Magazine Article


Framed Images
Creating décor photography that sells

© Ruth Burke

© Ruth Burke

© Ruth Burke

Each year, hundreds of artists arrive on the market to sell their photography only to struggle and close up shop. However, I've established a professional system to successfully sell hundreds of photos each year as décor photography.

First, not just any image will succeed as a décor photograph. I like to draw the viewer into the image and have him or her want to stay for a while to linger in thought. Images that continue to sell will contain at least one of these three important elements: a strong design that moves the eye around the image, a subject that the viewer can relate to, and/or a mood or feeling that's created when the image is viewed.

While I introduce several new images each year, my income mostly relies on the classic photographs in my portfolio from previous years. These classic images can provide me with many years of income as décor photography by keeping them stylish and fresh with different custom picture-framing designs.

An artist must develop a core portfolio that he or she can use regularly. Then, as the artist grows, travels, and develops new concepts, images can be added to the base portfolio. Also, as styles change, artists should also create separate specialty portfolios in addition to a classic collection.

Complementary Services

To be successful at selling more images, it's important to offer different products or services that complement each other. This can easily be accomplished by offering custom picture-framing services to customers. I have created a successful retail business by supplying state-of-the-art framing products and services, resulting in a direct increase of sales.

This method should begin with the need to complete the creative process of making the print from a photograph, and then selecting how it should be presented. First, artists realize that selling their images depends on both the quality of the photography and how it is displayed. Take the opportunity to experiment with different picture-framing techniques until the best combinations are found that sell the most. The selections made for framing a print can actually change the look and mood of the image, thus changing the look of the image. Therefore, customers not only compensate for the framing materials, but they also spend more money for the print, knowing that it was framed correctly and exclusively for that image. It's apparent that, with the right picture-framing technique, a strong print can become even stronger, resulting in multiple sales.

Keeping Up With Industry Knowledge

There are several different avenues that can be used to gain the knowledge needed to include custom picture-framing with photography. I took advantage of different educational seminars on the various techniques and materials used for framing that were offered at the picture-framing trade shows.

I also became a member of the Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) and subscribed to trade magazines that are directed toward the picture-framing industry such as Décor and Picture Framing. These magazines not only keep artists up to date on new materials, but also show different framing ideas and describe how to handle different types of artwork. Frame-molding manufacturers such as Larson-Juhl also offer "how-to" classes with hands-on instruction.

Ensuring Picture Integrity

In the picture-framing industry, it's important to have knowledge of the guidelines for conservation materials and techniques to preserve the integrity of what's being framed. It's best to create a standard procedure to use only conservation-quality materials and methods that avoid permanently affecting the print, original art, or other items being framed. This high-quality process ensures that if the print is taken out of the frame, it can be returned to its original state.

To add value and originality to décor photography, artists can add custom-framing treatments to complement the type of print that is being framed, as I stated earlier. One way is by printing onto different substrates and then adding custom-finishing touches to the print to increase the perceived value of the piece. For example, a print can be made on canvas and then embellished with brushstrokes in the areas that should be accented. The prints can also be made on a matte-finish heavy rag paper and finished with deckled edges.

Keep in mind, however, that a print on canvas requires a different framing technique than prints on paper do. For example, prints with the deckled edge can be featured by floating the print on top of a complementing mat board color and then framed under glass with a clear spacer to separate the glass from the print. Since prints on canvas do not require glass or mats, different frames can be paired together to pull out complementing colors in the print.

By varying the custom-framing selections and digital printing methods, the same print can be sold over and over, giving it a new look to match current trends in color and style.