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The importance of Descriptions and Keywords by Mike Savad

September 24th, 2017

The importance of Descriptions and Keywords by Mike Savad

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The importance of Descriptions and Keywords by Mike Savad

If your new to selling art there are a few things you should be made aware of. First you have to have work that is presentable and looks professional. Second, you are responsible for advertising your own work. Third, you have to add descriptions and keywords to your images. Keywords are needed if you want to be in the search at all (on that note you have to have an avatar as well, or you won't be seen in the search). Descriptions are needed so the viewer knows what they are looking at, and google will index you as well.

Many people often give 1-3 keywords and think that is enough. That is not enough. You want to fill in with as many words that fit the image as possible. But I'll get into that later, first we talk about descriptions.

What are descriptions?

A description is a word passage that describes the image your trying to sell. There are no set rules on how to write one however. There are in fact many ways on how to do it and many on how not to do it.

Its hard to stress just how important these two items are. Many will argue that advertising in person is the best way to do it, I won't argue with that. Keywords and descriptions are needed if you want strangers to find your work.

Mostly you want to tell the viewer, what they are seeing, and why you made it the way you did. Google wants content, something that is in the form of a real sentence, something that answers a question, and it will rank you higher.

On the note of google, they have a thing called retention. They will rank a page higher, if a person stays on your site after doing a search. The system will assume you found what you were looking for, and it will reward that page. By adding a decent description, and a nice image, the user may stay longer, and the longer they stay, the better your chances of them wanting to look at the rest of your store.

Here are a few variants

1. The story
2. The dictionary informant
3. Just the facts mam
4. How you captured it, funny anecdote
5. The humorous up sell
6. The abstract

The Story

Tell a story about the piece. A total fabrication, about the events, something that connects the viewer emotionally with the piece. It can be funny, sad, unusual surreal, etc. You'll want one or two paragraphs and just be creative about how you write it.

You don't need to go into great detail about the image. Try to list the items in the image and list keywords you might have added. Don't make it too long, you don't want to bore the reader. Unless it important to the piece, don't list exact items. Like its usually not important to list the brand china someone is using.

For example:

Art Prints
I remember when I used to go to my auntie Anne's house and she would serve me tea when I arrived. Every time there would be a wonderful arrangement of flowers. She told me how well her garden does and she picks some just before I arrive because she knows how much I love seeing them there. She would go on and on, that it was a labor of love and even though her body is old and decrepit she did it just for me. Then she passed, and when I went to her house, I found out that the flowers were fake! She's been lying to me all these years, but I got a free tea set so it's not that bad.

I list a number of great aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers in a lot of my works. I really only had one, and she wasn't like that at all. I try to connect it to a family or a loved one, because chances are, the viewer will relate. And possibly buy it after I dug that memory out. I like using a bit of humor to catch people off guard. I think adding something funny brings it home a bit.

Art Prints
Located in New Orleans, in an old Victorian building, which has all the charm of an old country style barber. His hair cutting ability is fast, quick and clean. All his tools are right over head, he can grab them with ease. There are only a few chairs, but because of his speed, you won't stand around for long.

This is a colorized image I made. Normally I try to make it factual, but often many of these old images barely even have titles. So I try to make a story of some kind, trying to describe what I see in the image. Describe the image as if you are explaining a scene to a person who lost their eye sight. Paint the picture in their mind.

Sell Art Online
The machine shop really hasn't changed all that much over the years. The stuff you see here is pretty much what you would find in a modern day shop - that doesn't have computers. These machines however are driven by leather belts, which are ran from 2 large motors (one for each side of the room). Because of this, it was always wise not to wear anything loose.

Adding a story with general facts also works well. You don't need to be a Bard to tell a story about something. Just make it seem interesting.

The Dictionary Informant

Often its easy to be at a loss for words story wise for some things. Items like plants, flowers, landmarks and direct locations may not have that much info that you can turn into a story. So instead I will add facts. Like a little sign you see in a museum, list the history of a location, an interesting factoid about a place, the inventor of the item, and so on.

Photography Prints
This is a Chinese Hibiscus, Hibiscus Rosa-Sinesis - This lively flower is sure to get attention from anyone at any time. Vivid, dynamic color, to match your dynamic personality. Colors that are practically blinding, match everything in your room and if it doesn't, use this opportunity to buy new things that do match.

This describes what your seeing, it identifies the type of flower and gives a general description of the type of colors. I could have gone on an described the specific colors as well. I added a small sales pitch on the end, I normally don't, but with a loss of words, I slip it in, and hope for the best. It doesn't hurt to try, but I wouldn't do it on all of them.

Sell Art Online
Phalaenopsis rothschildiana schilleriana x amabilis - The Phalaenopsis species was first discovered over 300 years ago. Since then countless variations were made through cross breeding. Like this one, it has a name you can't say without breathing at least once, go ahead try it. It has a nice soft pink color and grows in a cluster.

You want to avoid taking quotes right from wiki sites. Google knows you do this and will penalize you if you do try it. However its a great place if you want to find out about particular things, Latin names, and so on. So you want to paraphrase some of it, and explain it in your own words. You can use a touch of humor as well.

If you know the exact name of the flower, be certain to use it in the description and the keywords. How do I know what kind of flower this is? Simple, read the sign. Flowers at flower shows, gardens, orchid shows etc, more often than not, will post a sign next to the flower. Take a picture of that sign, then look it up online and it will tell you all that you need to know. Just don't add too much information. Your talking to people that like orchids, not teaching a class in a college.

Just the facts mam

Very often an image simply doesn't lend itself to a story at all. Sometimes its better just to list the major facts about a location. Talk about something interesting, get them to look at the image in detail as you point out features. Making people hunt for those items will engage them with the piece more, and I think they will retain that image in their heads for longer as well.

Art Prints
Bold claims were everywhere in the past. For example, Peerless Dental Parlors, offered a combination of laughing gas and vitalized air, that's what they called chloroform in those days. It was made illegal later on. But I suppose if it stopped the pain, that's always good.

This building contained many businesses, one of those is the CH&D railroad excursion., there was a restaurant, and next door you can get some fountain pens. I do wonder what was going on at the end of the block, a number of people are looking in that direction.

By trade I'm a photographer, but I also colorize old images.

When it comes to just the facts, you can usually find them on the web. There are sites dedicated in explaining things in detail. Its up to you to find that info and rehash it for yourself. For the above image I had to do some homework and research each item. I found out about vitalized air on one site. Info about the railroad on another. Its hard to tell a story about a location you know nothing about. So research is important.

NOTE: I find though that if you can't think of a story, and you can't find facts, then the image may be so boring, it may not be worth posting at all. It's something to think about when your trying to figure out what to post. Like how many ways can you describe the same exact sunset taken only minutes apart?

Art Prints
The tale of a city, lost to history, partially missing, but not forgotten. This is the lost city of Amsterdam, a small town in New York. Its a town that is filled with old architecture, but in the center lies a large kind of ugly, mall. The mall removed a chunk of this town. People grew up here and walked these many blocks, but if you visit it today, all you would see is that mall, which is mostly empty.

Urban renewal destroyed much of this town. There is only a handful of these old buildings left.

Facts also include the history of a location. For example, I tell people about this lost city, those that may not know, might want to. In this case the city of Amsterdam NY, a small town, full of history, became a run down urban area. They decided to destroy all the old buildings and replace it with a giant mall. Today no one goes the mall, its an ugly mall, and it destroyed around 3-5 blocks of these fine buildings. The information above touches the hearts of people that used to live there. But it also answers a question, and google can use that as a reference.

Photography Prints
This is what you call a multi-processor computer. In actual terms they are Arithmometer's, and this is the computing section. These machines are electric, or parts of it are. It creates a spreadsheet of sorts.

The operator inputs the data, either by hand or punch card. And the machine does the rest. The computations often take as long as 2 minutes to complete.

And they were as noisy as they appear to be. I don't know if it was deafening or not, but I would imagine it would be quite a bit louder than today's computer or calculator.

Makes you wonder what people will think of our modern offices a 100 years from now.

If your going to post an item, be sure you sounds like the authority in that item. I did a lot of research on these machines and found people that did even more research then me, and that info to help me to write a short passage of what those things are.

If you post only sunsets, list the cloud types you see. If you post animals, post the exact name of the breed (the dogs actual name, fido, is not important). Add Latin variants.

You want to be as informative as you can. You want people to stay on your page, read what you have and want to look at the next image to see what it says. For google, you want content, something that answers a question. Be concise, but don't say too much.

Art Prints
Typewriters in their early days took on all kinds of crazy shapes. This particular design made by the Oliver Typewriter Company was one of the first designs to allow you to see what it was typing. It seems older models hid it. It was an strike over design, where as the others were strike under. This design was mostly used at home.

The Oliver Typewriter company was established from 1895-1928. And despite selling over a million of these, they went bankrupt at the end, because they couldn't compete with better models.

This typewriter happened to have the name on it, so it was easy enough to look it up. The above description comes from wiki, but I didn't cut and paste it. I took out the good parts and just made two paragraphs about it. If someone was looking up Oliver typewriters they may come across my lovely image.

