Things I’ve learned while preparing my first exhibition

Ten pictures. Small room. The potential audience of 200 people. This is the scope of my first exhibition but who cares. It’s the first time ever when my photos are going to be displayed in real life to people who are not my family.

The show is still about two weeks away but I’ve already started preparing and thought I would share some of the “discoveries” I made during that stage.

The first fact – my scans are too small. Back when I started scanning my negatives, I would laugh at the idea of scanning in RAW. It seemed unnecessary and excessive because I usually scan everything from the roll, and every photo of that quality weighs around 150 Mb. Posting pictures online requires resizing them down anyway, so for the sakes of speed and storage, my scanned images are only good for some A5 size prints. As for the exhibition, we are talking 40×50 cm here, so definitely I had to rescan selected frames again.

Next thing is editing. It should be mentioned that I rarely edit my photos. Due to a combination of my laziness and some hippie-dippie natural approach to analogue photography, I’ve learned to accept the results I get and not to fool everyone by post-editing them. I do adjust contrast or levels though just because the scanner itself is not a perfect tool.

Anyway, with those untouched fresh scans, I would have to do a lot of corrections. And I did. I spent an evening adjusting those sliders in order to get the results I wanted.

Another discovery – printing can be hard. I’ve had very little prior experience with photo labs in terms of large format printing. All I always did was to bring my USB stick to them, choose all the pictures and order prints of some 4×6 or 8×10. That’s it, no extra questions except for maybe the paper type.

This time, they were going to use a plotter, and because of that, I’d assume, a guy from the lab opened my pictures in his Photoshop and started adjusting them. Again. Also maybe because I told him they were for the exhibition, in this case, he’s such a sweet person. I have to admit his adjustments were merely tweaks and I agree with all of them, but for the future, I realized I didn’t need to do all that work at home.

Maybe if only I had an ideally calibrated screen, then yeah, no extra messing around with my perfect pics. Otherwise, I trust their experience.

One last bit for today is actually my mistake rather than a discovery. While choosing, scanning and editing the photos, I hardly imagined true proportions of the prints I was going to get. I didn’t even crop them before the lab, so when we sat down with the guy and his Photoshop to choose which picture gets what size, I had to make some sacrifices in frame space. The vertical ones suffered the most in my opinion but fortunately, not to the point of discarding the whole picture. Just another note to myself to crop my photos beforehand.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the exhibition is planned for the end of December, and there’s some work to be done before that, including framing those prints. I’m looking forward to the whole thing, and definitely will post about it later.