How should I mount for a gallery?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by spud, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. I've been approached by 2 gallery owners to exhibit some of my work.
    However, I am wondering about how to handle the presentation of them.

    I've never shown my photographs before, but obviously would like to
    sell some. But, I want to make sure that I make a profit on my sales,
    without driving the cost into the statosphere by paying too much for

    Therefore, what I look to you for your wisdom is this:

    1) How should I prepare these for presentation so that they look good
    in the gallery, showcase the photograph and remain cost effective
    where I can make a profit without scaring off buyers? (I don't know
    how to frame, or mount, so this would all have to be contracted out)

    2) Has anyone tried having their work printed on 'canvas' paper and
    then stretch mounting (so it looks more like a painting than a
    photograph). What kind of success have you had with that?

    Thank you o lords of the all knowing....
  2. Timm,

    I would highly recommend 2 levels of mats, with colors that accent the picture. I look at photographic galleries any chance I get, and I do believe that the frame and matting play such a big part on the impression.

    If you are looking at having more work framed in the future, I would recommend getting the mat cutter, glass cutter, etc. yourself. I would be more than happy to help you with all the steps and share my experiences as I've just started this process myself (this weekend, I'll finish framing about 9 prints of the following sizes: 16x20, 24x30, 12x30, and 15x40). Heck, if you were in the Seattle area, I'd say come on over.

    Anyway, if you do decide to frame yourself, the startup costs are not insignificant (at least for me, I live on a budget), but it doesn't take long for your purchased equipment to pay for themselves.

    You can get pre-cut frame stock from which saves you the cost of getting a good blade for your miter saw (or from buying one if you don't already have one).

    I would recommend going to a stained glass place to get the glass cutter. You will pay more than if you buy over the internet, but the service makes it worth it. This morning, I stopped at Jax's Stained Glass near Seattle where I live, and the staff person / owner was very helpful, showing me a few different tricks for cutting large sheets of glass as well as having me practice on some glass (needless to say, I highly recommend such places that give great service).

    I also purchased recently a mat cutter from - specifically a Logan Frame Edge 655. I'm rather clumsy, so I bought a more expensive mat cutter, but I feel that it is worth it. I'd be more than happy to share some tips for avoiding overcut in the mats.

    I could go on, but I'll leave it to you if you (or anyone else) would like to know more about my experience so far.

    Best of luck,
  3. Framers want as much profit to mount your work and frame it as you will probably get
    after splitting with the gallery.

    Matting is easy and a Logan mat cutter is cheap. Get the big one. Picking up 'chops' from
    a local art supply is a breeze and if you start moving prints can be ordered in bulk from
    several web sources as is true for mat board as well.

    Get a book about matting. There are some tricks to mounting photo paper. Talk to the
    gallery about glass or no glass. I like my framed prints unglazed as you can see them so
    much better.

    It takes about 30 minutes to mount and frame a large print if you take your time and are
    careful which you must be. When you see how much the framer wants for $50 worth of
    material and 30 minutes labor you will start thinking about doing it yourself. There's
    good money in it. More money than shooting landscapes .... unless you are Jack Dykinga.
  4. The least expensive professional frames that I've found online, cut to order, and shipped broken down for you to assemble are at:

    Huge selection, and they offer other services.
    Their prices beat the local stuff all to heck.

    As far as matting, get a good book to learn the standard formulas for sizing, and if you don't know what the optical center means, don't touch a knife to the mat.
  5. 1) Conventional framing of works on paper (darkroom print, inkjet print, watercolor, whatever) is best done like this IMHO:

    2) An alternative is to print to canvas and display with a conventional frame (like an oil painting), a floater frame (requires a gallery wrap because you can see the edges of the canvas), or without a frame at all (also requires a gallery wrap).

    Someone's going to ask, so I might as well tell you what a gallery wrap is. Convention stretching of canvas over stretcher bars is to pull the canvas around the front edge and staple at 90 degrees. If you hang this on the wall, you see the staples all around the canvas.

