Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Home Photo Framing Basics, Part 4: Putting It All Together


Finally, you are ready to assemble all the parts of your photo and frame.  Here are a few hints to help it all go smoothly.


Though it may seem obvious, it is nonetheless critical to begin with cleaning all of your components.  Ensuring that both sides of your glass are clean, for example, will save you the headache of later discovering that the annoying fingerprint in the middle of the image is on the inside of the frame, and requires disassembling everything to remove.  Wiping down your mats and backboards with a dry, lint-free cloth will help to keep distracting flecks off the final image, and don’t forget to wipe off the frame’s rabbet – you might be surprised at how much dust and other particles are lurking about there, just waiting to announce themselves after everything is all sealed up.  After cleaning the glass (and anything else that you might use a cleaning agent on), be sure to allow sufficient time for all of the moisture to evaporate from the components.  The last thing that you want to do is to trap moisture or fumes inside the frame.


The next step is to attach the print to its backing board.  There are several ways to accomplish this, depending upon the size of your image, its value, and your personal preferences.  You can use anything from traditional photo corners to acid-free, double-sided tape.  Each method has its advantages and disadvantages.  One advantage of photo corners, for example, is that the print can be removed from the backing board with no damage whatsoever; a disadvantage is that the corner might be slightly visible, depending upon your framing choices.  If your print is of particular value, it is a good idea to discuss your options with a professional framer before using anything that will stick to the print in any way, such as tapes or other adhesives.  It is important that you choose materials that will not cause damage to the print over the long term.  (General household glues are not recommended under any circumstances.)


If you are using multiple mats, it is a good idea to use double-sided tape to keep them together.  This allows them to shift, expand, and contract without losing their spacing in relation to one another.  In other words, if you get them properly lined up and taped together, one mat won’t slide over to one side, leaving the bottom mat more exposed on one side than on the other.  (There’s nothing quite like having no bottom mat showing on one side, while the other side is extra-wide, to drive this point home.)  Then, for similar reasons, you might want to tape the mats to the backing board, making certain, of course, that your image is properly positioned before securing everything together. 


Carefully place your clean glass back into the frame, ensuring that the proper side is facing the artwork if using a specialty glass (see Part 3 of this series: Glass).  I find it useful to wear cotton gloves when handling the clean glass, as they prevent me from leaving fingerprints.  Lay the mat / print / backing board package on top of the glass.  If you are not using a mat, be sure to use a spacer to keep your print away from the glass (see Part 1: The Importance of Breathing Space).  At this point, I find it useful to hold the print package in the frame with my hands and carefully flip the entire piece over to check for any distracting dust flecks that may have snuck onto the image or the mats.  There are almost always some there, and it is much better to find and remove them now than after the next step.  Repeat this process until the piece is speck-free, or at least as speck-free as you care to get it.  Be patient.  This can often be the most frustrating phase of framing.


Securing the print package in the frame can take one of several forms.  Many ready-made frames come with glazier points already in the frame.  If this is the case, simply bend the points down over the backing board.  If your chosen frame does not come with points pre-installed, it is a relatively simple matter to do install them yourself.  Glazier points are available in most hardware stores, and they can be installed with either a flathead screwdriver or an inexpensive tool made specifically for this purpose.  (Electric glazier point guns are also available, but these are expensive, and might not be worth the money to the home framer with only the occasional framing job to do.)  A word of warning, however: while many woods are very easy to work with, some woods are quite hard (and all knots are hard).  Glazier points do not go into these woods without difficulty.  It is not uncommon to slip with the screwdriver or the glazing tool, which can lead to bruised or scraped knuckles.  Perhaps more dangerously, if you use your other hand to push on the frame in order to give you leverage, a slipped tool could result in an impaled hand.  Work carefully.  Wearing good gloves is never a bad idea during this stage.


Alternatively, you can use offsets, which are “s” shaped pieces of metal, to hold the print package in place.  Offsets are available in several depths, and are also widely available in hardware stores.  To use an offset, you first need to drill a pilot hole in the frame to keep the frame from splitting.  I suggest doing this part prior to cleaning the frame, as it will introduce wood shavings into the frame.  Then secure the offsets over the print package with screws.  Note: be sure that the screws you use are not too long for the depth of your frame.  Pay particular attention to the depth of the frame at the point where the screws will be attached; many mouldings have greatly varying depths throughout the moulding.


