The big reveal: tips for presenting your creative work in the best light
Once the hard graft of a creative project is out the way, the difficult hurdle of presenting or photographing your pieces (in a way that will elevate them) is a new challenge.
It’s Nice That is currently partnering with Skillshare, an online learning community for creatives, on a series of articles exploring the value of learning new skills. In this piece, creative Temi Coker explains his decisions around how to present work to the wider world, and Tabitha Park shares her top tips on photographing your work creatively.
Many creatives know the satisfying feeling of finally finishing a lengthy project. No matter if it’s a team or a solo affair, made by hand or digitally, every creative endeavour has its unique peaks and troughs. Once a project is finished, however, a new hurdle – one you’ve likely pushed to the back of your mind while in the thralls of creating – suddenly pops up: How do I present the work to showcase it at its best?
Although often an afterthought, presenting work successfully is a creative challenge often as difficult as the work itself. It doesn’t matter what area of the creative sector you settle within either; presenting questions will always crop up, from how much explanation justifies a project (and when it becomes too much), through to how to present a physical object without losing any detail. Thankfully, there are plenty of classes on Skillshare which can show you exactly how best to showcase your creative endeavours, not only easily and functionally, but in a way which will elevate their quality.
First of all let’s tackle pieces created digitally. Arguably a little easier than photographing and editing analog work, when sharing digital artworks, such as graphic design orientated projects or illustrations, it’s important to place yourself in the seat of the viewer.
Creating work that’s likely to be viewed with little context is something multidisciplinary artist Temi Coker knows well. A creative who jumps between both photography and graphic design, Temi can often be found merging the two in his project creating a poster a day. Making pieces every day for over a year (the artist now has upwards of 500 posters), “I developed my style by entertaining my curiosity,” Temi tells It’s Nice That. Encouraging this factor in his work via his fondness for experimentation, the creative has reached a point in his work by whittling through work to find out what he does and doesn’t like. “This is how you get better,” he tells us. “You have to try as many things you can. Feed your curiosity. If it leads to a dead end, so be it, but at least you tried and probably learned something along the way.”
But in sitting between two traditional mediums, Temi needs to thoughtfully explain his pieces as he shares them outwardly. Important both for potential clients but also wider viewers of his work, the artist believes that “it’s important to show your processes and explain the project,” says Temi. “I’ve realised that clients don’t only come to me for the work I do, but they also come to me because of the way I think. My approach to all things design.”
In turn, Temi takes the method of presenting “very seriously”, setting aside time and presence in his portfolio to “best explain my process and approach,” he adds. Accompanying context to your work should at first answer “the how and why” as to the reasoning behind creating it, further encouraging you to ask: “How did you come up with this project? How did you approach it?” and “Why this project?”
In his own approach, asking these questions has led Temi to add personal touches when presenting projects, such as extra comments for individual images if it's a large series of images, or splitting his work into seasons too.
At the other end of the spectrum of presenting work is Tabitha Park, a regular Skillshare teacher who democratises the photographing process for all. If your work tends towards physical objects, such as sculptures or ceramics, Skillshare teacher Tabitha Park demonstrates how a little DIY creativity can go a long way, especially when it comes to lighting.
Looking at building her own photography setup yet unable to afford the bells and whistles of her university environs, Tabitha’s DIY photography career began in her parent’s basement. Armed with just a halogen construction lamp, some foil, parchment paper and bedsheets, she made her own studio – perfect for photographing work. “The desire to create and the lack of funds really forced me to get creative with my photo solutions,” she tells It’s Nice That.
If you make anything physical as part of your main body of work, or have dabbled in merchandise alongside your practice, you’ll know that photographing objects in an enticing way is a difficult task to tackle – let alone getting the lighting right. In Tabitha’s DIY lightbox class, her instructions take these technical issues away, leaving more room for thought on creativity. For instance, a cohesive lighting setup will not only simplify your lighting but create a continuous backdrop, looking both professional and removing “the headache of trying to photograph your projects.”
Citing personality through photography as a way to elevate your presentation, Tabitha’s classes allow viewers to explore a “photographic style through branding,” as she puts it. By learning the basics first, she recommends, like Temi, asking yourself questions when considering presentation: “Is there a way you can adjust the backdrop elements to add warmth that would complement your pieces? Could you expand the box concept in an open area in your home or studio that might offer you a more flexible workspace?” or could you even “Find ways to incorporate more interesting compositions through full-frame texture close-ups?”
Photographing your works yourself is also a task many are tackling, operating home setups at the moment. If you’re feeling a little nervous about trying your hand at it, Tabitha’s candid classes are the ideal place to start. “I try to demystify each of the elements of my workflow and hopefully bridge the gap between hobbyist and working professional,” she elaborates. “I’ll show you how to make your own backdrops and shape the natural light in your space to get a professional look and feel without investing in all the specialised equipment of a traditional studio.”
In turn, taking the care and time to photograph or present your work can be met with just as much creative flair and excitement as the beginning stages of any project. After all, it’s the cherry on top of all your hard work and by placing your personality in the details as Tabitha suggests, and placing yourself in the seat of the viewer as Temi suggests, will allow you to put your best foot forward.