Photographer's Delight | Displaying Work and Bridal Shows

I decided to take a different spin on this month's PD, especially since I've gotten a lot of questions from fellow photogs about my very recent bridal show experience. I'll break it down into two parts, but they are still connected!

If you're anything like me, you can be a photo hoarder. I collect my images and prize each of them as if they were my children. Each one is the best! Each one should be displayed! Each one should be acclaimed!


Gotta get that hoarder mentality out of your head!

No. You do NOT have to display every single beautiful image of yours.

Simple really IS better. Show your strongest work. As an artist and art teacher, I'm always telling my students that when you choose the best of the best, you show yourself as a stronger artist. Quantity does not equal good. QUALITY equals good.

(The main focus of my wall. A 16x20 canvas wrap. I chose this because 1) I want to be known for black and white and 2) I knew it would grab people's attention.)

When you go to an art gallery, you see everything is displayed aesthetically. Each piece is given a space. Each piece stands on its own. Each piece becomes its own masterpiece. This piece would be remembered. I don't think we'd see tiny little Mona Lisa if da Vinci crammed all of his other astounding work around it. Truly. It's so small and would disappear in the crowdedness!

When you try to cram every single little image, you lose your strength as a cohesive collection and statement.

Now that we have the displaying work out of the way... use that first and foremost for when you're planning for your bridal show. For every two feet, think of one piece. (For mine, I chose no more than 4.)

The point with art is you want people to stop and look. When they stop and look, they stop and look at YOUR show booth. The best compliment to me was when people stopped, stared, tilted their heads, and smiled. That was enough confirmation to me.

My Booth Experience
Mine wasn't perfect, but I've gotta toot my own horn and say I was PROUD of my booth. As a previous post mentioned, when the Chrysler Museum of Art gave their compliments, I nearly squealed like I just met Ansel Adams. I'm an artist first, photographer second.

- 8 2-foot door panels
- Crown moulding
- 4 vintage cameras
- 2 classic round frames
- 3 canvases
- 1 white artist canvas with vinyl logo
- 4 dozen mini cupcakes (half gluten-free, half regular)
- Lots of 5x7 special promo cards
- 2 black tables
- 2 black art easels
- 4 sample accordion albums
- 1 sample leather parent wedding album (yes, I said ONE)
- 1 slip-in album for boudoir work
- 1 best friend to help meet and greet visitors :)
- 2 clipboards of "I'd love to chat with you more!" fill-in contact info sheets
- Several awesome old-fashioned/modern pencils

- Think of how you want people to react. I wanted to make people look, to think art, and to go wow. So I designed my booth to do just that.
- Your branding should be very clear in your booth. The moment my sister's friend said, "Your booth looks like your website!" I probably just fell over with joy. I succeeded there! If you don't have a solid brand yet, then start one with this booth! Don't waste money otherwise.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. There is NO way in God's green earth that I could have built my wall. My stepfather-in-law is totally a master carpenter in my eyes. He took my ideas and ran with it! I also knew I couldn't afford a ton of vintage cameras at the moment. So I asked my local photog lady friends. They let me borrow some of theirs! Get inventive.
- Budget, budget, budget. A lot of photogs will have different views on this. Some say bridal shows are a waste of money. Some say they are the best thing ever. I don't really say either of those... I say it's at least worth the investment for exposure. My goals for the Bridal Show were to:
* Meet new vendors
* Meet new brides
* Get my name out there in a more public place

Was it worth every penny? Yes. I accomplished all three of my goals.

- Give yourself time to plan out a booth display. It's obvious when something is thrown together. To be honest, my whole entire heart was all in this booth. To the point where each time a person complimented me, I nearly got teary-eyed. Seriously, I was a nervous wreck at the beginning because if my booth was rejected, I was rejected. Thankfully, I wasn't! :D
- Allow yourself to be different. It's okay! I struggle a lot with wanting to be like everyone in the photography industry, but never in my life have I ever been like everyone. Because I took a chance and was drastically different in my setup, I got a lot of attention and positive feedback.

- Have a take-away item for brides. I had my mini-cupcakes, mini-business cards, and a special promo card (I offered a complimentary bridal session if a bride booked her wedding by a certain date). I should have ordered more than 75.
- Have a friend or two help you the day of. I don't know what I would have done without Elaine. She helped people when I was still talking to other brides, and she knew if I needed something when I needed it.
- Have open space. Because of the crowds, people retreated into my booth to wait for a friend, and I loved it! I was shelter! (That's right, people, Chelsea means "a harbor"... now I may not have a whimsical meaning, but I've grown quite fond of providing shelter from the craziness!)

(Yeah, pardon the snapshot. I was nervous and trying to get pictures as quickly as possible!)

- Be practical. I saw a ton of booths with couches and chairs. When I was a bride-to-be, the last thing on my mind was to sit down and relax. I wanted to get in and get OUT! Save yourself the time and money-- invest in samples and focal pieces instead.
- Be hospitable. I offered cupcakes. I am of the Southern Hospitality persuasion. When you have guests, you give food and beverages. Granted, I didn't have beverages, but cupcakes were there!
- Be simple. Yes, I had ONE wedding album. It was of my most recent wedding. Now I may get a lot of disagreement on this... but my one album showed all I needed to show. My style, my design, and my look. I told visitors they could see more on my website and get to know me there. Next time, I might bring one more album to show while other people are waiting around... but crowd control would be the only reason, not quantity.
- Be smart. Carolina Cupcakery made my cupcakes for me. Since they were also there with a booth, we did some cross-promo for each other. I ended up sending a lot of brides their way, and they did the same. :)
- Be realistic. You won't book a million brides. And I didn't expect that. I expected to at least get some great leads to potential new friends/brides. :) (I am excited to say I have two definites already!) I was either out of price range for some or we just didn't click. That's okay. There is a photographer for everyone out there, and I still met some great people. :)

With all of that said, this was my first (and, at this time, last) bridal show. Take this post as a guideline, not the end-all-be-all. I was successful at mine, and I loved every second of it. Tired? Yes. Fulfilling? Most definitely.

- Chelsea :)


  1. The booth looked awesome! You did a great job!!!

  2. AWESOME!!!!! I wish I could of stopped by to see it in person!!

  3. Yay Chelsea! This is a super informative post; thanks so much! I'm so happy that the bridal show was such a success for you. =)

  4. Thanks, ladies! Glad it was helpful to you!! :)

  5. Very nice...thanks for sharing, Chelsea!

  6. You are always an inspiration. You are creative in every way. Beautiful!

  7. OMG, this is so amazing!!!! thank you so much for sharing!