If you would like to add a dust covering, now is the time.  Simply cut a piece of craft paper to the proper size, and attach it to the back of your frame with double-sided tape.


Hanging hardware that uses a wire is usually attached about a third of the way down the frame from the top.  Sawtooth hangers are attached at the top center of the frame.  While both are equally effective for smaller frames, wire hangers are a better option for larger frames, and my preference overall, as I find it easier to adjust the positioning of a frame on the wall with a wire.  Regardless of the type of hanging hardware that you choose, ensure that it is strong enough to support the framed piece.  If you choose a wire, ensure that it is wrapped securely around the “D” rings, and that they are properly screwed into the frame.  (Watching a frame fall because the wire unraveled itself does not make for a pleasant day.)  It is not difficult to secure the wire to the “D” rings, but it is critical.  If you have questions about how to do so, ask your local framer for a demonstration.


Adding bumpers to the bottom corners of your framed piece is the finishing touch.  These bumpers serve two purposes: first, they protect your wall by keeping the frame away from it, and second, they allow air to circulate behind the frame, which helps to control moisture.


Voila! You are finished, and are now the proud owner of a beautifully framed piece of art – that you framed yourself.  With practice, all of these steps will become second nature, and you will be able to get more and more creative with your framing.  Good luck, and have fun! 


Jodi Gaylord

City Escapes Nature Photography


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Home Photo Framing Basics, Part 3: Glass


Photo frame glass is all the same, right?  Wrong!  In the third installment of our series on home photo framing basics, we take a closer look at what is arguably the most taken-for-granted component of a frame: the glass.


Glass, as a material, is truly fascinating.  Though it appears to be a solid, it is actually a liquid; it can block or magnify light; it can be so clear that it is practically invisible, or completely opaque.  We acknowledge one of its many dichotomous traits when we speak of things such as a lake being “as smooth as glass,” yet who among us does not know to be careful around glass, lest a broken piece or a rough edge leave us wishing we owned stock in Band-Aid?  For photo framing, however, we need only focus on a few main characteristics of glass: its ability to block ultraviolet light, its reflectivity, and its weight.


Most, if not all, ready-made frames that include glass use the same type of standard glass.  This glass blocks about 45% of UV light and is highly reflective, meaning that glare can be a problem under particular lighting situations.  This glass is fine for many applications, but for particularly valuable (whether for monetary or sentimental reasons) prints, the home framer might want to consider upgrading to a higher quality material. 


The two main types of glass to consider, both available at most framing shops and many glass shops, are museum-grade and conservation-grade.  Both block 99% of UV light – a significant improvement over standard glass.  By blocking more of the ultraviolet light, these glass types extend the life of your print, both by preventing colors from fading, and by helping to prevent degradation of the actual print itself.  The primary difference between the two glass types is how much of the “good” light they allow through to the print.  Museum glass is the highest quality framing glass available.  It has low reflectivity, which means that glare is significantly reduced, and high light transmission, resulting in the truest color rendition and incredible clarity.  We have found that museum glass is especially effective at transmitting deep, dark colors: no other glass will display a richer black, for example.  It is also quite useful for works with three or more mats and for shadowboxes, as it retains its clarity of light transmission regardless of how far from the glass the print or keepsake lies.  Being the best, of course, comes at a price: museum glass is also the most expensive of all frame glass.


Conservation glass, meanwhile, while equal to museum glass in UV light blockage, has a slightly lower light transmission rate.  This means that colors do not appear quite as true or as rich, though this effect is much less noticeable for lighter colors than for darker ones.  Conservation glass is available in two styles: clear and reflection control, and they are how they sound: clear has a standard, glossy finish, while reflection control has a matte-like finish.  Both styles are notably less expensive than museum glass.  While a significantly higher quality glass, conservation clear will look much like standard framing glass in that light can create flares and reflections under the right conditions.  Reflection control glass does just that: glare and reflections are significantly reduced under those same lighting situations.  However, depending upon how the reflection control is achieved, the trade-off might be a decrease in clarity and sharpness, especially for prints that have three or more mats and for shadowboxes. 


