Selling Fine Art Prints with Art Storefronts (Podcast 428)

Selling Fine Art Prints with Art Storefronts (Podcast 428)

Today we’re going to look at a new service for selling fine art prints, called Art Storefronts. Art Storefronts have built a ground-breaking system that enables you to set up a store and sell either self-fulfilled print orders, or have the prints created by Art Storefronts, and shipped right to your customers’ door without any intervention from you. I also have a discount code for you if you’d like to use Art Storefronts, so do listen to the end.

IMPORTANT: Art Storefronts has changed their business model since this post was originally made, and the services/plans/pricing discussed here are no longer available or have been modified.  Please contact Art Storefronts directly to learn more about current plans and pricing. I’m leaving this post in place to maintain integrity of our Podcast archives.

Note too that in July 2019, I completely rebuilt my Art Storefronts site, and you can see the new live store here: https://www.martinbailey.art

 

As you know, I love printing myself, and I always climb my stairs to my studio with a bit more of a skip in my step when I awake to a print order, but there are some things that I can’t do, and one of them is print super-large gallery wraps. Also, having me print my own images, creating what’s known as an ‘original’ print, carries extra cost. Basically you’ll pay more for an ‘original’ Martin Bailey print than you would for a third party print.

Until now, I’ve resisted the temptation to set up a third party fulfilled print store for a number of reasons. The main reason, which won’t affect almost half of the audience, is that all of the printing houses in the US refused to work with me because I’m based in Japan. I have even been offered sponsorship for this Podcast from some of the big name printing companies, but when I tell them that I live in Japan, they fall silent.

This of course means that over half of you listening that don’t live in the US, would probably have a similar problem. Why is this a problem, you might ask? Well, if you have built a worldwide audience, the chances are, like me, that almost half of them will be in the US, so it makes sense to work with a US based company. Art Storefronts made it clear from the start that my physical location did not affect my ability to work with them in any way.

One of the other reasons I fell instantly in love with Art Storefronts, is their ability to display a mockup of your print on a wall, scaled according to your selected print or canvas size. We’ll look at this in more detail shortly, but the way they mock-up the print or canvas, both in the Wall Preview and right there on the Web site, is incredible. This in my opinion is a great way to help a potential customer to envisage how the print will look, and that will of course lead to more sales.

ASF Helps You Sell Prints!

They have also been relentless in their improvement of the system, and seem to be constantly adding new and improved features that really help me, and you too if you decide to join them, to sell your work. That’s what they’re all about. They have created a service to help you to sell prints.

Now, please don’t be mislead by this statement. ASF is providing the best system available to ‘help’ you to sell prints, but they are not going to find you an audience. You have to do the groundwork and find your own customers, but once you have those potential customers, everything is in place to help you close the sale.

Various Plans

OK, so before we start to jump in and look at the system with a little more detail, I’ll explain the various plans that are available. If you go over to Art Storefronts yourself using my shortlink https://mbp.ac/asf so that they know I sent you, you’ll see a couple of options. This may change over time, so I won’t go into too much detail about actual button labels and features, but for now you’ll see “I’m an artist/photographer” and “I’m a Print Studio”.

If you select “I’m a Print Studio” you can see that it’s possible to set up shop as a print studio yourself, and give photographers that use your service the ability to create their own web sites, and sell prints, for which you can take a cut for your time and the services that you provide them, even though Art Storefronts are in the background. This particular side of the system doesn’t really interest me, so we’re not going into detail on this today, but do check that out if it’s of interest to you.

Because the site will continue to evolve, I suggest that you select “I’m an Artist/Photographer” and take a look at the services available. There are already lots of new features over a few months ago when I first started working with the team, and I’m sure they’ll be different again in just a few months from now, so check this out yourself.

As for the available plans, there are Professional Plans for artists that will utilize the ASF on-demand fulfillment, Master Plans for artists that will manage their own print fulfillment, and then the Print Studio Plans that I just mentioned. If you click on the Professional Plans, you’ll see that pricing per year ranges from $299 to $499, depending on how many products you want to sell. There are other considerations like more pages and store pages, but for most uses, the Pro Standard plan at $299 will be fine, and we have a great discount for you later, so stay tuned for details. You can also try the system for free for 7 days, so that you know this system is for you before you part with your hard-earned cash.

Pricing for the Master Plans for self-fulfillment varies, so you’ll need to get in touch with Art Storefronts for a demo and for them to gauge your needs before seeing the pricing. Note too that if you choose to self-fulfill your own orders, unlike similar companies, Art Storefronts don’t take a cut, after all, you have already paid for the service and Web site. It’s hard to believe, but a company that I used to be with, and sell stock photography from, also took a percentage when I sold a self-fulfilled print, that they had nothing to do with the marketing, pricing or any part of the process, so this used to really nark me.

Professional Plan Walkthrough

Anyway, without going into too much detail, let’s walk through some of the main features at this point in time, but forgive me if any of this becomes invalid as the site evolves. It will at least give you an outline of what is available.

When you first set up your site, in addition to your main Store page, you can set up a blog area, and a Contact and About page. If you don’t have a site already, this means that you could make your Art Storefront page your main web presence. ASF have also built in some pretty powerful client management features too, such as the ability to mail people that contact you with your ASF site Contact form, although I chose not to use that for now, because I have newsletter subscription and a whole bunch of other stuff going on with my main web site. The cool thing is though, you can just create external links that will send people to another site, if you prefer.

