Framing Recommendations from Eric J. Keller, Director, Soulcatcher Studio

FRAMING: Always try to obtain a recommendation for a frame shop in your area that uses "museum" or "conservation" framing methods, which adhere to a strict set of archival standards. This may require some research on your part, but it will be worthwhile in the long run. I prefer to use wood frames rather than metal, as they are generally more aesthetically pleasing, as well as easier to properly seal for maximum archival protection.

MATTING: I always recommend using only ACID-FREE mat board, mounting and backing materials. This material is also sometimes referred to as 100% rag board (made from cotton fibers). Lesser quality materials can eventually discolor, and bleed acidic material onto your photograph, causing deterioration and staining.

I prefer to use an 8-ply mat, which is twice the thickness of the more typical 4-ply mat. It will really set off your photograph, giving it the attention it deserves. Use approx. 3" width around an 11"x14" photograph, 3.5" or 4" on a 16"x20" photograph, 4" or 5" on a 20"x24" photograph, and so on. Each mat should have another 1" added to the bottom edge to make the piece look balanced. If this is not done, the bottom edge of the mat will tend to appear smaller than the sides.

GLAZING (GLASS): Acrylic glass is the most protective and practical glazing material available for framing fine art. I recommend OP-3 plexi-glass. It offers the best combination of superior protection against ultra-violet light and lightweight composition. With standard glass there is always the danger of breakage, which almost always damages the art it was intended to protect. Acrylic glass is 10 to 20 times stronger than glass and about one-third the weight. Art framed under acrylic is not only more secure, it is astonishingly lightweight, eliminating the need for special wall bolts or brackets.

HANGING: It is important to keep photographs away from direct sources of extreme heat and/or humidity. Do not hang valuable artwork directly over a wall or floor heating unit, or a working fireplace. Acrylic can be a fire hazard. When plastics such as these are burned without sufficient oxygen (which would be the case in most ordinary room fires), they give off large quantities of toxic and suffocating vapors. Also, if you have an occasion to use a vaporizer or humidifier please be aware that both can cause serious damage to photographs. Likewise, it would not be advisable to hang a fine art photograph in your bathroom, near a steamy shower stall. You should also avoid hanging artwork under an air-conditioning unit, due to the rapid changes in temperature. This is often accompanied by rapid changes in humidity, will can cause premature deterioration of your artwork.

It is wise to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, even when using UV resistant glazing. This would entail several hours per day of hard sunlight directly on the framed piece, over many years time. Exposure to prolonged, strong ultraviolet light can yellow acrylic over time, but this is of more serious concern to institutions and industries that are using such special lighting as mercury vapor lamps. It is typically not necessary to keep your photographs out of the "normal" range of sunlight that will occur throughout your home.

Also, be sure to use a proper hanger for your framed artwork, rather than just a nail, which could easily bend over time. Ask your frame shop to provide a sufficient hanger with your finished piece.

CLEANING: It is important to keep your investment clean, which means removing the frame from the wall three or four times annually and cleaning it with the proper materials. NEVER use cleaners with ammonia, such as Windex. I recommend Glass Plus, which is ammonia free. Also, NEVER use paper towels to clean the acrylic glass. They can easily scratch the surface. I recommend using a clean, soft cotton cloth. Spray the cleaner onto the cloth, never directly onto the acrylic, as it might drip down between the glass and frame, causing damage to the artwork. Glass Plus also works well on the wood or metal surface of the frame itself.

Finally, I always recommend carrying a sufficient amount of insurance through your homeowner's policy to cover the REPLACEMENT COST of your photography collection. If you purchased a Henri Cartier-Bresson photograph for $5,000 but the current retail price is $15,000 you need to act accordingly.

Following these simple steps can ensure a lifetime of protection and enjoyment of your photography collection.

Framing Recommendations Copyright © 2002-16 Eric J. Keller/Soulcatcher Studio.
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