Framing your work

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by markc, Mar 15, 2004.

  1. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    This isn't really a traditional how-to for framing. It's more about ideas than step-by-step instructions.

    A photographer friend of mine put forth that a work of art is not completed until it is actually presented. This doesn't mean pulling a print out of a drawer to show a friend, it means being placed in a portfolio, shown on a screen, or mounted or framed. He theorized that if your prints just sit in a shoe box or on your hard drive, it is hard to develop past the point that you were at when you made that print. By not displaying it, you learn very little from it.

    After thinking about it a while, I agree with him; so here's why I think that framing our work can actually help us grow as artists.

    There are three major things we can do to help ourselves improve. One is to look at a lot of other photographers works; two is to shoot a lot of our own work; and three is to scrutinize that work we ourselves do. Number one is fairly easy to do by visiting the library or browsing the bookstore. Number two just takes an effort to get out and shoot. Number three can be somewhat difficult if our images are sitting out of sight. Sure, we look at them while we work on them, and we may occasionally sit down with them to see if we can figure out how to make them better, but that doesn't compare to having them on the wall where we can see them every day. Even if we don't look at them directly, our subconscious still sees them. Just by having them around our brain is aware of them. At some level they are there, and it makes it easier to just stop and look at them a moment.

    There is another interesting factor at work. Framing a picture gives you as a photographer a sense of completeness. If a photo sits in a drawer, in a way it's like it was never taken. We often find ourselves taking the same kinds of pictures over because none of them ever become complete. By framing the image and putting it up for the world to see (even if it's just the small world of your appartment), then you are giving yourself permission to move on and try the next step.

    Another interesting thing that can happen is finding that those "neato" pictures that grabbed your attention when you first took them don't hold up so well after hanging for a while. If they are in the drawer, they look "neato" every time you pull them out and you may want more; but if they are always on the wall, you will be a lot less tempted to make another one. You'll want to try something different; something that will hold your attention.

    I would suggest buying a few nice frames and mattes to put some prints in and hang them up. Go ahead and splurge a little. You want them to look nice. When you get the money to do so, buy some more. Use the space on the wall you have available to you, whether it's a single bedroom in your parent's home, or your entire house if you own one. I would also suggest going with a basic black frame with a white matte. This will look classy and will work with every print you make.

    The goal is to have enough frames to get at least a sampling of your work on the wall. You can split the frames into two groups: one that has the image stay in the frame for as long as you like looking at it, and one where you replace the image once you take a better one. Try and resist the urge to touch that first group, even if the print you are pulling out of a frame in the second group is better. As long as the image is pleasing, let it stay put. This will keep you from cycling prints out of every frame every week if you shoot a lot.

    BTW, posting image to your website helps, but it really isn't the same thing as getting it framed.

    I have a matte cutter and will often cut my own mattes and foamcore, but I have the frames and glass cut for me at a shop. A great place to order frames online is American Frame. They are the cheapest I've found yet, including local shops. If you like to print mostly full-frame and print yourself, get a matte size that will work for a 6"x9" image. The frame itself would be 10"x13". You could go with 4x6 prints, but that's what you get from the supermarket. It's not really what people think of as a frameable print. It's important to impress yourself here. I say 6x9 because you can still print full-frame with an 8.5x11 printer, and you don't want you frame and matte to determine you print size. It should be the other way around. You could get 11x14 frames with mattes cut for 8x10 images, but unless you shoot 4x5 negatives, that's the wrong WxH ratio and you would have to crop, even if the image doesn't call for it. Plus, in an 11x14 frame, the sides of the matte won't have the same spacing as the top and bottom. You can get pre-cut mattes like this, but it doesn't look professional. Another benefit of going with 6x9 is that you can afford more frames than you could with 8x12's. If you have the cash, go for it. But I figure most people here won't want to sink that kind of money into this.

    Here's what you are looking at for a Nielson (top brand!) frame for a 6x9 print.

    Artwork Size: 5-7/8W x 8-7/8""H
    Extended Size: 12-7/8"W x 9-7/8"H (plus mat border)
    Frame: (S 20) Standard, Black 20
    Mat Board: (C3259) Custom Cut Paper Mat, Lily White: Rect/Square, Top: 2", Sides: 2", Bottom: 2"
    Plexi-glass: (PG) Standard, 3/32" Plexi-Glass
    Mounting Board: (FC) Standard, 1/8" Foam Board

    Total: $15.86

    Pretty good, eh? That's cheaper than many of the crap pre-made things you find in the store, and this is a brand that museums and galleries use as a standard. The matte and backing aren't acid free, but if you are rotating prints that won't matter. If you have one that you plan on doing permanently, getting acid-free is a good idea. Same with UV plexiglass so that the image won't fade. The reason that the artwork size is 5-7/8W x 8-7/8""H rather than 6"x9" is that you need some overlap so that the print doesn't fall through or show white if it shifts slightly.

    Even if you only get two frames, put your two favorite images in them. Keep one in for a while and rotate the other when you think you've surpassed that one. You might find interesting things happening when you compare the two down the road.

    Heck, even if you are tight on money right now, ask for just one as a present. Just frame your best. It deserves it, no matter where you think you are or what others might think of it. It's a part of you and deserves this kind of respect. If you don't respect your own work, no one else will be able to either.
     
  2. karissa

    karissa The Untitled

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    And yet another great release from our very own Photo Forum author none other than MARKC! *applause*

    Mark really, I had wanted to frame a few of my pictures to display but since I read this I think I have a whole new design for my dorm room that I will move into in a few months. With the permission of my room mate I would like to decorate it with my personal photographs rather than posters. Some black and white and some color. Your article was very inspiring THANKS! You are very right about it all. There is also an added sense of pride when you do.

