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Why Frame Your Photographs?

There are three basic reasons for framing your photographs:
1. The frame acts as a support for your photos so that they can be viewed optimally. It helps keep the photograph flat and provides a way to mount it on a wall or support it on a table or shelf.

2. The frame and mat protect the photograph from the grease and acid in your hands, other dirt and moisture, light and poor quality paper products that can damage your photograph because of their high acidity. Every time you handle a photograph with your hands, you risk damaging it.

3. Framing and matting your photographs can add to their beauty. The frame and mat should enhance or even glorify your photographs.

Some Terminology

The basic components of a framing system are:

  • The backing board. Generally this is supplied with "do-it-yourself" frames. It is generally cardboard placed behind the back mat.
  • The back mat is archival mat board to protect the back of the photograph from the acids in normal paper and cardboard.
  • The mat or "window mat" is a second piece of archival mat board with a "window" cut so that you can see the photograph through it. The mat separates the photograph from direct contact with the glass. The air space created prevents moisture from building up and mold and fungi developing. More than one mat may be used for decorative purposes. Mats can be pure white, pure black or different colours.
  • The glass can be the normal glass that comes with your frame or for a little more money you can purchase non-glare glass. Occasionally clear plastic is used in place of glass.
  • The frame. Frames can be simple or complex, simple black or complex gold leaf.

Custom Framing

If you desire, you can take your photograph, without a mat, directly to a commercial framing business. There you can select the frame, mats and glass that suit your needs and wants. Commercial framers have the advantage of experience - they have framed hundreds or thousands of photos and knows what to do and what not to do. Their experience can also help you select a properly sized frame and mats that will complement your choice of photograph. Custom framers have access to frames and materials that the do-it-yourselfer may not be aware of. One hint: Select a mat colour that is similar to a colour in the photograph. Don't try to match the mat colour or frame colour to your wall colour.

Do-It-Yourself Framing

You can save a lot of money framing your own photos. First, order a photo with a mat. Many large craft stores offer a wide selection of frames generally without a mat but in standard sizes. Some, like the Michaels chain will even take your photo and one of their frames and do the custom framing for you.

Ready-made frames are also available from a variety of stores, including many camera shops. They are generally simple or “gimmick” frames in popular colors, textures and sizes. Many ready-made frames come complete with backing materials and glass. At it simplest, all you do is remove the backing, clean the glass, insert the photograph and replace the backing. Your local department store, all-purpose drug store or even a dollar store, may be your least-expensive source for a frame and mat to simply place your photograph in. In this case, framing is as simple as open, insert, close.

  • Don't touch the front side of prints with your fingers. Even if fingerprints are not visible immediately, the acids in them can develop into blemishes over time.
  • You don't need to touch the front to handle the prints. Hold them by backside and edges.
  • You must use a mat or else the print emulsion comes into contact with the glass and there is a good chance the emulsion will stick to it permanently, damaging the print.




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