Photo by Salt Water New England

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Framing Black and White Photographs

All Original Photographs of All Original Photographs from Archives, Except for the Museum Photograph Below, Which is an Original Photograph of the Photographs of Others

It is not hard to visit a museum, gallery, or apartment or flat where quite a few black and white photographs are framed identically, typically with white or off-white mattes and modern, minimalist black frames.  The theory seems to be that this approach allows the photographs to stand out while the frames fade into the background, but too often the opposite effect is achieved.

Museums that would never hang oils with identical frames do just that with photographs.
An alternative approach, albeit more time consuming, is to pick out a frame and matte individually for each.  Black and white photographs (and this is regarding photographs from chemical film made individually using enlargers, not digital) change colors as they age, and even as a result of different processing, so the mattes should align.

Small prints, such as this one, require a different scale.

All but one of the frames shown are dark brown.
The skilled framer is a form of artist, and ideally should be present in the final product.  They can pick out the right shape frames, even the right carved motifs.

Some people only trust very specific framers.

Museum glass reduces glare and UV light.

Photographs and Oils 

This print is quite large, and took a hand painted wooden matte.

Some modern frames may still be preferred.

Stacks of 11 X 14 Prints Requires Pacing


  1. Oh my goodness; This is a wonderful post that I will print for reference. I have greatly enjoyed your writing this summer. Thank you!

  2. Would you ever consider selling prints of the photos from the archives? I'm sure there'd be quite a market for them

  3. As a photographer who shot film for many years before transitioning to digital, but who also STILL shoots B & W with film (because I think it is far better than digital B & W), I have come full circle in my belief that in many ways, B & W is better with film.

    B & W images shot with the still remaining ISO speeds and types of film can be far more evocative and emotion building than the same image shot in color. The pictures you post here prove that point to me time and time again.

    The one sad thing that the improvement in cell phone cameras has wrought is the damage the phones have done to the sales of digital Single Lens reflex cameras, as well as viewfinder cameras like those sold by LEICA.

    Muffy, I know you are a Canonista and I shoot Nikons. I still maintain that SLRs provide the most flexibility due to the interchangeable lens capability. The new mirrorless cameras in 35 mm format are also something both Canon and Nikon need to embrace or SONY will steal that market (if they haven't already).

    In the mantime, when I shoot B & W, I shoot film with my Nikon F100. For digital, I use my Nikon D750 and D300S.

    Please keep posting the images shot with B & W film; they ALWAYS make my day.

  4. I spent over 25 years in the photofinishing industry and I'm not aware that black & white photos change color. Some of the older color film would fade, to be sure, even in the dark. These days I'm in the trade show business and digital photography is quite advanced and able to produce very sharp large images, at least with the right equipment, much easier than with the old processes. It killed the old photo industry.

    I originally worked for a savings & loan association and I seem to have gone from one collapsing industry to another.

  5. Nice shot of Louis B. Leakey, wonderful article.

  6. Thank you for this most helpful, enlightening article.

  7. We have good friends who own a framing shop. They were telling us how few framers (good or bad) there are in the United States. They are very, very good and have a waiting time of about 6 months. I know of two other framers who have closed up shop because there was no one interested in carrying on the craft.

  8. There is something about old Grange buildings and Meeting Houses that I find so intriguing. They are so peaceful, so communal. Serene. There was an old Meeting House next to the Post & Beam B&B in New Hampshire that used to house Granite Lake Pottery. We have some pieces from there that I hold so dear. --Holly in PA

  9. As a photographer and former picture framer, a saying we used to have comes to mind:
    "Good art doesn't match your sofa."