Take a look at the below screenshot, for how I have my own Art Storefronts web site set up. You can see in the screenshot though, that I have deleted the blog page, and although you can’t tell from here, my About, Contact and Portfolios links all link back to my main web site. I also added a Go to Main Web Site link for good measure. You can set up your own logo, header and footer text in the Header & Footer section, and create your own artstorefronts.com sub-domain and assign your own domain under the Site Address tab.

Web Site Management

Web Site Management

Select Your Theme

At the time of writing, there are 18 themes available for you to choose from under the Theme tab, and each of these are easily customizable. I should mention that although you can get your Art Storefronts site looking great, I would still recommend Squarespace or a WordPress based site if you are thinking to set up a general photography web site. Art Storefronts is the way to go if you want to sell prints.

Themes

Themes

Embedded Store

Note too that if you already have your own Web site, and don’t want to have people leave to your print store, you can also embed the store in your own site. The integration works flawlessly, and you can even select a dark theme if you use a dark wordpress theme like I do.

[NOTE: I found out after preparing this episode that although this works perfectly in the most part, you can’t actually check out right now, due to an issue with the payment system. The ASF team are working on this, and will hopefully get it working again soon.]

Embedded Store

Embedded Store

One issue with this functionality though, is that if you choose to embed your store, and turn off the navigation, header or footer, as you can see in this screenshot (below), they are no longer visible on your main Art Storefront, so you basically have to decide whether you want to embed or have an ASF site. You can’t currently have both.

Embed Code & Settings

Embed Code & Settings

Wholesale Printing Service

Another incredible benefit that comes with your ASF Pro account, is that you can buy prints from them wholesale. All you do is click on the Shop Wholesale link under Services, upload the image that you want to print, and then select your finish, print size and other options just as a regular customer would, and then you can place your order at wholesale prices, and they are very, very reasonable prices. I used this service to buy some test prints, and check the quality, and in general, I was very impressed. I bought a 32 x 48 inch canvas gallery wrap, and it is beautiful.

Wholesale Fine Art Printing

Wholesale Fine Art Printing

Populating Your Store

Of course, before you can sell anything, you have to populate your store with images that you’d like to sell. Rather than just uploading your entire image library, I recommend that you select only images that you can imagine people buying. Remember, if you make people wade through lots of images, especially very similar images of the same subject, they are not likely to look through very far into your collection so they are less likely to buy.

Also, before you start to upload your images, think through how you are going to fulfill your orders. If you are going to self fulfill, just small JPEG files will be enough. If you are going to have Art Storefronts fulfill your print orders though, you need to consider how large you want them to be able to print. If your camera natively shoots around 20 megapixel images, the largest print you would want to make would be 16 x 24 inches, giving you a resolution of around 200 ppi. So, if 16 x 24 inches is all you want to sell, and your camera is around 20 megapixels, you can go ahead and upload them.

Remember though, if you are going to use ASF fulfillment, people will be ordering prints of these images, and you will not be given a chance to check your images again before printing or check the resulting fine art print, so ensure that you check every image for dust spots at 100% before you upload them. Even though I do this before I print, I sometimes still miss the occasional dust spot and it drives me crazy to have to reprint because of this, but it would be a shame if someone buys a print from you, that contains a dust spot.

IMPORTANT: Art Storefronts has changed their business model since this post was originally made, and the services/plans/pricing discussed here are no longer available or have been modified.  Please contact Art Storefronts directly to learn more about current plans and pricing. I’m leaving this post in place to maintain integrity of our Podcast archives.

 Upsizing Your Images

Of course, all is not lost if you want to enable people to buy larger prints from your store. If you res-up, upsize or embiggen your images before you upload, you can create much larger prints than you would normally be able to do from your camera’s native resolution.

I use the onOne software Perfect Resize to upsize my images for large prints. Once installed, you can use Perfect Resize from Lightroom, Photoshop or as a standalone product. From Lightroom, you just select Perfect Resize from the File > Plug-in Extras menu.

When you first open Perfect Resize, normally you would open the Preferences and just ensure that the Working Color Space is set to ProPhoto RGB. If you don’t know why you should do this, check out episode 423 of this Podcast. 🙂

Perfect Resize Preferences

Perfect Resize Preferences

Under the Lightroom Plug-Ins options, normally I would specify TIFF as the file format, but if you are only going to use Perfect Resize for resizing images for Art Storefronts, you could consider specifying JPEG as the file format and Adobe RGB as the working color space, but I like to leave my settings as TIFF and ProPhoto RGB, because we still save as Adobe RGB JPEG files for Art Storefronts, by using batch processing, which we’ll look at later.

File Format

File Format

Once you have your image open in Perfect Resize, I recommend using the Canon Matte 40×60 preset that comes with Perfect Resize. This, as you might suspect, will increase the size of your image so that it can be printed at 40 x 60 inches at 300 ppi. Art Storefronts will actually automatically detect the size of the file that you upload, and make sizes available in your store based on 200 ppi, which is perfectly acceptable for prints of this size, so you could have orders for up to 60 x 90 inches, but you will actually find most print sizes will be less than this, because of limitations in the size of media that can be printed to. This is why the maximum print sizes vary as you change the media on the front end of your store.

Perfect Resize Screenshot

Perfect Resize Screenshot

As I said though, you can also run it Perfect Resize in batch mode. As a workflow suggestion, it makes life much easier if you create a Collection in Lightroom, and add all of the images that you will upload to ASF into that Collection. Then check each of them for dust, select them all, then select Perfect Batch from the Plug-in Extras menu.

