Customer since: 2005
Location: Dallas, Texas
Publications: The Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge - by Clark Crenshaw
Artistic Influence: John Shaw, nature photographer
Quote: “Photography is about capturing a moment that’s special.”
I recently sat down with long-time customer Clark Crenshaw for a candid Q&A session about his career as a photographer. Clark, a laid-back native Texan, is a full-time fine art, stock, and commercial photographer based in Dallas, Texas. Active since the 90’s, he currently sells his work at fine art festivals and art shows all across the United States, and on his website. His subject matter is diverse; ranging from scenic landscapes all around the United States, intense night shots of the desert southwest, images of the controversial Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas, and the colorful architecture of Colonial Mexico and dreamy canals of Venice, Italy.
“Field of Dreams” by Clark Crenshaw
Q & A
When did you start taking pictures? Do you have any formal training in photography?
I started in high school; my older brother had a photography studio, so I kind of got familiar with it then when I worked for him one summer. I was also on my high school’s paper staff, ironically enough, as a writer, but I did end taking a few pictures that ended up in the school paper.
After high school, I took a few photography classes in college, and then much later on, I took a few courses at Richland College. I was also in the Dallas Camera Club for a number of years.
Did you have another career prior to photography? When did you start shooting professionally?
I used to have a home repair contracting business. After my marriage, I got back into photography when my wife and I started hiking and backpacking and we took a few trips to the national parks out west. During these trips, I decided I wanted to get more serious. It was the 90’s and back home in Dallas, I had been going out to Cottonwood Art Festival and Huff Hines Art Trails, and had shown my stuff at some restaurants and libraries. One of the ladies that ran the Richardson Photo Contest saw my work and said “You ought to do this little show up in McKinney.”
I had already been thinking it would be kind of neat to do this (art shows). You need a lot of inventory and a way to show it. I had a fair amount of framed stuff lying around that needed to be hung or shown and sold. So I was getting close to thinking I wanted to do art shows and then decided to do the McKinney one as a trial. My insurance agent, who’d done a few art shows in the past, had a tent with canvas walls that she sold me. It was a good way to start out. I did the little show in McKinney and hardly made a thing, but thought “this is neat, maybe I’ll keep doing it” (and did).
“Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge” by Clark Crenshaw
Tell me about your process for shooting new material.
I do mostly scenic landscapes and architecture, so when I shoot stuff there’s never anyone in it. Most of my present work is created between sunset and sunrise and may include some light painting. I’m kind of the Lone Ranger out there, though I might have a photographer friend with me. For me, it’s about getting out and getting away from everything. Just look at things and take some pictures.
What kind of camera and photo editing software do you use?
I use a Canon 5D Mark III, I also have a Canon 5DMark II, but I do most of my shooting with the III. I keep the other one around for a back-up. I pretty much always shoot with a tripod; it’s very rare for me to shoot hand-held.
Most of my editing is done in Photoshop, although I’ll sometimes give my images a little tweak with onOne’s software. I think people are a little too reliant on the digital tools these days. In the old days, the light had to be as good as possible, and you had to nail everything in a shot.
You started out with film. When did you go completely digital?
I went completely digital between 2007 – 2008. The lab that used to do my slides went out of business years ago.
Your night shots featuring abandoned buildings are some of my favorites. Can you talk about the process of creating them?
I use colored gels and LED lights for these shots. Colored gels are normally velcroed to your flash. Instead of using a flash, I set out LED lights. I velcro the gels to the LED lights and leave them on during the exposure. For most of these images, and also my Milky Way and star shots, I’m shooting at ISO 3200. These types of shots are possible because of the new camera equipment that’s come out in the last few years. For more information about Clark’s photographic adventures, check out his blog.
“Old Barn and Milky Way” by Clark Crenshaw
Where do your biggest sales come from - online, art shows, social media, etc.?
99.9% of my sales come from art shows. I make some sales through my website, but they almost always have seen me at an art show. I have an image licensing feature on my website and occasionally, I will license an image. I think most of the time they found the image with some kind of Internet search. Social media, I’ve done a lot on Google+, but after a few years of it with very little return, I’ve decided it just doesn’t work for me.
What is your normal art show schedule?
March through November, and I drive to all of them.
What’s a typical day like for you when you are doing a show?
Usually, you set up the day before then you just zip it (your booth) all up. On the first day of the show I may still have to put out some price tags, or organize what’s going in the print bin, but ideally, I’m ready to go. Having said that, some shows you do have to set up the morning they open, which means I have to get out there really early. My wife retired last year, so she’s helping me now, but for the majority of the time I’ve been doing this, it’s just been me.
How do you handle your sales at art shows?
When I first got into the business, I had a wireless credit machine. The fees were ridiculous though. Now, I take an iPad with me and use Square for credit card transactions and it works great.
What images seem to sell best?
My Mexico and Italy pictures have always been good sellers, especially the shots of old, interesting doors and windows caught with even light. The majority of what I am currently showing is my night photography. Most of it did well last year.
What are your favorite art shows to work?
I was born and raised in Dallas, so Cottonwood Art Festival is probably my favorite. I haven’t missed too many of them over the past 10 years. I also like the Rockport Art Festival in Rockport, Texas, which is held around the 4th of July.
Any comments on the jury process for getting into shows?
The biggest challenge for me and many other artists is to jury in enough good shows to keep doing this for a living. After all these years, I still haven’t figured out how to get in many of the top art shows (laughs). Even my neat new night stuff doesn’t get me in some of them. Occasionally, you can get your jury scores, but that doesn’t really tell you that much. The highest-rated shows may have 1600 – 1800 people trying to get in so the competition is tough. However, I usually get accepted to the smaller and less competitive shows.
For photography, it’s not like you have five trained photographers jurying your stuff. You might have one guy that’s actually a photographer who is up on digital photography and new trends, the rest, for example, might be a painter, a metal artist, or a gallery owner or museum curator. All bets are off on their opinion of what is good photography. Sadly, some shows and juries have shown a bias against photographs printed on canvas.
Do you have any tips for people just starting out in the photography business, or for photographers who want to start selling their work at art shows?
If you want to be a photographer and want to go to college, get a degree in business, finance, or something related. Learn photography on your own.
As far as art shows, go to some shows look at what they’re doing and ask questions. Try not to ask them too many questions because they’re actually trying to sell to people and earn their living (laughs).
There are also some good online forums such as Art Show Photo that talk about topics like where to get your displays and tent, and how to price your work. Frame Destination also recommends Art Fair Insiders forum. I print my images on canvas and stretch them over your stretcher bar frames and use your gallery pouches for transporting art to shows. I buy my booth panels from ProPanels. I have also used SHOWOFF and TrimLine tents. Both are good and sturdy, but I am presently using a SHOWOFF because it is lighter and easier to set up.
See more of Clark Crenshaw’s work at clarkcrenshaw.photodeck.com.