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The Importance of Light on Prints

Photo by Alain Briot.

I find it interesting that photographers spend so much time thinking about lighting when they capture an image, then often don’t account for it when showing the print.

"The BBQ King" - A favorite portrait of mine is positioned in the studio so it receives the right amount of indirect light all day.

“The BBQ King” – A favorite portrait of mine is positioned in the studio so it receives the right amount of indirect light all day.

Dark hallways, poorly lit lofts, flickering fluorescent conference rooms: these are just a few places where prints are hung to die. When we think about the amount of work that goes into producing a beautiful work of art, how could we overlook the vital last step?

Your prints need light to shine.

There’s a good story in Alain Briot’s How Photographs Are Sold about the early struggles of the artist selling his prints.

“When I started selling my work I did not pay much attention to lighting. What was important to me was the artwork, not the light shining on the artwork. But we soon realized that good artwork in poor light doesn’t look very good.”

After a series of disappointing customer interactions. The bulb went on.

“Before Natalie and I understood how important good lighting is we would take customers in front of a specific photograph, and we would praise the quality of the photograph to them. ‘Look how saturated the colors are! Look how much detail you can see in the shadows!’ we would say. But our excitement did not carry over to our customers because they could not see for themselves what we were telling them.”

The photographer improved his results somewhat by taking the print off the wall, and showing it to the client in daylight. By doing so, the colors and detail that he had worked so hard to capture, were now apparent to the viewer. Soon, additional lighting was installed in the studio.

How Photographs Are Sold

Now we both know you’re not always going to have complete control over the lighting of your prints. That quaint coffeehouse downtown agrees to display your work, but in the conditions that’s conducive to their business, not yours. So you make the best of it and hang your work accordingly.

But when you do have the option, especially in your studio or home, think about the lighting of your work. By doing so, you’ll make it attractive for others, especially those willing to pull out their checkbooks.

This is just one of the many concepts covered in Alain Briot’s How Photographs Are Sold. Not only will his advice help you sell your work, but you’ll learn how to best present your images to the world, even if it’s friends and family at home.

Landscape image by Alain Briot. Derrick Story is the photography evangelist for Rocky Nook Publishing.

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