I Launched an Online Art Store by Tony Thompson

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For me, there has always been a slump in the winter for new assignments. The combination of wilted greens and layers of brown and grey outside tend to carry over to what I do. Over the years I've thought about ways to help myself get through this both financially and creatively. I started budgeting for the entire year to make it through and that worked great financially. But I was still left with a lack of shooting and developing my creativity. I realized spending every moment of extra time I have on personal work is the key to getting through anything, in a sense. 

Enter TonyThompsonArt

TonyThompsonArt is my new online gallery dedicated to Kansas City and all of its intrigue. It's an outlet for personal work, experimentation, and a way for me to get my toes wet in the art business. This will run parallel to my commercial work, as they should compliment each other nicely.

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The Art Business

I learned some fascinating information about the business of art while researching a solution to for my online gallery. The traditional route to enter the art business goes like this: Create an inventory of art, hustle your art at fairs and shows relentlessly, get in-person sales, and eventually sell through a gallery or publisher once they think you're a good fit. This takes lots of time selling in person, it takes up space to store your inventory when not at shows (not to mention the capital to create your inventory), and once you are represented by a gallery or publisher, they mark up your prices sky-high and split the profits (and not always down the middle). You also enter into a partnership with the gallery which isn't ideal for the artist since they have partial creative control over your work. This also separates the artist from their customers. This route never appealed to me, especially since I'm already doing assignments for a living. There is little time to develop a traditional art business.

The new way of selling art is through an online gallery while doing as few or as many shows as necessary. The technology is here, so why not? It cuts out the galleries and lets the artist sell at lower prices and keep more profit. The artist can still do shows in-person as a brand-building strategy or to simply get extra leads and sales. This is the route I chose with my new gallery.

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The Site

As I'm writing this, the site is brand new. There is a small collection of work of what I've been working on this year. I've been having a lot of fun with black and white and long exposures. The collection will constantly update and expand. I'm excited to see what it will look like in 5 years! The ability for shoppers to play around with different materials, sizes, frames, finishes and see it hang on a virtual wall is key to actually make online sales. I knew that if I had an online gallery, this HAD to be a feature. 

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Pole Aerial Photography Still Alive by Tony Thompson

Just as drones for commercial use were getting more popular a few years ago I purchased a giant tripod for low altitude aerial photography. The tripod can reach up to 24 feet high. It's a bit ridiculous and borderline impractical. When it's folded up its about 6 feet tall and weighs a solid 27 pounds and isn't very fun lugging it around.

Drones for commercial use have become more regulated since I purchased the giant tripod and I don't regret my purchase. There are no rules, special insurance or licenses I have to get to use it. It's a niche piece of equipment that doesn't get used often.

I recently shot the brand new Liberty Waste Water Treatment Plant for the construction company's PR use. One of the views they wanted a twilight shot showing the plant. I thought the best way to show this would be to get an aerial photo just above one of the pools to show the reflection of the sky for a mirror effect to create more interest.

 

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Shot from camera, raised roughly 20 feet up. Remotely fired from iPhone.

Shot from camera, raised roughly 20 feet up. Remotely fired from iPhone.

Alternate view from hillside. 

Alternate view from hillside. 

Thoughts on Portfolio Improvements by Tony Thompson

A recent discussion in an architectural photography Facebook group prompted me to think about many improvements I can make to my portfolio. So far I've broken it into 4 galleries - Residential, Multifamily, Commercial, and Aerial. Architecture is the parent theme I'm trying to convey in each gallery, as architects and designers are who I'm looking to work with. Within each category, I've selected my favorites and have simply used patterns to organize the flow of images. But according to the feedback from real architects mentioned in the Facebook group, this is probably a confusing way to organize my work and show it to who I'm looking to work with. 

Separate "Architecture" and "Interiors"

The first suggestion is to separate architecture and interiors into their own galleries. The idea is that they are two different markets. Architects aren't interested in fabric details, pillow selection, or curtain colors. Although a bit confusing because they do overlap, this makes sense because each market needs to see how you can create photos for them.

More Sequences

People want to see more sequences of images from the same project to understand a narrative. Many photographers pick and choose their best images, this is common practice. This pick-and-choose-the-best strategy conflicts with the idea of showing a sequence of images from a project. What if they are all not portfolio worthy? I think sequences will force stronger work from each project. Maybe a portfolio should be sequences of projects instead of just the best images. I love this suggestion and plan to add a "projects" section to show more sequences. 

More People

I recently had another discussion with a local architecture firm and the subject of adding people to photos came up. Their position is to include as many people as necessary to each scene to best show the function of their product - people use architecture! At the very least, mixing in people to shots gives more selection on what works best for their portfolio. I have had this same discussion with other companies and very much agree. This is nothing new. It simply needs to be emphasized by the photographer (my job!). I think there tends to be some apprehension when adding yourself to a shot. Common solutions are adding a bit of blur to a moving person (this also adds an artistic, mysterious mood that can enhance the photo), hiring models, or shooting in public places to show public interaction. 

Shot for a furniture company. Although not architecture, people using their product makes for more impact.

I will be making these changes gradually so expect to see more project highlights, people, and a clearer separation of architecture and interior design.

Bold, Eclectic KC Loft by Tony Thompson

Here are some images I captured of a loft owned by a fun couple that took on designing their new loft. The brass colored coffee table was my favorite item throughout. I knew I had to come up with at least one shot that emphasized it front and center.