Tag Archives: photography

How to Frame Art and Photographs

It’s How-To Wednesday!

Collection of Framed Artimage via skonahem

Today we’ll be learning some basics about framing art and photographs. Getting artwork professionally framed can be expensive and learning how to do it yourself is a handy skill for anyone interested in interior design and decorating. Of course, if it’s an original painting that needs to be framed or if you’re dealing with a large or awkward project it’s best to leave it to the pros, but for smaller everyday jobs you only need a few tools and materials to get your art and photos on your walls in no time. Let’s get started.

Via Art.com framed Woman Playing a PoppinWoman Playing a Poppin by Michael Kriggan via art.com

Choosing a Frame

Which frame you choose will largely depend on the image you are framing. The frame should complement the artwork, not compete with it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stick with a simple frame; an ornate frame can show off the right piece of art beautifully. Probably the best tip is not to pick a frame that is too small for the image. The image should have some breathing room.

via etsy.com antique framesimage via etsy

A Word on Vintage or Antique Frames

I love the look of antique frames, but here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing an older frame. Pay attention to how the frame is assembled, some frames are easier to get apart than others. If there is already a picture inside you don’t want to ruin the frame trying to remove it.  Look carefully to make sure the glass doesn’t have scratches. Bring the frame into a bright light so you can see small imperfections that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Map Picture Frame via Martha Stewart WeddingsMap Picture Frame via Martha Stewart Weddings


A mat is a piece of board that surrounds the image. It can give your framed artwork or photo a more professional appearance. Although matboard comes in a range of colours, white and cream are most often used because they allow the images to stand out best. If you decide you like another colour or pattern better feel free to use it. Matbard comes in a range of thicknesses, 2-ply, 4-ply and 8-ply, and you can choose to double mat or even triple mat.

Even if you’re not purchasing a frame most framers will cut a custom mat for you, and sometimes they will even have scrap pieces of matboard that you can get for free if you ask. Generally the rule of thumb for mats is that it should create a border that is equal on all sides, or weighted slightly heavier on the on the bottom side. How much space there is between the image and the frame is largely a matter of preference, but again, I would warn against going too small.

Cutting a Mat via Oh Happy DayCutting a Mat image via Oh Happy Day

Basic Framing 101


linen tape (you don’t want to damage the original so you need something that can easily be removed and won’t stain. Your local art supply store should have tape that is suitable.)

framing wire (you can get this at most hardware stores)

glass, if you’re frame doesn’t come with any (you can get glass custom cut at most hardware and framing stores)

eye screws for attaching hanging wire if you’re frame doesn’t have them

Soft cloth and glass cleaning solution

Small finishing nails and hammer if your frame doesn’t have fasteners to keep it together

optional: mat cutter (mat cutters are expensive and require some practice and finesse but if you plan on doing a lot of framing it may be a worthwhile investment.)

via Seesaw Designs United Measures FrameUnited Measures Frame via Seesaw Design

Putting it all together

1. Disassemble the frame. You should have a frame, backing board, mat board and glass. it’s best to do this on a towel or another piece of soft fabric so nothing gets scratched.

2. Clean glass and make sure everything is free of dust and debris. Put glass inside frame.

3. using linen tape attach the image to the back of the matboard.  This may take a few tries but you want to make sure the image is even within the mat and not crooked.

4. Carefully place the mat, image and backing board into the frame. Before completing the assembly turn the frame over and have a look to make sure the image is where you want it to be and there is nothing trapped between the glass and mat.

5. Secure the glass, mat, image and board with the frame’s built-in fasteners, or with small finishing nails.

6. Attach hanging wire using eye screws.

7. Hang!

Framed Collection on display via Isabel Pires De Lima

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Power Play: China’s Empress Dowager

On exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Portrait of Empress Cixi

Image courtesy Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

One of the reasons I love exhibitions and museums is that they offer opportunities for storytelling and consequently, re-telling, as well. Most museums today are progressive in the sense that they continue a tradition of scholarship and service for the enhancement of public education. While some museums favor presentation methods might be simple and direct, without many opportunities for interactives, they stimulate public interest through the stories in their objects and exhibitions.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Image by Renee Alfonso

One such exhibition I had the chance to see recently was Power Play: China’s Empress Dowager, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian. The Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian produce exhibitions on Asian Art and house the Smithsonian’s Asian Art collection. This was a special exhibition on photographic prints from the glass plate negatives of the photos in the Freer Sackler Collection.

