Parents are photographers by default these days, taking hundreds if not thousands of photos of their kids as they attempt to freeze time and capture some of the fleeting moments that pass too quickly. Through photography you can celebrate and enhance your enjoyment of everything that is fun and good about being a parent, strengthening your children's self-confidence, connections and memories at the same time.
But let's face it - it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do with all your photos! While we typically no longer have boxes and boxes of prints to deal with, our massive collection of digital images is no less daunting. How do you even begin to figure out what to frame, let alone how to frame and best display your best images?
How about a ledge gallery? Less daunting than a wall gallery, a ledge gallery requires fewer holes in your walls and more flexibility to change out the frames and images in the future.
Follow this step by step tutorial to create a simple portrait ledge gallery for your home.
1. Pick a Concept
This is not your graduate school thesis! Think about and review some of your favorite photos and pick a simple theme that will tie all your photos together, for example:
• from maternity to newborn
• baby's first year
• from birth to now
• year in review
• season in review (eg summer gallery, like the one I chose)
• a particular event (eg trip to Vermont, the last holiday season etc)
Of course, you could also come up with a concept and then take the photos and you could have a bit more fun, for example, how many different photos can you get of:
• kids + grass
• kids + steps
• kids + ground
• kids + stuffed animals... and, well you get the idea
2. Pick a Location
Let's not think about all the places in your home where you'd like to hang photos or art. Let's think about where you want to put this particular portrait gallery, and think about it from an emotional perspective rather than a design perspective. Where in your home will it make you and your family happiest to see your photos every day?
• nursery or kids room (your kids will love it)
• entryway or hallway (to welcome you home and invite guests in)
• living room (probably where you spend the most time)
• bedroom (start and end your day with a smile!)
3. Come Up With A Design
I've found it's best to come up with a design first, before you select the photos, although it helps to have some idea of the photos you might use. You can always make changes later but think about what size and type of frames and what layout will look good on the wall.
Here are the specification for this wall gallery:
• West Elm Deep Picture Ledge or Metal Picture Ledge or Paxton Wall Shelf (if you use frames with desk stands) - (1) 4' shelf, (1) 3' shelf
• Mpix.com custom framing - Black Metal Frame or Silver Metal Frame or Black Flat Frame with white mat and non-glare glass - (3) 8'x10', (4) 5'x7' (size of print, not overall dimensions of frame)
You can also choose more eclectic home decor frames and mix and match as suits the style of your home.
4. Select Your Photos
Organizing and selecting photos to print and display is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for most parents... but if you've followed these steps, you're at an advantage because you already have a concept, so you don't need to go through ALL your photos, just those that are relevant.
I recommend using a star rating system for further narrowing your selection down. Use the "emotionally good" criteria - does a photo make you laugh, smile or get teary? Does it capture a moment that you want to remember? Do you look at the photo and think "I love my kid! I love being a parent!" If a photo does one or more of these things, it's a winner!
Use 5 stars for "love," 4 stars for "like" and 3 stars for "maybe." Then work from your 5 star photos, only going to your 4 star (and 3 star) photos if necessary. (Most popular image editing software allows you to do this, or you can tag or create folders instead.)
This system will also work great when it comes to deciding what to share on facebook or what to print in an album.... but don't forget, resist the temptation to organize and go through your entire photo library before creating a wall gallery, as most likely you will never get to the wall gallery part! Do as much organization and culling as you need to for this project and go back later to catch up on the rest.
5. Do A Mock-Up
It's tempting to skip this step but in doing so, there's a greater chance of disappointment. Photographers have special software to quickly do digital mock-ups, and other visual creatives will be able to do something on the software they are most comfortable with... but if that's not you, don't worry. This is not a mock-up to show a client so it doesn't have to be fancy. Print the photos you have selected on your home printer at the right size. You can even cut up newspaper to simulate "mats" by measuring out, say, an 11x14 piece of paper and taping your 8x10 photo on top of it.
Tape everything to the wall, or even just lay everything out on the floor to see how it looks. You're looking to get a feel for the scale of the photos at real size, and how they look grouped together. You can make tweaks and changes, or use this to make some final decisions if you are trying to decide between a few different photos.
Note: keep the mock-up so you can use it to finalize the positioning on the wall when it comes time to drill holes in step 8!
6. Edit and Retouch
Once you've decided on your final selection of photos, it's time to edit and retouch them. Most image editing software comes with some basic capabilities so if you're thinking to yourself "edit, retouch, huh?" take a look. Most likely you can crop, straighten, fix red eye, and I also suggest playing around with increasing things like contrast, brightness and exposure a little to make your image pop more. Obviously this is a much bigger topic than we can cover here but don't be afraid to experiment a little.
7. Upload and Order
If you're using Mpix, the upload and ordering process is easy, and you can order your mats and frames right there. Everything will be delivered ready to go! If you want to use store bought frames, I still recommend using Mpix to print - for only a slightly higher cost than your local drugstore, you get professional quality prints that make the world of difference. If you're following the design provided here, don't forget to order your portrait ledges too!
8. Receive and Install
Receiving is easy, but installing is yet another step where parents often stall. How many of you have framed prints or artwork stacked against a wall somewhere? Making those holes in the wall seems so final I know... what if you don't get the positioning just right?
Of course, if you did the mock-up, you can use it to confidently finalize the exact positioning on the wall. Usually the portrait ledges come with drywall screws for mounting, so if you have brick or concrete walls, make sure you buy masonry anchors and drill bits.
9. Pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back and enjoy!
Congratulations on installing your portrait gallery! Make sure you point out to your kids how great they look and invite all your friends over to admire your work!
Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick is a family photographer, architect and mom. Her company, nestingNYC, specializes in the unique integration of baby photography and interior design.
Readers, are you looking for photosanity? Interested in getting more tips on how to take better photos and get a handle on organizing, editing and sharing them too? Want access to more templates and specifications for different kinds of portrait galleries? Alethea is offering an upcoming photosanity workshop, a 12 week online photography workshop designed to help parents get control over their photos. You can find out all the details at nestingNYC (and if you register before 11.59pm EST tomorrow, March 9th through doodledeals you get a 63% discount!)
(All images: Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick/nestingNYC)