A frame provides the final context for an image, but the work must be done correctly and in a manner sympathetic not only to the photograph but also the the surroundings in which it will be displayed. A simple, thin frame supporting a print in a wide mount gives an effect quite different from a wide, complex frame directly enclosing a textured canvas print.
The first decision to be made is whether the framed picture will be hung on a wall or placed as a free-standing item on a surface. Once this is resolved, the basic size of the frame can be chosen. Free standing frames are generally not larger than about 10" x 12". It is also worth considering whether the framed picture will eventually be one of a set, and hence whether the several frames might be required to match or co-ordinate.
In modern homes the preference is often for relatively simple presentation, typically using a window mount, or mat, cut from archival-quality conservation, museum or white-core board. The cut edge of standard board tends to darken with age. Pictures should be attached to mount boards using acid-free tape to avoid long-term damage to prints. Mount-board colour is a matter of personal preference. It can be chosen to pick out a particular colour in a print, or a relatively neutral colour such as antique white, grey, brown or black. Antique white and grey are good standards when several framed prints are hung in a single room. Dark chocolate brown works well with for sepia, and black with a clean white bevel for black- and-white work. Try a mat border width of about 1.5" (4cm) for small prints, 2 - 3" (5 - 8cm) for medium sizes, and 4 - 5" (10 - 13cm) for the largest sizes. The bottom border can be made a little wider to avoid a top-heavy look. An archival-quality backing board should be used to support medium and large prints and avoid sagging. However, glossy prints should not necessarily be stuck directly onto a board as this may produce a noticeably uneven surface.
Alternative presentation techniques include flush mounting onto a board the same size as the print and frame. However, a print's surface should not be allowed to make contact with frame glass. It can be laminated for protection, but may then not need glass to perform the same function. Protective and decorative textured laminates in linen, leather and other styles can provide an attractive and surprisingly glossy finish. They are applied under heat and pressure, and are permanently bonded to the print surface. They seal and protect the mounted print.
Canvas bonding is also a popular way to prepare a print for display. The print is sealed at the front and back by laminates that provide complete protection. The texture of the canvas is embossed onto the print as pressure is applied during the lamination process. Prints presented in this way are not only attractive but also pleasing to touch and easy to clean. Various finished are available.
Wooden frames are the most commonly used, but plastic and metal alternatives are available. Photographic prints often work best in simple, classic wooden frames in a black or dark brown stain. However, the design, weight and colour of the moulding should be sympathetic to the surrounding as well as the print. It is quite possible to make wooden frames in a domestic environment provided a suitable mitre and saw are available for cutting corners precisely. Unsightly gaps resulting from poor carpentry will be all too apparent.
Metal frames are generally more expensive than their wooden counterparts, but give a very clean and modern look to a print. Aluminium, brass, copper, stainless steel and chrome surfaces are all available. Once again, they should be sympathetic to the environment in which they are to be displayed. Off-the-shelf glass frames are another possibility. These seem to have become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly for family and wedding photographs.