Without question, we are living in a photo-saturated world. Most of us have access to thousands of images on devices we carry with us everywhere. Mariam Naficy, founder and chief executive of Minted design marketplace, says pictures have become a form of social currency. "Posing for them, taking them and sharing them have become how we communicate with friends and family."
So you have to wonder, if we're already inundated with photos of our kids and dogs, do we need to have images of them hanging in our homes, too?
For many of us, the answer is still yes, but we're not using family photos in the way we used to.
"My clients want their family photos to have a visual impact and not be scattered throughout the house in random frames," said New York interior designer Ashley Whittaker. She prefers to consolidate her clients' photos in a private space in their homes and hang them in a gallery-like fashion.
New York interior designer Todd Klein agreed that family photos should stay in a home's private spaces — the master bedroom, the dressing room, the mudroom — for three reasons. One: You probably spend more time in the private spaces of your home, so you interact with the images more frequently. Two: Most family photographs need to be viewed very closely because they are small and intimate. "Hang small photos over a big sofa," Klein said, "and they will get lost." And three: By hanging photos in a gallery configuration, you can create an interesting arrangement with a bigger presence, like an art installation.
With thousands of images on our phones, it is hard to zero in on the few images of family and friends that are frame-worthy, not to mention wall-worthy.
So how do you narrow them down? Start by doing a quick scroll through your camera roll, said Tessa Wolf, creative director of the online framing company Framebridge. "Don't spend more than five minutes doing it," she said. "See what photos immediately pop out to you, and mark them as favorites as you go; that way you can easily find them in an album." If you use a photo-editing app, look first at the photos you've already chosen to edit; they were probably the best ones when you took them, Wolf advised. Choosing from those preselected favorites will prove much more manageable.
Or you can hire a professional to help. As part of her decorating services, Whittaker helps her clients curate their family photos. She and her team select, crop and edit the images, ensuring every family member is equally represented in the mix.
Once you select your favorite photos, you want to take into account the size and scale of the images. If all your images are similar in style or tone (for example, they're all from the same photo shoot or taken on the same day), choose a mix of close-up and distant images to add visual interest. Also, mix the size of the photos to give a more organic feel to the final arrangement.
If you are going for a more varied look, mix black and white photos and color photos together on a wall, Wolf advised. "Just be sure to have a nice mix of the two throughout the gallery wall so it looks balanced. You can easily convert a color photo to black and white on your phone, in Instagram, or using pretty much any photo editor like VSCO."
When it comes to printing images, most online sites will automatically check the image's resolution and then suggest the largest size at which you can print it without compromising the quality. Many phone photos can be printed larger than you would think: "A photo from a new iPhone can be blown up to about 22 by 30, which is huge," Wolf said.
For framing, Naficy, Whittaker, Klein and Wolf agree that frames don't have to match, but choosing frames with a similar hue will create a more unified look. For example, Wolf suggests mixing white and silver or natural wood frames — using different widths and textures — but all in similar color and tone.
Both Whittaker and Klein also like to incorporate family keepsakes into their clients' gallery walls. "Our goal is to create arrangements for our clients that feel special and, most of all, personal," Whittaker said.
Klein likes to think of these arrangements as scrapbooks of a family's life; he includes framed diplomas, invitations, ticket stubs — as he says, "all the different things that people save because they mean something." Though incorporating other items into your gallery wall display is more interesting, it can also be more challenging to hang. Naficy advises looking for similar hues, shapes, textures and patterns, and group them together for a more cohesive display.
When creating a gallery wall, you don't want the outer edges of your arrangement to be square; you want them to be imperfect so you can add new pieces as you get them, Wolf advised. Keep 2 inches between each piece so that the arrangement looks intentional and maintains a degree of consistency no matter how big it gets. If you have less space between the pieces, you will have trouble controlling the arrangement; more space and it will look like you didn't plan to hang the pieces together.
And whatever you do, Kline said, "hang each picture using two hooks, so the frames don't move around."