How to Choose a Frame

Many people don’t put a lot of thought into the frame for their picture. Very often, they’ve paid a photographer a substantial fee for the photograph, and then decide to cut costs by sticking the picture into an inexpensive frame from a discount store. This may save money initially, but within a few years, they’ll most likely need restoration services for that photograph because of displaying it in a cheap, poorly-made frame.

What’s the difference? Simple: the discount frame is made as cheaply as possible by companies who skimp on materials and labor. Unless you’ve worked in the stock area of a discount store, you’d probably be shocked at how many of these frames don’t even survive shipping.

What about frames found at specialty shops or craft stores? They’re certainly more expensive, but the quality isn’t appreciably better.

How can you tell if a frame is made well or not?

Look at the glass.

Are there flaws such as lines, bubbles, or chips? Is the price tag stuck to the glass so effectively that you’ll never be able to get the stickiness off? Is it UV protective? Is it even real glass? Plexiglass is fine if you have concerns about breakage, but I’ve seen frames that had nothing more than the equivalent of a plastic report cover in place of real glass.

Look at the corners.

Do the corners line up perfectly? If you’re looking at a wooden frame, when you turn it over and look at the back, what’s holding the corners together? If you see staples, have they lost chunks of wood in the process of stapling the corners? Is there a gap between the pieces of wood? If glue has been used, has the excess been wiped away or are there drops or smears? Are there chips and dings on the corners?

Look at the frame itself.

Are there dings and scratches? If it appears to be wood or gold leaf, does it still look like wood or gold leaf when you turn it over? Does the “wood” or “gold leaf” dent if you press into it on the back with a fingernail? This often indicates that the frame is actually made of compressed cardboard covered in wood or gold patterned paper.

The best option is to take your photograph or print to a reputable custom frame shop, preferably a locally-owned independent shop. Yes, it may be more expensive, but a frame that you purchase there is generally more durable, made from materials of a higher quality, and assembled on-site by professionals who practice greater attention to detail. It’s an investment that will protect your picture and save you money in the long run.