Matting Photo Prints for Standard Size Frames

One area for frustration with photographers is the framing of photo prints. If you have tried to frame one of your pictures recently and you use a digital SLR camera you may know what I am talking about, especially if you have to crop out some of the image to fit the display you have in mind.

That is because you are most likely shooting in a 3:2 aspect ratio which is far from being frame friendly. If you turned that into a print it’s the equivalent to the un-cropped version of a 6×4 or 4×6 inch photo print. And if you wanted something larger we are talking about an 8×12, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, etc.  And if you are probably shooting with your smart phone or even a point and shoot digital camera the default aspect ratio is probably around 4:3. This too translates too translates to some off sizes.

Printing any of these uncommon picture frame dimensions at FinerWorks is not a problem. Not only do we print custom sizes on canvas and fine art paper but our Kodak prints have a wider range of sizes available then you might find in many other places doing similar prints. Late 2016 and early 2017 at FinerWorks we opened up our in-house custom framing center . This allowed people to be able to order custom cut mats (and of course custom frames) so non-standard size prints became less of an issue.

But if you already have a frame you want to use or prefer to frame something yourself using a ready made frame from an art supply store finding a size in which any of these photos will fit can be the challenge.

If you are like me, you probably want to preserve as much of the image as possible or print an outcropped version. But what do you do when you want to frame your print and most of the frames you find at your closest art supply store are limited to common sizes which don’t match your image. You can always choose to crop your image to but this option only is okay if you do not mind losing some of the photo.  For instance, let’s say you have a nice shot of the kids and you want to place it in a standard size frame like 20×16 inches. Unless you can Photoshop you way out of it, you have to trim some of the image on the sides to accommodate the frame.  The only problem is it takes out too much of the kids.

Uncropped original photograph

Cropped to fit a standard 20×16 frame

This is where custom matting can save the day. As a photographer mats can be your best friend when it comes to getting your print sizes to work with standard size frames. There are also other techniques you can use if you are adept at Photoshop such as adding margins around your image, digitally painting in more background and so on but that can be a complicated or a lot of work.  A mat saves the day by both protecting the print and allows you to fit any aspect ratio print in a standard size frame. The matting is cut to the print’s size and the overall mat size is the size of the frame. Any professional framer will also tell you it is also an important part of the overall display of the image. Essentially it isolates the image, removes distractions and highlights the importance of the subject matter. When effectively matted and framed, the viewer should move on feeling like they saw a work of art while not even remembering the matting or frame. You want them to only remember the photo they saw.

    

Custom cut 18×12 matting for an standard 24×18 inch frame

I heard a story about  a well published photographer that  does well with galleries. He said one of his first gallery openings with his work was one he will never forget. He had a number of prints custom framed and matted quite elaborately. People just seemed to love his work during the show and he thought he could not have asked for a better evening. At the end of the night one last person came up to him to ask him some questions about several pieces. The last thing he said was how he loved the choice of matting and framing and wanted to know where he could get that combination. The photographer thanked the man but realized that his framing choice may have been wrong. Since then he has gone with more subdued approach with simple frames and plain white matting.  Not only has his sales continued to do well but no one in his circle of buyers have seemed to notice. If anything, they notice his work more.

Custom cut mats are much less expensive then a custom made frame. You can literally save hundreds of dollars in some instances, so having it cut to the size of your print is in easy reach of even the starving artists/photographer. It lets you continue to use standard size frames which are less expensive while preserving your work. Artists and photographers want to have their work seen and that means all of it, so when choosing your print size, you don’t have to limit yourself to specific frames.

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