As you can see in the below screenshot, I have Selected Items as the source, because I selected my images in Lightroom before I started. I saved the Canon Matte 40×60 preset as my own preset called MBP 40x60in for ASF”, which you can see I selected in the Perfect Resize module. Note that I’m using the Perfect Suite, so I can also add other modules from the suite here. Also note that you go for the Standalone edition and not the suite, you have to buy the Perfect Resize Premium edition to get the additional Batch functionality.

Resize Batch

Resize Batch

As you can see at the bottom of the screenshot though (above), I can also select the output format as JPEG here, and the Color Space Adobe RGB. I use a Quality of 92, because that gives me the best compression without any visible digital artifacts or banding. This is why I’m also OK to leave the general Perfect Resize preferences as TIFF and ProPhoto RGB, which I use when preparing prints that I’ll be creating myself in the studio.

Perfect Resize/Suite Discount!

If you decide to buy Perfect Resize for any of the reasons mentioned here, you can pick it up at https://mbp.ac/onone, and you can get a 15% discount when you use the code onone15 during the checkout.

Uploading to ASF

Once you have your batch of images ready to upload, in your Art Storefronts site, go to Pages > Store then drag and drop your images from your computer to the dotted line upload zone on the page. If you ensure that you have image titles and captions in the EXIF data for your images before you start, these will be used in your Art Storefront store too. You do have to make sure that your images are under 50MB each, but at the sizes we’ve mentioned here, in JPEG format, that will not be a problem. Of course, I’d love to upload an uncompressed TIFF file instead, but the same sized image in TIFF format would be about 1.6GB, so that’s not practical.

Uploading and Categorizing Images

Uploading and Categorizing Images

Also, as you can see in this screenshot (above), we can also categorize our images, to make viewing much easier, and help our potential customers to browse by the image genre image type that they’re looking for, hopefully resulting in more sales.

Selecting Your Media and Styles

Once you have some images uploaded, you’ll also want to select the styles and media that your images will be available in. For example, I turned off Overflow as a canvas gallery wrap option, because this basically uses a couple of inches of my image to create the borders. I want to force the customer to buy gallery wraps with mirrored edges, so that’s all that is available. I wish I could just turn this option off completely and just default to mirrored, but that’s not possible yet. Under media, you can select which media will be available in your store. I have all of the fine art media and canvas turned on, but I have Metal Art and Acrylic turned off, because I wasn’t overly impressed with them.

Setting Your Pricing

And then of course there’s the all-important pricing. You get to set the markup percentage for each sized print, on a per-media basis. This means for example, if the print is going to cost $100 to make, and you set your markup at 200%, the print will be available in our store at $200, and you get to keep the $100 difference.

You can be as granular with your pricing as you like. You can set it all at the same percentage, or set each size separately. Also, if you set intermittent percentages for just some of the print sizes, the system will calculate the missing prices for you.

Print Mockups and Wall View

So, with the images upload and the prices and media set, as I already mentioned, one of the most ground-breaking features on the front end of Art Storefronts, is there incredible print mockup functionality.  As you can see here (below) you can select various types of media, including canvas gallery wraps, metallic canvas and various fine art print media, and as you change your selection the finish product is displayed right there on screen.

Canvas Gallery Wrap Mockup

Canvas Gallery Wrap Mockup

If you click on the Wall Preview button below the image, you can also preview what the image would look like in a living room, Bedroom, Nursery, Board Room or Sitting Area. You can change the size of the print too, to get an idea of how each of the sizes will look. Note though that it’s not always obvious that there are more sizes at the bottom of the Size pull-down, so scroll with your mouse too, to ensure that you see all of the sizes available.

Wall Preview

Wall Preview

You can also select one of the many beautiful frames available, and see how the print would look framed, but note that this only works for certain sized prints, due to the available framing sizes.

Framed Print

Framed Print

This was another of the main reasons that I wanted to hook-up with Art Storefronts. They enable me to ship canvas gallery wraps, and framed fine art prints, which is something that I have not been able to do so far. And I haven’t yet mentioned this, but all of the prints and canvases that you can buy from my store are made on Breathing Color media, and you already know how much I love Breathing Color.

If you want to see what a live store looks like, I have set up my own Art Storefront store, which can be seen at martinbailey.photos. I’m going to continue to offer slightly more expensive ‘original’ fine art prints as I mentioned earlier, but my intention here is to offer an alternative price point for customers that want a print of one of my photos, but don’t necessarily care that I made it myself.

Discount Code

So, as I mentioned earlier, if you are interested in having  a look at Art Storefronts as a way to sell your own work, not only do they offer a 7 day free trial, but they have been kind enough to provide us with a discount code. If you use the discount code MBP15, you will receive a 15% discount if you buy before July 31, 2014. If you catch up with this episode after July 31st, all is not lost, as you’ll still be able to get 10% off with the code MBP10.

I hope that was helpful, and remember, that you can also use Art Storefronts to build a web site to self-fulfill your print orders, and still benefit from the amazing back-end that these guys have created, and you can even set-up shop as a print studio, and offer these services to other photographers. However you want to get involved, you won’t regret it. These guys are the real-deal, and I’m really happy to be working with them.

IMPORTANT: Art Storefronts has changed their business model since this post was originally made, and the services/plans/pricing discussed here are no longer available or have been modified.  Please contact Art Storefronts directly to learn more about current plans and pricing. I’m leaving this post in place to maintain integrity of our Podcast archives.


