My mentor and tattoo teacher, Cliff Raven, used to say: "The tattoo isn't finished until the photograph is taken." He encouraged me to photograph my work and then look at it a week later with a fresh critical eye. Adding this perspective, at a distance from the act of creation, I could "see it as if someone else had done it" and be better able to learn from what I had done well, or see what I could do better. While I still think of this as a great way to improve as an artist, in the years since, I have found photography has become important to my tattooing in other ways.
The first obvious reason to take photographs is to build a portfolio. Nothing gives better credibility than displaying a solid collection of successfully completed tattoos. I still have files full of hundreds of photographs from my early career, that once took their place in a flapping display on the wall in my studio.
When I started selling Celtic tattoo designs in my LuckyFishArt.com flash store in 2001, I decided that a photograph of a finished tattoo would always be more compelling to customers than a mere drawing. Using a point-and-shoot digital camera, I began documenting my work in order to place my original designs on that site. That way every design appears "as a tattoo" not just a line drawing. Once the design is purchased, then they get the various versions including the line art.
Over the years I have enjoyed contributing my work to tattoo magazines, books, and other projects. Check out the PUBLICITY PAGE for examples. But as time and technology progressed, my snapshots needed to improve in order to be included in nicer publications, large format books, etc. Therefore a few years ago I invested in a "prosumer" level digital camera, a nice backdrop, and soft-box flash units. A professional photographer friend came to the studio and helped to set everything up. Now the documentation photographs have much less "shine" from the flash and a consistent background, and they better represent the level of craft I have achieved.
Initially I was primarily interested in quality closeups of finished tattoos for use online and for print reproduction, but then I started taking portraits of the clients in the happy moments after their new tattoo. The endorphin induced smiles on their faces are priceless!
With a little digital magic, I frame up these shots into "souvenir photos" to document their tattoo experience. Each photo has a Celtic knotwork border and includes my website URL and signature.
In addition to being a "value added" gift for clients, these photos serve also as excellent advertising. People are grateful to post quality photos to social media sites, and because each one includes the "digital bread crumb trail" of my signature and URL, more eyes find their way back to the website.
After each tattoo, the client receives a framed closeup and portrait in their email inbox before they have even left the studio:
One final note about our portrait photos - as a general rule, we do not post portraits of clients' faces online. We take the photo to email to you as a souvenir, but only the closeup will make it to the BLOG or PORTFOLIO. it is not our intention to "out" you as a tattooed badass; however, many clients do opt to post their souvenir portrait to social media, and we always appreciate that! If you do post your photos to Facebook, et. al., please do be sure to tag PAT FISH'S LUCKYFISH, INC. The satisfied clients featured here have specifically endorsed the use of their portraits on our website.