Photography Tips for Wall Art

Almost every photographer has had the urge to mount and display his or her photos as wall art, either at home or maybe in the office at work. At one time or another—we’ve nearly all done it—we took one of our ‘best shots’, had an enlargement made, and framed it. We brought it home or to the office and hung it on display. Then something depressing happened; the picture became unsatisfying, then boring, and finally, wall clutter. What went wrong?!

wall art photography

“Tuscan harvest” captured by PictureSocial member David Hobcote

Perhaps a favorite shot beguiled us and we overlooked a basic fact: many good photo’s are better suited to a book or a magazine. They’re simply not appropriate for hanging upon a wall. Sometimes pictures with strong contrasts and vibrant colors can look very pleasing at first, then start to grate on us after a while if displayed as wall art.

So, now we are a little sadder but what we really want is to become somewhat wiser. We realize that what we need are photo’s that can be displayed as prints and stand the test of time, right? Definitely. Prints with lasting interest! So, how do we go about successfully shooting for that specific goal? Well, there isn’t any simple sure-fire method. But there are a few basic things to keep in mind which can definitely help in making and displaying wall art prints with lasting interest.

What lasts?

If you do a bit of looking around in your local decorative art & poster galleries, and ask a few discreet questions of the sales staff as to which kinds of photos are most in demand for home decor, you’ll likely discover, as I did, the following:

  • They are usually landscapes which have a definite mood
  • They are usually foreground or middle ground scenes, not panoramic vistas
  • The colors in them are usually muted, or pastels
  • They are often shots with mist and fog in them
  • They are usually printed on a ‘luster’ (not glossy) print surface

You can readily see that most of these factors will usually add up to a ‘painterly’ looking print. They will provide subtle pastel colors. Since such pictures already have a proven track record as successful (i.e., enduring!) wall art, why not use the above info as a set of guidelines for shooting wall art photos of lasting appeal?

If you want to display some of your photos as prints on an office wall, here’s the scoop on ‘commercial & business area’ photo decor that wears well:

  • They are mostly close-ups of flowers, leaves, ferns, etc., with dew or rain drops on them…
  • Or else, they are frequently natural abstract or pattern shots
ice landscape

“Cold Blue Ice” captured by PictureSocial member Evar Guomundsson

  • These pictures often feature strong color and a near-graphic look
  • These kinds of prints are best made on glossy or semi-glossy print materials

These type of prints yield brighter colors and stronger contrast for a bolder look. Here too, you may want to make use of marketing info as practical guidelines for your own wall display shooting.

Find it

Rather than leaving things to chance, plan your lasting decor landscapes and close-ups. First of all, search out some local places that are unspoiled and natural, with few signs of human presence or activity. Check out your nearby parks, conservation areas, or wildlife refuges.

Scope it

Scout these prospective locations, looking for areas and things with appealing color, pools and ponds for reflections, running water for abstractions, etc. When you find something of interest move around it in a circle and note the various possible compositions. Be especially aware of those compositions that call for either a north- or south-facing camera position. (They’ll provide maximum side-light for modelling and texture, and polarizing for saturated color.) And while you’re at it, note whether the east and west sides of such subjects are open to admit either direct early morning or late afternoon sunlight for the warm, glowing light at these times.

A number of photo apps provide information as to when and where on the horizon the sun will rise or set in your area. Same for the full moon. Taking note of these things as well as what’s around you while scouting will help you foresee good photo opportunities well in advance.

Check it

Check the local weather maps for what’s upcoming in your area. Do it frequently. Remember, bad weather is good photo weather, especially during the clearing-up hours after a storm; it’s great for injecting mood into your images! By the way, online weather sources will also give you precise local sunrise and sunset times.

wall photo

“Twilight on the Jetty”captured by PictureSocial member Beth

For close-ups with dew, just keep in mind that a hot sultry day that ends with a cool and clearing evening usually guarantees heavy dew conditions the next morning.

Go for it

Start out well before sunrise and get on location early. Set up and shoot at first light, early light, etc. If you’re shooting a landscape that includes sky, be alert for clear strips of sky at the horizon with clouds immediately above them. This situation will often yield terrific cloud effects! Alternatively, start out well before sunset and be on-site to shoot through sundown and twilight. At either time it may be possible to shoot both landscapes and close-ups if circumstances allow.