Show Notes

Visit Art Storefronts: https://mbp.ac/asf

Visit Martin’s Art Storefront: http://www.martinbailey.art/

Music by UniqueTracks


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Podcast 280 : Japan Quake Update – Prints for Japan Project

Podcast 280 : Japan Quake Update – Prints for Japan Project

I’m back home in Tokyo, after a month at sea, voyaging to the Antarctic, the Falkland Islands and Patagonia. It’s been over a month since the last episode, which I released literally as my studio started to shake in that terrible quake that devastated much of Northern Japan on March 11. It’s been a life changing month in many ways, so rather than just proceeding straight on with the Snow Monkey and Hokkaido Tour series of Podcasts, which I will be doing straight after this, today I thought I’d just record a quick update, to let you know how Japan was effected by the quake, and suggest some possibly ways in which we can help.

The Quake

I was at home when the quake hit on March 11, with a friend, Marcus Bain, one of the contributing members of the MBP Community over. I had recorded episode 279 in the morning, and had a few more buttons to press to get it released, so I left Marcus downstairs chatting with my wife while I went up to my studio to release the episode. Literally as I pressed the publish button and updated the Podcast feeds, my monitor started to judder, which is my early warning that a quake is starting.

I ran downstairs exclaiming that a quake was starting, but Marcus and my wife hadn’t felt it yet. As I emerged from the staircase, the apartment started to shake, and we all put on our shoes and went out to the car park. For what seemed like an eternity, the car park shook up and down and around and around. I watched my car moving all over the place to my left, and then as I looked across to my right, at the allotments next to our apartment, I could see the ground undulating, not dissimilar to the rough seas I would experience getting down to the Antarctic in the weeks between then and now.

Other people started to come outside and our neighbor came running home in his suite, obviously he works nearby, and ran into his second floor apartment, presumably to ensure that his wife and daughter were OK. Our 3 story apartment building was flexing and moving around as well, as the quake continued to rock and roll us for a number of minutes. We thought it was never going to stop!

When it finally did stop, we went back inside to find that apart from our sliding doors opening, and an ornament or two falling over, nothing was damaged. Before we could get our heads around what had happened though, another quake came. This time I grabbed my backup hard disks and laptop, before we made our way back out to the car park. I managed to write a tweet on Twitter as I sat in the car park, rocking around still.

It really was a scary and surreal experience, but that was to be just the start. We turned on the TV to see what had happened, and found that the quake had occurred hundreds of kilometers away, to our north-east, along the east coast of northern Japan. This made it even harder to believe that the quake had been so strong in Tokyo, and I started to wonder just how strong it had been closer to the epicenter. It turns out, after an update a few days later, that the quake had been a magnitude 9.0, making it one of a handful of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded.

As we watched the updates, it soon became obvious that the power of the quake itself was not what was to be so devastating about this quake. Marcus, my wife and I sat in our living room in disbelief, as the images of the tsunami that pounded the coastal areas of northern Japan started to roll in. We watched the same images that would soon become familiar to most of you too, as the news of the quake and the tsunami propagated out around the world. Whole towns were swallowed up. Ships washed up into the towns and even airports were laid waste by the relentless waters.

Our plans for a day of fun, that would involve copious amounts of alcohol and grilled meat evaporated, as we started to call around to loved ones, to ensure that they were alright. The land lines were out though, and our cell phones were almost as useless. My wife’s family are all based in Fukushima, the prefecture with the Nuclear Power Plant that has pretty much melted down in the aftermath of the quake. I went to college and have many friends in Miyagi, the next Prefecture up, which was one of the worse hit by tsunami. Marcus couldn’t confirm that his wife and small son were OK, and the tsunami warnings flashing on our TV indicated that his apartment, close to the sea, was also in danger.

Infrastructure Down

The trains had stopped running, and many areas had power outages, and without the phones to confirm if anyone was OK, we decided to drive Marcus home. The 50km drive, that should have taken just over an hour took five hours. The roads were full of cars, with people trying to get home too. On the way, having tried perhaps 40 or 50 times, I finally got a call through to my wife’s older sister, and confirmed that she and her husband were OK. We managed to get Marcus home by around 10PM and he was able to confirm that his wife and son had gone to their parent’s home, and were safe. Luckily, one of the highways reopened as we drove home, so we got back home shortly after midnight. On the way though we seen people that had obviously spend 9 hours or so walking home from the city center. Some just looked incredibly weiry, having walked some 30 kilometers or so, and others were limping, or being propped up by their friends, with their faces twisted by what was probably considerable fatigue and physical pain.

It would be the following morning before we would find out that the rest of our immediate family were OK, and a few days before I confirmed that my main circle of friends from college were all OK too. Some people had damaged property, and some friends had lost property and cars, but not their lives, thankfully.

Difficult Decision

With the death toll at well over 10,000 already, and what seemed like almost constant aftershocks, even in Tokyo, I had a difficult decision to make. On March 15th, just four days after the quake, I had plans to leave Japan to co-host a photography expedition to Antarctica with Australian photographer David Burren. I’d already switched expeditions from one in November 2010, and really couldn’t let David down again, so I decided to leave my wife to brave the aftershocks and possibility of a larger quake in Tokyo, and fulfill my responsibilities as a photographer.

The expedition was a great success. I got back home again on April 18, and have spent the last week making up for my being away from home for a month, and making my final selection of images. Having uploaded my images to Flickr and my own Gallery, on Monday we got up early, and drove to Fukushima to quickly see family and a few friends. It’s customary in Japan to put some money into an envelope for people that have experienced hardship, and so we did this two days ago. My wife didn’t want to send the money by post, and it really was nice to see our friends and family face to face.

