Time- and Money-Saving Framing Tips – Part I

caption: Andrew Darlow standing in front of a group of his prints (three printed on canvas and traditionally wrapped, and one printed on fiber semi-gloss inkjet paper and framed) during the opening of a solo show entitled “GRANDmarks NYC.” Photo (c) Jim Roselli

Post by Andrew Darlow – Follow Andrew on Twitter

The choices you make for framing your photographic prints are very important, both in terms of the look of the framed images, as well as for their protection over time. There are many frame options available on the market, from metal to hand-carved wood. For this article, I will focus on tips related to standardizing frame sizes and/or styles. These tips are geared more toward wedding, portrait, family, and fine-art photographers, but I believe that almost anyone who is interested in framing can benefit from the suggestions.

1. Choose a few standard frame sizes and styles. If you are having a gallery show with multiple framed prints, or if you plan to sell framed prints at art shows or to customers, standardizing with a few frame sizes and styles, such as 16 x 20 inches and 20 x 24 inches in black metal or cherry wood can save both time and money. The “frame sizes” I just mentioned represent the interior of the frame or the exterior dimensions of the backing board and/or mat board (as opposed to the outside dimensions of the frame). This approach can make it easier to quickly fulfill client orders because it is easier to keep most or all of the frames you need in-stock. It also reduces the time needed to match a frame to a client’s home decor.

If you exhibit your work at an art show where people expect to pay for and walk away with a framed piece of art, you can more easily replace a piece on a wall if you have standardized your frame sizes. You can also offer clients the ability to purchase “ready-to-frame” matted prints in a common size, such as 20 x 24 inches. By doing this, you are making it easier for your collectors to find affordable frames at art stores or other places where frames are sold. I commonly sell matted prints in standard sizes to my portrait and fine-art clients; this approach has helped me to concentrate more on my photography and print quality instead of spending time and energy on framing and everything that goes along with shipping framed prints.

2. Choose popular frame styles. By choosing frame styles that are popular, such as classic black wood gallery frames, it will be easier to find suppliers if a particular brand is no longer available. You can also usually find lower prices compared with other frames because popular styles are available in higher quantities and from more suppliers. Another major advantage to this approach is that it allows you to just ship matted prints (and optionally, one sample frame) to a museum, art center, collector or other location to use as a guide for a show. The frames can then be sourced locally or the frame materials can be shipped to the location for on-site assembly, thus reducing your overall costs and considerable time and effort necessary to prepare the work for shipping.

Another advantage of this approach is that if a collector or other client wants to add another piece to a wall (or walls) containing framed prints that you’ve supplied to them over a series of months or years, you can more easily provide the same frame style to them if you’ve selected a popular frame style.

3. Use the same frame style for a show or series of prints. Unless you have separate bodies of work that you are showing in separate parts of a gallery or other space, it’s generally best to present all of your prints using the same frame and matting style. Otherwise, it becomes difficult to keep a consistent look and feel from image to image. The photo above illustrates how I exhibited large canvas prints together with 20 x 24-inch matted and framed prints. Normally, I would keep two distinct framing styles in separate areas of a space, but in this case, the gallery director and I felt that this approach allowed people to “change focus” and explore both types of images, especially since the theme (New York City Landmarks) was the same.

In Part II of this series, I will cover more ways to save time and money when framing your work.