    A gallery wrap is where you staple into the back of the stretcher bars so the staples are against the wall, and you don't see them on the edges.

    To print on canvas (it's not paper), you have to use an inkjet printer. Can't do it in the darkroom, or with a chromira or lightjet process. If you aren't happy with that, stick to your current process.

    If you are happy with that, there are many print-for-pay houses around that print on canvas with Epson 9x00 printers (or bigger). About the biggest you can go from an image size viewpoint is the 44" max width of the 9x00, minus 5 inches of border (2 1/2 a side to pull around the stretcher bar and staple to the back (called a gallery wrap)). I've done 1.0 m wide, but it's not easy to put it on stretchers that way. Talk to whomever is doing the printing about what they suggest.

    Also, don't wander off to the local wood lot and "make your own" stretchers - you'll have them coming back because your homemade stretchers warp. Use actual stretcher bars.

    I've done this before, and a print on canvas with a gallery wrap makes an excellent presentation. I think it works with photographs down to about 30x38cm (12x15), but that may be pushing it. Basically, you'll have to try it at the sizes you are interested in and see what you think.

    Oh, yes. You'll need to coat the print with a protective lacquer of some kind. Your printer can probably do this for you as well. You'll be amazed at what fingerprints and dirt an unprotected print will collect ;-)
  6. A lot depends on the gallery space and the artwork too...

    Many times a more simple matte and frame gets lost in the shuffle... other times, it makes for a very striking presentation.

    (An entire row of black and white prints, in wide white mattes with narrow dark frames, for graphically very compelling and not terribly expensive).

    I personally am not a fan of stretch mounting... I do like flush mounting on aluminum as a "frameless" alternative.

    I guess take into consideration the tone and style of your photographs, and then the tone of the gallery. You might even ask one of them what they like from a presentation standpoint.

    Good luck.
  7. And my personal credo is to make whatever presentation as archival as possible. Aside from archival printing substrates, and techniques (either wet, or digital)... make sure your mounting method, matte board, backing boards, are all top quality, you're using UV glass in your frames, etc.

    I don't want to have to explain to an owner 3 years down the road why their expensive print is a different color, or fading.
  8. Well, everyone has sugested that you frame yourself. I wonder why that is? I recon they would be on the money and for good reason. You would need some space set aside as one soon accumulates considerable jetsam and it's quite bothersome to get all your stuff out every time you get the urge to do a bit more.

    If you intend doing black and white try to standardise on one or at the most two framing stock. maybe in two sizes. Continuity not only looks tidier but also cheaper. Two mats is good. Consider spacing them with strips of foam core, esp. on larger pieces. Once decided on colour stay with it.

    Colour on the other hand is altogether an other matter. The colour/tone of the mat is intrinsically tied to the print (and frame). If you find it hard to see/read colour this could prove to be a problem. The whole, print to frame needs to tie in as one. If you get it wrong you may not see it it but it just won't jell or sell. A good many women seem to naturally be able to reconcile colours get their opinion. Colour also needs one to retain a considerably larger stock of matting stock. On this ground it may, at a pinch be worthwhile buying the services of a good framer. But herein lays the catch. Bit like finding a golden egg laying goose and unless the framer in question is indeed quite capable you will find yourself unable to intergrate your thoughts with his. Not unlike getting some lab to understand your mental/spirtual vision of your work, and then actually doing it.
  9. There is an entire school of thought out there that says regardless of color or b/w image, use a neutral white mat, and a black, silver, gray, or natural wood-tone frame. This is the most widely preferred look for framing in serious galleries, because it nicely offsets the artwork, and allows the buyer to not be distracted by the framing. I don't know how many times I've seen people buying art turn away from a picture because "the frame color doesn't match my living room decor". Ideally, when selling your artwork, you want the frame to be mentally "invisible" to the buyer, so they decide to buy your work based on the work itself, not if they like the frame. If you are framing for your own personal consumption, to put on your living room wall, frame it any old way that pleases you - if you want a lavender metallic-flake frame with gold dots, on a mauve mat, go right ahead.