It felt strange to be in a place just 50km or so from a nuclear power plant that is spewing out radiation, and causing thousands of evacuees to live in temporary accommodation, and many are living in the gym of schools etc. while they wait for temporary accommodation to become available. I can’t believe though that there has been reports discrimination against the people of Fukushima as they move out to the surrounding prefectures to avoid the radiation. Lack of understanding of the facts and fear can drive usually kind and friendly people to do things that they will hopefully learn to regret. I personally would rather face the risk of radiation than avoid friends that live in the area. They, after all, have no choice. With them not being in the evacuation zone, they would get no financial help from the government if they left their homes.

The People of Fukushima Deserve Better

With the nuclear power plant still far from being under control, tension is high in Fukushima, but I hope that the people of Japan, and those of you around the world listening to this, will not discriminate against the brave people of Fukushima. For decades they have lived with the nuclear risk to provide power for the city of Tokyo, 300km south. It tears me apart to think that some people are now discriminating against the people of Fukushima, as though they had leprosy or something.

We still don’t know how long it will take to get the nuclear power plant under control, and even worse, we still don’t know how long it will take before people can return to their homes in the evacuation zone. Maybe many won’t be able to move back in their lifetimes. Hopefully though the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company will ensure that all of those affected are duly compensation for their loss and unfathomable inconvenience.

Of course there are still tens of thousands of people that have lost their homes to the tsunami, and whole towns that need to be cleared and rebuilt. The farming areas that were filled with seawater are now unusable until the salt is removed from the land. Companies affected have run into financial difficulties and had to lay off staff in some cases, which means that people have not only lost their property, some have lost their jobs making it even more difficult to rebuilt their lives in the foreseeable future.

How Can We Help?

When I got home from Antarctica, my wife joked that I had chosen a bad time to give up my UK citizenship, and become a Japanese national. It was only a joke of course, as we are both very happy that I was able to become a Japanese citizen. The terrible events of March 11 have if anything, made me even more proud to be Japanese, and I have spent a lot of time over the last month trying to figure out how I might possibly be able to help my adopted countrymen, and of course more importantly, fellow human beings, to recover from this disaster.

I’m in the incredibly fortunate position to have a way to contact thousands of people to deliver my message, and you are currently listening to (or reading) it. From an early stage, I put links to make donations to help Japan through the Red-Cross onto my Web sites. Analytic data from my sites shows that many of you have already made a donation, for which I am truly grateful.

Prints for Japan Project

I continued to think of a way that I could provide you with a way for you to not only help Japan, but for some way in which you would get something back in return. Having giving this much thought, I’ve decided to start what I’m calling the Prints for Japan Project. For the next three months, until at least July 31, 2011 [was extended to Sept 25], I am going to donate 30% of the price of all fine art prints that I sell to the Japanese Red-Cross Society.

I have to emphasize up front that there is still some profit in this for me after covering materials. Having just taken the plunge to make photography my only source of income, I cannot afford to give all of the profit from prints at this time. Although highly doubtful, if for example I should get so many print orders that I spend the next three months printing and shipping fine art prints, I would not be able to do any other work, and therefore would not be able to support my family, and that wouldn’t do.

Please think of this as an offer for any of you that have at some point thought of buying one or two of my prints, but didn’t quite take the plunge. With this little incentive, you could not only get that print that you’ve been hankering after, but you would be donating 30% of the price to a very worthwhile cause. I will of course report the amount of money that you helped to raise via my Web site and this Podcast over the next three months, so that you can see how much we, the MBP community, have been able to help Japan to recover from this disaster.

To buy prints, you simply need to go to my gallery at [link no longer available], and navigate to a photo that you like, then click the shopping cart button above the image. Once you click the cart button, the print options for your order will appear below the image, and you can select your currency, type of paper, and print size. You can also select whether or not you want a border for your print, and for me to sign and stamp the print. The print will be shipped to you rolled in a sturdy tube, for you to have framed locally. Shipping in a frame from Japan is not practical, so note that the print cost is for a rolled fine art print, proofed and printed personally by me, on top quality archival paper.

If you don’t already have a favorite photo, here are some suggestions. I tried to select some images that represent the beauty and serenity of this amazing country. Of course, these are all my own photos, and will reproduce in any of the sizes selectable in my site’s shopping cart system, which is up to 24×36″.

You might select something new, like this recent shot of two Red-Crowned Cranes doing a courting dance in the snow, which is very Japanese.

Courting Cranes

Courting Cranes

Or maybe this shot of an old tree, with three swans flying past, which is kind of like a traditional Japanese painting.

Old Tree with Four Swans

Old Tree with Four Swans

Also, I know the context of this will not be for everyone, but my shot of a line of fishing boats is actually just the sort of scene that will have been destroyed by the March 11 tsunami, if you’d prefer to link your image to the event in that way.

Souya Harbor Fishing Boats

Souya Harbor Fishing Boats

Of course, in addition to these newer photographs, there are some of my older classics, such as the Lone Tree on a Hill, in a snowstorm shot.

Lone Tree on a Hill

Lone Tree on a Hill

And Distant Dance, which never disappoints my customers.

Distant Dance

Distant Dance

If you aren’t necessarily interested in the Japan theme, you might want to take a look at some of the work from my recent trip to Antarctica, which is also now uploaded to my gallery. For example, one of my favorite images from the trip is a two-minute exposure of an Antarctic landscape, with some Gentoo penguins that were kind enough to stay still for the entire two minutes.

