Choosing the Right Frame for Your Photograph

I’ve said it many times here that I strongly encourage people to periodically look through their digital albums and bring their favorite images out into the real world. It’s just good to get your best camera work out where you can see, share, and enjoy it. If you’re going with a print—and I want to remind you we can print images up to 40×60 in size—remember that a frame significantly affects the beauty and power of an image.
Some folks believe you should pick a frame specifically to match the room where you’ll display the photograph. I disagree to some extent. Though you don’t want the frame to clash with the room, I think it’s most important, certainly from an artistic viewpoint, to pick a frame that complements the photograph. For example, an art-deco frame might not be the best choice for an image of a rickety rural farmhouse. And not many photos can play well inside ornate, Baroque-style gold frames. In the end, it really is best to get into the store and try out different frames with the actual image. Sometimes unexpected combinations of frames and photographs can produce visually interesting results.

Stores offer no shortage of embellished frames, things with curlicues or flowers or a pattern of plaid. I’m not the biggest fan of these frames. I think they tend to fight with the photographs they contain, almost begging for attention. Remember it’s the photograph you’re trying to show off, not the frame, and a too-busy frame will lead a viewer’s eye right away from your subject. This is not to say you should avoid texture or color. On the contrary, some subtle texture (think reclaimed barn wood around a wedding photo) or a complementing color (think copper metal around a pastoral scene with oranges and purples) can be wonderful. Again, try it before you buy it.

Some interior decorators advise against using frames and mats that are oversized compared with the photographs they contain. I disagree. Part of the fun of matting and framing a photograph can be in playing with proportions. A large frame coupled with a custom-cut mat that leaves but a small opening for a small photograph can actually look pretty amazing. And in some cases, playing with the proportions can even draw the viewer in for a closer look at the image. Take a look at this book cover:

Choosing the right frames for your Photograph

See how the large white mats and contrasting frames around those itty bitty images really do make you want to get closer to see what all the fuss is about?

Remember that a frame isn’t the only way to skin this horse. We can print your exceptional photograph on metal – and we have a special on that service right now! Have you tried a gallery wrap? Gallery wrap is a method of stretching canvas so that it wraps around the sides of (and is secured to) the back of the wooden frame. We offer this service in the store, and though it’s not right for every photograph, we can certainly help you decide whether it’s right for yours!


Get Ready for Fall Foliage Photography!

Fall Foliage Photography Springfield Missouri

Here in the Show-Me state, autumn turns our notoriously pretty forests into a photographer’s paradise. The fall colors begin to make their appearance in late September up north, inching their way southward over the weeks to follow. Statewide, the autumn splendor tends to peak by mid-October and fizzle out in November. That means now is the perfect time for photographers to plan our fall foliage drives!

What better way to know where and when to photograph than to be tipped off by other photographers? I recently discovered that the Missouri Department of Conservation has a Fall Colors app that provides a way for people around the state to share up-to-the-minute fall scenes from places around the state. When a user uploads a picture, the picture can be GPS-tagged so that others can pinpoint where to find those colors! The site is also updated with foliage forecasts for various regions of the state once the color-changes really begin.

Fall Photography Tips:


  • Try a polarizing filter. Even in lighting situations where you might not expect it to help much, a polarizing filter can increase the saturation of fall colors. The polarizing filter is one of very few filters whose effects can’t be replicated in photo-editing software, so give it a whirl whenever shooting fall colors, no matter what the type of light.
  • Capitalize on clouds and the golden hour. Color is the leading lady in fall foliage photography, but lighting is just as important. The best lighting for fall images is diffused, so you’ll get your best photographs when shooting under overcast skies or during the so-called golden hours—the first and last hour of sunlight on a given day.
  • Be careful with white balance. White balance can make or break a foliage photo. Rather than using auto white balance, use a custom white balance to offset the blue cast of overcast skies, and a preset white balance (e.g., the daylight setting) when photographing during the golden hour.
  • Think black and white. Colorful leaves alone do not a gorgeous photograph make. No matter how gorgeous those colors are, they are still a single ingredient in a larger recipe that requires other elements to make it work. If the image wouldn’t be strong in black and white, no amount of color is really going to make for a standout photograph.
  • Pay extra attention to leading lines. Take a look at standout photography of fall colors. One thing that you’ll notice again and again are strong leading lines—a path or bridge leading away, a mountainside angle, the bared branch of a tree. Leading lines are always a good thing, but in autumn photography, they particularly help break up the homogeny of all those leaves and make the photograph pop.
Fall Foliage Photography Springfield Missouri

Courtesy Sheri Pendley Nicholas

Honoring the Fallen with Our Cameras

I find that some of the most beautiful photographs are those of other people’s artwork –of sculptures, for example, or of museum installations. But one type of artwork we too easily forget is artwork is the memorial, particularly when a memorial is more architectural than sculptural.

