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Choosing a framer

Craftsmanship, design sense and compatibility

A professional picture framer like Brian Friesen has the expertise and experience to tackle the toughest framing jobs. When your pictures must look their best, go with a pro, and you won't go wrong.
A professional picture framer like Brian Friesen has the expertise and experience to tackle the toughest framing jobs. When your pictures must look their best, go with a pro, and you won't go wrong.


A good framer can be a photographer’s ally, making your good pictures look great and your great pictures look awesome. Just as an excellent meal can be made more palatable and attractive by serving it with a sense of design and panache, an excellent photograph can be framed to enhance it and draw attention to it.

Here are some tips when finding and choosing a framer:

1. If you see a framing job you like, find out who did it and check the framer out. Ask other photographers who they regularly use and why. (If price is the only factor, discard that framer unless his or her work is exceptional for the price. Quality workmanship, a sense of framing design and an understanding of what is need for a particular image are more important factors.)

2. Check to see what associations the framer belongs to. This indicates professionalism, and belonging to an association means they are able to stay up-to-date with the latest trends.

3. Ask to inspect a framer’s work. Decide whether you like the majority of what he or she does. If not, don’t discount the framer until you learn whether the work was his or her concept or he or she was bound by the ideas and wishes of the framer’s clients.

4. Look for craftsmanship. Do edges abut seamlessly? Is everything square? Is there symmetry? Are there scratches or marks on the framing materials? Carefully check over a number of the framer's works, and satisfy yourself that his or her standards equal or exceed yours.

One way you can judge a framer’s work is to look at the mat cuts. Here are some common cutting mistakes to watch for:

Hooks - Look at the corners of a cut in a mat where the two sides meet. The angle of cut from end to the other should be uniform; if not, it is known as a hook. This usually indicates a problem with the operator, and not the equipment they are using.

Ragged edges - Another problem with a mat is a ragged edge that is caused by using a dull blade. If a piece is ever delivered to you with ragged edges is should be redone.

Overcuts - When a framer is cutting a mat, they must only cut to the corners of the window. Sometimes these small lines are barely noticeable, but if they are quite large, it is unacceptable.

5. Above all, look for compatibility of the frame with the photograph it contains.

  • Is the mat too wide for the image and subject matter?
  • Are the frame color and material a complete mis-match or do they tie in nicely and subtly with the picture?
  • Does the finished work leave the impression that it is a beautiful frame or a beautiful picture?
  • Does the framer’s style match with your own, regardless of how good his or her frames are? You want your pictures to look as good as you can envision them, and there is no point using a framer who frames everything as if it were a 19th-century masterpiece when what you want is something avant-garde.

6. Price is a big factor, particularly if you plan to become a regular customer. A framer's work may be magnificent, but if his or her price is beyond your reach, you will have to either negotiate work of the same quality for a more-manageable price, or move on until you find someone else who can meet your needs. If you plan to return to the same framer, don't be shy to say that the framer's prices exceed your budget. Indicate what kind of volume you expect to have and what your quality expectations are, and don't be surprised if you find that your promise of steady work nets you a favorable price. Often, if you are able to tell a framer that your work is not "rush," the framer can give you a huge discount because it can be fitted in around the urgent jobs, when things would normally be slack anyway.