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winter sunset watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen at fine art america.

Winter Sunset Watercolor Painting by Michelle Wiarda

Are you an artist or photographer that wants world-wide exposure? If so, read on.

If you haven’t heard about Fine Art America, fineartamerica.com, check it out. Fine Art America is an online art gallery marketplace that is constantly growing. As of today there are 50,560 members. Here are the latest stats from their site. “There are currently 1,168,080 fine art prints, photo prints, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other works of art available for sale on FineArtAmerica.com (including 1,253 new pieces which were added today).” Fine Art America was founded toward the end of 2007 by Sean Broihier as a forum to connect artists with collectors and other buyers, and to put the business side of their career on “autopilot”, so they can devote more time to creating art. He is said to refer to FAA as his life’s work. Thank you Sean!

You can see it’s also a great place to network with other painters, photographers and visual artists of all kinds. They comment on your work, you comment on theirs, you can have discussions, send each other messages, and you can see what is selling, what others are doing, and what is new. You can sell your original work, and/or beautiful fine art prints of your work reproduced on canvas, or on a variety of fine art papers. You can also choose from a wide array of frames, and an even wider assortment of mats. As you make your choices, an image of your artwork is shown with the mat, frame, or canvas style applied.

If you are a member, or you have checked it out,  you know how amazing it really is. You upload your work, and FAA handles the business side of things for you leaving you more time to create!

I found the Fine Art America website by clicking on a beautiful image of an osprey, the bird, that a friend of mine shared with me on Facebook, (thank you Lauren!). I noticed that the photographer had many images posted on Fine Art America, and his work was beautiful. I decided that if it was good enough for this excellent photographer, it would be good enough for me. Sure I was somewhat skeptical, Fine Art America offers so much to artists, that it seems too good to be true.

At the same time I thought, why not check it out? What did I have to lose? FAA offers a free account, but for a mere $30 a year, you get an unlimited number of uploads, your own free website, a bunch of marketing tools and widgets, visitor tracking and comment info, and so much more. You can see daily and weekly visitor totals, and you get to see where your visitors come from, and they are all over the world. How exciting is that? Through FAA you can start a blog, e-mail your clients and potential clients beautiful newsletters for FREE (just take a look at what Constant Contact charges for that service), put a shopping cart on your site from FAA that works right there within your own site, post a notification on your Facebook wall each time you upload a new piece of artwork, and your uploads show up in Google search engines almost immediately. All of this is included for a mere $30! Amazing and hard to believe. Here’s a link to my Fine Art America website so you can see what a deal this is. Michelle Wiarda Artist Website.

I joined Fine Art America about six months ago. I decided to write a blog about my experience with Fine Art America, but I didn’t want to do that until I sold something and got paid for it.

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from FAA congratulating me on the sale of a print of one of my pieces. It turned out that a friend of mine made the purchase. I thought, perfect, now I can ask her about the quality, timeliness, and presentation of the print. She assured me that she was totally pleased with the entire experience right down to the delivery of the product.

Several weeks later I sold another print to someone I don’t know. Again, I received an e-mail from FAA notifying me of the sale. The following month I received a check in the mail for my share of the proceeds from the sales of my work. I can say, I have been full circle with Fine Art America and I am happy to recommend FAA. I am a Fine Art America advocate, and I tell as many people as possible about it, both artists and buyers.

maine lighthouse watercolor painting image.

Maine Lighthouse, one of my most popular paintings on Fine Art America.

One very important caveat, you must upload excellent quality images, if you don’t, Fine Art America will not print your orders. If you do a little research on Fine Art America, you will find that there are some people complaining about Fine Art America, and putting it down saying the artwork is bad and more silliness just because Fine Art America demanded that they give them a professional quality image to work with. I should hope that the good people at Fine Art America would make sure that an image is excellent before printing and delivering it to a buyer. They’re doing me a favor by making sure that the prints that I sell are of the best quality! I guess the complainers don’t trust the experts to decide what is acceptable for printing and what is not. Oh well, that’s their loss.

Santorini watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen on fine art america.

Santorini, another of my watercolor paintings that gets a lot of views on Fine Art America.

In order to upload your files they must be in .jpg or .png format, and they can be up to a maximum of 25 MB, and I cannot stress enough that they must be of professional quality. Once your image is uploaded you add the title, and keywords to it and an area is provided for you to write a little something about the piece. Fine Art America also offers a unique zoom feature that potential buyers can use to see the quality of your image easily. You can set up different galleries of your work according to content, style or whatever you want. You can rearrange your pieces as you wish. You can edit them, share them or remove them if you want to. You choose your pricing, and the format and sizes you want to offer, and FAA does the rest. I might add that they do not overcharge for their mats, frames, canvases or cards. The prices are very reasonable. I really cannot say enough good things about Fine Art America. Please feel free to add your comments, and experiences with Fine Art America here.