A funny anecdote

The funny anecdote is something I don't usually do. The idea is, you want to tell the viewer what you did to capture it, if the story is interesting or funny. Sometimes a viewer will connect better with the artist, if they knew what kind of hardship you went through. But don't over explain and don't bother explaining small things like your car breaking down, unless its an interesting part of how you captured the image.

I would stay away from stories that are gross, like slipping on dog doo and seeing an interesting cloud over head. But if you mentioned you got this by jumping out of a plane, and your shoe fell off while shooting it, go on and tell people that. But be truthful about it. Like it might be funny to find out that when you went on safari, you took a long lens to shoot toucans, only you couldn't find any, but one landed right on your lens, and you couldn't do anything about it. Or you did capture it, and you shot it with a phone instead. That kind of thing is amusing.

I don't have too many funny stories, but I do talk about the piece itself, when I'm comparing side by side images.

Art Prints
This building doesn't exist today, they probably took it down due to age. Even in this image, I saw fine cracks in spots. I'm not totally certain why they took a picture of this. It seems to highlight the building in relation to that electric car (its a street car by the way).

However I liked it mostly for that pie wagon. You just don't see pie wagons any more.

I cloned out the ghost in front walking (running?) by, it was just a foot over and over. And had a time working out the contrast on that building.

In an image like the above, I think its a good idea to drop the stories, and just stick to the facts, but tell it from my point of view.

Generally I find that a viewer will have no idea what we went through to capture, edit or present the piece, and I think sometimes its a good idea to talk about it. Mentioning you got up 4am to get the sunset could be interesting, hiding in a photo blind with a 1200mm lens, might get the viewer to appreciate all you can do, and outline what they can't do themselves.

For the above example, I like pointing out things I had to clone out, that I repaired the contrast and so on. It does actually interest some people.


A lucky shot is when you were in the right place, with the right stuff, and you got lucky when you shot it. Its the first time you remembered to focus, or you this is the only one you ever get right.

Don't ever, ever tell anyone you got lucky on a shot. Present like your an ace photographer. Never show your bad ones either.

Don't mention you came across this while walking the dog. It doesn't sound professional, and if a viewer thinks they can do it themselves, they won't get it from you.

Never sound like you impressed yourself, again, this makes you sound like an idiot.

The humorous up sell

You always want to avoid the up sell. Artists in general are not salespeople, and its annoying to have a pitch tossed into your face, especially when people shop online to avoid that. Telling someone that something will look good in their house, on every description gets old, tired and desperate sounding. And they may not want it in their house. Don't tell them it will make a great gift, or suggest locations, it just looks tacky... looks great in a little girls bedroom... don't say that. When I first started I would say things like that, because I wasn't sure what to say. But those images never sold, until I started changing the descriptions.

But sometimes you can pitch things that are a bit over the top. Kind of like how an infomercial works, where they go way out of their way to sell you the idea. Generally I don't do these either, but will when I advertise it.

The Abstract

The abstract description used to describe abstracts. Which are very hard to describe because they are abstracts. However you can really say anything about these things. Many abstracts have to do with emotional pain, be sure to describe that pain as fully as you can. Your pulling on heart strings here, and only you know why you made things the way you made things.

Not all abstract have emotions though

Art Prints
Time is so complicated, every time you think you figured it out, you don't, your back where you started from. Time doesn't seem to have a start or an end. Time spirals out of control, it goes too fast, too slow, it seems to stop. If time stopped, would we live forever? Would it be life at all? Or do you keep aging and time doesn't have anything to do with that part of life. Perhaps time is only an observable event, and it just happens to coincide with things moving forward.

Some abstracts aren't random, so they are easier to explain then others. But because its an abstract, the description can be written as an abstract too.

Art Prints
Art doesn't have to be hard to understand, it doesn't have to match and it doesn't have to go with the drapes. Sometimes you just want something simple, yet shocking to the eyes. This kind of looks like an empty cannoli, The filling was eaten by me. So I am happy. Let this zebra like abstract brighten up your dull home.It also makes a neat gift for an eye doctor - it's hard to miss this and easy to focus on - for a while.

AVOID – Clinical descriptions (stock only)

A clinical description is when you list all the items in an image, in such a way, it sounds more like you cataloged it. Popular on stock sites, because it lists things, but its dead on boring when describing art.

Sell Art Online
If I were to explain this in long hand, I could describe it like this: A mortar and pestle, sits on a cabinet containing drawers. Behind that, stands a series of tall jars known as shop furniture. Everything located in an old town apothecary.

Now that was descriptive, and it was informative, and it will probably index in google well, but its also dead boring. Its like someone talking in a monotone voice.

Ironically my first description is a lot like the example above, but it works if you keep it simple:

The usual collection of items to make the most basic of drugs. The mortal and pestle, a few colorful bottles and drawers full of natural ingredients

In the past, I didn't get into the stories as much as I do now.

Do's and Dont's


1. Do spell things correctly. You don't want to look illiterate use google if your not sure, pay attention to that little red line under words. That line indicates you spelled it wrong. But don't assume the dictionary knows how to spell it, not all words are listed.
2. Do capitalize where needed, and don't use all caps either. On that same note don't use aLT cAPS. Its very hard to read and it makes you look kind of dumb.
3. Do add paragraph breaks where needed. No one wants to read through a massive block of text
4. Do mention the location of where you shot it, as long as there is a landmark in that location, suggesting where its located. A horse eating grass, I wouldn't bother with a location. But if there was a certain mountain range behind them, then go ahead, same with keywords.
5. Do try to make the information interesting and write it the best you can.
6. Do write it ahead of time, you can add things in Photoshop and the like, under file info, adding descriptions and keywords ahead of time will save time down the line. Proof read it again after you post it.
7. Do be the authority on the things you make, and describe them as if you are professor of that subject.

1. Don't advertise your other stores in the description, it looks tacky, and the links don't work anyway.
2. Don't push for friends on facebook in there.
3. Don't complain about medical ailments, like don't say, I have weak legs, so I couldn't get a better view of that object.
4. Don't make excuses why the image is as perfect as it should be. Like if you had a smudge on the lens, were stung by a bee, it rained the whole time etc... it doesn't matter, no one cares. People only see the final thing.
5. Don't bother adding contest wins (the viewer is not impressed), or features from groups. There are many group leaders who desperately seek attention, and many have a god complex, and they tell you that you have to list their group or have particular keywords. Ignore them. Or don't belong to a group that requires you to change things. You don't need the clutter. And chances are, those same groups will vanish in 6 months time anyway.
6. Don't add copyright death threats, in other words, don't blab on and on how you own the images and no one should steal it. Because I'm watching you. So help me if I see you ever take any of my stuff, I will hunt you down with dogs, make a citizen arrest, and see you in court, sue you for all your worth, and you'll hang your head in shame, because the judge will require you to do so.... and by the way, I hope you enjoy my work. Don't do that. If you must mention the copyright, do it in the Bio, and only keep it to the basics.
7. Don't list your camera and all your equipment in the description, no one cares about it. No one can relate, they don't know about your camera, and in the end it just makes you look like a show off.
8. Don't start listing tons of keywords hoping to game google – it knows better, and it will probably send you to the very back.
9. Don't copy from wiki directly. Use it as a guide
10. Don't ramble on about a subject and don't make the description so long that it makes a person scroll to read the rest. Not if you can help it anyway.
11. Don't tell people the watermark won't be there. It only adds needles clutter, and it distracts people from your real description. Chances are, if you have to explain that it won't be there when sold, don't have the watermark at all.
12. Don't list your name every time. I've seen people add their name at the top of every description, don't bother, it looks silly there, your name is at the top, they can find it there. You will get your recognition, I swear you will.
13. Don't bother listing shutter speeds or ISO info, don't explain it like your talking to a photo club. Just talk about the location. This is a store, keep it that way
14. Don't say it was a lucky shot, or a miracle shot. Simply assume your a genius photographer.
15. Don't sound like your a beginner, and start saying things like, please leave comments, or I really need sales, or I really hope you like my work. Its sounds pathetic. And those are real examples of things I've seen.


Nothing is trickier then the keywords. They are your little salespeople when your not advertising things directly. And while it seems like a simple subject, its actually fairly complicated. Your basically listing everything you see in a scene, words people may type in, and who the image is for, all under 500 characters. You'll want to look up stock sites to see what they used, there are word generators, but you have to use those carefully and use common sense. Look up things in a thesaurus as well.

To list keywords put it in this format: word,word,word,this phrase,word no spaces, unless its a phrase, separate with comma's. Spaces count as a character so don't have them. You do need comma's, or it will count as one big phrase. You don't need plurals, but it may help you get a slight edge if the viewer types it in with plurals.

When listing keywords, list all the major elements first, then move on to the minor ones that you can easily see. Then move on to color, location, and so on.

Photography Prints
So what do we have here? We have a farm in the country. What words can we think of for this?


That's the base, but we can get more detailed here

Idyllic,bovine,cow pasture,dairy,farmer (there doesn't have to be a farmer, its for a farmer), landscape,summer,warm,cow smell,pleasant,home,house,grass

You can go more advanced and look up alternate names for things as well, breaking out the thesaurus.

We could get more detailed, like naming trees, but there is little point. Pointing out colors is relevant, but only point out the major ones. Like I pointed to the green, but not the blue or red because they don't make up the bulk of the image.

