How to Keep Beautiful Photographic Prints (Mounting & Framing)

August 30, 2015

 I mentioned in my last blog, "the print is the ultimate expression of the creative work". Why do I believe this?

In this digital age it is all too easy to rely on viewing and storing images on the many and varied digital devices. But how is this going to work for us in 10, 20, 50 or more years from now? Technology is changing at a rapid pace and I am old enough to remember "reel to reel" tapes, floppy discs, cassette tapes, and yes, even Beta video tapes. I have all of these at home but I no longer have a means of playing any of them.

So let's look again at the humble photo Frames, mounting, "matt boards", archival, protectionPicture FramesOne method of Keeping Treasured Prints Protected and Safe and on display graphic print. It is tangible and real. Once created it faithfully displays the original artist's intent and will do so for many generations (if well crafted and stored). It won't be "manipulated" or misinterpreted by poorly calibrated hardware or new software.

So assuming we have "consulted the professional" and now have a quality photographic print, how do we keep it? We could store it away in a cool safe place - a place free from harmful UV light, with low humidity and away from any harmful contaminates such as dust or airborne pollutants etc. but most people want to display prints so they will usually be framed and mounted or perhaps contained in a photo album. Even so, we still need to be careful about where we place these display prints. For instance, any print exposed to direct daylight or stored in a humid environment is going to suffer. So choose the placement of prints wisely. Avoid:

  • Direct sunlight or any bright light source (or use a cover when not being viewed),
  • Keep away from working fireplaces or radiators, and intake or outtake vents,
  • Keep away from cooking and bathroom areas,
  • Keep away from rooms which might suffer from high temperature or moisture extremes, or where dust or pollutants are more likely to exist
  • Exterior walls where possible. Interiors walls have less moisture and lower temperature extremes

Framing & Mounting

Many a fine print has been ruined by cheap framing and mounting. There are many options but commonly a print will be mounted on board (timber or cardboard) and possibly surrounded by a matt - all held within a frame and covered by glass or an acrylic panel.

Quality "acid free", chemically stable, materials must be used in the mounting board and matt (100% cotton rag or chemically purified). Any adhesives used must also be chemically stable. Otherwise, within a relatively short period, the print will be permanently damaged (fading, yellowing, discoloured, becomes brittle etc.).

It is important to include a glass or preferably a UV opaque acrylic panel as this becomes a barrier or filter to reduced the amount of ultra violet light striking the print and also to seal out pollutants as well as perhaps curious fingers. Prints should not be touched except minimally using cotton gloves.

Photo Albums

All the above comments are true for albums. Albums have the advantage of saving prints from exposure to light when not being viewed but unfortunately many albums sold in shops are really cheap & nasty containing harmful adhesives and unsuitable plastics (polypropelene is OK) which could quickly damage your valuable prints. Again, pay a little more and look for albums which advertise true archival acid free/chemically stable materials and polypropelene covers.