    The reason not to mat color photographs with colored mats is that the colored mat will visually influence the color of the photo - if you put a green mat around an image, it will give the appearance of a greenish color cast to the image, making it appear to the viewer that you don't know how to color-balance your photographs.

    For matting, if you can afford it, learn how to cut 8-ply mat board and mat your photos with a single 8-ply mat. The 8-ply is over 1/8" thick, and devilishly difficult to cut (you'll go through blades at about three times the rate you will with 4-ply). However, if you ever look at the matting on photographs in serious galleries or museums, they frequently use 8-ply, and it gives a beautiful depth and weight to your presentation.

    Look for the Logan Framer's Edge on e-bay. I got one at about 1/2 of retail, new in box from an authorized retailer. In the framing I did for a single show (12 frames), it paid for itself if you factor in what I would have paid had I farmed out the framing to a frame shop.

    as to sizing, the general rule is take your frame up one whole standard size above the size of the print - if your print size is 11x14, you want a 16x20 frame. If your print is 16x20, you want a 20x24 frame. This will give you a 2-4" border on all sides of the image, which is a nice visual separator of the image from the frame and the background environment. Some people will print very small and frame very large - that is a matter of personal taste, and it also verges on distracting, because you start to notice how big the mat is, which violates the primary purpose of framing for sale, which is to be as invisible as possible while providing proper protection for your artwork.
  10. Don't know if this is of value, but Aaron Brothers is having their annual "1 Penny Sale" one frame, the next frame is a penny.

  11. Hi,
    Presentation is very important in the context of an art gallery.
    Regardless of the quality and content of your work, poor presentation can detract from your work.

    Framing often depends on what size prints your are planning to show, the content and whether you work in colour or B&W. Simply stated, larger work requires a more sturdy frame.
    My preferences below are for B&W.

    Acid free 4-ply matts are recommended. For B&W, white or offwhite is the standard. I prefer a single, generous matt for 24 inch prints and larger. It makes the entire piece look grander. Cutting matts yourself takes practice. Professional matt cutters, which firmly hold down the matt while your draw the blade across, start around $300. A hand held, $50.00 cutter will make the process more difficult.

    Frames are a question of taste. I am rather fed up with metal frames and now prefer a wooden frame with a baked black enamel surface.

    Then there is the choice between regular glass, non-glare glass or plexiglas. Non-glare glass comes in various qualities. Museum glass
    has a film adhesed to the surface. Some non-glare glass is sand blasted and the art work needs to be pressed closer to its surface.
    Then there is premium UV glass, which is very expensive.

    I often offer my work matted, but unframed and my client can choose a frame to suit their needs. Often my clients have more money to frame then I can afford myself.

    RT Simon
  12. Simple metal Nielsen metal frames are an inexpensive (yet respected by the galleries) way
    to go. I also agree that serious photo galleries will only accept neutral mats, whether the
    print is color or not. The gallery people will most likely not accept your work for display if
    the mats are colored. Good luck!
  13. an answer for anyone searching this post as i did 3 and a half years later...
    if you're concerned about costs for framing and how a buyer my look upon the final price of a print then possibly the gallery can list the price with and without framing. the couple of shows i have had work in i was able to do this. i priced the prints at 400 unframed and 550 framed. this was at cost to get the 11x14 prints professionally framed @ 150 a piece. if you can front the initial cost and think you'll sell some prints then i would do it this way. the gallery i worked with actually suggested this pricing method. plus i got them to pay for 2 of the 3 frames. i never sold them framed, but now i do have 3 of my prints professionally framed. they look beautiful in them as well. maybe this will help someone out there. -jesse

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