Basically your just listing what your seeing. Is it summer? Where is this place located? Is it important to the scene? Be specific, its not just a horse, but a particular breed of horse. Add Latin names, add misspellings of words, if you spell it wrong as your typing, leave it there, and try again, correct the second one. There is a good chance that a viewer will make the same mistake.

Keyword spamming is a problem.

Spamming is when you add a word to get more attention to yourself, when you don't have that item in the image. Sometimes its an honest mistake of being lazy, cut and pasting them all up, isn't something you want to do. On this site the moderator will take away all your keywords and you have to start over.

If your scene has a mountain, and there is no water, you can't list ocean. And if your scene is clearly from the summer, you can't list Autumn. If your scene has a cat in it, you can't list dog.

However there is sort of an exception to the rule and that's the – looks like spam, but isn't spam rule.

I was talking to someone and they said that people are typing in Outback when they were looking for images of Australia. I'm an American, and I don't know any better, and most viewers don't know better, so when I think of Outback, I do think of Australia.

But a local thinks otherwise, they know there is a difference between the two, and he wanted everyone that marked it Outback to have that removed because to him its spam. But it isn't really spam, but it is, but it isn't. Because while it may not be accurate, people do associate those two locations, and interchange them. And by removing it, you could actually lose sales. While on the other hand, his argument was that we could lose sales, because when an Aussie types in Outback, they are thinking about something very specific. The reality is, it doesn't really matter, since people will isolate exactly what they want. And probably list it by location and town name, which is why its important to label such things.

The locals know the difference, everyone does not.

Sell Art Online
This is New York City, the water is the Hudson River, while I know its a river, I can list it as ocean as well. Because it looks like the ocean, and probably tastes like the ocean, not that I'm comparing samples or anything you really shouldn't drink from the Hudson River.

Adding the word ocean won't help me to sell this though, because when people think ocean, they think a wide open expanse. But it wouldn't be spam either because it is a part of the ocean, and it looks like it could be an ocean.

There is also a boat in here. To someone who is picky, they would call that a ship, and to them, calling it a boat, may be considered spam. Not only do I list it as a boat but a baot because that's how I spelled it the first time when typing too fast. Also adding clipper and such may get others to look at it.

List as many buildings as you can in the background. This can be tricky, but if you use google maps, its easier, and if you traced your route with a GPS, even easier.

It would be spamming if I listed random cities in here, and it would also be spamming if I rattled off a number of famous sky scrapers. On that note, spell it both ways – sky scrapers and skyscrapers.

Photography Prints
Trains can be tricky, a locomotive is called an Iron Horse, I can't say how many call it by that name though. Adding those words, anyone typing in horse, will get a train. But its not spam, but it is confusing. Same with a Cow Catcher, there is no Cow or Catcher (in this scene there in none of that anyway, but you'll see them on old trains). Its confusing to get a train when your looking for a cow.

There are minor things in this scene, such as the lamps, I wouldn't bother listing those because they aren't prominent. I've seen this done in many pieces, they list dog, but it only has a tiny dog in it. Or a tiny bird, don't list the small stuff.

Also very important – DO NOT LIST YOUR HOME TOWN.

This is spam, and its very confusing. People do this because they think that people in their town will want to shop locally and get something from a person in their own home town. But the thing is, it doesn't work like that. If you want someone shopping locally, advertise locally.

If I type Paris, I don't want pictures of New York, because that's where that person lived.

However, you also can have something that looks like spam, but also isn't spam. Some words have the same meaning. Turkey can be a bird or a location. Georgia is a place in the US, but its also in Russia. And then it gets more confusing when the photographer lists their own home town into the mix, pictures of Paris, might have a Turkey reference, and it becomes a mind trip when you look for it in the search.

If you enjoyed this dialog we had, a great way to thank me is by purchasing some of my work. I know you'll enjoy anything you get from my store, its all made with my two hands. Each image is lovingly made, and should match anything in your house. If your having trouble matching things, use the mat and the frame to match items in your room, and not the image.

Marketing 101 - by Mike Savad

December 3rd, 2014

Marketing 101 - by Mike Savad

Marketing on the internet - by Mike Savad

Selling anything is hard. Knowing what the buyers want is always hard. Being good enough against people that have been doing it for years � is hard. Selling online is very hard because there is a lot of competition. Not just that, but with today's phone technology, cameras getting better, software that makes photos look like paintings, they are getting better as well.

Your competing against the customer who also can take pictures of anything and make it look like a painting. So your work will have to be better than theirs if you want people to pay attention to your work. This is a wake up call for many people, their work may not be any better than a customers, and often they won't sell a thing because of it.

I've been selling online for close to 10 years now, and I've built up quite a portfolio, and developed my own style. It took years to create a method where people would know who made it at just a glance. That said it often takes up to 3 months to sell that one image. It often has to �soak� for a while before people like it enough to buy it. Depending what it is, it could take years before it sells.

This is just a basic guide, if you want something more advanced you'll have to find another article, but not written by me, I only know the basics myself.

1. Know your market and make things people want.

That sounds easier than it really is, because when you start your shooting in the dark and have no idea what people want. However you know what you want. So many things that you would normally hang in your house, or things you would buy if you saw it in a store. There is a good chance that if you like it, they like it, but you have to really like it. Many people fall under the impression that all they have to do is make something and it will start selling. But this couldn't be farther from the truth.

You see, people won't just buy anything you place in front of them, they need a reason to want to buy it in the first place. So in reality you have to make things people want. But people usually don't know what they want, but they know they want it when they see it. So whatever it is you make it should be of high quality.

To sell a lot you generally need a lot, however many people are under the wrong impression that you have to become a factory to be successful. You will need a diverse variety of items to remain interesting to people. Because you don't know what will be popular, you make a bit of everything.

Some artists feel that they have to create something that is outside of their vision of how they want to make it. That they can't make it their usual way and instead have to make to how a customer wants it. However a customer doesn't really know how they want it, so you should make it in your own style. They are buying your style.

So how do you know what people want?

You experiment

Lets say you own a bakery, and your not sure what will sell well, what to do?

A. You can make a number of different cakes, chocolate, yellow, etc, pies, cookies and the usual deal.

B. You can look at the demographics of the area and see what kinds of people live there. The type of people may be high class, so they will be used to fancy things. There might be a large senior center near by so you can make nostalgic things. And so on.

Art Prints Art Prints Photography Prints

So you opened the new store, it looks nice on the inside, a clear sign on the outside, you posted notices and advertised you were there in local papers and such. People come in expecting to find a confectionery delight of some kind. You start off by making a large variety of cakes, from fancy petit fours, to black and white cookies. Standard cakes and the usual wares.

After the first week you'll go over your books to see what you sold. Was anything trending? Perhaps chocolate sold faster than anything else, yellow cakes sold now and then, and cherry pie did well.

The next week you increase your line up of chocolate. You increase the variety of chocolate cakes. A few will be you usual cake in different shapes. You'll make 2-3 more with different fillings and icing combinations. At the same time you'll add one more item to your yellow cake line, and maybe one more type of cake, something with fruit on it.

Pay attention to what sells the most, do customers come back? Do they order the same thing they did the last time? Do they try something new? Do many customers buy the same cake. Was it the coating? It was certainly the presentation of that cake. If many people buy that particular cake, that cake is now a part of your permanent line up.

To continue the experiment, try making that cake that sells well, and creating new shapes out of it. Or add fruit or a new filling. Maybe the secret to selling that cake is just the icing. Try that icing or type of icing on other cakes. The chocolate poured on icing, might work well as a white frosting or even pink. Experimentation is the key here. Some weeks you might not sell those ideas. So you put them aside and try another idea.

In other experiments you might find that the cakes that sell well, look different than other cakes in town. Fancy flowers, better tasting icing, artistically decorated cakes may be the key to separate you from the other stores.

These experiments should never stop, keep adding a few new things to the line up of your store until you have constant sellers. From there you can tweak it and refine it more. But it will be rough the first few months or even years of running the place.

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Back to art

You experiment with art as well, you do the same thing. You create a number of different things, but creating a series out of them. 3 lighthouses, 3 landscapes, 3 of different things. For the first month, maybe even the year, you may not sell anything. Its a hard road to sell things and it takes time. You first have to build up a gallery, and you have to develop a style first.

The above shows past experiments using a certain style. In this case spirals. I never know the taste of a person, I try to just make cool looking things, while maintaining a certain look.

What is a Style?

A style is the personality you give your image. Its how you create the image, its your vision. Its how you use the camera, how you use a brush. How you use color, etc. You usually can't seek out a style, you develop it over years. You may not even notice you had one until people started identifying your work with just a glance.

Finding your Niche

Lets say after a year, you find things are starting to sell. Pay close attention to your sales, how fast it sold, how large it was, and what it was. My rule is, if sells large, or is really fast, I'll make another one. If it sells 3 or more times, I'll make another one.

This is the NICHE. It's the item that sells well for you, in the style you created, and people like it. So if you have 12 roses in your gallery and you sell 9 of them, and they are all either orange or white � make more of those two colors.

Then look for more niches. Maybe other kinds of flowers. Try a few of each kind and see if it sticks. However you may end up with a false positive in which it sells well because of the season. Maybe it was the year of the rose or something.

Again its about experimentation.