Two last factors should be taken into account when considering your glazing needs: the size of your project and how likely it is to suffer damage.  We’ll deal with size first.  All types of glass are heavy, and for large framed pieces, it is not uncommon for the glass to rival or surpass the weight of the frame itself.  This can not only make the display of your piece more challenging, as the heavier the piece, the greater the need for substantial wall support, but it can also make transport more difficult and expensive, and increase the likelihood that the piece will be accidentally dropped.  For truly large pieces, professional framers will often use much lighter acrylic in lieu of glass.  Most home framers will never frame any piece large enough to require acrylic, but for the exceptionally adventurous types who want to try their hand at large-piece framing, know that acrylic is a much lighter option. 


Acrylic is not just for large pieces, however; it is also useful for situations where breakage is a major concern, such as in a child’s room or in a high-traffic area.  Most acrylics are shatter-resistant, making them safer to use in such situations.  (I once saw a beautifully framed, with glass, painting in a cruise ship pub -- a ship that sailed the open ocean, with all of the commensurate rocking and rolling.  This beautifully framed -- with glass -- painting was well attached to the wall, so that it would not fall because of the ship’s movements.  However, this beautifully framed – WITH GLASS! – painting was hung right next to a dart board.  It did not survive the first evening.)  Acrylic is also available in conservation and reflection control varieties.  Everything has a drawback, of course, and the major drawback of acrylic is that it is much easier to scratch than glass, even during routine cleaning.  It seems illogical that a material that is more difficult to break should be easier to scratch, but such is unfortunately the case here.


So, which glass option is right for your particular framing need?  The most honest, but unfortunately least helpful, answer is that it is largely a matter of personal taste.  A few guidelines can help, however.  First, consider the value of your print.  Is it expensive, irreplaceable, or high in sentimental value?  Then you might want to upgrade to conservation or museum glass.  Consider where you will be displaying the piece.  Should you consider the extra safety of acrylic?  What is the lighting like there?  Are you likely to have to deal with glare and reflections?  If so, you should consider a reflection control glazing.  And finally, what is your budget?  Standard glass, when included in a frame, will cost you nothing extra, while conservation glass requires a slightly larger investment and museum glass has the potential to give you sticker shock.  If you find yourself undecided, it is worth a trip to the frame shop to see the visual difference that each type of glass makes.  As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. 



City Escapes Nature Photography


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Home Photo Framing Basics, Part 2: Acid-Free Materials


In our second installment of our series on home photo framing basics, we look at acid-free materials: what they are, when to use them, and whether the “acid-free” label can be trusted. 


In photo framing, the term “acid-free” is applied to those substances that have a neutral or slightly alkaline pH.  This is important for conservation purposes as the acids in framing materials can cause degradation, yellowing, and brittleness of framed photographs.  Some acid-free materials are acid-free by nature, while others have had the acids in them neutralized and/or a buffer added.  (Buffers create a reserve of alkalinity in the material, which will react with the acids produced to create a neutral pH, delaying the onset of damage to a print from acid-containing materials.)  Anything from mat boards and foam boards to the glue, tape, and even the ink used to sign or label photographs might be labeled “acid-free.”


When acid-free materials should be used is, to a certain degree, a matter of personal choice.  Certainly a print that has significant monetary value should be framed using only acid-free materials.  However, any print that you wish to preserve for many years, whether monetarily valuable or not, should be framed with acid-free materials as well, as these materials can add decades to the life of a print.


What causes acidity in the majority of framing materials?  In short, wood.  Lignin and other substances found in wood and wood pulp are major culprits in the deterioration of paper products.  Newsprint, for example, still has most of the wood’s original lignin, and it is this lignin that is responsible for its rapid yellowing.   Because most mat board and the paper coatings of foam board are, like most other papers, made from wood pulp, they too have lignin in them, unless it is first removed from the pulp.  If the acids created by the lignin in a mat come into contact with the photograph, it will, over time, cause what is known as “mat burn,” or the browning of the print from the edges inward, as the acids make their way further into the interior of the photo.  If the mounting board is not acid-free, it will eventually attack the entire photograph, “eating” the print from the back to the front.


Before we go any further, I should point out one inalterable rule of photo framing: under no circumstances should corrugated cardboard ever be used in any capacity during the framing process.  It is highly acidic, and will do an inordinate amount of damage in a very short time.  I have seen it used as mounting boards, as filler boards behind mounting boards, and as spacers between mats to create a shadow effect.  Even as a filler board, with a mounting board between it and the print, corrugated cardboard is so acidic that its outgases will penetrate the mounting board and begin to damage the print in a matter of months. 


