Tips for Framing Photos

My first experience of printing and framing a picture was a nightmare. After receiving my photo from the print lab, I went to a local boutique hoping to have it framed, only to find just how expensive that process truly is. So instead of a custom frame, I bought a standard frame kit. You can probably guess what happened next… certainly not the results I was hoping for. Once I resized the picture for the frame, the gorgeous photo I had shot just wasn’t the same; the true image I had captured was gone.

Does this sound familiar? If so here are few tips to make things easier for you.

Successfully Printing for Framing

  • Once I’ve decided which photo I want to frame, I consider the potential aspect ratio always keeping in mind that standard frames usually work with standard picture ratios such as 2:3, 4:5, and 5:7.
  • I select the location on my wall where I plan to hang the picture. By doing this, I’m more able to assess the correct frame size.
  • With aspect ratio and wall location information, I select a standard frame that includes a picture mat that suits my needs.
Frame Size - Printing for Framing

Frame size and picture size

  • Lets suppose that the dimensions of my selected frame and photos are:
    • Internal size – 16 x 20 inches
    • Picture opening size – 11 x 14 inches

    To be safe, your picture must be a bit larger than the opening mat opening. I crop my picture to 11.5 x 14.5 inches.

  • Using Lightroom, I create a custom aspect ratio in the crop tool of 11.5:14.5.
Frame Size - Printing for Framing

Select Enter Custom...

  • Most print shop prints are based on 300 dot per inch (dpi). This means that the resulting .jpg must 3450 x 4350 pixels. I export the picture to these pixel dimensions in Lightroom while allowing for enlargement if needed.
Print for framing

Enter the desired picture size in pixels. Uncheck Don’t Enlarge.

  • If I send this picture to print, I’ll have to mount it on the back of the picture mat with adhesive tape which doesn’t allow for much flexibility in the future. Should I make a mistake while mounting my print to the matt, I’m screwed. To make matters worse, prints on paper have a tendency to enlarge or shrink a little depending on the humidity level.
    So, in order to play it safe, consider the following two options:

    • Option #1 – Using Photoshop, I add a white picture mat to reach 4800 x 6000 pixels. The resulting file prints at 16 x 20 inches instead of 11.5 x 14.5 inches.
    • Option #2 – I give instruction to my local photo lab to center the photo on a 16 x 20 inch piece of paper when they print it.

Should you work with a local photo lab, chances are that you’ll pay only for an 11.5 x 14.5 print job. In both cases, I only have to open the back of the frame and inserted the properly-sized paper with the picture on it; everything is perfect. No tape, adhesive, or cutting. Furthermore, if I decide to replace this picture with another photo in the future, I simply remove the previous picture, roll it, and store it in a picture tube… then insert the new one in its place.

By following these simple steps, I am able to hang my gorgeous picture on my wall quickly and at a reasonable cost.



Feel free to share your own horror stories and tricks you have learnt.

About Author Denis Grenier

I really love being outdoor hiking and taking pictures. I care about our planet and would like my picture to help influence others to take care of it. My passion in photography is showing its beauty to the largest audience possible.

  • wendygoerl

    I’m surprised they aren’t charging you for an 16X20. After all, they’re using a 16×20 sheet of paper no matter how big the image is.

    Cellophane-taping artwork to the backside of the mat is the lazy way to frame artwork (Yes, I’ll do it for county fair exhibits, but nothing I expect to stay in a frame for years). The mat is not supposed to be “attached” to anything; it’s actually a cushioning to keep the artwork away form the frame and glass. The correct way to mount artwork is to use paper-hanging tape to “hang” it from the BACKING BOARD. And as you pointed out, the print can enlarge or shrink with environmental conditions, which means if you’ve cut it the full size of the frame, it could actually warp (which allows it to touch the glass, which traps moisture, which creates foxing). Hanging a not-frame-sized print from the mat board allows it to “breathe” without getting cramped. And even if a print’s is only slightly larger than the mat opening, I still wiggle it around to find the best part to show–can’t do that with a frame-sized print.

  • George McCane

    I learned a technique several years ago from a Photoshop Ambassador named Mark S Johnson. He used a technique of using the bevel and emboss as well as the stroke in Photoshop and you can make the angle at 100 degrees, it almost looks as though the light is directly over the photo. I use another layer for the mat as well and use a smaller frame to make it look like the mat was cut for the picture. I have inspired many with my frame.