Printing and Framing Your Photos

Recently I was asked by one of my wife’s acquaintances if I would be interested in donating a photo of mine to an annual auction for a charity fund-raiser she is involved with each year. All that would be needed was a photo in a frame – something simple and straight-forward. Well, it sounded simple enough, and after all the proceeds would go towards helping out others who needed it – so,  sure that would be something I would be happy to do!

Initially I thought of buying a frame off-the-rack, and simply putting my picture in the supplied matte, and bingo,  bango,  bongo I’m done! Ready for the auction! But the more I thought about it the more questions I began to wonder about. Here I am ready to donate an image that I find special, and that should be something special enough for someone looking at it to bid on it,  and be special enough to them to display it on a wall in their home. I thought about pieces of art that I have in my own home, not that I have any pieces that are worth a  fortune, but I have them because I find something special about them. I also find it pleasurable  when others look at them and find something  that catches their interest. I also think that a nice piece should be presented tastefully ( in a nice frame, with complimentary matting, etc). so that it can be considered part of the decor of a room that really compliments the room furnishings. As I consider this a furnishing for my home, I would want it to last for a very long time as well.

So with these thoughts swirling around in my mind, I decided that I better take a look into not just simply framing a print of mine with the cheapest frame I could find, but to find a way that would present my image in a very pleasing, tasteful, and lasting way. In other words, when potential buyers would look at my print, I wanted them to notice that it wasn’t just a picture someone took and slapped into the back of a frame, but I wanted them to see that care had been taken – from the composing and capturing of  the image, to its overall presentation  that it really was something that required thought and pride to put together.

Of course, all of this can be done at an art gallery or specialty framing place. This is the definitely the easiest, albeit, more expensive route to go. I wanted to strike a balance between having something definitely  better than department store quality framing, but not uber expensive.

The First Step – Printing the Image

There is such a wide range of options available as to where one can print their images available – from online printing places, to your local department store photo place, and smaller specialty print shops. The place that I chose to print my images was Costco, which for those outside of Canada/USA, is a warehouse type retail shopping outfit. I have researched feedback from many sources about their quality, and have used them in the past – always with excellent results. You need a paid membership to shop at Costco and to use their photo imaging services. Their print quality vs their pricing is pretty unbeatable in my opinion and experience. The 8 x 12 enlargement cost $1.99 CDN. They have a service where you can upload your prints in-store from a storage device or over the internet via their website, with pick up the next day,  which is what I did. Their upload interface is very easy to use and offers some basic options as well, such as cropping, converting your print to B&W or sepia, etc. none of which I use because I do my post production work in Photoshop and then just upload the finished product from there. They also have another option that allows their printer to automatically adjust for overall exposure and color correction. I always leave this option OFF, because I want the finished product to look exactly as I see it in Photoshop. So, assuming that your monitor is correctly color calibrated, the reproduction from their prints is EXCELLENT. I have never had an issue yet with Costco about this. Many Costco stores  use high end professional Epson and Noritsu printers, and use the Fujifilm Crystal Archive paper, resulting in very good quality prints that will last a long time. So all things considered, I find this price/quality combination hard to beat.

Let’s Start Our Quest For The Frame

After I was satisfied with the quality and size of my print I wanted, my next step was a  quest for a frame for my image. Now here is an area that some money can be saved. Unless you have a very specific taste for the kind of frame you want, or an unusual size of print to be framed, an off-the-rack frame will save you quite a bit of money. Off the rack framing gives a good but limited selection. Custom framing offers a plethora of colors, sizes and designs. You will want a frame that will allow enough of a matte to go around your print. For a 8 x 10 print, you would likely get a 11 x 14 frame. My print was 8 x 12 (I didn’t want to crop it to an 8 x 10 because I felt all the elements needed to be in the image as it was originally composed in camera). So to accommodate the 8 x 12 print I was fortunate to find a 14 x 18 frame off the shelf , with a 10 x 13 matte inside. At a custom frame store, you can also get special glass that is anti-glare and UV resistant to protect your art. With off-the-shelf frames, you will more than likely have to settle for regular glass, which for me was an option I was OK with.

