Best $5 I’ve Ever Spent!

March 14, 2010

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to learn from photographer/artist Rick Bennett at the Visual Art Exchange  (VAE) in downtown Raleigh, NC. The event, organized by VAE staff member Meredith Burgess for a nominal fee of $5, allowed artists one hour with Rick to learn about photographing work for submission to calls. Because hiring a photographer is so expensive, this event gave new and emerging artists the skills to take our own images in sufficient quality for entry.

I brought a few pieces with me that pose particular challenges: Liberty Still Endures has a great deal of detail in the skyline, Moon Flowers has black and bright white contrast with shiny beads, and Rabbit Moon doesn’t have as much contrast, but quite a bit of shimmering paint and beading.

While Rick was not expecting to work with fiber art, he didn’t shy away from the opportunity, instructing me on how to get the details. In my case it seemed to boil down to light. His suggestions were to either photograph outside on a cloudy day, or indoors in the garage or unlit room. Additionally, indoors I should use two lamps at about 30°, but face them away from the work towards bright white foam boards that will then bounce the soft light back on the piece.

Rabbit Moon

We went outside the gallery and photographed as the sun went in and out of the clouds. The conditions weren’t ideal as just a block over Raleigh was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with its annual parade and green haired leprechauns wove in and out of our operation, but Rick was undaunted. He went into great detail on what camera settings to use and how to influence the degree of light the camera allows. After taking several shots of varying degrees of each quilt, we then uploaded the images on the computer to talk about editing.

I’ve used Photoshop Elements 6 for the past couple of years, so my tools are a little different than his full Photoshop, but I do have the tools to do what I need for image editing. Here’s a couple of points that I had not known (or forgotten) that will benefit me right off.

First off, save your image as a tiff file. And save each change as a separate tiff file. Jpg’s compress the image each time you save it causing you to lose data with each change. Don’t change to jpg until you are ready to submit.

Second, use the light levels to adjust light, mid-tones and darks. You can adjust just one aspect, without having to lighten or darken the entire image.

Third, use the saturation levels to fix an off color. Rick explained that the camera looks at the whole to record what it thinks is the best color. For example, on the black and white piece, the camera combines all the colors to ‘see’ gray. By using the saturation levels, you can fix just the reds, blues, etc. that might be changed by the camera’s blending.

Overall, it was well worth the drive up to Raleigh and I have some great images ready for submission. Rick was a pleasure to work with, and Meredith Burgess of the VAE did a wonderful job organizing the event.

Afterward, I took the opportunity to drive over to Duke-Raleigh Hospital to see the VAE/Duke Raleigh Hospital Guild exhibit Mosaics which is scheduled to come down in a couple of days. My work, Remnants, was juried into this exhibit showing in the main entrance lobby. It’s a wonderful collection reflecting the many cultures and ethnic groups of America.

If you live in North Carolina, I highly recommend taking advantage of VAE events. Dedicated to helping artists achieve success with events that address not only artistic matters, but also the business issues such as promotion, gallery representation, and pricing. And many of these events are free to members, or very low cost. In just a few months as a member, I have already benefited from their encouraging programs.


  1. Ann
    Thanks for the great info. I do a lot of that already and I knew a little about tiffs, but I wasn’t aware that jpgs shrink the image each time. I will pass that along to my daughter, who is an amateur/wannabepro photographer.

  2. I’ve been working on my photography, too! The hardest entries are those that don’t let you change ANYTHING… for the AQS shows, you can’t crop or eliminate the background, change the color or brightness… nothing!

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