A Photographer’s Guide To Photo Prints: How To Choose The Right Wall Display For Your Images
Since film gave way (for the most part) to the advent of digital photography, we’ve no doubt crowded our memory cards with significantly more images than we could ever print. Unfortunately, when our pictures exist solely in the digital realm, they tend to disappear into cyber-oblivion after they’ve reached their threshold for “likes.” This seems to undermine the value we hold for the photos, but there must be a reason we decided to capture the moment in the first place, right?
When we truly understand the importance of print and its ability to preserve memorable moments for generations to come, we realize that the photos we choose to print should be professionally printed through companies like Bay Photo Lab and presented in a way that best fits our lifestyle.
There are several options for printing, each with unique qualities, from the surface material to mounting and finishes. This article is a photographer’s guide in name, but this information is really geared toward helping your clients choose the right print to display on their walls.
Here’s a closer look at eight types of prints (in no particular order) to help your clients choose the right print for their photos, presented in a variety of classic and modern formats.
[Related Reading: The Power of Print: A Journey to Connect to the Past]
1. Framed And Matted Photo Prints
Framed photo prints represent the classic go-to option and they’re usually the first format people think of when considering printing and hanging their pictures. Just because it’s a classic format, however, doesn’t mean the look is dated or that options are limited. Regardless of your clients’ taste, you can find a suitable frame and matting layout. It’s worth noting that frames can usually be added to many of the options listed below (photo prints, metal prints, canvas prints, etc.).
Frames are typically made using wood or metal with a variety of options for either style, from repurposed barnwood to ornate golden frames. Both wood and metal frames offer durability for placement in a wide range of conditions. The more samples you’re able to show from your own collection, the better (whether you have a studio with actual images or sample sets of full-size corner pieces that you can request from some of the larger printers). You can also ask your clients which style they currently have in their home to help determine whether they’re looking to continue that trend or switch things up, depending on where in the house the frames will be hung.
Photo Paper Surface
The actual surface of the photo paper will affect the image or artwork. For example, glossier prints tend to increase the amount of glare reflecting off of the image, but unveil a deeper color range. Alternatively, matte prints bring a softer look, which often works well in any lighting condition. Here are some standard options for photo paper print surfaces:
- Lustre: Low-sheen surface, usually the default surface when ordering photo paper prints
- Metallic: Glossy finish with a metallic appearance for added visual interest
- Matte: Minimal sheen for more accurate color representation
- Gloss: Maximum sheen that amplifies rich colors within the image
Some professional printers offer protective coating options as well that are meant to protect the print and enhance its appearance. Watch this video from Bay Photo Lab to see a comparison between the different surface types.
The printed images themselves can be mounted on a number of surfaces, including styrene, foam board, masonite, and canvas board, among others, to increase their durability.
In addition to adding visual appeal to your photos with a wide variety of color choices and materials, mats also help with the image’s durability. Commonly offered in single or double layouts, mats provide more support for the image within the frame and they separate the photo paper from the glass or plastic sheets that are typically used, ensuring that the image won’t stick to the surface.
Cost: $$ (8×10: $50+)
2. Metal Prints
Metal prints offer a modern alternative when deciding on a print surface, with their uniquely rich colors. While you might expect a metal print to inherently shine on the glossier side, they’re actually available in a range of finishes, from glossy to matte. If you’ve never seen one in person, trust us when we say they’re nothing short of impressive.
Like other options on this list, metal prints can be hung and displayed in a wide variety of ways to satisfy an equally wide range of tastes, from simple single metal prints to double float (stacked) or clustered collections. It would be difficult to not find an option you like when considering metal prints, especially considering their intense color and resolution.
Depending on where you or your clients might hang metal prints, the range of finishes available can accommodate multiple lighting conditions and each showcases the metal in unique fashion. Some surfaces, for example, reveal the underlying metal more than others when the image is printed. Check with your printer of choice to see if a sample pack is available to share with your clients. Bay Photo provides a quick demo of their available surfaces in this video.
- High Gloss: Glossier prints tend to show more details and the colors are generally vibrant
- Mid-Gloss: Lower gloss level means less glare, yet the details and colors are similar
- Satin: Glare is less of a factor and the details and colors are sharp but subtle in comparison to the glossier options
- Sheer Glossy: Metal shows through the image with the sheer option
- Sheer Matte: Matte finish presents less glare than a glossier surface
Because the print is metal, it will long outlast its paper counterpart. Some metal prints can even stand up to direct sunlight with minimal fading, at least for a couple years.
Cost: $$ (8×10: $20-$60+)
[Related Reading: 7 Ways to Sell More Wall Art and Photo Albums]
3. Acrylic Prints
No matter how big or small, acrylic prints take printed images to impressive new heights. The acrylic treatment, which consists of a print that is mounted to polished plexiglass, adds radiance to images and the visual depth created from the actual physical depth of the plexiglass (which ranges from 1/4″ thickness to 1″ blocks when mounted for tabletop displays) is unique. Like metal prints, this style of print must be seen in person to be fully appreciated.
Clients seeking a modern, vibrant look to their wall displays will likely find acrylic prints very appealing. These displays can be downright awe-inspiring when presented on a large scale print (as large as 43″x96″).
The acrylic treatment can be used on special lustre or metallic surfaces and comes in glossy acrylic or non-glare acrylic finishing options.