Gentoo Point - Antarctica

Gentoo Point – Antarctica

Of course, there’re many more images to choose from too, such as my dreamy Flowerscapes. These are all nothing more than examples though, and if you have time to look through the gallery for something that jumps out at you, please do. If you want to skim quickly through all photos from all genres, you might want to use the Cooliris Wall feature on my site, by scrolling down to the middle of the gallery page at [link no longer available]. You’ll need to use a flash enabled browser for this to work mind. Note too that if you hit the full-screen button in the bottom right corner of the Cooliris window, your browser will open in full screen mode, and allow you to really skim through the images quickly using your mouse or arrow keys.

Give Directly

I do want to stress again though that this offer is only for those of you that have considered buying a print in the past or would really like one. It’s my way of helping you to help Japan, with my donation of 30% of the print cost. If you’d rather give directly to Japan, please do ahead and do so. If you click on the Donate to Japan button in the toolbar at the bottom of all my Web site, you’ll be taken to the Donation page at the American Red-Cross. If you’d prefer to donate to your national Red-Cross Society, and have the aid redirected from their, I’ll put a link to all of the Red-Cross or Red-Crescent Society pages worldwide into this episode’s show-notes, or type https://mbp.ac/rc in your browser to be redirected there.

Note too that I am going to add the ability to buy canvas prints of my images directly from my site in the coming weeks too. If you would prefer a canvas print, please drop me a line, and I’ll keep you updated as I add these options to my shopping cart. They’ll be a bit more expensive of course, but that just means that we donate more cash to the Japanese Red-Cross, and help Japan to recover from this terrible disaster.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that Japan is hurting bad right now, and really needs your help, however you are able to make that help available.

With our Prints for Japan project we raised a total of $852.89 / ¥64,820 to help Japan to recover from the March 11 Eastern Japan disasters.

UPDATED September 30, 2011

The Prints for Japan project raised a total of $852.89 (¥64,820) to help Japan to recover from the 3/11 disasters. These funds have now been transferred to the Japanese Red Cross Society — Thank You!!!


Podcast show-notes:

Red Cross Worldwide: https://mbp.ac/rc

Music created and produced by UniqueTracks.


Audio

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Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

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Podcast 266 : Signing Fine Art Prints and Canvases

Podcast 266 : Signing Fine Art Prints and Canvases

Many times I’ve been asked how I sign my fine art prints, and having received an email recently from listener Tanya Mattson from Pennsylvania, USA, I decided to go into a little bit of detail on this in today’s episode. Apparently Tanya and her husband had watched the video I released recently showing the lamination process for Breathing Color Lyve Canvas, and during the intro I signed the canvas print that I would be laminating, and it was watching this that triggered the question.

So, firstly thanks for watching the video Tanya, and thanks for the question. Tanya had asked for details of the pens that I used, and also if they were archival, so let’s touch on these areas in turn.

Signing a Canvas from my Video

Signing a Canvas from my Video

I have tried many pens over the years, and right now I use a variety of pens depending on the paper and purpose.

Sakura Color Products Corporation Pens

Sakura Color Products Corporation Pens

The pen that I’ve used the most and I still use sometimes is a photo signing pen from Sakura Color Products Corporation. I use this still for some matte prints, but it’s a good pen for signing gloss prints especially. It’s basically a felt-tip pen, with a large and a fine tip, on either end of the pen. I quickly took some photos to show you, and I’ll put these images into the blog post and the Enhance Podcast, so you’ll be able to see them on your iPhone or iPod, or go to my blog if you are listening at your computer.

Although pretty good for signing gloss prints, the problem I found with felt-tip pens like this is that the tips can be relatively dry, which leads to the signature looking patchy when signing matte paper like the Hahnemühle Photo Rag or textured papers like their Museum Etching fine art paper. Another option for signing matte papers, and these are archival too of course, is a good old pencil. Pencils are good for signing in the border of a matte print, but don’t work so well when you have to sign over the photograph itself, unless it’s very pale and you use a relatively soft pencil. The problem with softer pencils though is that they can smudge easily, so not the best idea.

The other pen to the left of the photo signing pen in the photo is also from Sakura Color Products Corporation, and this is another felt-tip, but is a pigment based pen, so it certainly feels better to use on archival quality fine art prints. I have three of these in different thicknesses. A very fine one, for signing small prints, and in the same vein, a medium one for medium sized prints and a pretty wide tipped one for large prints. It doesn’t look great to sign with a great bit fat pen if your print is only pretty small. The signature starts to carry too much weight in my opinion if it’s too thickly written. The same problem happens with these Pigma Graphic pens though, in that they tend to be a little on the dry side for signing fine art matte paper.

Uni-Ball Signo Pigment Gel Pens

Uni-Ball Signo Pigment Gel Pens

For my matte prints, and also for the canvases that I’ve recently started doing, I’ve settled on a pigment based gel ink range of pens from Mitsubishi, under the name Uni-ball Signo. These don’t have the problem where they dry up while writing, even on matte papers, and they push out enough ink to be able to easily write on heavily textured canvas, as you will have seen in the video that I released as episode 164, in which I showed you the Breathing Color Lyve Canvas lamination process.

As for whether or not these gel pens are archival, I’ve never been able to find conclusive evidence that they are, but I have found numerous forums and artists web sites discussing people using them, and have not been able to find any threads discussing them discoloring or hurting the paper in any way. Now, of course, this is unlikely to happen straight away, but also helping me to make up my decision to use these pens is the fact that I actually bought a set of these pens in various colors for signing prints some seven years ago, and I still have some old prints signed with the same pens from that time, and they haven’t altered at all with time.

