Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Hi-Tech Studio: Digital Photo Gallery
Go beyond the conventional and display your work with a flat screen or a projector
Landing an exhibition at a prominent gallery remains among the most coveted achievements for any photographer, but between booking work and keeping up with the day-to-day tasks of running a business, there's not always a lot of time left to shop your work around to gallery owners. Many photographers treat their studios as a de facto gallery space over which they have complete control. These “exhibitions” serve as a way of giving everyone who comes to the studio a look at what you can do. Usually, this gallery is made up of photographs printed and framed and displayed under beautiful lighting—but that's so 20th century! As prices drop and technology improves, go high-tech and create a gallery that glows with cutting-edge LCD, DLP and plasma displays and projectors that will show your talents in a new light.
The stigma with an electronic photo gallery is that it's akin to “direct to DVD” movies—a shortcut for non-pros who don't have the time or resources to make real prints and just a bit too technical for an art form. The reality, of course, is that display technology has improved to the point where an art gallery that showcases your photography is not only possible, but it's actually a smart business decision. There are perks to electronic galleries that can lead to better photo sales, create more enthusiastic first impressions and generate excitement. There's something amazing about walking into a studio and seeing brilliant, full-color, high-resolution images on either one or two large-screen displays or several smaller displays, either on stands or wall-mounted. Yet there are variables to consider, such as the quality of the display, the software to use for slideshows that suit a professional gallery and even subtleties like power consumption and standard wall-mount sizes.
One click into BestBuy.com and you can see that there are many choices when it comes to large flat-screen displays—too many, in fact. Some manufacturers use shortcuts for business users who stare at spreadsheets all day. This includes lower-end products with low bit ratings (which determines brightness) and a high dot pitch (which determines sharpness). There are also “Cadillac” displays that are obviously engineered for home theater use. While a low-end display might cost $400 at Wal-Mart—and screams amateur photographer—higher-end displays can cost $3,000 or more. If you create a digital gallery with 10 displays, the investment can be significant.
Make sure you look for a display that supports the VESA standard, which is a 100-millimeter screw mounting system. It means that no matter which display you buy, you can get a stand or wall-mount kit that works with the display. Also, power draw is important. Most displays use about 125 watts of power, although televisions use slightly more power than that (they're not as “green” as computer monitors). You'll want to add up the total power draw for the room and find out how much the bill will run for the gallery per month.