Why frame a picture or a memento in the first place? For one, you are framing something because you get some sense of enjoyment when you look at that particular photo or keepsake. Also, framing the photo provides a certain level of protection for the item being framed.
Sadly though, poor framing choices can end up in damage to the photo. Yes, you do not only decide on color (white, black or silver picture frames?), material (wood, plastic or metal?) and design (simple, contemporary picture frames or vintage picture frames?). You should also consider the frame’s functionality in terms of how well it can protect your photo from damage.
When choosing your frame, you should also be aware of potential harmful effects that you can avoid based on your framing choices. Knowing these harmful effects can make you be more careful in deciding on the extra cost of getting additional framing options.
Here are some of the damages you may face:
- Acid burn. Acid can cause paper to become discolored (yellowish brown) over time. This is called acid burn. Where does the acid come from? “Normal” or “ordinary” paper can have some level of acid content. Most papers produced using wood pulp will contain lignin, which produces acids over a long period of time. Board papers can contain alum, which acts as a binder and provides support to the board papers. To prevent acid burn, make sure that any paper products, ink from markers, tape, adhesives or photo corners that are in contact with the photo paper are acid free and lignin free.
- Brittleness. Aside from acid burn, acids in the paper can also result in brittleness. This means that after several years, the paper will easily crumble. It can tear up when you fold it.
- Mounting damage. Poorly mounted photos can also suffer from buckling and creasing. When mounting, it is highly recommended that you use reversible methods. These are methods that, when you need to remove the photo from its mounting board, will not damage the photo. There are also methods that ensure that the paper has room to move when it expands or contracts due to the weather. Another consideration would be the type of tape you use. The tape should not result in a permanent bond and should be solvent free. You can also use acid-free photo corners.
- Light damage. The sun’s UV rays, as well as the light from artificial sources (i.e. the light bulb) can cause gradual fading as these have a negative effect on the pigments that make up the photo. You can minimize this type of damage by using glazing with UV protective qualities. This prevents the photo from being exposed to the light.
- Moisture damage. During times of extreme temperature, moisture (by way of condensation) can seep inside the frame. When moisture has no other place to go, it will most likely seep into the photo. It can cause the growth of mold and mildew, which is damage that is irreparable once they appear. The photo paper can buckle and become deformed. The photo can also stick to the glazing if the glass directly touches the picture. To prevent moisture damage, you should place the frame in an area with minimal exposure to extreme temperatures such as above the fireplace, in “wet” and humid areas such as the basement, or under air-conditioning vents. When framing, you can also add layers of matting or spacers so that the picture is not in direct contact with the glass. Spacers and matting also provide space for the air to circulate inside the frame. In addition, avoid completely sealing off the picture frame so that the air can find its way out. You can use linen or paper tape when closing the backing of the frame.
- Insect damage. Although sealing the frame completely is not recommended, you still need to seal the back of the picture frame to keep insects out. Silverfish, cockroaches and other small insects may find its way inside the frame as they try to feed on the frame’s “edible” components, such as the adhesive in the tape and the paper. Thus, you should clean your frame regularly.
- Tearing and scratches. If the picture frame falls off the wall or shelf, the resulting shattered glass can tear at and scratch the surface of the picture. Consider getting acrylic glazing, which is shatterproof.