The ink in the original set of pens did dry up though, so when I was looking for a pen to sign my new gallery canvas prints recently, I had to buy some more, but on searching for pigment gel ink pens, I ended up at the exact same make and model that I’d bought seven years ago, so I checked my old prints, found no problems, and went with these pens. Seven years might not be a long time in the scheme of things, but I’m pretty happy to bet that they will not show any problems over the long term.

I didn’t buy a whole range of colors this time, as my original idea of using a color that complimented the print went out of favor in my mind after the initial thought. What I did buy though is the three colors that we can see in the photo here, which is black, silver and white.

Black is my default color for most prints, as it’s understated and doesn’t scream for attention. This is the color that I used to sign the print that I showed in the video in episode 164, and I have also started using this to sign in the border of matte fine art prints, as we can see here.

Signature with Stamp

Signature with Stamp

The white pen is great for signing on black or in very dark corners of prints, as we can see in this next photo, which is the corner of a canvas print for my December exhibition here in Tokyo.

White Signature on Black

White Signature on Black

I also bought a silver pen, but in reality, it’s a nice light to mid-tone grey, which I’ve started using for some black and white prints, like the long exposure of the Towada Lake with the wooden jetty that we see here. These pigment gel pens are only $1.50 so I figured I’d pick one up, and I think it looks quite good on the darker grey. Again, I want the signature to be noticeable, but not scream my name out to people, and so the three colors that I have right now seem like a good range to have.

Silver on Grey

Silver on Grey

I’m not sure if these can be bought outside of Japan with the same name but as I say, my pens are from Mitsubishi and they are called Uni-ball Signo. The part number for the black is UM-153 .24. The .24 seems to indicates the color. The white pen has a .1 on it and the silver pen is .26. I also have a UM-151 .24 which is a fine tip black for smaller prints. I haven’t yet been able to find a medium tip, but I’m keeping my eye out for these, to complete my range. Note though that as I said earlier, these same pens that I bought some seven years ago dried up while I wasn’t using them, so you probably don’t want to go crazy and buy a whole range of these, unless you are going to be using them regularly.

Practice Signatures

Practice Signatures

Tanya also mentioned in her mail that the gel pens she’d found tend to leak too much ink, so I did just want to mention that I haven’t noticed these pens leak as such, though they do put out a lot of ink once you start writing. I find this a benefit when signing matte prints or the canvas, as I mentioned earlier, but another trick that I use is to always keep a piece of canvas or matte paper hanging around to do a practice signature before I actually sign the print. This not only helps to condition the pen before signing a full sized print, but it also helps me to write my signature more smoothly. When you’ve just printed out a 24×36 inch canvas, costing around $17 just for materials, the last thing you want to do ruin it with a messed up signature, and believe me, I’ve come close a few times. I always get nervous when I’m signing prints, so the little practice beforehand really helps.

Before we finish, I did also just want to touch on that age old question of whether or not to actually sign the prints in the first place. Well, for my December Exhibition, I am going to be signing all of the canvas wraps, because I really have to sign them before I laminate them, so that the signature is locked in there, as part of the piece.

I’m still undecided as to whether to sign my Hahnemühle Photo Rag and Museum Etching fine art prints, as these can easily be signed afterwards, and I generally like to give the customer the option of having me sign it or not. Now, I am going to add that I personally would prefer to sign my prints. I’d like to think that my name will be carried with the print, and I’d also like to think that anyone that was willing to part with good money to own one of my prints, would also like it signed. Even on my Web site, where people can order prints, I have the signature as an option that can be turned off, but in practice, I don’t recall anyone ever actually ordering a print that didn’t want it signing. I guess with this in mind, and the fact that I personally would prefer to sign them, making this an option is more of a statement of modesty than anything else.

I probably should also let you know before we finish that the signature that I use to sign my prints is not my everyday signature. I’m sure if someone was to analyze this signature they’d say that the huge underlining was a display of over confidence or conceitedness. To be honest, that’s totally intentional. I think that the very act of putting artwork out there for viewing and more important for purchase requires confidence, and a certain amount of “look at me”. With that in mind, when I started to sign my prints, I created this new signature just for that purpose, and I think that’s perfectly OK.

There is also the question of whether to sign over the image, in the border, or even on the matte. Again, I vary what I do depending on the work. For canvas wraps, there is no border, so I find an area of the bottom right corner to sign. For fine art prints with a border, I generally sign in the border, but again, I make this an option when purchasing the print. If the client wants to frame right up to the edge of the printed area, I have no problem with signing over the photo itself. I have also signed the matte, but when I sign the matte, I also like to sign the back of the piece with a pencil, in case the matte is changed at any point in the future.

I would also like to add that I always include an insert with my prints, telling the user when and where the image was taken, and on what printer and paper it was printed, and with what inks. Whether this is totally necessary is up to you, but I think if nothing else it makes the presentation more professional. For framed pieces, these inserts will be dropped into the back of the frame, to save them getting lost, unless they are intentionally removed of course.


Podcast show-notes:

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


Audio

Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.


Podcast 257 : Making a Gallery Wrap

Podcast 257 : Making a Gallery Wrap

Here’s a video for this week’s Podcast in which I show you how to make a gallery wrap with the Hahnemühle Pro Gallerie Wrap System.

