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Wall arrangement

Where on a wall you hang your pictures is critical

The choice in frames is seemingly endless. Once you have made your mind up, however, the manner in which you arrange your framed photographs on a wall can be critical to how well they are displayed.
The choice in frames is seemingly endless. Once you have made your mind up, however, the manner in which you arrange your framed photographs on a wall can be critical to how well they are displayed.


How you arrange your photography on the wall can be just as important as the framing itself. The design principles of scale, balance, color and composition all come into play.


Large pictures suit a large room. Small pictures get lost in the more-than-ample wall space. On the other hand, a large picture in a closet-size powder room can be so dominant that it makes someone in the room feel uncomfortable. Similarly, regardless of room size, a large photograph should go on a large wall; small pictures on a small wall.


The most comfortable way for a person to view your photography is at eye level, which is the horizontal line directly in front of a person’s eyes. If the viewer is positioned more than three feet away, this horizontal line dips about six inches.


To create an informal group, arrange pictures asymmetrically. For example, place one large piece on one side with two smaller ones on the other. Hanging pictures in symmetrical fashion (pictures of equal size placed at an equidistance from each other) will create a more formal impression. In this situation, the drama and formality of symmetrical grouping is increased with the use of identical frames.


Grouping pictures with similar colors and subjects together can heighten the dramatic impact of these photos.


This is the way you arrange the subject matter. Consider the vertical and horizontal lines in the photo itself, and the way persons are facing in the photographs, or the direction vehicles are facing or in which they are traveling.


Hanging your work in sunlight will increase the potential for light damage and could increase the amount of reflection. Arrange your framed pictures for maximum illumination from the lighting that is normally-available in the room, but watch for reflections from floor lamps or windows on the other side of the room. Lighting is a critical element in picture placement, and you should keep it uppermost in mind when you consider your picture-hanging layout. A beautifully-framed and outstanding picture loses its impact when placed in a shadowed area where its details cannot properly be seen.


Room traffic is a factor in picture placement. A wall at the end of a hall is an excellent location for a large image in a large frame because people using the hall will see it from a distance and appreciate it more as they approach it. A grouping of small pictures in the same location would have no impact until the viewer is up close, and by that time, the viewer will be ready to turn at the end of the hall. If there is a natural assembly or conversation area, that is where to place a group of smaller framed pictures. People will be stopped there and will have the time to better digest the little fellas as they converse.


If you are displaying several pictures that show a sequence (a wedding for example, from start to finish), be sure to arrange them in the order in which events occurred so viewers are not wandering back and forth from one to another.


One way to experiment with wall placement of your framed pictures is to make cutouts of the actual sizes of the pictures and place them on the wall in different arrangements until you hit the one you are happy with.

There are innumerable ways of placement, subject only to your creativity and sense of balance and design harmony. To get your creative juices flowing, here are four arrangement suggestions you can try.

1. Arrange them in a linear manner based either on the frame components or on the shapes of the frames themselves - for example, all mats of a certain color, or frames that relate to each other on a horizontal or vertical scale.

2. “Tree” your picture frames. This method suggests arranging your photos in the shape of a large imaginary tree, using a large vertical frame as a trunk and letting other pictures “branch” off from this foundation point.

3. Place your most-important or largest photograph in the center or at some other place of importance (the top of the “tree” arrangement, for instance), and arrange the others in a pleasing manner that will draw the viewer towards the number-one frame.

4. If a number of your pictures share a common element (a horizon line or a distant shoreline, for example), arrange them in a staggered manner so the shoreline is level from picture to picture, even though the picture frames may not be level with each other. This approach is somewhat radical and requires a strong common element uniting the images to work, otherwise it will look like you hung your pictures during an earthquake. When it does work, the balance/imbalance combination can be very powerful.

These ideas are meant only to stimulate your imagination and design sense for picture placement. We encourage you to experiment, remaining aware of commonalities in both the images and the frame components, and bear the subject matter of the photographs in mind. A series of pictures of relatively-square buildings or vertical monuments may best be displayed in a formal, squared-off layout to suit the subject matter, but a series of pictures of children or a rodeo or carnival are probably best-suited to a seemingly random layout that has a liveliness that matches the subject matter of the pictures.


Try several layouts, and when you have finally decided which one is best, consider it from the perspectives of distance between one frame and another, and whether there are too many pictures in the picture-hanging space. In other words, avoid overcrowding. Don’t put too many pictures on the one wall. One suggestion is to use a piece of furniture, such as a chair or sofa to set outer boundaries.

Keep in mind that a truly important picture can be made to stand out if it is the sole occupant of one wall, even though (and especially if) other walls in the same room may be crammed with other framed pictures. But, the overall effect must be pleasant and attractive, so be careful when employing this singling-out design technique and be sure there is harmony throughout your entire photographic display.

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