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Don't be afraid of trying weird things, sometimes one idea might stick well. Once you have one that works, make more, and narrow it down to what people really like.

2. Quality

It amazes me what people consider good quality, and while quality can be subjective, it all starts with you. I often help people with their images. And when someone asks to get a critique, and I post an image, often I get a response: Why did you post that? That's my worst image. Which just leaves me scratching my head. Because why in the world did you post an image that was bad?

You don't post your worst ones, and if you know its bad, why would anyone buy it? You don't know what image people will land on first. When doing a search for something they may stumble onto that image. Then they may use that image as a gauge to rate the rest of your stock. You may have some really nice pieces in there, but people will move on. Its like eating some burned food at a restaurant, it may only take once before you don't go back there again.

Only send your best. And while your best will change over the years, you could always go back and tweak stuff. But as long as you know you sent your best at that time, it should be fine.

Basic quality - Guidelines must be followed, or the print itself will look terrible. Your image should be free of defects, otherwise those flaws will end up on the buyers walls. If you view your image at a 100% (that means fill the image on your screen so your seeing it up close, it needs to be clear. Blocky, grainy, blurry, just poorly made � won't cut it. The final quality is a reflection onto yourself.

If its a painting, you should be able to see canvas and brush strokes. If it looks soft, it probably won't be printed.

Normal quality � If you are a photographer you shouldn't have the following things in your image: blank white sky, crooked horizons, buildings that tilt too much, bad crops, busy snap shot like images, it should look uncluttered.

Naturally we will always hear something from that one guy: �but I sold one that had all those things�. And anything is possible, however that was one sale and its usually not repeated. And if that's the only image you ever sold, it may be time to examine your quality on your other images. Color cast issues, boring vacation shots and the like, it may be time to cull those out.

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3. Descriptions, Title, Keywords
In today's world of fast attention spans, where people want to find what they are looking for right this very second, you need something to catch people's attention. A good picture should sell itself, but they may never see it if they only judge it by the title.

Title - Many people glaze over this. Thinking up a catchy title is a creative task that some people can't do. Its the first or second thing a buyer will look at. The title should reflect what is in the scene, because people will judge the work based on the title. Especially important if the work is hard to understand. If people read nothing else, the title should be written well. Don't name your things untitled 1,2,3, it shows a lack of respect to the art you made and to the buyer trying to understand it.

A good title is the same as a catchy newspaper heading. When you see a story that catches your eye � �Man born without a head�, you may want to just see what that is about. If the title was �medical mystery� or �headless man� or something like that, you may pass it.

The title should be interesting and perhaps funny. While its nice to have an informative title:

Keys on table I think it would look better if you called it:

�honey have you seen my keys?�. This way you can add humor to it, and it might spark an idea for the person who is always losing their keys and now they will always have them... on their wall.

Description - Shown above, once you have a title you can add a description. However don't just point out the obvious. Using the above title the description I've seen many make would be like � this is a picture that has keys on a table. While it's important to have keywords in your description so google can find you easier, the description is more for the buyer. Tell us why you made the image. If you can't come up with a good description, it will be that much harder to market it later on.

Keywords - Keywords are boring, not many get into them, only adding a few if any at all. But if you want to sell online you need to have words for google and the rest to find. Internally you can't be found If you don't have them. Add as many words that fit the subject as you can without spamming. Don't add odd phrases, Hashtag things you saw on twitter (such as #imageoftheDay or something like that, you'll only waste space for real words. Always include your name, and any odd title you have for your store. Don't include the town you live in, it only confuses people and no one cares.

Add unique words when you can. It's not just a chair, it's Adirondack chair. It's not just a church, it's a protestant church. Locations is very important. Tell people what town, state, county your in. Put that in the description as well. However only add that if it's relevant. A skyline, beach house, mountainscape, you would mention where. But if its a flower, don't bother.

If you do have a flower, mention its color, nick names, latin names, how many (single, one, two, three, etc), types of flowers, if you know a birth month add that. Roses for valentines, etc.

If it's a person, mention they are blond, young, blue eyes, african american, nubian, face, curls, anything unique about the image, tell us about it.

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4. Your avatar

Your avatar is your brand.

Make sure you have a good looking picture of yourself. The avatar is one of the first things a person see's, and just like in real life, they make a snap judgment about you when they look at the image. On a subliminal level you want to appeal to people's senses, you want to show them you are a professional, that you care about how you look, so therefore, your images will also look just as good.

You don't want a crummy, blurry, crooked image of yourself. Nothing cut out of an old yearbook, or a wedding you had 45 years ago. Nothing of you dressed up as something at costume party. No selfies in front of a dirty mirror. You don't want to appear side ways, blurry, upside down.

Your image can be comical if you want. But overall it should be professional looking.

Having a bad looking picture of yourself may make others not click on it. Some could think that your images must look bad because your self portrait looks bad. And they may very well be right.

Good you have a good picture of yourself, now place that image on every site your currently on. Every social site, blog, forum, POD, just everywhere. Be consistent. If someone finds you on one site, they will know its you because they recognize your image. Don't change the avatar every week, don't use a different one on every site, and if you do change it, don't change it too much. You want to be recognizable.

5. Your Biography

Your biography should be short, simple and to the point. It should outline what you make. And who would want the thing you make. Don't be long winded here, you don't want to bore your customers. I think it's a good idea to write in the first person. Writing it in the 3rd person, people tend to be pretentious. Many will show off asinine awards from small shows, country fairs and other places no one has ever heard of or care about. It won't make you sound better, just tell them what you have.

Also avoid the following:

Medical status � No one wants to know about your operations, cancer, or that your dying.

Your homeless and have no money, you need money, please by my work, I have no MONEY!!! You won't get pity sales, they will leave when they get to that line.

Just starting out � NEVER tell them your a beginner. This also goes for being self taught. People will look at you in a different way. It would be no different if your doctor came out and said he was a beginner or he was self taught. Let people assume you've been doing this for years.

Never mention that you don't have any idea if what you make is art or not. And that you hope people will like it. Let them decide. It sounds sad though if you don't know if its art.

Copyright death threats � We all know you don't want people taking your work, but it's best to keep it simple � Copyright to Mike Savad 2000-2014 � something like that. Giving them a contract statement with an ultimatum is a sure way to annoying a customer. You already are telling them you don't trust them at all.

Religion & Politics � Its best to keep things neutral. Mentioning god, faith, etc. or your favorite president is great if your with your own kind. But mentioning it too much is a turn off to many. No one wants to feel like they are being converted on your page, and many will just leave. You don't want to take that chance. If you think your god loves you, he will know this is just business and knows it doesn't belong there. I know there are many here that will argue that it's ok and totally harmless, but next time someone creates a bio that has a faith you don't like � devil worship or what have you � see what you think of that person then. Its the same with your own religious beliefs.

On that note, politics annoys people, even a favorite sports team. All of that should be kept hidden and out of view.

Your kids � I know many think its a great idea to talk about your family life. But very few care, parents have a tendency to ramble on about their achievements and it just clouds what your trying to say.

Where you grew up. Again very few will care. You might want to mention you grew up in the mountains and that's why you have so many images of them -then its ok.

Links � don't put any other links in your bio. This is not not the place to redirect people to your facebook pages. Don't ask for likes, or anything else. First off its tacky, don't ask for likes. Don't even ask for comments for that matter. But if you provide them with a link to facebook, do you know where they will go? New messages, a check on whats going on, and within 30 seconds, they will forget they were ever on your page.

Keep it simple:

Who you are
What you do
What you have
What style you use
Your a painter, photographer, welder, just tell them.

That's it. You don't want to make it a long read, your not writing a book, your not being interviewed. These simple things will be found by google so use keywords when you list the things you like making.

And if you do say you specialize in something, make sure you really do.

If you say, �I specialize in beach photography�, then you should have dozens of images of that. And not those three images you took on a vacation.

A specialty is something your good at, and have a lot of

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Vanity Name

6. With the basics covered, you now need a good name for your store. You don't want a listing of code that sites come with directing people to your store. Instead you want a simple and easy to remember name. In my case I use my name and that goes directly to my artist website. To make it easier I capitalized my names.

7. Now that you bought a name, spread your links. Join forums, add a sig line in your email. Make a blog, make a web page. No matter where you go leave your links behind. One way links, google likes these and it will raise you up in the search. Leave a trail, over the past 20 years I've been in countless forums. I always sign my name the same way, 3 dashes and my name. I didn't have my link with me, but the more often your name comes up, the better you'll be found. This is true if you have a name that others are also using. And since you do have a vanity name, get business cards printed as well.

8. Join Social media

Facebook - I'll be honest, I have no idea if this place is a good place or not to advertise. It's full of cat photo's and recipes. False likes, a few comments, and just a lot of distractions. As of this writing there are rumors that facebook will remove the ability to advertise images there. However you may find people blogging your work, and you may gain fans. But you'll probably just attract family you don't care about, or friends from work that just want to see what's up, but don't care about your work. However that said, you should join to have a presence there, and a link back to your store.

Google plus � same as facebook. I was banned from that place for a whole year, and I managed to get back on it just recently. To this day I don't know what I did that got me banned, so I'm not doing anything there at all now. I never erased my account however, that is still intact.

