If you want to provide expert advice to customers who buy your framed prints, check out the wealth of information available in a free publication entitled A Consumer Guide to Materials for Preservation Framing and the Display of Photographic Images.
The authors emphasize that while framing and displaying photographs is one of the best ways to enjoy them and share them with friends and family, it can also place great stress on them.
The publication explains why some displayed photos become damaged and recommends certain framing and display practices that can keep pictures safe. The report notes that “the damage to a print isn’t always caused by light or UV energy. Damage can also be due to framing materials, moisture in the air, pollutants from a variety of sources, and sometimes all of the above.”
Framing: The guide presents an excellent overview of the elements of a frame package (frame, glazing, window mat or spacer, mat board, filler board, back paper, and labeling), then explains how the wrong choice of materials can contribute to the decay of the photo. For example, acidic mat boards can “burn” paper, causing it to turn brown and become brittle. The effects of different types and intensities of light (tungsten, fluorescent, or sunlight) are also discussed.
The report cautions consumers that there are no standards or legal guidelines for using marketing terms such as acid-free, archival, museum-quality, and conservation board, so it’s important to understand their meaning, so you can know if you are getting the quality you want. Tips on selecting a framer and framing materials are also included.
Display: To protect displayed prints from damage, the report makes a number of recommendations, including these tips:
- Pick spots on the wall or shelves that aren’t illuminated by direct sunlight through windows.
- Select indoor lighting that is low in wattage.
- Keep the bulbs close enough to adequately illuminate the photo but not so close as to heat it up.
- Keep your best photos in rooms that are cool and dry—not in the kitchen or bathroom.
- If you paint a room where photos are displayed, remove photos for a few weeks to allow time for the paint to cure, and solvents to be fully removed.
- Rotate your photos on or off display, just like museums do to keep their galleries fresh.
The guide concludes by advising consumers that the makers of framing materials and professional framers can never truly guarantee that your photos will last: “That’s because it is partly your job to make sure your photos won’t fade or yellow over time.”
The Image Permanence Institute is a department of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts & Sciences.