What should you look for in acid-free materials?  That depends largely on two considerations: how long of a life-expectancy you expect the print to have, and how much money and time you are willing to invest in your framing project.


There are varying degrees of “acid-free”.  The highest quality materials are made from cotton rag paper.  These are innately acid-free, as they are not made from wood pulp at all, but rather, as the name suggests, cotton fibers.  Often referred to as museum- or archival-grade, cotton rag is generally the longest-lived of the mat and mount boards, and is available from most framing shops.  However, it is not generally pre-cut and off-the-shelf, and it tends to be the most expensive of the boards; it therefore does not fit easily into the home photo framer’s arsenal.


Conservation-grade mats and boards are made from traditional wood pulp that has had the pulp acids removed, and the resulting paper is buffered.  By some estimates, conservation-grade materials will last well over 100 years before damage begins.  Conservation-grade materials may or may not be available in pre-cut sizes at your local frame shop.  (In my experience, non-national chain frame shops, and frame shops that focus mostly on art and framing supplies, have a better selection of pre-cut, conservation-grade materials than national chains and larger craft stores.)


Mats and boards simply labeled “acid-free” are generally composed of three layers: an inner core covered on either side by a paper liner.  These are the most common pre-cut, acid-free materials at the disposal of the home framer.  Many frame shops will have a wide variety of pre-cut sizes and colors available, making them an easy choice for the home framer.  However, these products are not as acid-free as the labeling would have you believe.  In most cases, it is only the outer paper linings that have been treated to be acid-free; the inner core is made from the same material as non-acid-free boards.  These mats and boards will provide some additional protection to your print in the short term, but the acids in the core will eventually reach the print through leaching and out gassing. 


Do these drawbacks mean that these materials should be completely avoided?  Absolutely not.  These are the most readily available and least expensive acid-free mats and boards, and they suit many home framing projects perfectly – especially when you are not inclined to cut your own mats or pay to have a professional cut them for you.  Anything of significant sentimental or monetary value should be framed with either conservation- or museum-grade materials, but it is perfectly appropriate to use the easily available, pre-cut, “acid-free” labeled materials on many other prints.  It is up to the framer to decide the level of protection appropriate to each individual print.  Let’s face it: not every image we want to frame and display needs the red-carpet treatment.  If you do use these materials, you can help to extend their useable lifespan by sealing them with an acrylic matte finish, available at most framing and art supply stores.  Make sure that you are in a well-ventilated area and spray the mats evenly and completely, especially the bevels and the edges where the core is exposed.  The spray will slightly darken the mats’ surface, which is one reason an even coat is so important.  Be certain to allow the spray to completely dry before using the mats; you don’t want to introduce any moisture into the interior of the frame.  This technique will not give your print the equivalent protection of using conservation- or museum-grade materials, but by sealing the exposed edges of the beveled paper core, it helps to prolong the cleanliness of the frame’s interior environment – and thereby slow the degradation process.


In a similar vein, the rabbets of wooden frames should also be sealed, and for the same reasons.  Most ready-made frames have the rabbets already sealed through paint or some other finish that coats the wood.  Thus, the home framer rarely has to do anything at all to the rabbet.  At times, however, the rabbet is raw wood.  In these cases, to create an acid-free environment, the rabbet needs to be sealed with either some version of a wood sealant (shellac, paint, etc.), or aluminum frame-sealing tape. 


Of course, to create and maintain an acid-free environment, any adhesives used must also be acid-free.  Fortunately, with the rise of scrapbooking, the availability of acid-free (sometimes referred to as “archival”) adhesives has skyrocketed, while their prices have fallen.  It is always a good idea to ask your local frame-shop professional about any particular adhesive you are considering, as their qualities vary widely, and each has distinctive pros and cons.  Like the acid-free paper products, adhesives have a hierarchy of “acid-freeness”: true museum mounts use Japanese rice paper and rice-starch paste, but they can be challenging to work with and fall far outside the realm of the typical home framer.  Linen tapes fall into the conservation-grade level, but they are generally thick and can leave impressions or grooves on the print being mounted.  Acid-free paper tape is thinner and therefore leaves no grooves, but it is not strong enough to hold works of substantial weight, including mats.  Adhesive sheets can be fantastic, but are not reversible.  Mylar photo corners can be employed to safely mount the print, possibly eliminating the need for any adhesive at all, but they cannot be used to hinge mats to mounting boards.  (They also come in a much greater range of sizes than most of us realize.  They are not limited to the commonly found 1/2 inch-size, but rather are available in sizes all the way up to 3”.  For even larger prints, mounting strips are available that can be cut to the desired size.)  Spray adhesives, while useful for many framing projects, are not generally acid-free.  Most household tapes and glues are not acid-free either, and/or they will react with the chemicals in photographic paper in ways that can harm the image.  They should therefore be avoided.  And as Vivian Kistler, an authority on conservation framing techniques, says, when it comes to using duct tape in your framing projects, “Don’t even think about it.”