Pinterest � I'll be honest, I don't like this place, never did. Its a big clutter of images that are hard to find. If someone stumbles into the site, they will have a really hard time finding anything. And with all the distracting things that are not your picture, people will have their attentions swayed.

On the plus side its a good place to see all your images at once. You can make collections that you think your client will like and they can see it all in one place. So there are good things about the site. I don't like how people can upload images from their hard drive and I don't like the fact you can change the link after. Like the others, you should have a presence there. It's not like you can avoid not being there.

Twitter � This place is easy to find people that may like your stuff. Its more confusing to look at it because its mostly text. However I think that's a good thing, as pictures are far too distracting.

Finding followers is easy, getting them to follow back is harder. If they follow you, they will see your tweet. Twitter has a ratio, it's something like: follow 2000 people, and then 2000 people have to follow you back. After that it's a 10% ratio, so your always trying to balance the dead beats out that don't follow you and replace them with better stock.

Adding images - On the outside, adding pictures to your stream seems like a good idea. After all people can look at your work, and you want them to look at your work. However in my opinion this is a huge mistake.

In today's day and age where people are used to looking at an image, very few will click on one to see it up close. And they will do the same with the twitter feed as well. They will glance and move on. And to make it worse, the link, depending on its length will count for your 140 character limit. By the time you post it, there may not be room for a description let alone hashtags. Without hashtags you may never be found.

Hashtags are the blood to twitter. They are the keywords people will use to find your things and group things up so you can see �like� things. Simply add # in front of a word, that has no spaces and it becomes a keyword tag. Don't add this to your keywords in your store however. Hashtags are used in all the sites I mentioned above (though pinterest is going back and forth using them).

Keep hashtags neat in the line avoid #putting this into #eachLine because its really #distracting each of these tags become blue and it makes it hard to read the line. Try to keep it all in the back. Removing the ad these sites put onto the back.

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For example:

'Chicken - Chick Flick' - #savad #poultry #chicken #TVnight #Movies #birds #animal #DateNight #married #couple

I added everything to the end. There are places that say you should only have 3-4 tags, but I like to place many in.

An interesting note: Bots will see hashtagged words. And if the bot likes your word it will send your tweet to twitter feeders found on other people's web pages. #dentist, might end up on a dentist page some place. So when you name things be very direct to who will end up with this image.

Use hashtags as a hint to what else the image is about, make people curious by combining words that don't normally go together. #chickens #datenight #poultryFarmer

As mentioned, joining twitter isn't enough, you need to find followers. For example that chicken image above, I would enter into the search Chickens. Then second link down on the left, click people, and now it will only show people that like chickens. However it may simply find people who like eating chicken, so you may have to narrow it down to �poultry farmers�. I'll click on about 30 of them before moving on. I don't even read what they are, or their ratio of followers, I don't care. About half will follow you back. There are twitter follower cleaners around, some of them are more confusing than others.

Keep doing this trying to find people, that relate to the things you sell. Skip over the ones where they are locked, they aren't worth the hassle. Try to do 500 follows a week, then wait a week or two. Go to the link below to remove the ones that aren't following back. The site below is a little tricky to use as you have to check them off and erase them manually, but the people that own the site will usually answer all your questions. Or you can pay for the service and they will do it for you.

Don't heavily spam twitter. There are many places that will allow you to feed timed things in, but I don't like doing it this way. You also want to avoid pushing it too hard or people will drop you. 3-5 a day, or 10 a day spaced far apart will suffice. If you flood it, people will drop you.

9. Write blogs.

For example, this is a blog, it will also end up in the forum. People will comment on it. Everything you see here is a keyword. And google likes content. Forum posts, blogs, etc all get red carpet treatment from google. Make sure to mention your site a few times, add pictures, titles and such. You can be a guest writer on another site. Or be interviewed, any place you can leave a link is what you want.

Often I'll leave comments in you tube, news reports, etc, I connect with facebook, people click, go there and see my page that way. It doesn't pay to be anonymous online, it won't help you sell better.

10. Tell people outside. - It helps greatly if your outgoing, print up business cards, tell people who you are and what you do. Talk highly of yourself, but don't go over board. I am not a people person and really just mess up this route, but you might be better at it than I am. Some people carry a portfolio, a tablet with your work wouldn't be a bad idea. Some people place their images in bars to be seen or bought. Your only limited by your own energy, time and creativity.
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Why work may not sell

September 1st, 2013

Why work may not sell

Why isn't my work selling?
By Mike Savad

Sometimes no matter how good you think you are, even if you are great at making art, you find you can never attract people over to your work. This article isn't about advertising, it's about how you present your work viewed as a very small size.

Very small size? You might be thinking that it makes little difference how small something is, because you want people to buy the large version. But in order for the larger version to be seen by others, you'll need an attractive thumbnail.

It's said, that a customer has about 3 seconds of attention to process something before moving on. So in order to get them to see more of your work, you'll want things that will catch their eye. To do that you need to set something up that has good contrasts, color and a shape people can quickly understand in just a quick glance. When setting up for an art show, you want the brightest, most colorful works, that has the simplest of themes to be in the very front of the booth. These images pull the viewer in so they can see the rest. But you should have at least one or two eye catchers, the rest can be whatever it is you normally sell. This is how a store front window works by the way. Bright colorful things to attract the eyes to your store.

However in the online world, people have an even shorter attention span and it's made even harder because there is more competition.

So what does this mean to you?

In order to present yourself well you need a great picture, but it has to look good small as well. Complicated images (like a general store for example), will merge into a bunch of meaningless shapes, abstracts will look like a stain on paper when viewed as a tiny image.

If the image doesn't look interesting people won't click on it. This means you need simple shapes, bright colors, interesting contrasts. But it shouldn't be too colorful either because you only have seconds of attention and you want to keep it simple. A bright orange sunset, with a life guard tower contrasting against the sky will bring people in. A field of wild flowers, probably won't because there won't be enough contrast or color for the small image to look interesting.

You can view your small version after you save it and view it in windows or use the navigator in Photoshop. You can also see it here online in your store in the selling options. How easy is your image to recognize when it's only a 1/2� across? Can you add something to it, to make it more interesting? Like change the color of a flower just so it stands out better?

So lets try something.

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This is the standard size that Fine Art shows it's pictures in. If thumbnails were this large all over the net most people would be good. However it might be really tiny due to the device they are using. Let's simulate it:

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I shrunk this about 4 times smaller. This size is about the size most phones will look like (if not smaller), before they zoom up on it. This image shows up well because of the contrasting shapes, you can kind of see what it is before you click on it. A buyer might be interested in it if it also has a nice title to go with it, in this case it's called: Machine shop circa 1900's. People are more apt to click on it if they have a reason to do so.

This is also an important note � another reason you want great interesting or descriptive titles. If the thumb nail is weak (they aren�t always going to stand out), then you'll want your interesting title to be the seller for that work.

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Here's another one, it has interesting or unusual shapes, people may want to click on it.

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My octopus image was made too dark, and I used purple and blue. When the image becomes smaller, you can see really very little of the image. On uncalibrated screens, that could look solid blue to some people. It's better large, but it's still dark. It doesn't thumbnail well.

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Here's another one, while up close there is a lot of detail, as a stamp sized image, most of that is lost and it almost looks like a solid color. On a normal day most people will skip past this image.

This is a block of my images some do well, and some don't do well.

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Selling aside, just on the instinct to click on an image, which of these would you most likely to click on and when you made you choices, ask yourself why you clicked on those and not the other one?

Selling art is about visual appeal. However paying attention to small things like this can often help you in the long run. I've often gone back and increased the brightness in a piece because I noticed my thumbnail was not that punchy.

---Mike Savad

Evaluating your own work to sell by Mike Savad

May 4th, 2013

Evaluating your own work to sell by Mike Savad

Evaluating your own work to sell � by Mike Savad
Zazzle - Suburban Scenes by Mike Savad

To learn how to critique yourself visit:

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Selling images is not that easy. And explaining to people why they are not selling often comes out more like an insult then anything else. Some people make it look easy, but it's not. Selling often comes down to marketing and who you market too. But more importantly you need to have work that people want to buy.

I know that sounds obvious, but it's harder then it seems. Cameras are everywhere today, each person may be carrying 1-3 cameras on them. Phones, digicam's, SLR's, there are so many � �wanna be photographers�, that it's actually quite hard to convince others that the pictures you take are better than the ones they take.

When I first started digital photography there were no POD sites, there were only places to display images. You were able to get comments on your work, but that was about it. Later on critique sites showed up, these are valuable sites and everyone should join these. You can learn how to critique yourself and be able to spot your own mistakes. However many people skip these kinds of sites now, and try selling as soon they starting taking pictures. This is a big mistake and a big blow against your ego. Because not everything is sellable. Many will take vacation snap shots, and in their head, they thing because this is a gallery, then my things will sell. The customers will be fooled into thinking that my images are actually art, because they are in a gallery. And I've seen the trash that sells in a real gallery, so my work is a real winner by comparison. But the reality is, buyers are smarter than you, art is expensive and a luxury item. And they are very careful what they will buy. People will buy things they can't make themselves or they really have to like what you offer them.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before posting or editing an image:

1. Does my image look like a snap shot?

A snap shot will look messy, cluttered or really busy. The photographer will know what they took a picture of, but the audience has no freaking clue. Very often the photographer will shoot a scene that is too wide, often showing clutter not related to the story the image should have. For example, if you take a picture of a flower, get close to it, and don't have a ton of background. Otherwise no one will know that is the main reason you took that picture. A flower, that has a background may have other elements in it such as people, signs, lamps, trees, cars, etc, if your eye is skipping all over the place, no one will know that the flowers at the bottom are the main attraction (this is what a busy image is).