Go ahead, join today, 50,560 of us can’t be wrong (and are happy we did)!

Here are the images that I’m pleased and grateful to have sold through Fine Art America.

complete lovely mayhem a digital painting that i sold through fine art america.

Complete Lovely Mayhem, this is a digital painting that I sold a print of through Fine Art America.

Marblehead Lighthouse photograph, by michelle wiarda.

Marblehead Lighthouse, fine art photograph by Michelle Wiarda sold through Fine Art America.

Join Today, You’ll Be in Business in No Time! Happy Selling!

Websites for Photographers

SomethingExcitingIsComing.com

Click above to be eligible to win, but I can’t tell you what!

In a few days my store with The OpenSky Project will open. The OpenSky Project is a new, innovative way to shop. My shop will be stocked with all kinds of cool art, photo and design products. As a consumer of design software, computer equipment, art supplies, cameras, photo equipment, lenses, lights, flashes and the like, I will be making products that I use and fully believe in, available to you. I will be sharing my personal experiences with the products to help you decide which product is best for you. I love to research products and make an informed decision when making a purchase, and I want to share that with you. What better way to shop? People that you trust, that you care about, that care about YOU, bring you products they believe in.

Best of all, when you buy at my OpenSky shop, each and every purchase you make is completely GUARANTEED! You may return any purchase, for any reason, in its original condition, within 1 year for a FULL REFUND. And we’ll pay for the shipping! What could be better than that!?!

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN TODAY (tell them I sent you)! … and look for my new OpenSky shop in a few more days!!

If you’re a supplier, and want me to try your products and share them with my world, just let me know!

For me, I found it to be easier to choose a home and buy it, than it has been to try to choose decent, long-lasting studio/location monolights for photography!

How on Earth is one to make a decision?

I really had to walk away from the computer and stop looking at all the variables, and information and comments out there on this subject. It’s a very, very personal subject for many photographers. After all, it is the paintbrush one uses in photography. I know I like to have the best watercolor brushes I can afford to create my watercolor paintings.

I have been so busy for the last four days, yes—four days, researching studio lighting. Lighting that isn’t too much light, or too little for my needs. What do I need them for you ask? To shoot my watercolor paintings, so I can make giclées, to create unique fine art photographs, to shoot product, and stock photos, with the occasional studio style portrait, one or two people, head and shoulders, or outdoors with pets. The lights need to be portable. I’m not ready to get batteries to take them to the beach, but down the road I want that to be a possibility.

I’m looking at purchasing two monolights, total 1000ws or less for now. I want something I can grow into, rather than out of. That said, I talked to a few photographer friends, got their opinions and I headed off to check out what I could learn but doing research on the web. Good idea, and huge mistake. I am now, totally undecided.

By the way, I have only looked at opinions from buyers in comment sections at retailer sites, or at reputable photography forums and the like. I also watched a lot of the lighting demo video on the web made by some real pros, that helped me see many of the products in action. I checked my pro photo mags reviews and such too.

I have narrowed my choices down to Elinchrom, Photogenic and Calumet monolights, and the kits offered. There are many more great lights out there, but for me, these work. I did manage that much after reading as much info as I could absorb in my four days of research. Let me say first off, the kits that include the lights, umbrellas, stands and all, according to the comments and reviews I’ve read, leave people wanting more. They don’t seem totally satisfied with their purchases. Some portion of the kit is sub par in almost every case, and will need to be replaced. I also didn’t really want the umbrellas that most of the kits offered, I would replace them with octagonal and rectangular softboxes anyway.

So that leaves one to go out there and look for the best lights here, and the best softboxes there, and the best studio stands and backgrounds from over there. Now that’s all good too, but can you do it for a price close to that of the kits? Not really, but you can get close. Being a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) helps a lot here too. $99 a year, gets you a great informative magazine and access to product discounts, tutorials and way more. Info from Scott Kelby’s blog helped me a whole lot in this decision-making process too.

After about a good 30 to 40 hours of research, here’s what I’ve decided. I want something that has consistent color output, something that will last a long time, is durable, not too heavy, something that offers enough power, but not too much power for my space, and I want a decent modeling lamp, I read that 100 watts just doesn’t cut it. I do not want to be one of those that realizes about a month into the purchase that I should have spent that extra $500 bucks on what I really wanted, rather than settling for “affordable”. Nothing is a deal if you want to replace it six months after you buy it.

