Recently I had one of those hectic transition periods. Last Thursday night I had to take down my show at the Works Cafe in Brattleboro Vermont and then hang the pictures at the Colonial Theater in Keene, New Hampshire the next morning. The overlap doesn't always work this perfectly but this time I didn't even have to take
|Bad Name for the Show|
|Colonial Theatre Gallery|
So, how do you produce a collection of your best images suitable for display without flirting with bankruptcy? It all comes down to a perfect print, neatly matted with archival materials and framed to compliment the image.
There are many inexpensive photo labs that can handle the printing of your images with excellent quality and consistency. Recently I have been very happy with the work of White House Custom Color for my over-sized prints, but, I still prefer to use my Epson R3000, 13 inch printer, to maintain full control over the print. I have always been happy with Epson's profiles, which, when combined with a calibrated monitor, allow reliable and reproducible color management.
When I started out I investigated the cost of having my work matted and framed at our wonderful local art store, I quickly determined that I could not afford to produce the number of pictures that I would need for even a modest showing. I had to figure out how to do it myself. I first tried cutting mats using a small hand-held device but quickly became frustrated with the impossibility making clean, straight and consistent cuts. Once I made the commitment and bought a good mat cutter the rest was relatively easy. My Logan 450 Mat Cutter
|Mat Measurement Calculator|
For most of my pictures I use brush black aluminum frames that can be bought in lengths online. I will occasionally use wood frames, but I like the clean look of the black metal. The metal frames can to bought in pre-cut lengths online and are easy to assemble. They are also easy to disassemble when you want to rotate your display images or clean out that fleck of dust that invariable shows after the piece has been displayed for awhile. I would recommend using UV blocking glass, but, unless specifically requested, I avoid the "anti-glare" glass that tends to dull the image.
|On the Wall|
Matting and framing your own work is certainly not for everyone. It requires careful attention to detail and a significant time commitment. Framing also requires space to do the work, and store the materials. When my daughter left home for school and work, I kept her room untouched as a shrine to my lost little girl, but I recovered from that in about 3 months. Now her room has been completely transformed into my hopelessly cluttered studio and Abby will just have to sleep on the couch.
Many photographers will tell you that they would rather spend their time out shooting, and I am completely sympathetic with that feeling. Someday I may be able to charge enough to be able to have my pictures framed by others, but I think I will always enjoy having the ability to control my work from the field to the final physical piece of "art".
So just a couple of recommendations.
First it is best to keep your matted work in standard sizes. If people are planning to frame the picture themselves it is helpful to have pieces that will fit standard frames. As I prepare images to print I start adjusting the composition to fit within 11x14", 16x20" , 18x24" or 20x24" mats. I can usually, but not always, fine a crop that works and doesn't compromise the image.
I quickly abandoned the use of colored mats. It is impractical to have enough choices to work with different images. I now stick exclusively to a cream white mat with a black under-mat. I think this creates a clean, professionally finished look. If you are planning on selling your images it is important to use all archival, acid free materials. They are more expensive, but nothing suggests unprofessional work like seeing the white in the bevel cut turn to brown after a few months. No one will respect your work until you respect it yourself.
So, if you are interested, get out there and get your hands dirty (and occasionally cut). Build that inventory. You can't show the work until you have the work to show. Beyond all the challenges and practical benefits of matting and framing, you may discover that the control of the full process provides a sense of validation as a practitioner, not only in photography, but also in the craft of print making.
Check out the images in Colonial Theatre Show on my Flickr Set.