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Putting a print inside a frame is also part of composition, and a photo could be ruined by choosing the wrong frame or matte — yet I've never read any line on how to choose the right frame for a print!

What should I consider? What factors might influence my decision? Is there a generally accepted body of knowledge concerning how photos should be framed for display? If so, what is the generally accepted term used to refer to that body of knowledge?

  • 4
    It's an aesthetic matter of personal preference. – Stan Jul 16 '18 at 22:50
  • 1
    Requests for references are off topic. Why not just ask the question? – mattdm Jul 17 '18 at 10:13
  • 2
    All of photography can be reduced to "an aesthetic matter of personal preference" – mattdm Jul 17 '18 at 10:14
  • 1
    You might want to visit a framing store and discuss the issue with the vendor. – Stan Jul 17 '18 at 13:36
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    As to on or off topic, an anecdote: In a photo critique while taking a photo class at a photo school, I watched a classmate brought to tears when the photo teacher failed her for the week for very poorly matting photos. And lest you ask; no, finishing was not a topic of that course's syllabus, though it appeared on previous syllabi. My point is that IMO, photo finishing is on topic on photo SE. Now if OP asks how to build the frame, then we've wandered a bit off the path. – PhotoScientist Jul 17 '18 at 18:19
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It's purely a matter of opinion, unfortunately.

My own suggestion would be that matted prints always look better than simply framed prints, and some more so with a double mat. I typically go with one solid white or black mat for black and whites with either a black or white frame and for color, go with complementary colored mats and frames that complement as well. For example:

enter image description here

Or, take any rule you think there is and throw it out of the window. While trying to save money on printing a pano, I chose the only "standard" size frame that would fit (cheaper than going custom) and cut the mat along the rule of thirds:

enter image description here

Thick mat / thin mat / thick frame / thin frame / colors / sans-color. It's up to you so grab your print and head over to the craft store to see some mat and frame choices in action.

  • @MichaelClark there's no shortage of videos (google.com/…) but, as my argument is simply that it's 100% subjective - no video is any better than another, there is no official process, and at the end of the day, it's completely up to you. My advice for choosing complimentary colors is subjective, not a rule, and one is free to disregard. – Hueco Jul 17 '18 at 3:14
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    @MichaelClark - the book or video portion of the request is a minor portion of the overall question being asked. I don't see how feedback directly is counter-productive to answering the user's real question. I've seen you answer the portion of a user's question that suited you plenty of times. Don't bite others for doing the same. – AJ Henderson Jul 19 '18 at 16:49
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The basis of this question seems to be not how to frame prints but how to find that obscured information. Most information on the internet tells us how to place a framed print (photo or otherwise) on our wall or select a print to add to our home. Very little is available concerning matching the frame to the print. After wading through several fruitless searches, I found that the term "Art Framing Aesthetics" has garnered the best results so far and I encourage personal research using this as a starting point.

To get some tips into this SE, I've copied excerpt from a trueart.info (with reference to the original text.)


Aesthetics in Framing (Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)

The aesthetics of framing is a subjective area, but the following guidelines will give you something to follow.

  1. Look first, then see. To look first at the artwork and at possible selections for framing means to perceive it without preconception and storylines. To see is to grasp relationships and ideas. If you look and then see, you have perceived what is actually there and then related it to your ideas. If you see first and then look, you often perceive only your ideas and frame them, not the picture.

  2. Frame to the picture first. Although most people change their decor several times during a lifetime, few reframe a picture to match those changes. If you frame to the picture, you will always have at least one match.

  3. Beware of framing that is too interesting or too beautiful. It is very easy to select framing that overwhelms the picture. If you find yourself looking more at the frame than the picture, your selection is out of balance.

  4. Remember the original purpose of picture framing, which is to protect the artwork. Avoid creative framing at the expense of common sense. Stay within the rules of good framing.

  5. The width of a mat should be clearly larger than the width of the moulding.

  6. Double mats and fabric mats, when used conservatively, can create a focal point and a sense of depth. This is particularly true with photographs.

  7. If you wish to bring out a particular color, choose a mat of a complementary, color, not the same color.

  8. A little more space should be given at the bottom of a mat. Artwork such as prints that are signed at the bottom are not usually given this extra space because of the extra space created by the signature.

  9. A mat should be the same or one shade darker in appearance than the brightest part of the artwork. Exceptions to this rule may be made if the mat is made extra large (3′ inches to 6 inches).

  10. Artwork that has a rough or deckled edge should be considered for float mounting to show the edge; artwork with a cut edge should considered for over-matting. A proper choice will bring a piece of artwork to life.

  • 1
    @Stan a valid question. Probably not a widely used term but obscured information means that which is obscured by other information. For example, it is nearly impossible to find information about Carl Chiarenza's theory of "window fallacy" because when you type "window fallacy" into google you get info abut the unrelated "broken window fallacy." You have to remember Chiarenza said it and use his name in the search. The obscuration of solid, simple, reference info is becoming more common as blog posts and advertisements rise to the top of search results... Hey, where'd this soap box come from? – PhotoScientist Jul 18 '18 at 18:28
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Here is what I have learned based on 10 years of experience framing and matting my work. Most of the decisions boil down to ratios. Here are the general rules I use, most of which I learned from my local frame shop:

1) The width of the frame and the width of the mat should never be equal - typically the width of the mat is around 2x the width of the frame.