City Escapes Nature Photography, LLC


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Photo Framing Basics, Part 1: The Importance of Breathing Space


We begin a four-part series on the fundamentals of home photo framing with this article on allowing the image a little room to breathe.  Because most people do not make their own frames or cut their own mats, we will not go into those subjects, but rather will focus on things to consider when using store-bought frames, mats and glazing materials.


A common mistake among do-it-yourself framers -- and a surprising number of “professional” framing shops -- is to put the photo in direct contact with the frame’s glass.  Many frames, in fact, especially the smaller-sized frames, are designed such that the photo is supposed to touch the glass.  The backing board that comes with these frames serves to sandwich the image between itself and the glass, keeping the image flat.  For photos that have no significant monetary or sentimental value, that can be easily replaced, or that are not expected to have a long life span, this is a fine arrangement.  (Let’s be honest -- not all photos need the special care that we will be discussing in this series.)  For photos that do not fall into one of the above categories, however, the first cardinal rule of framing should always be: Do not allow the photo to touch the glass.


Over time, photos that are in direct contact with glass run the risk of sticking to the glass.  Condensation inside the frame will cause the emulsion of the photograph’s paper to glue itself to the glazing material.  Often this will begin around the edges or corners of a photo, but if left for long periods of time, the adhesion can become extensive.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to “unstick” the photo from the glass; attempting to do so usually only results in separating the emulsion from the paper itself.  This means that the white, underlying paper may come off, but the image will remain stuck to the glass.  Even if the photo is left undisturbed and no attempts are made to remove it from the glass, the presentation of the photo is flawed by the adhesion.  Furthermore, the glass can never be replaced without significantly damaging the image, or even destroying it completely.  Any collector’s value the photo may have had is lost.


The solution to this annoying problem is quite simple: the photograph should never touch the glazing material.  The most common method of achieving this goal is cleverly disguised as a decorative technique: including a mat in the framing package.  In addition to adding depth, color, and endless decorative possibilities, mats ensure that there is air space between the photograph and the glass.  They are readily available in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and if you don’t find one that suits your tastes for a particular photograph, any framing shop should be able to custom cut a mat for you.  Custom mats can be personalized in an infinite number of ways, and have many more color and material options than off-the-shelf mats.  They are also, however, much more expensive.


Mats are not the only method of achieving this all-important air space.  If no mat is desired, a narrow strip of acrylic called a spacer can be used.  Spacers are usually about 1/8” square by several feet long and have a strip of adhesive on one side.  They are easily cut to desired lengths and come in white, black, and clear.  They should be cut to the length of each side of the glass, then stuck to the outer edges of the glass using the adhesive side of the spacer.  (Note: not the sides of the glass; the outer edges of the flat part.)  Then simply frame the photograph as usual, ensuring that the spacer is in-between the glass and the photo.  I have never found spacers on any store shelves, but again, any framing shop should have them.  You just have to ask.  Spacers are also inexpensive, usually costing around one dollar each. 


A word of caution: if you decide to have a photograph or any other work of art framed professionally, and you choose not to use a mat, do not assume that the frame shop will use a spacer.  Often they will not unless the customer specifically requests one.  A woman I know, who did not know about spacers and therefore did not know to ask for them, spent several hundred dollars at a popular, national-chain framing shop to get a photograph of significant sentimental value framed without a mat.  She trusted the framers to do what was necessary to properly frame her cherished photograph.  I was with her when she picked up the finished package, and was astonished to see that the photograph was simply pressed against the glass.  Especially given how much she paid for a professional framer, this was simply unacceptable.  I refused to allow her to accept the package as it was, and insisted that a spacer be added.  It took the frame shop no more than ten minutes to make the correction, and added five dollars in parts and labor to the price tag – well worth the many extra years of enjoyment that the woman could now expect to get out of her photograph.  Bottom line: if someone else is framing your art behind glass for you, it is essential that you specifically request spacers if no mats will be used. 




