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HOT TOPICS! Questions From the Audience at the Professional Development Seminar

Is There A New Standard in Photographic Documentation of Art and Craft?

This is the critical question Andy Cooperman, Brigitte Martin and I were trying to figure out when we organized the program Photography in Flux for the Professional Development Seminar.

Is there a new photographic standard emerging in the photographic documentation of art and craft?


After an entire morning of excellent PowerPoint presentations, Andy Cooperman asked the first question at the Professional Development Seminar lunch discussion,

"Is there a new photographic standard emerging?

BananaRepublicCASUAL "What I have been calling verity," sometimes called authentic,  "grunge meets Etsy, meets D.I.Y.. Companies like Banana Republic are spending a lot of money to look spontaneous."

MVearringsMarthe Le Van, Editor of Lark Books had an articulate response that captured the morning, "I think rather than a [new] standard, it is an expansion of the boundaries." "Rather than changing standards, they are just expanding." It has to be looked at on a "case by case situation, when it works, I think it works really well, but some- times it doesn't work." 

Photographer Christopher Conrad added, "also more people are doing their own shots. So one out of 99 might really work."

RogerSchrieberJimMongrain Roger Schrieber, a professional photographer, continued the conversation with a reference to his theater background. "There is the old theater adage, if it works leave it in. I approach photo shoots with the artists not focusing on the latest trends, but I want to shoot the best picture I can of that art."

Hanna Hedman Photo Credit Sana Lindberg Marthelevanmodelwithfish
Jewelry by Hanna Hedman
Photo Credit: Sanna Lindberg
Photo shown during Marthe Le Van PPT

"And the art usually tells me what it wants to look like. I was really impressed with the photographs that Marthe was showing us from Sweden. Very, very interesting stuff, but there are a lot of juries that wouldn't want to see that, but you've got to know what the juries want to see. You have to read your mail. You have to know what the juries are looking for. If that works, do it."


The above comments were taken from the recorded audio of the Professional Development Seminar. I have listened to all the lectures and discussions very carefully.  For hours I edited the audio recordings minute by minute. I learned so much from the speakers.


While it is pretty scary to dictate absolute standards,
I think some suggestions might help artists and makers veer away from mistakes toward better photographs of their art and craft.

So here are photo recommendations:



AVOID WRINKLED OR DRAPED FABRIC. It looks over-stylized and like a manufactured jewelry ad.

AVOID TEXTURED OR EMBOSSED PAPER. The background becomes distracting.

BACKGROUNDS SHOULD NOT HAVE A THEME . . . such as water, water-washed rocks, sand, moss, or leaves. These backgrounds distract attention away from the work and tend to look commercial at best.  Thematic backgrounds rarely translate well in a juried situation.

COLORED BACKGROUNDS SHOULD BE USED WITH CAUTION. It can be eye-catching or inappropriate. Think about three issues before adding color backgrounds: the work, the audience, and the color. It needs to be the perfect combination. While colored backgrounds may be fine for something fun such as a postcard special graphic, or online marketing they can look out of place in other contexts. Another problem with colored backgrounds is that they can look dated. The trend-setting color for the decade, screams passé in a few years. Avoid colored backgrounds if this is your only professional-quality shot. Your photos need to be an investment with a timeless quality.

BLACK BACKGROUNDS ARE VERY CHALLENGING. Many people think that black backgrounds are automatically a good choice for light, white or silver work. The reality is that most black backgrounds look like a black hole with no shadows except in the hands of the most skilled photographer. If you want black, lay down a sheet of glass on top of the black background to soften the appearance and create a subtle reflection.  Another option is dark gray instead of black as a safer choice.

A FINAL WORD OF ADVICE. The competition for people’s attention is enormous. The general public has become far more sophisticated in judging quality photography by seeing professional-quality photos every day in advertising, books, magazines, and online. The quality of the photo is the perceived quality and status of the art or craft.  Your image sends a very powerful message. Make it the best messenger possible for your work.

Two documents in the Professional Guidelines may help you with your images.



Facebook Crafthaus Are you wondering if your images are good enough? Would you like me to look at your images? Contact me through Facebook or Crafthaus. It is an easy way to share your images with me. Maybe we can work together to improve your images? ASK Harriete

This post was updated on February 8, 2022.