    You are awesome! :hug:
     
  3. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    Aw, shucks. :oops:

    I was lucky to learn a lot of this stuff from great people. I think it would be a waste to let it just sit inside my head. I really enjoy this, too. I work in the computer field. There is nothing there that I can pass on to others that won't be out of date very quickly. There's a certain point in life when you want to pass on the things you know to others, like a blacksmith takes on an apprentice. Eventually, that apprentice goes off on their own and does their own thing. They then become a master themselves and take on their own apprentice.

    I'm hardly a master at photography, but I'm at that age where a blacksmith would be thinking of taking on an apprentice. I can't do that at my job, so I have to fulfill that desire somehow. Luckily there's the Internet. I can at least let that urge out by making these long winded posts, passing on the tidbits I've been lucky enough to pick up (mixed with my own lunacy). I'm really glad you appreciate it. That's truly a great feeling. :D
     
  4. Tara

    Tara TPF Noob!

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    I agree with you Mark! Putting your images up is a great way to improve. I recently (a couple of months ago) made myself a boarder/alcove of my own photos in my room, and it has helped me improve. I wake up every morning and see certain images, I walk in the door and see other ones..and it's a constant reminder of the journey/development I've taken with my work.

    I realise more of the strengths and weaknesses of different images as I find myself staring at some for minutes(often subconsciously)..whilst others escape my gaze for days.

    By having my images up, it's really helping me see where I am as a photographer now and it pushes me to want to better myself and add an even better image to my wall. It's great inspiration! Far better than leaving images languishing in a portfolio for noone to see. Photographs are meant to be seen..otherwise they're redundant!
     
  5. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    You mean I'm wasn't just blowing smoke out of my arse? Woo!

    Thanks for posting that, Tara. It's always cool to hear other people's personal experiences with ideas that can be somewhat vague. Examples make it more concrete.
     
  6. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait TPF Noob!

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    Yes, very well said. In the past few months I've finally grown comfortable enough with my own work to begin framing some of it. Now we've got prints scattered all over the house. :D
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Great advice. Framing is very important, and can add a lot to the visual impact of a photo.

    If you find yourself framing up a lot of photos (and other art) look into getting a mat cutter. There are really good models under $100, and they'll pay themselves off quickly if you mat a dozen or so pics. I was amazed at how easy it is to get professional results right off the bat.

    I have a Logan brand cutter and I highly recomend it. I bought a larger model that was around $200, and was able to pay it off doing matting work for friends and family.
     
  8. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    In another thread, vonnagy had mentioned the black borders I use on my images, so I thought I'd mention how that impacts my framing. Since I can print any size I want, and I get my frames cut to custom size from AmericanFrame, I can work with whole numbers and pacify that side of my nature.

    Black borders can be added by a large number of means. I'll leave that to you all to find the way you like best. I use a layer that emulates the soft edge of the neg, but some prefer the hard lines of an "enlarge canvas" action. If you print traditionally, you can file your negative holders so that it will show the rebate.

    I first set the image at an even size that includes the amount of border I want to show. In the case of a 6x9, I'll set the image to be 6x9 total, including some black border, like so:

    [​IMG]
    Okay, so that's not 6x9. Use your imagination.

    I'll then add a quarter-inch border of black and print it, like so:

    [​IMG]

    I'll then order or cut the matte to an exact 6x9 opening. I hate fractions, so I'm a lot less likely to make a mistake by using whole numbers. The print is now a 6.5x9.5, so it won't fall through the matte opening and if it shifts slightly, you won't be seeing any white like you would if I hadn't enlarged the black border.

    Now it looks like this when I frame it:

    [​IMG]
    I don't have the same print framed and unframed, so use your imagination again. I think you get the idea. The black helps keep light areas of the image from bleeding into the matte. It's like double-matting with black without the extra cost.

    Oh yeah. If it's going to be a long-term framing, don't forget to sign it.
     
  9. Not Neve

    Not Neve TPF Noob!

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    Good post, Mark. I'm rethinking all the photo boxes I've got.
     
  10. soulfly

    soulfly TPF Noob!

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    I havent been on the web in a few days, so pardon me for posting late on this, but I too am inspired by this. I have just started framing my work too, I started in plain jane frames from the local department stores, I just bought myself 2 nice frames with good white mattes and cant wait to put something into them, that is, once I can decide which ones to frame :roll:
     
  11. oriecat

    oriecat work in progress

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    I often forget to check this forum, so I am late coming into this thread too... really great stuff here, and oh so true. I know that I have a very bad tendency of stopping prior to 'final print' since I don't actually have anything to do with nice prints anyway, so why make it and just have it get ruined in a stack or something... but I have been meaning to get better about finishing up and getting stuff framed, especially now with the house and lots more wall space... I know one problem I was struggling with is the size issue... I tend to print in random sizes (which makes framing that much more difficult) so I need to work on that as well, standardizing myself... so much to do...
     
  12. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    I personally feel pretty strongly about letting the image determine the frame size, not the other way around. If you order custom frames, you can get them any size you want. The frame I used in the example is 9x12 and is $15.86. This frame at Wal-Mart is $14.08 for an 8x10. This means that a custom pro-level frame is even heaper than a Wal-Mart frame when you count the matte price.

    Using a wide variety of image sizes does make it more difficult to rotate images in and out of the frame, but I would rather see someone wait until they could afford another frame than crop to make an image fit (in this particular case).
     

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