Decorating Your Home with Your Photography

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By Steve Russell

Happy New Year to all our readers from Tiffany and me.

I thought it would be fun to start the New Year discussing what to do with all the photos we’ve accumulated over the years. While most of us probably put some of our images on a web site like Flickr, Smugmug or 500px, that’s not the only thing we can do with our photos. Most photographers like to hang their work on the walls of their home. We like looking at our work and we really like it when a guest in our home makes very favorable comments about our photos.

Instead of merely hanging some of your favorite photos on the wall here and there, what if you want to use them to decorate your home? This may be a subtle difference but it’s still a difference. The overall look of the room and not the individual images is the focal point of what you’re doing. Unless you’re a trained and experienced decorator this can be a difficult and somewhat daunting undertaking because it’s your home and they’re your photographs. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when approaching a project of this nature.

Decide on the Layout – How many photos do you want? Where do you want them? How do you want to arrange them? The answers to these and other questions are greatly dependent on the space you’re decorating. If it’s a foyer or hallway with a long, blank wall you will probably want a different layout than you would if it was for limited wall space above furniture. In the foyer or hallway you may want a number of photos of the same size arranged horizontally along the wall.

Select a Theme – If decorating is the objective, then it’s much better to use the same theme for all the photos instead of a hodge-podge of your work. It could be based on where you live, a hobby or something you would really like seeing on the walls of your home every day. For example, if you live in a large city you may want to use street photographs. If you live in a coastal area you might select photos of pleasure boats, commercial fishing vessels or beach scenes. If you live in an area that has distinctive flora and/or fauna you might follow a theme based on that. Tiffany lives in Arizona so she might want to use photos of cactus, especially saguaro cactus. A pilot might want to feature aircraft in flight.

Framing and Matting – For something like this, all the frames and mats should be identical. Yes, the framed images should include mats and the size and color of the mats is just as important and having the mats. The safest approach is either white mats or black mats. However, the next consideration is just as important in selecting the mats as is the aesthetic appeal of the mats.

Size of Frames, Mats and Images – If you have a wall that is 10 feet high and 15 feet long without windows or other adornments, using 8×10 inch images and 12×14 inch frames (2 inch mats) isn’t going to be nearly as dramatic as using larger images and frames. On a wall of this size, I would use images that were at least 11×14 and 3 inch mats. That means that the frames are going to be a minimum of 17×20 and probably larger. On the other hand, if the space is relatively small and you want to use more than one image in the space, the best image size might be 8×10. While it’s not an approach that I’m crazy about, the use of images that are relatively small (maybe 6×6) with a very wide mat can be very dramatic at times.

Orientation – In most applications when using multiple images, they should all have the same orientation; portrait, square or landscape. If the photographs are the focal point, as opposed to decorating your home, like a Photo Wall, a mixture of portrait, landscape and square can be made to work. Another consideration is the shape of the space. If you’re trying to decorate a space that is wide but not very high, in most instances a landscape orientation will work better than a portrait orientation and the converse is true as well.

Black & White or Color – Depending on the subject of the photos, printing them in black & white might provide more impact and be more artistic. That said, you should be very careful in selecting your theme if you want to use black & white. Using photos of flowers that are printed in black & white doesn’t work nearly as well as if they were in color. However, if you’re using street scenes for your theme, black & white may be preferred over color. While the theme you want may dictate the choice between color or black & white, if the decision between color or black & white is more important, then that decision will strongly influence the choice of theme.

Complementary Color Palate – Start with the photos. If you’re using color images, the colors should be complementary. You wouldn’t want to use a photo with bright deeply saturated colors next to a photograph where the colors are pastel and ephemeral or of a snow-covered scene. You can make an exception where your theme is the four seasons but to make that work it should be the same scene photographed from the same spot at different times of the year. For example, envision an idyllic scene of a barn-red covered bridge with a back drop of deciduous and coniferous trees located someplace like Vermont. Setting up your camera on a tri-pod in the exact same spot with the same focal length lens during each of the four seasons could produce a very dramatic display. As I indicated above, the mats and frames should all be identical but don’t forget that the color of the mats has to complement both the photos and the wall color. If the walls are white or beige you’ll have more freedom selecting the frames and mats, but if the walls are a bold color you’ll need to consider that when selecting the mat color.

Go Take the Photographs – If you put a lot of time into all the above, you might want to consider grabbing you gear and go out to capture a group of images that will fit all the decisions you’ve made in the steps above.

This is a project I have for 2012 that I didn’t include in my Goals article. We have the perfect spot in our new home in Texas and already have a good idea of the desired layout. However, selecting a theme is definitely a work in progress as we’re about 180 degrees apart right now. Wish me luck.

Photo Credits:
New Decorating by rossbelmont on Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Wall by ameotoko on Flickr Creative Commons

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  • Renan Le Caro

    Nice idea, but i’m afraid it would feel a little narcissic for a begginer photographer like me ^^

  • Linda

    Thank you for this article. Also, I recommend this photographer for events and weddings. 

  • Window Installation Mesa

    I really love putting my kids’ photographs on walls also as home decors. I place their pictures in photo frames and hand it on walls. 

  • Mike624

    You can get custom cut frames and mats for your photography at