Monday, March 29, 2010

Grouping Multiple Pieces of Art on a Wall

Whether you are grouping photographs or paintings, creating an array of art on a single wall can have a big visual impact. Wall groupings can be used to create an atmosphere, to accent a particular feature of a room, or to simply keep a room from looking empty. Whatever your goal for a particular space, keeping a few guidelines in mind will help you achieve your goal with minimal frustration.

1) Small images can be given more visual impact by grouping them together. This gives the images more of a visual presence, drawing the eye to them more than a single small image alone generally does. Especially if the images are of the same shape and size, they can be hung in a tight group (2” or less apart), creating the visual sensation that each is a portion of a whole.

2) When mixing large and small pictures, use the larger pieces as your anchors; put them in the middle and/or bottom to prevent your arrangement from seeming top-heavy and unstable. A common exception to this rule is when you are including a panoramic. These are often put at the top of an arrangement, acting as a visual “lid.”

3) Combine vertical and horizontal images together in one grouping. This adds visual punch, and helps to keep the arrangement from looking stale.

4) Pictures do not have to line up neatly! They should be evenly spaced, but play with varying their heights and horizontal alignments. Arcing pieces, starting with the largest at the bottom (imagine the stereotypical depiction of a shooting star, including its tail), can do a magnificent job of leading the eye and creating a sensation of movement in a room. The overall symmetry should be balanced, but that does not mean that the two sides of an arrangement need to be mirror images. Multiple small pictures can provide the same visual weight as a single large picture.

5) Images in a group should have one or more unifying elements. This can be things such as subject matter (family, African wildlife, French bistros, etc), all color or all black and white, matching frames or frame colors, or even just matching mats. There should be at least one common thread running through all of the finished pieces to create a sense of cohesion. Note that images do not need to be framed identically in order to create a successful grouping. My first rule of thumb in framing any image is to ensure that the frame and mats complement the image. If any particular framing job looks great in the room but does not suit the image, either the frame should be changed, or a new image should be found that works well with the frame. Remember, the image is the art; the frame, though very important, is secondary (unless the object being framed is a mirror; in this case, the frame can, but does not have to, serve as the main portion of art.). That having been said, if the images are similar, framing them identically can accentuate the unifying elements of them. For example, a series of three shots of your child diving off of a diving board tell a story, and framing them identically can accentuate that narration while complementing each picture in its own right.

6) Tell stories with your groupings. Creating visual narrations draws the viewer in and keeps them interested.

7) If you are aiming to create an intimate, welcoming atmosphere, you should consider placing furniture -- especially chairs, sofas, and other items that invite spending time in the direct vicinity of the artwork -- either directly under or near the art. This invites the viewer to come in close and allows the art to become a part of their surroundings, even if only as a background piece. If, however, you aim to have the art be the uncontested focal point of the room, ensure that no furniture is near it, and that the view of the piece is not obstructed. This draws the eye and holds it, but also creates a little distance between the viewer and the art. The piece will command the viewers’ attention, but will not necessarily allow them to get cozy enough with it to allow it to fade into the background.

8) Be cautious about mixing photographs and other artwork, such as paintings or charcoals. Though it is possible for them to coincide peacefully, most of the time they will compete with each other for the viewer’s attention.

9) Lastly, remember that like all decorating guidelines, these are simply guidelines. Play. Experiment. You may find that breaking one or all of these “rules” will give you exactly the look you desire. Just remember to use paper templates taped to your walls first, as discussed last month, so you don’t end up with dozens of unnecessary holes in your walls.


City Escapes Nature Photography

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Choosing the Proper-Sized Photograph for a Given Wall


You have found THE photograph that you want, and you know just where you want to hang it.  The only decision left to make is how large to print it.  This can be a surprisingly frustrating question to answer.  So, as you are pondering it, here are a few things to consider.


