we come back to the need for
capital, and, hence, the willingness to apply to shows. I have come
up with a new line of jewelry for the bride. Just out of curiosity, I
looked at how much it would be to advertise in a magazine. I have a
ways to go is all I can say.

Kim Starbard
http://www.kimstarbarddesigns.com


#16
A few years ago, I attended a mock jury where Bruce Baker spoke,
then we were shown all the slides for an actual show, at about the
same speed the jury sees them. We were encouraged to score the
slides like jurors. 

I did a Bruce Baker workshop where everyone in the audience
submitted slides, they were projected just as in a jury. Everyone in
the audience wrote comments on every slide. These were then cut into
strips and distributed, so that each person got comments from
everyone else.

Talk about honest feedback. Ouch. I actually still have my packet of
comments.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#17
I must be missing something. Is the jewelry getting judged or the
photography? 

Well, the photography has to stay out of the way of the jewelry.

And why are slides being used?...slides are archaic. Seems like
some folks are stuck in a time warp. 

I think we say “slides” when we mean:

actual slides or digital images transported to the people running
the jury, either by mailing a CD, or uploading to a server…

See? It’s easier to say slides.

Our language is full of old terms. Like the old printing terms widows
and orphans that come from moveable type, that may still be used in
graphic design. (I’m sure there’s a better example of that, but
that’s all I’ve got at the moment.

Elaine
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#18
the background and lighting are all the same for them - the rock in
the one shot is more of an advertising or postcard shot, it's
distracting - the other bracelet shot, the lighting is not the same
as the necklaces. If that could be fixed, or re-shot, I would say
two necklaces and the bracelets, perhaps 

to all - elaines critique of jans pic was very nice and also
specific ive been following this this thread trying to understand the
mind of jurors and after reading elaines critique and the other
posts. I am getting the idea that jurors dont really give a rats @**
about the the jewelry itself they just want thier ego’s. or should i
say “hubris’s” massaged over viewing only blue blood professional
photograhs. looks to me like we are really having a photo contest
not a a search for innovative jewelry and craftsman ship. Perhaps all
you “Jurors” out there should in the intrest of fairness and equality
set the standard and reccomend to the submitters, a photographer
who’s work the ROYAL WEE will accept so you wont need to be offended
by the almost good enough pictures most of us send in as you may have
understood by now my feelings on submitting to juries are jaded and
bitter and i refuse and have for a long time refused submitting
photos of my work to juries because frankly i have respect for what
i do my craftsman ship is excellent and there are alot of people like
me, and ive made thousands and thousands of pieces of jewelry that
have not failed. so to all you jurors out there who are not picking
work over the fine nuances of photo detail, my work is too good for
your opinion ! -

best reards goo


#19

Thanks for posting the pics, Jan. Beautiful work. As I had mentioned
before, I’m no expert, but I still have a couple comments to make
regarding the actual photos. Please take these as constructive…

  1. Just have one piece per picture. I think there might be
    exceptions where it’s OK (other than just the show being more relaxed
    with it’s jurying process), but I think the general rule is just one
    per picture, please. Maybe to have the matching earrings is OK, but
    maybe someone else will say that’s still a no-no.

  2. I shouldn’t be thinking "that’s pretty slate in the background."
    Make the background plain; don’t use props or “interesting
    backgrounds”. Keep it what it is, a background. As Karen Christians
    of Metalwerx put it so well, “Textural backgrounds. No. No. No. Your
    work is not about what it is sitting on, it is about you. No piece of
    wood, fabric, black beans or rice will make your work look better
    than it is.”

  3. Related to that, I suppose, is that although your pieces are very
    pretty, they don’t stand out in the pictures. They are there, that
    is all. Use better lighting, and I suppose better background
    material, to make the pieces really stand out when they’re viewed.
    Also, better cropping so that there’s not so much negative space in
    the frame. Again, show off the jewelry, not the background. The jury
    is looking at hundreds, maybe thousands, of images. Many of them will
    be jewelry, as we know. They don’t have much time to look at them.
    Make them sing!

All that being said, though, I will say one thing that was nice was
that it did look like they were made by the same artist, the
collection of pictures has a common feel to it. Although I wouldn’t
choose that background, they did all look like they were taken at the
same time, and that’s good. That adds to the feel that they are a
group of work by one artist.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com


#20

Hi Jan,

First… nice work! Secondly, I agree with Elaine: If the
backgrounds were the same, the best choice would be two necklaces
(the ones with stones) and the bracelet shot.

Thirdly, I agree with everything Karen said :-). I do think, though,
that your slate backgrounds are acceptable (just); but they’re not as
optimal as a gradient background would be.

And the big #4: Unfortunately, there are a lot more issues with your
slides than just which three to choose. Take a look at the before and
after images at the following link and then come back and read the
rest of this.

For jurying purposes, it is essential to maximize the size of each
piece relative to the size of the entire image. In other words, there
should be as little as possible of the background and as much as
possible of the jewelry. In your images, there is all kinds of
extraneous background.

In this regard, the most difficult pieces to shoot effectively for
jurying are full necklaces because they will look too small on screen
and it’s difficult to see detail. There are ways to shoot necklaces
to make them appear larger in the frame, for instance by scrunching
them, but this kind of treatment is not always possible.

You made a good beginning with your red necklace by wrapping the
chain but look what I accomplished with a crop. Everything is bigger
and you can still see plenty of the chain. (If I hadn’t been trying
to maintain your photo aspect ratios, I would have cropped even
more!)

With a piece like your amber necklace it’s even tougher, since it
really needs to be seen laid out in its entirety – but that doesn’t
mean it can’t have a whole lot more presence when maximized! Ditto
the bracelets.

Next: If you’re going to take your own photos, you need to learn
more about lighting your jewelry effectively and, perhaps even more
importantly, you need to learn how to use a decent photo editing
application. I use Photoshop Elements (the full Photoshop isn’t
necessary). For your images, I used maybe six Photoshop Elements
tools to brighten, increase the contrast, sharpen, and lighten
background shadows. The result is images that pop and, in the case of
the bracelets, a comparable background to the other two.

The whole thing took me less than an hour, probably less time than
it’s taking me to write this post :-).

A few years ago, I wrote an article on jurying into shows for
Lapidary Journal (now Jewelry Artist) which you might find of
interest, though it’s outdated now:

http://www.lapidaryjournal.com/archive/399bus.cfm

The digital age is here and we all need to learn to negotiate its
intricacies!

Hope this helps.
Beth