There’s more than one way to frame a photo, and there’s sort of a right and a wrong way, but that depends on how precious the photo is and how much you’re willing to spend. I bought three different styles of frames so you can determine which works best for you.
Cheap, but Good
The least expensive frame I bought was front-loading frame for around $3.00. It’s not the best option if you’re looking to preserve your photographs for the next generation, but it’s a great way to display photos inexpensively. This type of frame is ideal for things printed on your inkjet printer. Inkjet ink is usually not lightfast, meaning it fades over time from exposure to light, so it’s not going to last forever anyway.
This frame has a cardboard backing. Cardboard has acids in it that can yellow and break down the photo paper over time which is one of the reasons it’s not a great material for preservation. This frame also does not come with a mat, so the photo will be pressed up right against the glass. This can be bad for preservation as well because changes in humidity can cause the photo to stick to the glass.
However, I was not concerned about preservation with these photos. I just wanted them to look good hanging in the hallway, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so this front-loading frame was perfect for my needs.
No matter what type of frame you’re using, always clean the glass to remove dust and fingerprints. Start with the side of the glass that will be on the inside.
Once the glass is dry, place the backing in the frame, put your photo on top and snap the glass back into the frame. Then, clean the outside of the glass.
Instead of spraying the glass cleaner right onto the framed photo, spray your rag so the cleaner doesn’t drip down between the frame and glass and ruin your photo.
This particular frame also comes with a stand, but I’m going to hang mine on the wall, so I didn’t end up using it.
The Next Level of Framing
The second frame I bought cost around $12.00. It had a small mat, so my photograph wouldn’t have to sit on the glass like the front-loding frame, but the mat and the backing were not acid free, so I may have some preservation issues down the line.
I did put a piece of acid free paper in between the wood particle backing for better preservation. The best kinds of paper to use are papers labeled “100% rag” or “100% cotton.” Most papers made with wood pulp are not archival. Even the ones labeled “acid free” can sometimes yellow over time.
Once you’ve cleaned the inside of your glass stack everything in this order:
1. Frame backing
2. Photo backing (if there is one)
3. Acid free paper (optional)
Don’t put the frame back together until you’ve checked your photo and mat for dust and finger prints. Once everything looks spotless, flip the stack over and secure the frame using the hardware it came with.
Clean the outside of the glass (again, spray your rag with glass cleaner, not the framed photograph), and wipe the frame clean to remove dust.
If you’re really concerned about preserving your photographs, purchase a frame labeled “museum quality.” This type of frame will have a 100% rag backing and mat, and often comes with UV protected glass to prevent fading. Of course, these frames are often the most expensive—the one I bought for a 5″ x 7″ photo was around $24.00—but it will keep the photo looking new for many years. Plus, I was giving this one as a gift, so I thought it best not to go the cheap route.
Even though this frame has a wood particle backing, the 100% rag board that serves as the backing for the photo will work just fine.
The frame I’m using is 8″ x 10″, but my photo is only 5″ x 7″, so I will need to secure my photo to the mat board. People often make the mistake of taping the entire perimeter of the photo to the back of the mat board. You don’t want to do this because the photo can shift over time due to changes in temperature and humidity which can cause the photo to wrinkle.
The best thing to do is to use a small piece of acid free tape (such as artists tape) and tape it to the top of the back of the photo, sticky side up.
Then, place your mat on top and press where the tape is. I like to use another piece of paper when I press on the mat so I don’t get any fingerprints on it.
Flip the photo and mat over and secure the tape even more by pressing on it with your finger or using a bone folder. Make sure the surface you’re working on is very clean.
My mat board had a little smudge on it, so I used a white, plastic eraser to clean it up.
Before you put everything together, check to see if the glass has a right side and a wrong side. UV glass often needs to be in the right direction to work properly. Luckily the glass was labeled.
Like the other styles of frames, clean the inside of the glass and make a stack.
1. Frame backing
2. Photo backing
Check for dust and fingerprints. Then, flip the stack over and secure the hardware.
Adding a Dust Cover and Hanging
If you’re using a wooden frame (this technique won’t work as well on a metal frame), add a dust cover for extra preservation.
Line the back of your frame with double-sided tape about 1/16″ to 1/8″ from the outside edge.
Attach a piece of brown craft paper. It’s best if the paper is cut slightly larger than the frame.
Cut the excess paper using a utility knife and a straight edge.
Make the cut a little bit in from the outside edge of the frame, and remove the excess paper.
Next, add the screw eyes. Using an awl or small nail, make a hole 1/3 of the way from the top of the frame.
If it’s tough to screw in the hardware all the way, use your awl or a screwdriver to finish the job. Just be careful not to twist it too much or the screw eye will break.
To properly attach the picture wire to the frame, insert the wire into the screw eye feeding it from the inside side of the frame.
Then, wrap the wire around the outside of the screw eye and back through the center. It kind of makes a pretzel shape.
Pull it tight and wrap the excess around the wire.
When securing the wire to the other side of the frame, pull the wire so it’s straight across the back of the frame, but it does not need to be taut.
To keep your photos from going askew, and to protect your walls, add some vinyl bumpers to the bottom corners of the frame.
No matter what the style of the frame is, I like to use a black frame (and a white mat). Using the same color fame and mat every time will help to create a cohesive look.
I also hung these photos in a way that looks attractive as it is, but will allow me to add more photos to the wall in the future. I’m hoping this hallway will become a gallery to celebrate friends and family. Hallways are great for photos because there usually isn’t much room for furniture, so it’s a way to decorate without taking up space.
If you’re not filling an entire wall make sure to hang your photos at eye-level, or below eye-level if you’re tall. If you’re unsure, choose lower. For some reason, it just looks better that way. Plus, it makes the photos easier for all to view.