Snap shots are usually fast impromptu shots that had no real intentions when you shot it. You might see a piece of an arm, a crooked horizon, a very busy image with lots of cars, piece of houses cut off, the crop being too tight (where as the subject is touching the edges), and images without a story. Everyone has snapshots, but usually they stay at home. It's very rare for one to sell. The most common snap shot is a person standing in front of a sign, or smack in the center of a scene. Most good images that are not designed to be a portrait or street photography, won't have people in it (unless they add to the scene).

2. Would I buy my own art?

This is a trick question, because to save face you will always say yes. But would you actually do it? Would you buy your own art, have it framed, etc � for yourself or as a gift? Would you proudly hang it on the wall of your living room as a 36 inch print? If your hesitant, then the answer is no. And if the answer is no, then why would anyone else?

Another way to look at this is, if you were looking for art yourself, and you saw images very similar to the ones you shot � would you buy them? I'm betting the answer is no, because you have shots just like these, and guess what, so does the buyer. Is the work better than yours, and that's why you would buy it? Make sure your work is just as good as the person you would buy from.

3. Who am I making this for?

Every image should have a target in mind. There shouldn't be an �anyone� in your mind, it should be a �someone�.

A someone picture has an intended target in mind. A picture of Boston would attract people that lived in Boston at one time. Or maybe they still live there. A picture of a kitchen would be for people that bake, or need kitchen related art. If your image is of a random scene, and it's hard to tell who your focus is, then it will be hard for the buyer as well. Not knowing who the image would go to, makes it hard to market as well. So be careful what you display. Try not to have the same scene more than twice, choose 2 views and move on to the next batch.

4. What room of the house is my image for?

For example, would your art look good in a living room? Or a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom, dorm room, office, etc? Not all work looks good everywhere. Many are under a false impression that you need lots of work to gain followers and sales. But you can't just fill the gallery with junk photos. Each image should look as good as the last one. And it should look good in any room of a house. You want to present each image as if it was going in a gallery of some kind. And there aren't many galleries that will except your cat photos.

5. Maybe your work is too good, but it's either a bit boring, or it blends with other people's work too much

I find that there is a plateau in photography in which if you move in a steady line, your photography starts to look like everyone else's. And while it looks nice, and it looks professional, it looks like all the others. If your name isn't associated with that image, or the location or style isn't associated with you, you may not get sales. For example, most stock photography looks the same. Many landscapes of mountains look the same. Partly they look the same because people idolize a certain photographer and copy their style. And now there are two of you � with the same type of photos.

So make sure your work not only stands out against other people's images, but make sure it looks better than theirs. Or more special or unique.

6. Your work is very good, but not very original

This goes hand in hand with the one above. Your work needs to stand out on it's own, it should tell a story if possible. It should have good color balance where applicable. It should look like a really nice picture, however, because it's not original, it will blend in with other images.

For example landscapes are tougher to do than they look. A good landscape is deep, sharp, and is fairly clutter free. A great landscape has interest beyond the first category. Cool looking clouds, a formation, the way the light shoots through them. The shadows on the ground that create a certain amount of depth and scale. The small town that's near by showing you a way of life and again scale. A fantastic landscape is one where you might have camped out overnight in a spot no one knows about. The light is just right, the farmer is in his field guiding his sheep. The animals are frolicking about. A fantastic shot is where you spend a lot more time and energy getting that one photo. Compared to a beginner which would snap it on his way to the next stop. Now that doesn't mean that the person who spent 5 min is any worse than the one who took hours to do it. But the one who took more time may have a more original looking image than the one that other people. Taking the beaten path often yields more interesting results because most people would take the easy path.

And this is true for any of the other art forms. Good artwork looks nice, it's complete looking, it has a wow factor and it looks polished.

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Using baking as an example of what good, great, and fantastic is. (I like comparing it to food because everyone has eaten something at least once in their life).

GOOD - You bought cake mix and frosting from a store. You made the cake and frosted the cake yourself. The finished result is a cake that looks nice, and should taste good, but you didn't do a lot of work making it.

In photographic terms, you took the picture and gave little thought about your presentation. If you were a part of a tour group and you couldn't leave the path to get a better shot, your image would look just like theirs. The scene is OK to look at but isn't anything special, it's almost snap shot in quality. Often taken mid day when the shadows are the strongest, it's a nice view, but 400 other people have the exact same view.

GREAT - You made your own cake from a family recipe. Made your own icing. You decorated the cake. It tastes pretty good, better then cake in a box.

In photographic terms, you went a little out of your way to get a shot. Like when I go on vacations I don't get a choice of when we arrive. If the light is harsh, then it is, too bad for me. If there is a sign in the way, or garbage on the ground I have to shoot around it, or clone it out later. I rely on editing to make a shot look better. I don't have the dedication it might take to get some of those fantastic shots. But you might go off the beaten path, try angles that are not common. You might lie on your back, or on your tummy, getting that shot. You might try different lenses, or just do really stupid things to get the shot. Your images are different and original, but they might not have the super impact of fantastic photography.

FANTASTIC - Using your own recipe, you make a cake from scratch. You might have gone as far as growing your own ingredients, but most likely you bought most of your stuff from a gourmet store. You made your own vanilla using 3 kinds of beans. Everything you made is totally from scratch, so you have full control over the finished cake. You don't follow the traditional shapes or icing methods, you have your own way of doing it, something that sets you apart from everyone else. You have years of experience behind you. Your cake is far superior to any other cake you can buy in a store.

In photographic terms, You went out of your way to get the shot. You camped out over night, just so you can get the morning sun rising over the mountains. You brought your own props, like a boat, a model, chairs, etc just to make sure there was a story, or something of interest (you thought ahead). You went out of your way to get the picture, like hiking a tall mountain (not for the thrill, but to get a new angle). You jumped from air planes, or went out into the jungle, you rented helicopters to get a new angle. You did stuff far beyond what any sane person would do, just to get that shot. But the work stands out. Whether you spent hours in the darkroom, photoshop, or got it right from the camera, your work stands out against everything and it's instantly recognizable as yours.

And just for comparison, I placed the snap shot at the bottom

SNAPSHOT - Speaking in cake terms, a snap shot would be a Styrofoam practice cake with icing added in a sloppy way. You can tell the cake was made by a beginner just by looking at the roughly placed icing and the mess they left on the table. When cut into, it there's nothing special inside, and you wouldn't want to eat it. It's something anyone with any skill can make.

In photographic terms, a snap shot is something you took usually on vacation. People buying their first camera usually take snap shots. They are often impressed with themselves that they were able to take the image. Usually they don't see any of the details that make an image poor looking. Such as, crooked horizon, major perspective distortion, things cut off, people cut in half, garbage on the ground, over or under exposed areas, a really busy cluttered scene (element in the image that has nothing to do with the image itself), nothing in focus. Its an image that anyone can make, and you really want to avoid snapshots, they can taint your reputation.

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7. You might be very new, or not well known yet.

Selling anything takes word of mouth, or in this case, word of eye. You need to advertise yourself everywhere, you want people to be able to recognize your art the instant they see it. However this is a two edged sword, if your work is below average in quality, the only thing your doing is digging your own grave. Get good first, then push your name.

It's exciting starting a new business and you want it to go well. You have dreams of getting lots of money because you saw other people get lots of money selling the same thing. You overlooked your own quality because you only saw dollar signs. You pushed your work really hard, but when people came to look at it, all they saw was low quality items. Pushing snapshots, images that are deemed to be tossed in a fire � you don't want people seeing those, ever. This is why it's important to get good, before you try to sell things. Because it's hard to get a good reputation and even harder to get it back once lost.

8. Has anyone tried contacting you about your work?

Often you'll know your work is sellable to the market place when people out of the blue contact you to work out a deal of some kind. Often when this happens they are con artists looking to score a buck off an inexperienced artist who will be more than happy to hand over their images for pennies. It's up to you if you want to pursue this. But at this point you'll know if your work has a real value or not. Because people that are experienced at selling art, will be able to recognize quality when they see it. So if they see yours, and you get some interest, you know your ready to sell to other people.

You can take that as a positive sign that you made it to the level of selling things to the public (without having to beg). So way to go, eat some cake, it's homemade, I made it myself. Now you just have to market yourself.

9. Is your work steal worthy?

Yeah, I know it's not the best gauge, and yet it is. If people are willing to take it and add it to their pages, then other people are willing to pay for the same thing (just not the people that stole it). You'll know how well it will sell and how fast it will sell, based on how many times someone stole that image. Stealing will happen, it's impossible to stop.

If you have lots of images and you find that no one wants to take your work that could be a clue why your not selling. Some things aren't worth taking (while your reading this, I am not giving you permission to steal my work).