While you can get a decent enough frame from off-the-rack, the one area of concern would be the matting and the backer board that comes with them. Many of these ready-to-go frames have mattes and backer board that may leach acids over time onto your fine art print. So this was an area that I wanted to make sure of good quality paper that was going to surround my print. Also the matte was already cut in this frame to 10 x 13, whereas I needed a 8 x 12 matte.  To get that, I went to my local framing shop, and got them to custom cut me an acid-free or conservation matte. The other ‘bonus’ that comes with getting your matte cut is that you also get to choose a color that will compliment your print. I chose a color that was in my print but a very light shade of it. Because my print was darker in overall color, it was ‘anchored’ nicely in the frame, with the viewers eyes being drawn toward the print immediately. Getting this custom matte was $20.

With off the shelf framing, having multiple mattes is usually not possible, as there is not enough depth to accommodate this. While multiple mattes can be very appealing, the single matte around my print worked very nicely. Next came the mounting, which there are a few ways to do it, the most popular being using acid free hinging tape or photo corners. The best way to mount your art print is to make sure that it has enough room to expand and contract independently of the other materials around it. It is also very important from a conservation point of view,  that an art print should be easy to remove without damage from the matte that it is mounted to. With my art print I chose to use acid free corner mounts. If you are going to use corner mounts, it may be advisable, but not a requirement,  to make a 1/4″ border around your print, which is what I did.

To Sign Or Not To Sign – That Is The Question

Well, looking around at the art prints I have displayed around my home, all of them, are signed by the artist. I think that most people, including myself, put an added value to an art print when it is signed by the artist. We expect it. It can also be a confirmation that the artist has seen and approved this piece for display. In the world of fine art prints, I am no one of any consequence. But I do take pride in my work,  and to me  from the moment I composed the image in my viewfinder and pressed the shutter button to producing a print, I put my thought and creativity into each piece, and all photographers really do,  so I think it is only appropriate to sign your print. For signing I usually write the copyright symbol and sign my name either on the bottom left or right corner of the image. There are different schools of thought on where an artist should sign – on the matte, below the print, on the bottom white border of the print, or on the print itself. Some sign on the back of the print itself, but I don’t personally see the value of doing this – but with that said, to each his own. I prefer signing the bottom corner of the print itself – that way if the person decides to switch frames, and/or mattes, the signature is not lost. I like to usually use black, but sometimes I use colours that are close to what is dominant in the print, that way you strike a nice balance between being unobtrusive yet not lost in the background. Be sure to use a pen that doesn’t ‘bleed’ into a blob when signing, and one that uses permanent ink.  I used a Sakura Microperm pen. These pens can usually be found in specialty craft stores in the scrap-booking section.

One final personal touch I added with my framed art print, is a brief description of the photo, in this case a little blurb about the history of Peggy’s Cove, how I took the picture (brief EXIF information), and a little bit about myself on a card in an envelope which I affixed to the backer board of the print. Along with this I make sure the customer has the information about my personal website. I feel that doing this adds something personal to the print, as well as brands the image for you, which is what I assume all photographers and artists are desiring to do.

IMG_5901   After looking at the finished product, I can truly feel that it is a print that I would hang in my house. I feel satisfied for having taken the extra time to research and think through the entire printing and framing process with a bit more care than I initially started out with. The thought of knowing someone will enjoy this print for many years to come, and the fact that it has raised some money for a noble cause are  additional rewards that are an end result of this entire process.

This is by no means the only way of printing and displaying your special prints. I  have tried to strike a balance here between framing with quality in mind, but also  trying to accomplish that in a cost-effective way. I hope that you have found some of  this information educational and useful. If you think others could benefit from this  blog, please feel free to share this with others.

Happy Shooting!