Think of Maya Lin’s winning design of the Vietnam War Memorial. At the time, the 21-year-old college student’s design was unlike any other war memorial conceived before it. Considered unconventional, it even sparked some controversy that dragged Lin into a hearing before Congress.

Controversy aside, Lin’s unconventional design helped make the Vietnam War Memorial one of the most photographed memorials in the world. Save for the bronze statuary added as a result of a Congressional compromise, the memorial is but a long, receding, black wall engraved with the names of fallen soldiers, not organized in any particular way. Lin designed it this way with the rationale that those who visited the wall would have to search to find the name of someone they sought, the act being a sort of metaphor for a battlefield search for a fallen comrade.Photographing Memorials

Much of the photography taken at the memorial is of people, young and old, searching for names on the walls—touching the engravings and with their own faces reflected against the smooth black stone. It makes for some incredibly poignant photography. As I see it, the memorial is an artwork, and the photography of the memorial and of people interacting with the memorial offers a second layer of art. Such photographs are another way in which people can engage with the memorial and be reminded of sacrifices, tragedies, and incredible loss that should never be forgotten. They are an art of their own.

This week marks the twelfth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The wounds are still very fresh with this national day of remembrance, and I’m moved as I read and hear of a great many ways in which people plan to honor it—from lighting a candle to volunteering for a good cause to traveling to that incredible memorial at the site of the fallen towers, in New York City.  I think one way that photographers, in particular, can mark the day is to get out and make photographs of the way it’s being honored. Capture those images that get to the soul of the matter. Use your camera to truly see the memorials—both those that stand in stone and those that exist within the human spirit.

The School Photos Conundrum

Cowlicks, unnatural smiles, stiffly tilted heads, boring backdrops—school photos have been a sort of annual rite of passage for generations, and their season is once again upon us. The thing is, many parents are foregoing what feels more and more like an obligatory fundraising purchase. They instead go to professional photography studios, shoot their own photos, or feel content with not having a formal headshot taken of their child every year. I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t missing something.

School Photos for Yearbook

Professional photographs have their place, to be sure, but there is something sentimental about a line-up of a person’s lifetime of school photos. Every kid has a reaction to “Picture Day” and, moreover, to the act of being formally photographed in front of their peers by a stranger ordering them to say cheese. Over the years, they might move through stages of being totally self-unaware to totally self-conscious, from clowning to beaming, from shy to confident. And without their parents on the scene to coach and hover, they’re kind of on their own deciding how to best present themselves for posterity. School pictures may not be a way of getting gorgeous shots of children, but they’re a way of cataloging their experience with Picture Day itself. Frankly, sometimes the accumulated results are just hilarious.

Whether you buy the school pictures or not, however, I think it’s a great idea to try your own hand at capturing some shots of your child before they head out in the morning for Picture Day. Here are three tips for doing that:

  1. Engage them. Ask your child some open-ended questions while you’re snapping pictures. As they get caught up in the conversation, they’re more likely to relax and focus less on the fact that they’re being photographed. Then you also stand a better chance of capturing what you love about their spirit in the images, not just their physical appearance.
  2. Take turns. It can be helpful to loosen up kids’ nerves or irritation, to let them take a turn at photographing and directing you. Let them decide how they want you to sit and how they want you framed. When they see the results of their work, they tend to get more excited about the camera-play in general. Besides, turnabout is fair play!
  3. Loosen up. One of the biggest complaints parents have about Picture Day photos is that the children look stiff and unnatural. Well, kids tend to feel stiff and unnatural when they’re asked to pose. Try letting them roam or play a bit while you sit off to the side, preferably way off to the side with a telephoto lens. If you’re not right in their face, they’re more likely to loosen up. Plus, using the telephoto lens will make for less distortion.

Like “First Day of School,” “Spring Break,” and “Test Day,” there’s something about the words “Picture Day” that are oh-so-elementary to the school experience. I can’t help but be sentimental about them. For many schools, they are also an important fundraiser, another reason not to be too quick about dismissing them. Yet I still say you should make sure the minimally paid photographer who has less than a minute or two with your child isn’t the only one to capture the day. Seize the opportunity to photograph your child in all their Picture Day splendor!