Material and mounting
These prints will change in appearance depending on the display options you use, which are typically either aluminum dibond or white paper backing. Your preferred backing will likely depend on the size of the print as well as the thickness of the plexiglass mounted to the front of the print. Beyond that, acrylic prints are usually mounted using French cleats or stainless steel posts.
Cost: $$ (8×10: $50+)
4. Canvas Prints
You’d be hard-pressed to have not encountered traditional canvas prints at some point in your life. These days, most people turn to large retail outlets to print their canvas photos, but the options there are limited. Going through a professional, specialized printer will allow you to choose from a number of canvas options worthy of the “fine art” title.
Canvas prints, depending on how they’re mounted and presented, fall under a spectrum of styles, from standard to fine art.
Canvas prints are typically created in one of two ways. They’re either initially printed onto paper and then bonded to canvas, or they’re printed directly onto canvas. The surface of the canvas might then be finished with a satin or glossy coating for protection, or even a unique metallic canvas surface like those offered at Bay Photo Lab. Your main goal should be to check with the printer to determine the quality or grade of photo paper and canvas they’re using (fine art quality photo paper, museum grade canvas, etc.).
Mounting options are what really separate the different styles of canvas prints. Most people are familiar with the traditional canvas gallery wraps that are stretched over wood like you’d expect to see used in paintings. However, canvas prints also come in other depths (from thin to thick) with multiple border and framing options. Border options might include the following:
- Natural Wrap: Image wraps complete over the border
- Solid Color Border Wrap: A color will cover the border in place of the photo
- Mirrored Image Wrap: The border appears to “reflect” the edge of the photo as it extends toward the back of the frame
- Digital stretch Wrap: The image is stretched from the edge to the back in what appears to be the streaking of the colors at the edge of the frame
Cost: $$ (8×10: $50+)
5. Wood Prints
Wood prints make for an interesting choice as they’re less common than many others on this list. Whether hung or placed on the tabletop, wood prints will work their way into the conversation when guests catch a glimpse of them, which only makes them that much more effective in immortalizing the stories told within the photos.
Surprisingly, wood prints can satisfy both modern and vintage enthusiasts. They’re at once unique and familiar. Their clean, unique presentation caters to the modern crowd while the natural wood grain gives the image a timeless feel.
Wood prints come in either a natural finish that celebrates the medium and incorporates the grain of the wood into the image, or the wood panel is covered with a solid white ink layer to allow the printed image to stand out more than it would against the natural finish.
Material and mounting
Options abound for border thicknesses, from full bleed prints with no border to upwards of 4-inch borders. Mounting options are also numerous as wood prints can be hung and displayed using any number of standard hanging tools.
Cost: $ (8×10: $30)
6. Interchangeable Prints (Xpozer)
Sometimes, clients might hesitate to invest too heavily into wall displays because they don’t want the images on the walls to grow stale. They may prefer to mix it up with decor and the images they display. For this type of client, consider a truly interchangeable option. While one can always remove a print from a frame and replace it with a new photo, it’s not exactly cost effective to repeatedly pay to have new prints mounted and prepped to hang.
Bay Photo Lab has introduced a unique new option with the Xpozer system that allows users to quickly change prints using their special system. Prints ordered for this option come equipped with special clips on the back that attach to the frame, making it easy to switch out the images.
Because of the way the images appear to hover a bit off of the wall in addition to how easily this system can be reconfigured and switched out, it’d fit right in a modern decorated home (or even a gallery).
Prints for this particular system come with a vivid satin finish. For fans of a glossier finish, check with your preferred printer to see if it’s available.
Material and mounting
The prints are equipped with clips that attach to a lightweight, aluminum hanging system, all in the name of stylish convenience.
Cost: $ (16×16: $30-$40)
7. Clusters Vs. Splits
Why hang one image when you can hang a set? For those who want to expand on the story their images tell, or for those who just want to present a single image in an unorthodox manner, consider clusters and splits.
Clusters include several images while splits use a single image. You can find more information on putting together effective clusters here. As for which print material to use, clusters and splits can be made using most any option in this article.
8. Albums (Off-The-Wall Displays)
While wall art works best to keep the images and the memories they represent at top of mind, albums work well for gathering a large collection of photos in one place and are recommended over the another longstanding staple, the shoe box. Photo albums are not all created equal, and there are plenty of options to consider, including exterior fabric, paper and photo surfaces within the album, spread limitations, etc. Check with your preferred printer for samples and share those with your clients if possible.
The collection of moments that make up our lives should be preserved for us as well as future generations. While digital photography is no doubt convenient, it definitely tends to devalue the images we capture as they fade into cyberspace when our social media feeds push them down past the fold and out of sight and mind.
Luckily, printing options are diverse and the quality of today’s professional prints are better than ever with some options engineered to stand the test of time in less than ideal conditions. Take advantage of the printing solutions that are available to you, and share your passion for print with your clients. It will help them preserve their memories while also increasing your income.
Here’s a recap of the printing options we reviewed above:
- Framed photo prints
- Metal prints
- Acrylic prints
- Canvas prints
- Wood prints
- Interchangeable prints
- Clusters and splits
- Photo albums
Because of the sheer number of printing options available, we could only include a handful in this article. What are some other printing/wall display options you’ve used that we didn’t touch on here? Do you prefer any of the printing options we DID discuss? Please respond in the comments below!
This is a sponsored post for Bay Photo Lab. All opinions are my own. Bay Photo Lab is not affiliated with nor endorses any other products or services mentioned.