First of all, note how much space you have overall in the area where you want to hang the print.  While it is obvious that a larger picture will take up more wall space, it also requires a greater viewing distance.  For example, hanging a large picture in a hallway may not give the viewer adequate room to step back and take in the entire image, though it may be fine for examining the details of the work.  However, hanging the image at the end of a long hallway just might provide enough space. 


Also, larger prints tend to be focal points, drawing the viewer’s attention to themselves and things around them.  Is where you want to hang the image the focal point of that space, or will the print be competing with something else?  This is one of the reasons you will often see larger prints hung over mantels; the print and the fireplace work together to provide a distinctive focal point to the room.  Remember also that smaller pictures grouped together perform the same function, and should be considered a single unit for decorating purposes.  (More on multiple smaller prints grouped together will be in next month’s design blog.)


Large prints can crowd small spaces, while conversely, a too small print can be lost in a large space.  Also consider the orientation of the photograph to understand how it will affect the look of the wall.  Vertical images emphasize height in a room, while horizontal images emphasize width.  This may seem an obvious concept, but the actual visualization of the effect can sometimes be a bit more challenging. 


Prints should not crowd furniture.  As a general rule, they should be no more than 2/3 – 3/4 the width of the furniture below them, and the bottom edge of the frame should sit at least 6 – 8 inches above the furniture.  Prints should generally be hung at eye level for the average person.  However, larger prints on higher walls might need to be hung higher to maintain a sense of balance.  


Consider the lighting in the area you wish to hang the image.  Can you light the image properly at a given size?  If not, are you willing to add lighting?  This could be something as simple as a frame light or a free-standing lamp, or as elaborate as installing track lighting.  Just as lighting is critical in the proper creation of a stunning photograph, it is also essential in its proper display.


While many people will consider the ramifications upon art size of having small children in the home (Can they reach it?  Will you come home to find your beautiful wedding portrait covered in small chocolate hand prints, or worse, in pieces on the ground, with an injured child nearby?), an often overlooked consideration is whether or not you have pets, especially medium to large dogs with appropriately long tails.  Though most pet owners who fall into this category quickly become aware of the “clean-sweeping” potential of these tails, and modify the items stored on top of coffee and side tables accordingly, art hung on walls is sometimes overlooked as a potential victim of the excited swooshes of a wagging tail.  The larger the piece, the more wall it covers, and the lower the bottom of the frame will be to the floor, making it more susceptible to getting knocked off the wall or to getting pieces of fur caught in the frame. 


With all of these things in mind, perhaps the single best thing you can do to help decide how big to make your print is to cut out a paper template in your preferred size and actually attach it to your wall (painter’s tape works well because of its easy-release adhesive).  Be sure to include the dimensions of the entire package, including mats and frame, as these can substantially increase the overall dimensions of the piece.  Leave the template in place for a few days to get a feel for how the size works on a day-to-day basis.  Make adjustments as necessary.  And remember, when it comes to decorating, there are no hard and fast rules, only suggestions.  What matters most is what looks and feels right to you.


Happy decorating!


Jodi Gaylord

City Escapes Nature Photography


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Which is preferable, framed canvas prints or Gallery Wraps?

That is by and large a matter of personal preference. Frames do add a degree of structural support and protection for the canvas, especially on the larger sizes, but they certainly are not required for the successful display of your canvas. A framed canvas works well with many different decors, from rustic to homey to sophisticated, to everything in between. Frames highlight the art within, and when done properly, complement the image by defining and delineating its space, accenting its color scheme, and generally giving the image a “finished” feeling. Framed images also seem “normal” to our eyes – we are accustomed to seeing prints in frames.

Gallery wraps tend to work best in decors that lean toward the modern. They are clean and minimalist, having no defining border around the front of the image. Their simplicity is their genius; there is nothing but the image to draw the viewer’s eye. Of course, this lack of a defining border leaves the viewer open to distraction from whatever may be in close proximity to the gallery wrap. For this reason, gallery wraps are especially effective in areas where the wrap has a bit of empty space around it, allowing the wall itself to lend significance to the image.

When considering a gallery wrap, it should be remembered that they, like all of our canvas prints, have a bit of thickness to them, and are not flat like a paper print. Though the finished piece will not have the depth of a traditional photo frame, all of our canvas prints are stretched on wooden stretcher frames. Gallery wraps, therefore, are still about an inch thick. The sides of the wrap will be black, white, or a continuation of the image itself, as determined on a case-by-case basis by what works best with each individual image.