2) You can violate this rule if the frame and mat are the same color.

3) There should be some balance between the width of the frame and mat and the size of the photo - in other words don't frame a big photo with a skinny frame. The approximate ratio for smaller work (up to 11x14) would be to have the mat+frame equal around 1/4 the picture width. So going from edge to center of photo, there would be 1 part frame, 2 parts mat, and 6 parts photo. As the photo gets larger, the ratio would also get larger.

|1xframe|----2xmat---|------6x photo------><------6x photo------|----2x mat----|1xframe|

4) The mat should be the same width on the top and bottom as on the sides.(Unless an intentional offset is desired. In other words, don't have a 3 inch strip of mat on the top and bottom and a 1 inch strip of mat on the sides.

5) If you use 2 mats, they should never be equal width. Usually the second mat is inside the first, only around 1/2 inch wide and serves as a frame in a frame. And if you violate rule 4 and have the mat different widths around the frame, do not have the inside mat vary as well. It should be a constant width around the photo.

6) You can put a photo in a frame without a mat if the frame is wide enough to make the frame-to-photo ratio look okay. But professionals put a spacer between the glass and the photo so the two don't contact each other. (I have had photos stick to the glass - especially metal prints.)

7) The frame style should reflect the subject of the photo - or be neutral and let the photo do all the talking. I generally prefer black or white frames - especially since I have to swap photos in and out when something doesn't sell. But for the high-end pieces I find a frame that emphasizes the subject and mood of the photo.

8) If the mat is not a neutral color, it should ideally bring out some accent color in the photo - not necessarily match it, but help make it a bit more prominent.

Note that all of these are rules that generally make the presentation aesthetically pleasing. If you want an edgy look then do something different - like offset the print into a corner, use a contrasting color for a frame, etc.

Hope this helps.

1

Proportional Print Positioning

Here is a technique I was taught to place a "print" on a matte by proportions. By print, I mean that it can also be for positioning the aperture window cut into a mount to reveal the print. (I use "mount" and "matte" interchangeably.)

This technique "works" despite vast differences in size ratios between prints and their mounts. For example, putting a vertical print onto a horizontal mount.

You only need a straight-edge to use this effectively. No measuring is involved.

Proportional Print Positioning in 6 steps

  1. Push the print into the upper-left corner.
  2. Divide the vertical space between the edge of the print and the edge of the mount in half.

    Tip: To centre something or divide a space in half NEVER measure with a ruler (unless it is a special-purpose centre-finding one like this).
    enter image description here
    Instead, use a piece of paper. Mark the gap on a scrap of paper and fold the scrap in half. Use the "folded" crease as the indication of the centre. It's more accurate and you will never make a mistake measuring.
  3. Divide the horizontal space under the print in the same way.
  4. Draw a straight line from the lower left corner of the print to the midpoint of the horizontal space on the opposite edge of the mount.
  5. Slide the lower-right corner of the print to the point where the diagonal and the vertical space midpoint meet. This is the amount of the vertical offset necessary for the optimal position vertically on the mount.
  6. The result is slightly above centre which gives the visual appearance of being centred. If the print was actually centred, it would appear too low from a visual viewpoint.

Now, the assembly is ready to place into a frame which is usually thin and does not compete for attention yet is isolated by the mount from its surround. There are a number of outlets for a plain non-descript black (gloss or matte finish) frame.

  • Comment as to mount colour: White is suggestive of a printed page where the print "sinks" into the page whereas Black is recessive which pushes the print into prominence and is suggestive of a viewfinder. – Stan Jul 21 '18 at 4:15
1

Metrically Magic Mount

Due to a quirk in the Imperial and Metric system, I discovered an easy way to position a print on a mount approximating the Golden Mean/Ration 1:1.618. The difference is less than 3 percent.

You will need a ruler divided into inches and another in centimetres. Ideally, you would have both sub-divided into tenths. They are not hard to find. You can make one with a photocopier. Inches @ 38% should be close enough for most purposes.

  1. Begin by aligning your trimmed print with the upper edge of the mount.
  2. Divide the vertical space between the edge of the print and the edge of the mount in half to use as a guide for the side of the print to centre it.

    Tip: To centre something or divide a space in half NEVER measure with a ruler (unless it is a special-purpose centre-finding one like this).

    centre finding ruler

    Instead, use a piece of paper. Mark the gap on a scrap of paper and fold the scrap in half aligning the index mark with the scrap edge. Use the "folded" crease as the indication of the centre. It's more accurate and you will never make a mistake measuring.
  3. Here's the trick I found… Measure from the bottom edge of the print to the bottom edge of the mount in inches. Make a note of this number.
  4. Measure down from the top of the mount in centimetres multiplying by the number of inches you got in step #3. Don’t convert the number—Just use it, as is. For example: If you got 6.5 inches in step #3, use 6.5 centimetres in step #4.
    Reposition the print vertically until the top edge of the print touches that point where the number of centimetres is equal to that number you got in step #3.
  5. Done.

The steps:

enter image description here

Now, the assembly is ready to place into a frame which is usually thin and does not compete for attention yet is isolated by the mount from its surround. There are a number of outlets for a plain non-descript black (gloss or matte finish) frame.

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