Now that you have chosen which photos you would like to exhibit, and if you have decided that you want to print on paper, the next question is how do you display your photo?
When you go to a framer to have your beautiful print framed, there are many possibilities to consider. The process of framing your print includes mounting, matting and framing. Some questions that your framer might ask you include: how do you want it mounted, what kind of mat do you want and what is your frame preference?
Let’s start with mounting. To protect your photograph from bending or wrinkling, and to prepare it for framing, your print needs a sturdy backing. Though there are several options, one of the most popular choices used by many photographers is foam board, which is a high quality, yet economical and efficient choice. Some framers will refer to this as foam core mount board.
Next your framer will most likely ask you if you want your print matted or not. Regardless of your final decision re: mat vs. no mat, both are valid options with endless possibilities. For smaller pieces, adding a mat behind the print can be a valuable asset. The spatial effect of the added mat gives the image breathing room by providing a clean border that allows the photo to stand out. Larger prints can be effective without a mat, but again, this is a personal choice.
If you have decided to include a mat, your next step is to choose the color of your mat. Of course this is entirely your decision, but often black and white mats are commonly used by photographers when exhibiting. These neutral colors provide a simple, professional finish for your photo. Often photographers who are hoping to sell their work choose black, white or variations of black and white because these colors are the easiest to match with décor and frame choices and make it easy for customers to imagine the photo in their own homes. Seek advice from your framer regarding the best shade of white or black that complements your photo.
Although there are many variations, most mat boards fall into three categories: regular, conservation and museum grade. Regular matboards are constructed of wood pulp that is treated with calcium carbonate to slow the harmful effects of acid and lignin. Untreated regular mat board could be a threat to art and photos, but it is no longer possible to buy mat board that is untreated This popular type of matboard is recommended for general matting and framing presentations. They are suitable for most everyday matting needs.
Conservation Grade matboards are acid-Free and Lignin-Free, creating a purified paper that is fade and bleed resistant and buffered with calcium carbonate to keep them safe for long term presentation of art. This type of mat is effective for art of personal value, photography, limited edition and fine art prints, and documents/diplomas.
Museum Grade mat boards are made of cotton which is naturally acid-free and lignin-free so it starts and stays pH neutral and safe for art. This type of mat, which is typically the most expensive, is suitable for valuable works of original art, historic documents, or artwork desiring museum grade presentation and preservation.
After you have decided on the color and type of mat to use, your next decision is which type of frame to use. While there are numerous choices of materials, wood or metal frames are the most common that many photographers use to showcase their prints when exhibiting in a gallery. While there is generally a good bit of latitude in terms of creative expression with framing options, framing for an exhibition can be a bit different from framing for your home. Ultimately, your frame choice is a personal decision, but keep in mind when exhibiting a photo, it makes sense to consider that the viewer should focus on your photograph more than anything else. Often exhibiting photographers avoid frames that might distract viewers from the photo.
Your final choice is to decide on the type of material you should use to protect and showcase your framed photo. After you have selected your frame and mat, then your framer asks you if you would like glass or acrylic, and if you want glass, which type? Glass, while fragile, is generally less susceptible to scratching, making it easier to clean. When it comes to price, acrylic can be more expensive than glass. The main disadvantage of using acrylic is that it has a higher likelihood of being scratched. Also, acrylic should only be cleaned with a microfiber cloth, using mild soap only in extreme cases. Anything beyond that could risk damaging it. Whether you choose glass or acrylic, you will also need to decide on the finish. Plain glass, which has a clear finish, is the most conventional and is ideal for most photos because it is like looking through a window. If your photo is colorful, it is a good option as it won’t soften any of the colors in your photo. Keep in mind that a clear finish is reflective; thus it could cause glare if placed near a window, where the sun shines through. If glare from sunshine is an issue, your next option is non-glare glass. Some photographers like this option if their photo doesn’t have bright colors or is entirely in black and white. One aspect about non-glare to consider is that it does reduce the sharpness a bit. Another option is anti-reflective glass. It has a coating similar to what is used on sunglasses. This type of glass virtually eliminates reflections, but it is an expensive glass.
Presenting and framing photographs is truly an art in itself. Before making your final decision about how you want to display your photo, visit Image City Photography Gallery to see how others have framed and matted their printed photos and see which ones you like best. If you have questions about anyone’s framing/matting techniques, just ask any of the Gallery Partners for assistance. Then when you go to your framer, you will have a general idea of the look you are seeking.
2 responses to “Getting Ready to Display a Paper Print at Image City Photography Gallery”
Excellent write up. You might want to add that non-reflective glass will degrade the way the image looks a little if you are using a double mat because the glass is then further away from the actual photograph, and you get more distortion. If a single mat is used, this should not be a problem. This is what I was told by the previous framer at Lumiere who really knows his stuff.
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This is very useful information, Steve! Thanks.