How to display a very special photo
January 22, 2007 1:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I display a very special photo?

I have an old black and white photo of my grandmother being baptized. I love it. I've scanned it in and will be returning the original to its owner (my aunt). What can I do with this digital copy so that it can be displayed nicely somewhere? I was thinking of having it printed enlarged, framed, and hung on a wall but my friend said that large photos tend to look tacky (and I can somewhat see that). Having it printed normal-sized and sitting on my desk seems to be too ordinary. I can't do a montage because there are no other photos that I would like displayed. Would a canvas print be ok for a picture of this type? Any ideas?
posted by pinksoftsoap to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Large photos tend to look tacky??? WHAT? Has this person been to a museum lately?

First of all, if you like the size of the original, why not have it matted and framed? A couple of inches of matte around the photo will set it off nicely and a really good frame can do wonders for any photo. Plus, if you get some good UV glass in the frame, you can protect it and prolong the photo's life. Hang it on your wall - you'd be surprised, shocked even, how much a professional matte and frame job can bring out the beauty in a photo.
posted by spicynuts at 1:56 PM on January 22, 2007

How large is "tacky" considered?
posted by jerseygirl at 2:10 PM on January 22, 2007

Make sure the scan you've done is adequate to enlarge it, if you choose to do so. The general standard is 300dpi -- so if you have a file that's 300dpi at 6 inches wide, if you try to enlarge it to 18 inches wide, it'll only be 100 dpi and not look so great. There are methods of enlarging digital files without losing so much information, but the easiest and best way is to just do the best scan possible from the original source.

For a b/w family photo like this, I'd agree that it would look good framed and matted with a large amount of white mat around it ... such as a 8x10 print in an 11x14 frame, with good non-reflective glass.
posted by lisa g at 2:19 PM on January 22, 2007

How about having it framed with a really large mat? I can't find an example of what I mean, but I really like this look. Even snapshot-sized photos become useful for focal-point wall display, that way.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:21 PM on January 22, 2007

You have a lot of options in presentation, from antique style to ultra modern frameless with back matting. Go to a frame shop and pick their brains where you can see these options in person.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:25 PM on January 22, 2007

Enlarge it to 5x7 or so and put a mat that's got at least 5" of width on it. Display it alone on a wall. It'll look like it's hanging in a museum.

Your friend's right in that 8x10's in an 8x10 frame tend to look tacky... like the family house hallway full of photos.
posted by SpecialK at 2:30 PM on January 22, 2007

If you are against a 8 x 10 in a simple mat and frame, you could try to find a distinctive frame for a 4 x 6 print. Try something vintage or even gilded and tacky.
posted by advicepig at 2:34 PM on January 22, 2007

Ooh, a shadowbox would be different, leave it small so there's plenty of space around the photo. Or, if you have any other sentimental trinkets from Grandma, put them in there, too!
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:50 PM on January 22, 2007

There's no point, IMO, in investing in UV glass to protect a digital print, especially if you have a copy of the scan. Seconding a large matte.
posted by keswick at 3:11 PM on January 22, 2007

I think a smallish print with an awesome frame and lots of matting would be your best bet. Something like this or this?

Or, you might consider turning it into an art print on streched canvas or mounted watercolor paper.
posted by logic vs love at 3:12 PM on January 22, 2007

(and I missed the part where you suggested a canvas print yourself! It would probably fine for an image like this. Stretched canvas looks all artsy/professional usually.)
posted by logic vs love at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2007

You could give it a cold-cathode backlight.
posted by -harlequin- at 3:52 PM on January 22, 2007

Second the stretched canvas.

I had a tiny (one inch by two inch) photo of my grandfather taken during WWII blown up this way. It was sepia, and not in great condition to begin with, but they did a beautiful job. The final print was about two feet by four feet and looked astounding.
posted by szechuan at 5:23 PM on January 22, 2007

I disagree with the "tacky" comment. The above suggestions are great. Here's my spin on it:

Lately, I am seeing more framing that is 2 sizes up from the print. Example: normally you would put a 5x7 photo in an 8x10 mat with a 5x7 opening and an 8x10 frame.

Instead, use an 11x14 mat with a 5x7 opening in an 11x14 frame. The extra mat space is very elegant and gives a feeling that "this is special." You can also cut the opening higher up than centered. (Some refer to this as "museum mat.") A simple black frame and white mat is usually best for black and white photos.

In keeping with the "2 sizes up" rule:
4x6 print in an 8x10 frame and mat
5x7 in an 11x14
8x10 in a 16x20
11x14 in a 20x24
You may not want to go much bigger, just because it might start to look a little fuzzy.

For extra elegance, use a fine pencil to write the photo title or description on the mat, just below the lower left of the opening. "Grandmother Smith's Baptism, 1904" or whatever.

I personally would not use canvas finish for a black and white photo. It can decrease sharpness.

Good luck!
posted by The Deej at 6:02 PM on January 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why not have a medium sized photograph with a nice Black edged frame; it would look good on the wall, and if it’s not too huge—it won’t look tacky either.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2007

I strongly recommend getting it enlarged and printed on canvas. I recommended two vendors in a previous thread -- I've had really really good experiences with both and could not be more pleased. I used to make a black and white polaroid of my parents' wedding day into an 11 by 11 inch canvas for my parents and brothers and could not have been happier with the final product.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:28 PM on January 22, 2007

I had a thought that perhaps you could have a collage of the same picture using different effects or crops of the original.
posted by scooters.toad at 4:51 AM on January 23, 2007

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