The exhibition itself is about the Chinese Dowager Empress Cixi, who is widely known through common history as the dominant political figure of the Qing dynasty, from the 1860’s until her death in the early 20th century. She was the regent to two successive emperors and was known to be a conservative and tough leader, earning her the monicker of “Dragon Lady”.

Portrait of Empress Dowager Cixi

Image courtesy Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

The photographs that comprise the exhibition were part of a political campaign by the Qing royal court to improve the Empress’ undesirable image. Mainly given out as diplomatic gifts and also distributed throughout China (most likely as propaganda for the Qing court), the portraits helped form the ubiqitous “Dragon Lady” we all known in popular culture, but are also windows into a dying lifestyle and the private life of an unparalleled female political figure.

Dowager Empress Cixi

Image courtesy Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

Organized into five sections, the exhibition seeks to provide a deeper and more complex portrait of the Empress by analyzing the subtle themes in each set of photographic prints. Each set of themed photographs convey the intentions of Cixi and her court through specific symbols and imagery. The photographs themselves were taken by a court photographer hired specifically for the task.

The exhibition itself is not large and can easily be walked through in around an hour or so. The objects and sections were paced at just the right rhythm throughout the galleries. The design is also fairly straightforward, placing the greatest emphasis on the photographs and using graphics sparsely yet tastefully.

Tasteful exhibit design

Image by Renee Alfonso

Each photograph was printed large-scale and gave off a very regal and impressive aura. The galleries were darkened with the chosen wall color, with little ambient light. A spotlight shaped to each portrait provided the illumination for the objects. The overall aura was very much like a dark room but somehow also gave off a sense of theatricality, which was very much in line with the taste of Empress Cixi.

Unlike most fine arts exhibitions, Power Play did away with individual object labels and instead opted for an overarching panel that provided an overview of the exhibition sections and also pointed out details in certain objects. This was an effective technique in my opinion as it allowed visitors to take more time to really spend time looking at the photographs and not feel obligated to read every label on the walls.

Empress Cixi's Seal

Image courtesy Freer Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

The only graphics present in the exhibition were the section panels with the descriptions, and a large, loose wall hanging outside the exhibition exit that acted as a screen from the multimedia theater at the end of the exhibit. There was a very minimalist approach to the design, with the only semblance of ornamentation in the graphics being the seal of the empress imprinted on the graphic panels and exit screen. This I feel went well with the presentation of the photographs, and gave a very impressive, strong, and distinct presence.

Power Play is a great example of an exhibition with simple objects and a minimalist presentation technique that could have a potentially large impact on the stories surrounding a familiar historical figure. I know that my personal perception of the last empress was illuminated in some way. Hopefully more exhibitions like this can open avenues for discussion and stimulate interest in viewing history as a continuously changing part of the human experience.

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Cam Bag Happy

A camera bag doesn’t have to look like a camera bag. Image from Emera.

Up until a few months ago, I could get away with not using a camera bag. I would just sling the DSLR on my shoulder and be on my way. Flash and accoutrements could just slip inside my usually roomy tote. But then I got so inspired by reading Mandy’s post on analog photography that I dug out my old manual SLR from the depths of oblivion and started using it again. Then later on I got a couple of lomography cameras. I fell in love with film again.

But I still want the certainty and instant gratification of digital photography. I’m not giving that up. Since I want to have it both ways, I usually bring more than one cam with me. so now I need at least another shoulder and one more hand, and since that’s not going to happen, it seems that a camera bag is in order.

Having grown up with the notion that camera bags are meant to be functional rather than fashionable (i.e. black, boxy, and ugly) I was thrilled with the number of camera bags I found that challenged the status quo. They’re stylish! And they come with the requisite compartments, padding, and pockets. At last, beauty and utility merge and mingle in cam bags.

I want to find these bag designers and just give them a hug!

Emera only just has a couple of looks right now, but they’ve got retro cool going on here.

(Above) Kelly Moore Posey in muted teal.
I love this color on this bag. So darned cute!

This pocketful of sunshine is from Joe Tote.
Click on the image to go to the website and check out the other great designs.

Epiphanie is another great brand.
This bag is called Lyric, in slate blue.

Another camera bag from Epiphanie. Lola, in red.

From Etsy shop Xcessrize.

Love that paisley! From Janine King Designs.

Ketty Handbags’ Floral Pop looks very bohemian.

