There’s nothing quite like seeing your photographs in a gallery. They just don’t seem to look as good anywhere else. But the amount of work that goes into setting up a show is significant and requires a certain amount of skill. In addition to selecting your images, finding a gallery and creating a budget, knowing the best way to display your photographs is crucial to a show’s success.
The gallery will know what to hang where and how to arrange it, but it’s up to you to ensure it’s presented in a professional manner. Applying proper framing techniques can mean the difference between a show that sells out and a show that flops. A finely matted and framed photograph is truly a work of art; and the opposite is true for poorly-chosen, mismatched frames which can decrease the value of your pieces.
Although the frame is secondary to the artwork being displayed, it’s important to get the framing right to enhance the presentation of the image and encourage a sale. By following a few guidelines about theme and style, the restrictions or allowances of the gallery, and always keeping your audience in mind, you and the gallery can enjoy a successful show.
It is important to keep the frames and mat board consistent in style and color, as it helps to create a more professional look. Though varied frames and colors may look whimsical, it often translates into a disjointed, unprofessional look that distracts viewers from the real focus: the art. Incorporate an overall theme to carry through the entire gallery show in order to create a signature look—this helps show off the uniqueness of your art.
If you’d prefer to use colored mats, allow the colors in the photos or artwork to guide the color scheme of the framing. In some case, brightly colored frame mats may enhance the show’s look. In other situations, choosing a strong color scheme in the framing may cause the integrity of the photo to be lost.
Wisely choosing color can also help bring out the finer points of each image. Consider the photo’s subject, mood, style, and color temperature. If you do choose to use a mat board in a color other than a neutral, they should all remain within the same color family in order to maintain the consistency of the whole showing. Disjointed colors will interrupt the flow as a viewer scans the room or moves from one image to the other. If you are having trouble, take a step back and view the entire collection as a whole.
By keeping the frames and matting consistent, you can also save on the overall cost of framing. In addition to cost savings, bulk orders ensure even more consistency among the frames and mat board. With a bulk order—even as few as 10—the frames are all selected from the same batch, and you can easily swap one out if one is damaged or to simply keep one as a spare. If each frame is unique, you have no backup option.
Gallery Limitations and Allowances
It’s crucial to work with a gallery that will take great interest in your show and ensure it is reflected well in all aspects. Before deciding upon the gallery in which to showcase your artwork, meet with the gallery owner or representative to ask a few questions.
- What type of lighting do you have? Choosing non-glare acrylic may be best if the lighting system produces a lot of glare.
- What is my allotted wall space? This will determine the print, matting and frame sizes.
- Do you allow glass? Some galleries don’t allow glass due to potential damage to artwork.
Make sure you tour the gallery and ask these questions before buying frames and framing materials—otherwise you may end up purchasing the wrong materials, wasting time and money.
Choosing glass or acrylic for framing is an important step, because the glazing serves more than one purpose. Aside from preventing people from touching the photos, the finish of the glass or acrylic glazing can keep colors looking rich and lines sharp. The choice of glazing can even have a softening effect.
Glazing is also a protective framing material, and not just from the fingers of curious viewers. It is very popular for artists these days to not only show their work at galleries but at restaurants, bars, coffee shops and even outdoors. The environment of these spaces is vastly different from a museum space—at bars and restaurants, smoke, food and other “art-unfriendly” aromas may be absorbed by the paper materials in the artwork if it is left uncovered.
Natural damage occurs when frames are left with improper or, worse yet, no glazing. Discoloration, for example, is a common problem that can ruin the appearance of the overall framed artwork. This type of damage is often caused by unfiltered light, which occurs when the framed pieces uses poor or improper framing materials—especially one without the proper UV protection.
Artglass products, which are specially coated UV-protective glass used for picture framing, will help prevent your photos from fading or changing color due to light damage. Artglass is not considered conservation grade, though it does block over 90 percent of harmful UV rays and will preserve the photographs for a much longer time than glazing with no protection. Acrylic glazing products, such as Acrylite, can contain conservation-grade UV protection—this means that the UV protection meets certain ISO standards, and is often of the same quality you find in most museums.
Above all, choose your glazing product based on the location of the gallery. If you are showing your pieces in an open-air space with lots of natural light, UV protection is a must. As UV protection comes in various grades, with conservation grade being the highest, it is important to carefully consider this aspect of the glazing. A space with bright, artificial lighting may necessitate non-glare and anti-reflective glass/acrylic glazing, allowing those at your gallery showing to view your art completely unobstructed.
For galleries that require non-glass frames, choose high-quality framing grade acrylic with a non-glare matte surface such as Acrylite non-glare acrylic. Gallery showings that feature very large pieces may be better suited to acrylic, as it is lightweight and shatterproof. Smaller pieces can handle glass, but it is important to then offer your customers some way to protect these pieces as they take them home.
There may be some people at a show who appreciate your art, but can’t afford the price tag. Keeping a stocked print bin for people who can’t afford a complete framed piece is a great way to make sure interested guests can leave with one of your pieces of art.
It is in this area that you can experiment more with matting sizes: large mats on a small print can add an air of grandness, for example, that may look out of place in an otherwise modest gallery showing.
In addition, with a print bin, you are able to play with mat board colors that you should not include in the display pieces—so have fun with red, blue, green and other hues in the mat board. You can offer the same print mounted in a range of different color mat boards to appeal to more customers—and later, you can see which mat board and print combination sells the best. This will help you plan future shows, allowing you to become more familiar with the mat board and framing options that suit your work best.
In addition to the print bin, provide a stack of crystal clear bags that comfortably fit the size of your prints so these people can bring your art home without damaging it; this is a great way to protect the art and show it off at the same time. Make your prints ready to frame by adding a piece of foam board to the bag as a backing.
The safe journey from home to gallery, then gallery to the buyer’s home requires some forethought. Even framed photographs are susceptible to damage while being stacked and moved at the gallery. Invest in some heavy duty bubble bags and corner protectors made specifically for this purpose.
The GalleryPouch™ premium bubble bag can be used to protect matted prints, mounted prints, frames with or without artwork, gallery wrap canvases, rolled canvas and many other objects that can be easily scratched or damage during transport, storage and set up.
Cardboard corner protectors slip easily over the corners of frames so that these vulnerable points of the framing package are not dented or dinged during the drive home. Corner protectors are an inexpensive yet thoughtful item to offer to your customers.
Showing your photos or artwork can give your career the boost it needs. By applying a bit of knowledge on how to frame images well, you’ll make sure your work is displayed in a way that’s worthy of its artistic value and adds to the show, instead of being distracting.