10. Your not well known yet.

Many people are under the illusion that as soon as they post something to a new site, or open a store, that people will flock over to them, tossing money in their direction. And while that could happen, it's not likely too. There are many other artists out there that have been working it longer than you have. And even if you have Grade A material, people have no idea who you are. You usually have to get known before people want your items. Mostly because they have to find you. You have to advertise yourself to every medium you can to be seen. Because images are something you have to see, each of your images need to be posted in many locations. After awhile people will connect your name with your images, and all they have to do is hear your name and that will be enough.

Art Prints

---Mike Savad

How Nostalgia Works

February 15th, 2013

It's funny how nostalgia works.

Nostalgia is basically something old, that we see as a charming memory. But in order to qualify it has to be something we can identify with and something we can recognize. It also has to be a certain age to really count.

When making a photograph we tend not to think about how the future will see our art, mostly because we don't care. It's only looking back to that image do we get that sense of nostalgia, and it's usually because it's a bygone day or things are totally different now.

How this effects what you take and how you use it is important. For example, take the common scene:

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Some could call this a snap shot. A snap shot often is cluttered and it's hard to tell what story the image is trying to explain. It's often filled with many different items which could hurt an image or help it depending on the context. And more than often a snap shot is a picture taken in modern day. But how does it relate to nostalgia?

As seen in the first image, the bayou, the building itself is already old, it's been re-purposed into a new store. Old lights dot the streets (made to look old because new stuff looks odd in this setting). There's a guy there standing in the fashion of the day, which happens to be 2010, mail boxes, and it shows what life was like in this time.

The second shows a cluttered but typical New York street. People hailing taxi cabs, modern cars mixed with old buildings. You can see shadows of old buildings, traffic lights, bits of cobblestone showing you just how old this area is.

Neither of these are nostalgic. Why? Because this is what you see if you go there right now. This was taken in 2012. This is what life was like back then. The same as it is now.

It's not a nostalgic piece yet. We have to wait years before it is. In 10 years, not much will change, unless an earthquake levels the town. In 30 years, it's still not that interesting because the building will look the same, but it might have different owners. People are still driving those old cars.

In 50 years, it becomes more interesting, because most of those cars were crushed into soda cans, and the few that remain are in car shows as a classic car. We can look back at this image at that time and see what has changed since then. The building might be gone. The streets paved, the cars might be hovering.

In a 100 years, this is a classic. There could be a huge skyscraper on this spot. The cars might be flying in the air, and all these cars on the street could be in a museum. Complete with actors who dress up like us and speak of the interweb and use hand held cell phones that fold just to complete the look while being totally confused that none of those things were used in this era. We can see how charming the people look in their period outfits.

In a 150 years, the image itself is rare and a total antique since images are either 3D or beamed directly into your head.

That's one way to look at nostalgia, sometimes an image that doesn't seem so interesting is, it all depends how you age it.

Another type of nostalgia, the type that that doesn't need years to age and cure:

Your typical family vacation snap shot. That's right all those images of you in your Speedo's, at some amusement park on the beach. Something that would and should, stay in the family album can become an overnight nostalgic piece. But it depends on natural disaster or time itself. If a building is leveled, and people miss that building, your snapshot might fill that void.

When the twin towers fell, out came the snap shots. When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, it swallowed a historic boardwalk. The whole thing is gone. The roller coaster is in the water. The only real memories of it are those horrible snap shots. But they are now a classic because they may be the only images left of the place.

This is a good reason to take pictures of everything, because you never know if it will be gone the next time you go there.

---Mike Savad

How to critique your own work

February 12th, 2013

How to critique your own work

How to critique your own work

Being able to critique your own work will allow you to see your own images from the viewpoint of the buyer. If your not making sales, despite advertising, tagging, etc, it might be due to your work being so horrible.

There are many mistakes beginners and even advanced people make when shooting a photo. And many of those people, unless they look at their own work critically may never see the faults in it. Either accepting their work as being good enough, or they might have convinced themselves that they are indeed a master, because they bought a good camera or whatever. Being able to critique yourself is an art in itself and will let you improve yourself over time.

Never ask family or friends to critique your work. It will either give you useless results or bad feelings. If you ask someone like that for a look, they will always tell you that your work looks great. And if you ask can be be more specific � what do you like? They will often wave their hand and say, well all of it is nice. Toss the answer. It's useless unless they tell you why they like it. If they gave a pause before answering or looked at their friend, toss it. If they look and just stare with awe, you might have a winner, just don't let them roll their eyes.

Anyway, this is a primer of what to look for in having a good looking photo � it can apply to paintings too to a degree, but I see more bad photos than paintings.

Always sort your pictures into 2 directories � the trip you were on, and an edit directory. So you can erase the ones in the edit and keep the old ones for later. Never edit an original. And always back up the work before you start anything.


When sorting through images you have to look at basic elements.

1. Blurry - Is the image blurry? If the image has motion blur (you have to look up close), if it's soft, or things in the scene moved like a person, flower or tree � erase it. While you can sometimes save an image with a painter program (DA painter, etc), it's best to just remove it. I'll often erase the original if it's really bad.

2. Story - Does my image tell a story? Can I or anyone else understand the context of this image just by looking at it? If you the photographer can't tell where you were or why you shot it � don't post it. How am I supposed to know if you don't?
3. Framing � A part of story telling is the framing you use in the image. I'll go into it a little more below. Basically framing hides things in the background and helps the story.
4. Balance � Some scenes need a certain amount of balance. Like all the action shouldn't be on one side of the image. There are exceptions to this rule, but it shouldn't look like one side of the image will tip over if placed on a table.
5. Interest � Images from your vacation are often not very interesting. Many images are snapshots. A snap shot is any image that looks like you took it in a hurry. It often has elements that make a scene busy or has things that are cut in half. People, windows, signs, etc, cut in half at random places. Sometimes a location or an item has a special meaning to you, but often it doesn't translate to something for us.
6. Exposure � Is the sky the right color? Is there a very heavy color cast on the scene? Is there a very hot bright spot or really dark shadows? If the scene looks balanced colorwise, and everything else checks out move on to Step 2, otherwise just toss the image

Step 2 � Editing

If you use an SLR and it has a RAW function � ALWAYS shoot in raw. Side by side they look like a softer version of a jpg, often with less color comparatively. Using a raw editor you can fix color problems, chromatic aberrations, poor exposure, etc much easier than you can if you shot with straight JPG. If your goal is to become a pro photographer, even if you don't edit much now, you might later. Years later I will often go back to old things that I couldn't edit and fix them, all because I shot it in RAW.

At this stage your looking at your image, you edited the basic color if it was RAW. It's time to straighten. It always amazes me how many people don't straighten their image.

1. If you shoot a scene with water, always make sure the horizon is straight.
2. If you shoot a scene with buildings, check the horizon and the buildings. There are times when the horizon is actually slanted such as a road, but to the eye it will never look right. When your in doubt about what to straighten, always use a building as a guide, because those have to be straight, unless it's an old structure.

There are many other types of images that should be straight. However there are other types that are ok to be crooked looking or leaning, and that's usually when you look up or down at a building, often it can create a unique look.

After you straighten it, crop it. You want to try to find balance, but at the same time keep as much picture as possible. If you crop something very tight, you'll lose picture information or simply make the image too small. When I crop i'll use a fixed crop at the pixel dimensions I use. The picture may stretch a little or shrink depending on the size of the crop. At this point save it and give it a creative name, something that will attract attention without seeing the picture.

Step 3 � Cloning things out.

Depending how you straightened it, cropping may leave what I call � crop marks. A crop mark is that little white or black border that's left over because that part of the picture is missing. When cropping you want to try to avoid this, but sometimes you can't help it. You do want to fix these, especially when selling paintings.

However after that, you have to decide what else needs to be removed, and sometimes there is so much to be removed you may just want to scrap the shot at this point. If you think it will take longer than an hour to clone things out � delete it and find something else.

I've never met a scene that was perfect.


GARDENS � Gardens will usually have sprinkler heads, marker signs, people, roads, cars, dead plants, bare spots on the lawn etc.

HOUSES � Dead lawns, dog piles, security signs, Christmas decorations (nearly impossible to remove some of them), wires leading to the house, house numbers (I usually remove them), other houses, dead trees, etc.

CARS � May have odd reflections of people, dirt, scratches, dents, maybe the background is poor.

STILL LIFE � If the scene is supposed to be vintage, remove anything modern. Watches, wires, security stuff, people in reflections, tags, spider webs, dust, and anything your eye spots.

PEOPLE/PORTRAIT or PET � red eye, branches growing from a head, distracting elements like wires, poles, signs, other people, etc.

There are many purists however that think an image has to be a documentary (untouched by a photographer). Art is not a documentary. However if you can avoid cloning things out later, or line them up with other things to make it easier � do that. You'll thank yourself for it later.

For example:

If there is a garbage can, sign, person etc � line them up with a natural element to block it out. I'll often use a plant or a flower to remove something else. On a street scene I might use a person walking to remove something in the background. If you time it right you won't have to clone it out. If the element is a sign post, try not to line it up with a door way or a window edge, because it's hard to replace something on a vertical. If you can line bad things up against a solid background.

After editing, adjust color, sharpen and your done.



When someone uses the term framing they aren't talking about the border around the image. A frame is when you use an element in the scene to help a story, or to block an ugly area of an image. Often framing can be used to tell the time of year, by using a flower or something that would be there during that time of year.