Acme Made the Bowler

I’ve been seeing a lot of this snazzy red bag everywhere. It’s kinda tiny — it only fits one camera and nothing much else — but it’s so adorable!

Not Camera Bags

Okay, these aren’t bags, but they’re too cute not to feature.

From Gypsy Rose Handbags Etsy shop

This one’s a camera strap with oodles of texture and sassiness. I love that little pocket with a lens cap — wish somebody had thought of that before.

This “camera futon”  looks adorable from any angle. Discovered through Spoon and Tamago.

Posted in Design, Fashion | Tagged

Photographing Kids: 3 Useful Superpowers

Kids are playful, cute and engaging, making them awesome photography subjects. But while it is great fun to capture those quirky and adorable moments, the hunt for such moments is fraught with frustration and disappointment. They aren’t that easy to capture. I’ve often experienced snapping a ton of pics and have very few good ones to show for it. I tell you,  in getting fabulous kiddie pics, luck — or superpowers — plays a rather major role.

Since I don’t like relying on luck too much, that leaves superpowers. In the absence of a vat of mysterious chemicals, and taking my cue from Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, who had to work to acquire their superpowers, I decided to train myself to get the following superpowers.


This can be achieved by staying some distance away and calling as little attention to myself. This means keeping myself from telling the subject to turn my way or smile. I just have to let them do their thing.

Bionic Vision

This can be achieved by keeping my eyes peeled at all times, watching, observing, anticipating — hopefully all the while with a finger on the shutter release button. The attainment of this power can be aided by going down to the adorable kiddies’ level, because that helps me see them better.

The “bionic” part means acknowledging that I’m an amateur and accepting help from technology when I need to. It’s okay for me to use my camera’s automatic exposure and program settings. It’s also okay to use image editing software to tweak exposures and crop the photos to get the best composition possible.

Time Manipulation

Perhaps stopping or rewinding time would be a tad too much to ask for. So I’ll settle on just making time seem to stand still, or to fly by, or to slow down. This means training myself to stay in the moment and not think about laundry, or chocolates, or my lovelife. It also means practicing patience, and to stop trying to hurry things along.

All images by Nathalie Mariano, shot using a Pentax K1000 SLR, and a Nikon D70 DSLR. Thanks to my nieces, nephews, godchildren, and GK Sagip kids.

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Photo Display Ideas

It’s How-To Wednesday!

Intentionally Off-Kilter Frames by Emmas Designblogg via ohdeedoh

Ever since switching to digital photography many of us just don’t have enough photographs on display. I’ve taken  oodles of pics of my son’s first two years, but less than a dozen of them have actually been printed, and finding places to frame and hang them can be tricky. That’s why I like these photo display ideas, they’re unconventional, stylish and a great incentive to turn those digital files into lasting works of art.

Ambrosia Girl

Mini Memories

Jennifer Kirk, of Ambrosia Girl has created probably my favourite craft tutorial all year, a set of mini Polaroid magnets that use your own photos. They don’t even look that difficult to make thanks to the way Jennifer has broken this project down into easy to follow steps. A set of these would also make a thoughtful gift that just about anyone would appreciate. Plus you get to feel like a giant when holding them.

via ohdeedoh

Clip It

You can find wooden clipboards at any office supply or dollar store and use them to hang 8×10 photos. The best thing about this approach is that it’s entirely non-committal. Just swap out photos whenever you feel like it. This display idea would also be a handy way to hang a child’s drawings or artwork.

via bhg.com

Under Glass

This is an easy display idea that takes only seconds to put together. Scour your house for interestingly shaped glasses, jars, vases etc; the only requirement is that they need to be see-through. Place trimmed or sized photos so they follow the curve of the container and voila, instant photo display. This project is especially suited for creating custom party decor.

via this is glamourous

Strength in Numbers

A large grouping of photographs can have amazing impact. The trick to pulling this off is to have a lot of photos (too few and it will end up looking cluttered) and to pay attention to colour and placement. Using unconventionally sized prints would also gives this photo grid a more interesting look.

Lori Andrews via Poppytalk

Blow It Up

Extra large prints have an instant gallery appeal to them. Large format printing isn’t cheap, but it can be the ultimate way to immortalize your all-time favourite photos. I love this family photo taken by Calgary photographer Lori Andrews, such a great image that works really well in this breakfast nook.

Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you to show off your favourite photos.  Are there any tricks you have found for displaying photos in your house? How often do you swap out photos, all the time or almost never?

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