Framing your Photo

Framing a photo can be quite a challenging process. Here are the steps to go through to end up with the best quality end result.

Make sure you have all the major components assembled. You want the outside frame itself, a sheet of glass, the backing, the photo, a mat, and then optionally a filler piece of corrugated cardboard in case the photo does not fit snugly between the mat and the backing. You'll also want windex and tape.

Framing your Photo

Start by laying the mat viewing-side-down along the top of the back of the frame. The part of the back that goes against the wall should be against the table. Often the frame back has a narrow edge on one side which is meant to wedge into the frame to provide additional stability. Do not count that extra edge area when you line up the mat.

Framing your Photo

You want to use tape about an inch in from each side to connect these two pieces together in a hinge. That way the mat does not slide around and can easily be raised and lowered in the exact same position. In this close-up you can see the left hand hinge. You can also see how the mat lines up with the main part of the frame, and doesn't attempt to line up with the thinner "ledge" that will go within the frame itself.

Framing your Photo

Next, in most cases you'll need the cardboard filler to properly fill in the frame, unless you have a very thick mat. So you want to attach that to the backing. Make a loop out of a piece of tape. Make sure you put it vertically - hole side pointing down - on the surface. If you put it hole side left-right, then the tape loop could "roll" down with the weight of the cardboard. You want it to stay stationary.

Framing your Photo

Time for the photo. First, lay it down about at the center of the cardboard, and lower the mat down over it. Move the photo around until it's just where you want it. It's important to make sure you printed your photo large enough that all four edges of the image are covered by the mat and there's extra space to work with. You don't want a white margin or the edge of the photo showing! Also, NEVER touch the colored face of the photo with your fingers. Even if you don't see your fingerprint, the oils in your finger could easily "develop" over time and cause a visible mark on the photo. Always handle the photo by its edges.

When you get the photo in the exact right spot, you have to secure it there. Some say to only use double-sided tape on the back of the photo so nothing at all touches the front. I'm less of a purist and am OK with taping the top left and top right with tape on the white margin only of the photo. Your aim is to only connect it from the top, so it hangs free.

Framing your Photo

Now you can fold down your mat and the inside of the photo is ready. Now to do the rest.

Framing your Photo

Put the frame front-side-down on the table, and lay the glass inside the frame. Clean just the "inside" of the glass as thoroughly as humanly possible. Don't worry about the outside for now (the side the viewers could touch). You can always clean that thoroughly later. It's this inside part that's about to be sealed within your sandwich. If you have fingerprints or dirt or dust on the inside of the glass, it will drive you batty for the rest of your life :). You won't be able to get at it and clean it. And even one speck could be exactly in the middle of your image and distract every single viewer.

Also, go over all the edges of the inside of the frame very thoroughly. Frames drop all sorts of random wood chips or paint chips or other things. It can easily be that you get the class perfectly clean and in the process of sliding in your mat that a tiny wood chip shakes loose, falling smack dab in the center of your photo. Again, if it's right where you want the viewer to be looking, it can be incredibly distracting.

Framing your Photo

Once you're sure it's as clean as it's going to get, it's time to assemble. Carefully slide the back part into the frame itself, using as little force and movement as possible. Every little dust speck or wood chip you pull loose could cause you to have to pull everything apart, clean it, and try again. With my paintings it seems to take 5 or 6 runs at this before I finally get a perfectly clean end result. Also be very sure the photo doesn't touch the glass. There definitely needs to be air between the photo face and the glass, to prevent the glass from sticking to and damaging the print.

Once you're sure there's no dust or wood bits on the mat or photo, seal it up!

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