Tools & Tips

By all means take your tripod. Also a cable release, perhaps a polarizer, or a neutral density grad filter. Use either a low ISO setting or else slow speed transparency film. And, perhaps most important of all, take along a resolve to go back to your favorite spots again and again. And again! When you know a place like the back of your hand, and you’re frequently there, you’ll be surprised at the photo ‘breaks’ that come your way!

Your personal ‘seeing’ and camera skills will undoubtedly improve as you persist at shooting both frequently and regularly. You should have no difficulty acquiring a considerable number of shots well suited for wall art.

Mounting & Display

Once you have on hand some images you feel will keep their appeal as wall decor in the long term, select one or two and make a 5 x 7 or a 8 x 10 print of it and tack it up somewhere that you’ll see it frequently. Give it a couple of weeks and see how well it keeps its appeal. If it passes the test then get a larger display print made, tastefully mounted and display it appropriately.

To assist you in these regards, why not turn to one of the many reliable guides available on the subject such as, for example:

  • Kodak Publication no. 0-22, Cat. 104 8479, PHOTO DECOR – A Guide to the Enjoyment of Photographic Art.
  • A Guide to the Enhancement & Presentation of Photographs, by Otha C. Spencer (Prentice-Hall, NJ 07632)

Such publications will provide numerous fine visual examples, as well as explanation of useful guidelines, tips, and techniques, and also offer helpful advice on many related topics such as print location, fading, lighting, etc.

abstract wall art

“Flamborough Dusk” captured by PictureSocial member Tony Taffinder

The presentation info in such publications, together with the above shooting guidelines, will put you well on your way toward appropriate, enduring, wall art with long-term appeal, instead of disappointing and depressing wall clutter.

About the Author:
John Maxymuik authored this article for those photographers who want large prints of their work for display, either in a residential or business setting, but they want the results to have enduring appeal, instead of soon turning into disappointing wall clutter. To see examples of photography suitable for wall display go to his fine art photography website at ambienceimages dot net.

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  1. Den Keene says:

    “A number of photo magazines will provide information as to when and where on the horizon the sun will rise or set in your area. Same for the full moon. Taking note of these things as well as what’s around you while scouting will help you foresee good photo opportunities well in advance.”

    If you download this free software it will give you the time for sun rise, sun set, moon rise and set where ever you place your pin.

    Works like google mapping.

    Have a look

  2. Kris Koeller says:

    This is a nice writeup. I’ve been combing my archives trying to find some to have mounted and hung, but at about $300 per print, I’m having a devil of a time making choices. Being overwhelmed by choices will probably leave me with blank walls for months to come…

  3. Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead says:

    To me, as a beginner, every single advice in this article is pertinent. Let me quote that part I am beginning to experience myself: ” take along a resolve to go back to your favourite spots again and again. And again! When you know a place like the back of your hand, and you’re frequently there, you’ll be surprised at the photo ‘breaks’ that come your way! ” HOW TRUE!

  4. Keith says:

    Hang a flatscreen TV, change up the photos. You can get a decent flatscreen with flash card slot for the price of a really good print.

  5. Kathy says:

    Great article – thanks for the tips. It’s so easy now to get beautiful canvases and gallery wraps, it’s nice to have a good place to start.

    One note though – the plural of the word “photo” is “photos” not “photo’s”.

  6. Lois Bryan says:

    good advice … thank you!!

  7. Lois Bryan says:

    … tweeted …

  8. Judith Nicholls says:

    Why oh why has everyone forgotten what a simple plural is, as compared to a possessive… “… many good photo’s are better suited to a book or a magazine. ” The photo possesses what? The photo’s color, the photo’s character? The sentence indicates it should be plural photo, not possessive. This is not the easy way out, it’s more trouble to put an apostrophe in.

  9. Bob Cobb says:

    Your hilarious. Their’s lots of ways to right this.

  10. Can add another recommendation for the Photographer’s Ephemeris as per Den Keene above- especially useful for planning nighttime shots and knowing where the moon will rise and so on!

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