That decided, I went on to read about radio slave systems for the lighting, now I’m real interested. No cords for “Gracie” to trip over, that’s me, of course, ten years of ballet lessons and I’m still a klutz. It’s a good thing that all three of the manufacturers I looked at offer radio control of some kind.

One manufacturer offers a unit mounted on the hot shoe of your camera that apparently has too high a profile and it sticks up in your line of view. Remember now, this is according to consumer comments I came across. Range is another issue, I don’t need to shoot from 1500 feet away, or the next town over, so I think I’ll be good without that. So now I want to find the biggest bang for the buck in a quality, well-designed,  built in radio control unit, without having to buy more transmitters and transceivers, and adapter cords and so on. So, in my humble opinion, and for my needs, the EL-Skyport from Elinchrom wins for ease, design, and dollars. Although I do think the LiteLink radio option with the Calumet Travelite lighting is to be considered as well. It plays well with the PocketWizard too. Decisions, decisions.

I went on to look at the flash variability specs on these brands because it’s important to me to be able to have the widest range I can get because I plan to use these lights in lots of different scenarios. It seems to me that the Photogenic Solair wins in this category with the widest range. 8 f-stops. I really wish there were more comments and reviews from users out there about the Solair lights.

I then looked into how well each of the brands were for color consistency as one reduces the output of the light, according to the comments out there, even though I found a lot of people very happy with the Photogenic lights, many more were really happy with their Elinchrom Style 600RX lights. Again, I did find it hard to find a lot of comments and reviews about the Photogenic Solair lights. I don’t know why that is, but they do seem to be a contender. The “constant color” sounds so nice to me as I have spent hours with color correction people when working for clothing catalogs and doing color correction myself, and I know how long that process takes. I’d rather have my original shot consistently “right there” from the start, rather than having to spend hours in Photoshop “fixing the color”.

One more thing, the Photogenic Solair lights at 500ws weigh a little less than the Elinchrom Digital Style 600RX lights. Both are just under 6 lbs.

After vacillating back and forth, I’ve decided, I think, to buy the Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600RX two monolight kit that includes only the lights, and EL-Skyport system.

Now on to the stands. There are millions, really just way too many! I like those rolling light stands, Avenger makes one called the “Baby Roller”.  Now this looks like one that ole “Gracie” might not be able to trip over. With the radio controlled lights, there will only be one wire, the plug. Yes! I chose the Avenger Century C stand for the other light. The C stand is another to keep “Gracie” out of trouble.

On to light control. I read that the Elinchrom Rotalux Octa softbox rocks, I also read that some don’t like it. It’s not too expensive so I think I’m going to get the Mini Octa softbox, which is a 39″ model. I also like the 14″ x 35″ Rotalux Mini Recta softbox from Elinchrom. I did learn that Chimera makes some fabulous light banks and when I’m able, monetarily, I’ll look into those too.

Reflectors are a necessary accessory too. I haven’t put any time in on researching them, that’s next. For now I will make due with white foam core and black cardboard.

Last decision….a good light meter. I really like the Sekonic L-358. Lots, and lots, and lots, of good comments out there about it. They say it’s accurate and reliable and well made. I’m sold. For fans of the PocketWizard, compatibility is easy. You can add an accessory that will let you fire your lights without removing your transmitter from the hot shoe of your camera each time you want to meter your lighting. The Sekonic looks like it’s fairly straight forward and intuitive to work with to me, and many buyers say the same. Now, when : ) I have an unlimited budget, I will go for the Sekonic L-758C Cine Light Meter, that’s really hot!

Oh and backgrounds, I think I’m going to go to Calumet for these, they have a good looking heavy duty stand for paper. I don’t have a space to use a wall mount or I would go for that. I did find stronger seeming background stands, but for my needs the stands Calumet offers should do just fine. Or maybe I’ll do a bit more research. I’m over it, but obsessed. For now, I think I’ve made my decisions, or I hope I have, until I run into a devastating comment regarding one of my choices, and the indecision will start again.

I just thought I should throw this out there for anyone else that might be suffering the anxiety associated with the purchase of a decent, quality lighting system and the necessary accessories. I really hope the time I put in can help others too!

And if any of you out there has anything to tell us all about this, go for it, we’re listening. Knowledge is Power!

Now back to doing what I love, enough research. I’ll let it all marinate for a few days.

Take care all!