NOTE: You can now view the embedded video on your iPad, thanks to a recent Vimeo update!

By the way, I didn’t include this in the video to keep it short, but after I created the wrap, to hang it, I added the following brackets and twine so that I could hang the wraps on regular hooks. These can be found at good craft stores and framing supply shops.

Back of Gallery Wrap

Back of Gallery Wrap

And here is my first wrap, hanging to the right of my workspace.

My First Gallery Wrap

My First Gallery Wrap

And here’s the second wrap, that I created during the video, hanging at the top of the stairs, outside my studio door.

My Second Gallery Wrap

My Second Gallery Wrap

(Excuse the weird light, it was almost dark when I shot this, without any lighting or flash. 🙂 )

Top of the Stairs

Top of the Stairs

Items Used

You can buy the Hahnemühle Pro Gallerie Wrap System from B&H following the following links.

Hahnemuhle PRO Gallerie Wrap Positioning Corners

I used Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas (400gsm) – 17″ Wide x 39′ roll canvas for my wraps this time.

For this wrap I used 13″ Stretcher Bars and 19″ Stretcher Bars, but there is a whole range of sizes available so you can mix and match to create a variety of frame sizes. I’m looking forward to doing a 20×32″ gallery wrap, when the 24″ Daguerre Canvas comes back into stock.

I also want to use the Hahnemuhle Protective Spray, but I can’t find anywhere that sells this in Japan and it can’t be shipped abroad from B&H, so I’m stuck for now. If anyone knows where I can get this in Japan, I’d really appreciate it if you’d drop me a line to let me know.

So, that’s it! I hope this has been of some use.

NOTE: There is an iPhone/iPod format version of the embedded video in the Podcast stream, that is available in iTunes.


WebSpy and MBP Photography Assignment Prizes!

WebSpy and MBP Photography Assignment Prizes!

WebSpy, sponsors of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast, have for a third time kindly set aside funds for us to offer some amazing prizes for the participant with the most accumulated votes after the next six month’s worth of monthly assignments, from June to November 2010. I am also going to throw in a fourth and fifth place prize. Details below…

Basically how it works is that we keep a count of the votes each participant receives from their peers in the MBP community each month, and the three lucky photographers with the most votes when we complete the November 2010 assignment will win one of the following three prizes, according to their placing.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to win every month. You don’t even have to enter every month to win. You just have to come up with enough high quality images over the six months to be awarded a lot of votes from your peers, to get ahead of the rest of the group.

So, here goes, with the prize list for the June to November 2010 MBP/WebSpy Photography Assignment!

Drum roll…..

1st Place Prize: Sony Alpha NEX-5!

This is amazing! Courtesy of WebSpy, we’re bringing you to brand new Sony Alpha NEX-5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with an 18-55mm Lens. You can chose black or silver, it’s your shout.

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera

Sony Alpha NEX-5 Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera

Specification:

  • Extremely Compact HD Imaging System
  • 14.2 MP APS (1.5x) Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • Interchangeable 18-55mm E-Series Lens
  • HD 1080/60i Video / Dolby Digital (AC-3)
  • Tiltable 3″ 921,600-dot TFT TruBlack LCD
  • Up to ISO 12800 / Up to 7 fps
  • Auto HDR capture / DRO Optimizer
  • In-Camera 226° Sweep Panoramas
  • Magnesium-alloy Body (8.1 oz)
  • Memory Stick PRO Duo or SD/SDHC Cards

I’m telling you, I want one of these! I seriously envy the participant that takes this camera away with them.

2nd Place Prize: X-Rite ColorMunki Photo

Every photographer should calibrate their monitor as a bare minimum. Not only does the ColorMunki Photo enable you to do just that, it also enables you to create printer/paper combination profiles to color correct printing, as well as supporting the calibration of projectors. If you also own a ColorChecker Passport, you can actually color correct your entire digital workflow.

X-Rite ColorMunki Photo

X-Rite ColorMunki Photo

Now that’s cool!

3rd Place Prize: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

The ColorChecker Passport contains a Creative Enhancement Target, a Classic Target and a White Balance target. You start by setting an accurate custom white balance in the field, and then you shoot the Classic Target and Creative Enhancement Targets under the same lighting conditions, to create custom camera profiles in a stand alone desktop application or Adobe Lightroom.

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

If you incorporate a ColorMunki Photo calibration tool as well, you realize a totally color managed digital workflow. You will be amazed at the difference this makes to your photography.

4th Place Prize: an MBP Fine Art Folio of Your Choice

The fourth place winner will be able to select one of my Fine Art Folios from mbpfolios.com.

Martin Bailey Photography Fine Art Folios

Martin Bailey Photography Fine Art Folios

It’s also possible that there’ll be more folios available in six months time.

5th Place Prize: an MBP Fine Art Print of Your Choice

The fifth place winner will be able to select any of my images from my online gallery and I will create a top quality print on Hahnemuhle fine art paper and dispatch it to your door.

The Colours of Japan Folio Prints

The Colours of Japan Folio Prints

Take a look at the images in my Portfolios to get an idea of what you could select.

Thanks WebSpy!

I’m really stoked to be able to bring you these prizes, the first three of which courtesy of our fabulous sponsor, WebSpy. Thanks once again to WebSpy for supporting the MBP Podcast and Blog!

Please do check out WebSpy‘s products, and remember to use the discount code MBPWSY for 10% off anything that you buy.

You can also follow WebSpy on Twitter, to keep up with new product releases.

http://twitter.com/WebSpy

Good luck!

— Martin Bailey