Words by Jessica Manley

One of the most rewarding, yet stressful, experiences for a photographer is putting a show together. Resource aims to make your life a little simpler. We’ve contacted respected framers and art handlers to get questions you didn’t know you had answered. Read on.

Framing is crucial, for both aesthetics and preservation reasons. Make sure your framer is a conservation framer, who will know to use the right materials and techniques to keep your prints looking pristine throughout the years.




–       The most common choice.

–       Downside is outgassing—over time, wood frames emit an acidic gas that damages or degrades the art. To prevent this, conservation framers place pressure sensitive frame sealing tape (an acid-free paper attached to a foil sheet) between the frame and the print.

Poly (made of polyresin):

–       A great option, especially if you’re looking to save money.

–       Lighter than wood frames (so lighter shipping costs).

–       Comes in different styles, including ones that look like wood.

–       Good for conservation as long as pressure sensitive sealing tape is used (poly also produces outgassing).



–       Another good option for saving money.

–       Great for displaying photos with a modern or industrial look.

–       No outgassing issue.


Regular Glass:

–       Used when conservation is not a concern. Over time, if the frame is in sunlight or under a light, the print will fade or degrade.

–       Much less expensive than UV or Museum glass.

UV Protected Glass:

–       Considered conservation framing glass as it protects the art from fading or from damage due to UV rays.

–       Most UV glass stop 98% to 99% of indoor and outdoor UV light rays.

Museum Glass (used in museums and galleries):

–       Also considered a conservation glass, blocking 98 to 99% of UV rays.

–       Provides optimum viewing experience. Unlike standard UV glass, Museum glass has less than 1% light reflection so it looks like there is no glass at all.

–       More expensive than other glass options.



Acid-Free mat is the #1 requirement for conservation. Always use them—it’s tempting to cut corners but a regular, store-bought mat will damage the print (you can tell an acid mat by the yellowing that occurs inside its beveled edge).

2 types of acid-free mats are available:

  1. Rag Mat: made of 100% cotton and with no acid whatsoever, used to frame museum quality pieces.
  2. Next step down (called different things by different companies) is a great alternative and money-saver—usually made of virgin alpha cellulose and buffered to make it acid-free.

No Mat:

–       If not using a mat, conservation framers attach spacers to the edge of the glass in order to space it away from the artwork. Print should never directly touch the glass as the two may get stuck together.

4ply Mat:

–       The standard used in most framed work.

–       “4ply” refers to the thickness of the mat (4 sheets are put together).

8ply Mat (often used on gallery or museum work):

–       Thicker, gives a more dramatic look than a 4ply mat. 


How do they attach the print to the (acid-free) backboard?

–       Conservation framers use a method called hinging, which includes using Japanese rice hinging paper, or linen hinging paper, and allows for the minimal amount of something to be attached to the piece while still holding it in place.

–       Artwork should never be taped to the front mat board (while it’s then easier to center the image, it severely damages it).

Do they provide bumpers?

–       Bumpers are little plastic dots that attach to the back bottom corners of the frame. They prevent it from scratching the wall and from sitting directly against the wall where condensation may build up and damage the frame and/or artwork.


Information provided by Jessy Hausner from Artisan Gallery Framers, a New York-based framing company that follows conservation framing rules and does everything by hand. www.artisangalleryframers.com



Next step is the handling, shipping, and hanging of your prints. For this we turn to Jonathan Schwartz, President / CEO of Atelier 4, a New York-based art handling company and a favorite of many art galleries – www.atelier4.com

What type of packing material do you use when transporting photographs? 

If the works are unglazed and the surface cannot be touched, as with some Richard Misrach images, we need to shadow box the works, attaching to the reverse of the frame with slips so they float inside the travel frame. Otherwise, we can soft pack with polyethelene sheeting and cardboard slipcase, or pack into custom-built wooden travel cases.

What is your insurance policy for damaged or lost photographs?

Our “all-risk” option covers the full value of the work in case of a total loss, or partial if the work can be restored. We also offer a less expensive, limited risk insurance, which covers theft or non-delivery.

If a frame or glass gets damaged during shipping, but not the work itself, what can you do to still get the print in the show? 

If insured by Atelier 4, we will do the best we can to resolve the issue in a timely manner. If not insured by us, our accountability is limited, but we like our customers to be happy, so we are open to discussion.

Do clients receive updates during the transportation process? 

When the photographs are in transit with our shuttle system (available for all 48 contiguous United States), we give the client a call 24 to 48 hours prior to delivery. Clients can track shipments online on our site. For international transportation, clients track progress online using the air waybill number.

As your company also hangs the work, can clients give a descriptive layout of how the photographs should be displayed? 

Yes, and the more detailed the better. CAD layouts are awesome for this, if clients have access to that technology.

Do you ensure the safety of the art wile on display? 

That’s actually outside of our responsibility, but I suggest that the photographer acquires a facility report from the venue as well as vet the loan form with their insurance company or lawyer.