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All of these are a form of framing.

The first one, the pine tree blocks out much of a boring background. Eyes will naturally go to light, and the light is on the wagon. The tree is framing the wagon with it's trunk and branch. The flowers were added to help balance the shot. I wasn't thrilled with the path, it does add a little bit to the story, but would have been more of a pain to add new grass, due to the angle and shadows.

The second one, the trees frame the horse ride. Note again that the light in the back draws the eyes on that then the horse. I did a lot of cloning on this there used to be a back on this wagon and I didn't like it there so I took it out. Same with the branches on the left, they were a distraction.

The last one, is a bit more subtle. There is a tree in there, but the fence is more of a frame for the whole thing. It's very important, when you shoot a fence, that the fence doesn't block anything. Note how the path is open at the front, it leads people into the shot. The cows are bonus. I purposely made the background lighter so the eyes know where to go.


This is probably the most confusing term in photography. When I think of story, I think of � once upon a time. But a story is simple a way to show a picture, where I don't have to explain what your looking at. Not every scene needs a story and not everything has one. But it helps.

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Each of these scenes tells it's own story. You can make one up as you dive into it. However the story may not be as strong if your not in trade.

Here is an example of a story � The scene � A tractor stands in front of a field, a path leads to the farm. Being in front, the tractor is the main story. The crops are the thing that the tractor is used for. The road is what the tractor came from which leads us to the barn. Each element helps the other elements


This can be a killer for many people. There are two kinds of busy � good and bad. Bad busy should really be called DISTRACTING, good busy usually means there are many things to look at all at the same time. The pharmacy on the right is a very busy image, however everything in the scene is related. Everything is poisonous.

Bad busy is when you have an image and I can't tell what you were taking. In your mind, you were taking a picture of an old guy on a bench. But what you took was the background, kids playing, odd shadows, the sky, cars, etc. everything around the guy. That's a snap shot. If you want the guy on the bench, zoom up on him, or get closer.

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General stores will always be busy. There isn't much you can do about it. However everything is related in the scene. Some people hate busy, they like simple things they can understand. For those people, you take the still lives that are on the shelves.

Anyway, the last one however is BAD busy. Partly because the items don't really relate, and partly because it's so dark in there. There's also only one real tone in there. It's not really an eye catcher, it's still experimental as to whether it will sell or not.


Photography Prints Photography Prints Photography Prints

City scenes can be complicated. Framing and filling the frame with the picture, without spilling onto something that's boring, dirty or unlrelated can be tricky. It's also hard due to parked cars and such. The first scene shows a cafe. I stayed close to keep it personal. The tree is a frame, it shows that trees do grow in NY. It also shows the time of year it was, it's not fall or winter. I cloned out wires, I think a roof of a car, and some stickers in the windows.

The second, is busy, it's both good and bad busy. There's something you'll notice in almost all of my work, I never show wire, traffic lights (unless they are unavoidable), and cars. If it's an old house a modern car hurts the shot and can create a snap shot appearance. However, 20 years from now it will start looking quaint because of the now old cars that are in there. City scenes however should look busy, which is why I left everything in. I did however add clouds, because the sky was blank.

The last shot has the most cloning. On the left was a road with signs, cars, lines, on the right there were draped wires, part of that wall was missing � I think it was another building. I re-built the wall there to keep the flow. Its very hard to remove wires on a street when there are trees there, but If I left it my eye would travel on the road because the eye is easily distracted.


It's said that covering a snap shot with a fun overlay (like neon or some blur filter), will change the work to art � but that's false. That's like icing a stale cake, no one will be fooled. Effects can however add dimension if used right.

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In the first two scenes, simply dropping some lines from the window provides the illusion that sunlight is coming in. It creates a mood and adds warmth, it also show perspective and depth. Note the path that leads the eye into the scene, it's also bright, which leads the eye. The scene is busy, but a good busy, it lets you study it. Selective highlighting allows the eye to absorb each detail, adding highlights on the belts, and machine beds and such. The tool on the left serves as a basic frame, partly unintended do to where I could stand.

The last one uses natural light � use it whenever you can.


There are many common mistakes people make when shooting:

1. When photographing a person, never let something grow out of their head. Don't line them up with a tree or a post. This goes for anything. Clone it out if you have to. If your mean, and on a trip someone hands you their camera to take a picture of them, do line them up.
2. Don't center. This is a common rule that can be broken at any time. Mostly it means, when you shoot something, and it's centered, don't leave a bunch of blank space around the subject. Either turn the camera to portrait, or place them next to something nicer like a bed of flowers.
3. Make sure you are shooting something. Many people get caught up in the moment of how pretty it is that day, or a scent in the air, and shoot randomly. Try to make it something interesting.
4. Don't take pictures of signs. If the scene is not interesting without the sign, then it won't be with the sign. Signs are good to know where you were � at home � but not here. You really don't want to say to the customer that you got this on a trip, it turns them off when they see a sign to the attraction or a sign on a building (the little history signs you see on some buildings).
5. If you take a picture of something make sure the shot is not cluttered. If it was trash day � don't shoot the garbage. If it's a pretty house, don't shoot the graffiti next door. Try to make sure everything in the scene is related. Like if it's a historic house, and there is someone in costume, get them, don't get the tourists.
6. When you shoot something reflective, don't be in the shot. Whether it's a reflection in the window, vase, or glass, don't be there. If you know your shooting against glass, wear black that day. Avoid reflections on glass if you can help it


1. Many people are under the impression that anything here will sell. Just because it's called a gallery doesn't mean you will fool the people into thinking your item is art.
2. On that note, don't take pictures of signs and sell them. This goes for ceramic things left on a porch as a still life. It can be a part of the scene, but it shouldn't be the scene itself. The same thought is for statues that aren't yours (statues are actually copyrighted art, and you can't sell those).
3. If you live in a certain town, don't take a picture of a random street thinking that someone might be homesick and might want a picture of their town. Chances are they aren't that sick. I've seen many take pictures of just random streets, or the sign leading up to an attraction. If you must take pictures in your own town, choose the center, or a landmark. Preferably during spring or fall, sometimes winter. Make sure to mark the location and the town and state name so people can find it later.
4. No pictures of your pets, babies, single flowers, family shots, your car, etc. There are nice shots of babies, but it's rare to get a good one that everyone will enjoy. Pictures of pets should be on a neutral background like grass or a wall, and don't use a flash so the eyes aren't red and taken at eye level. There are many flower shots here and to be good it means you need great light, usually a close up, often rain drops, or something that will make yours stand out. However more often then not, people shoot flowers because they are bright, easy to find, and almost always at hip level so you don't have to bend much.
5. No one is interested in a picture of you and your girlfriend. No one wants to see your family reunion. No one cares about uncle Floyd or Aunt Edna at the pool. Save those for home or facebook.
6. If you take a picture of a car, make sure you don't have distracting things like reflections, people, and fingerprints. That's goes the same for still lives, no fingerprints.
7. Sunsets only look good to when your there. Just because a scene has color doesn't mean it will sell. There are so many AWESOME sunsets on this site, or any site � that the one you took out of your car window with a cell phone, won't sell just because it's here and you called it art. To add, if it is a sunset it should still be of something. In other words, if the scene didn't have a sunset, would it be interesting? If it's just some color and black trees, it won't be that interesting.
8. Oddly there are many images of just clouds. I've seen them in a dozen accounts or more. If you did nothing more than point your camera towards the sky, what makes your image so special that a buyer can't do the same thing? And if a buyer can make it themselves, they don't need you. If you have other shots that are far more interesting, boring images like that may turn off the buyer and they may simply stop looking at your stuff.

9. Always ask yourself: Would I buy this? Who am I making this for? And always be honest with yourself.

Why is this quick primer so long? Because I wrote it. And I don't write things in short ways. If I can make something more complicated I will.

Critiquing your own work starts at the moment you see a shot that you want to have. It happens when you point the camera and get ready for this shot and the next one. It happens when you choose the one you want to edit. It happens when you edit for final presentation. And it happens when you look at older work.

Being able to rate yourself will mean you have to be open and honest with yourself. Listen to that little devil on your shoulder that says you should toss the shot. He's probably right. And if the other little devil argues, don't listen to him, just toss it. I've tossed things well after I edited it. The amount of time I fuss with something removing tiny things, or filling in noise, it can take hours. That scene above with the machine shop, any of those often take 5 hours or more to make. I'll zoom in at every level to adjust highlights and shadow and remove stuff that doesn't belong. It has to look right in my eyes. It has to pass my judgment. If I can see the mistake, then other people might also. I am my worst critic when it comes to judging my own work.

To rate yourself, you should start by rating other people's work. When someone asks for a photo critique, all I hear are people whining that they don't know how to do it. Then try! To be able to see the flaws or the good things in someone elses work, means you can do your own. You have to toss out any feelings you have for a person or what they might feel and really look at it. Do you like it? Yes? No? How come? Where does your eye go? What's the first thing you look at? What's the second?

What do you like about the piece? Do you like the colors? Context? Location? Is it a place from your childhood and that's why you like it?

What do you not like about it? Is it crooked, blurry, busy, no story, no point? Just looking over something you can easily point these pretty fast.

You'll find it gets easier with time and practice. And the more you nitpick your own things the better the outcome later on.

---Mike Savad