Displaying Photos in Your Home

We are increasingly taking more and more photos, but what are we to do with all these images of our kids and our families? Family photographer Helen Bartlett talked to us about how to display photos with taste and style. 

The children growing-up at the moment are predicted to be the most photographed generation ever. Many will have more photographs of them taken in a week than our grandparents had taken in their lifetimes. This raises the question, what to do with all these images that are left languishing on our phones and computers?

I’ve been photographing children and families for thirteen years now and, over that time, we’ve had lots of families book regular repeat shoots. As a result, we have built up a huge amount of experience when it comes to displaying images - experience that we will share with you today.

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Because when little ones are young they change so very quickly, it is not unusual to have professional photographs taken at regular intervals–in their first year alone, it is not uncommon for parents to commission professionals to capture their children when newly born, at three months, six months, nine months and then for their first birthday. This constitutes a lot of images without even taking into account all those photographs taken by the family.

It is lovely to capture all these milestones-the teeny, tiny details of a newborn baby (who knew fingernails could be so tiny?) to those first faltering steps. These are images that you will look back on for many years to come so it’s important to save them safely.

We specialize in an all round service for our clients. We look after them every step of the way, from the initial enquiry through to offering a comprehensive home design service. At the final stage of a shoot, we work with our clients to help showcase their images in creative and inventive ways. Often, we design bespoke gallery walls throughout the home, mindful not to fill all available wall space with images from the first baby shoot. Space should be left for new photographs as the family grows.

When choosing for your gallery, it’s important to think in terms of images that you will want to look at every day, Also, consider consulting your children about photographs that they like. This becomes even more important as they get older. Over time, they might not appreciate that framed photograph of them running naked through the garden with a saucepan on their head! It is important to select the very best for your wall.

We often find that choosing one or two big ‘set-piece’ photographs for certain rooms in the house can work really well – three large frames above the sofa in the living room or a giant aluminum in the bathroom can both work brilliantly. It is often the case that a more varied collection of images are best suited for the stairs - over the years, we have created a number of wonderful stair collections for our clients. The stairwell is perfect for hanging groups of smaller images as it provides constant stimulus. Certainly, it is not uncommon to find that your eye will alight on a different image each time you make your way up and down the stairs. Remember, hanging at varying heights makes it possible to mix different types of images - from close-up portraits to images that make a real feature of the environment. Such combinations work particularly well when creating areas of visual interest.

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It’s important to plan which photographs you will place where in advance of hanging–indeed it is important to think about your grouping before you even choose which photographs to frame. Some work in perfect harmony while others will strike discord. A balance is required, be it in terms of tone, texture or feel. It is important to consider how images work together if you are to make the best of a large gallery.

When adding to a wall gallery, we would recommend pre-planning. It is important to have all the photographs in mind. Avoid the temptation of hanging new images around the edges of your initial set up. Swapping an image at the centre of your existing selection can really freshen up a display. Also, I am of the opinion that it is lovely to mix up photographs of your children at different stages of their life as gallery develops.

We love to hang family photographs in children’s bedrooms and will often create multi-aperture frames that will enable us to combine up to nine different images. Although these generally focus on the child-owner of the bedroom, we always include photographs of them with their parents and siblings.

It’s good to take into account the décor and architecture of a space when choosing the required finish for a frame. To suit contemporary spaces, there are some incredible finishes currently available to professional photographers. These include beautiful aluminum and acrylic floating mounts. This is not to say that they will not look equally impressive in a period home. It is always good to juxtapose styles and finishes for a striking effect. The key is to put care and thought into your decision. If you live in a country cottage, it may be that you would prefer to opt for a more traditional look. Whatever your final decision, our service exists specifically to advise clients on such matters. Do, however, remember that a lot of ideas can be gleaned from interiors magazines and increasingly from Pinterest! (you can check out our hanging gallery ideas on our Pinterest page here uk.pinterest.com/helenbartlett/)

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We like to tell stories with our photographs. Some groupings can be very successful if based around a single theme, such as photographs with grandparents or shots at the beach. Grouping themed images can work really well and give focus to an area of your home. Photographs, when carefully edited and artistically organised, have the power to tell a story – be it of long summer days or the love that exists between family members.

An efficient and beautiful way to keep track of your photographs is to create an album.  Many of our clients order an album from each of their regular shoots and thus, over the years, build up an incredible library of their children’s lives.  We have made albums for newborn shoots, for Christenings, for summer holidays (I’m sometimes lucky enough to visit my clients on their holidays for location photography), we’ve photographed star wars parties and sleepovers, some clients request an annual album booking their shoot on the same weekend every year, an incredible document of how the children grow from year to year.  I’d always advise people to start as early as possible when creating albums in this way as time evaporates and, as the children grow older it can be challenging to put time aside to sort through photographs and design well laid out books.  They are brilliant though and as the library grows it’s something you will always be glad you have taken the time to do. We offer beautiful hand made albums with thick photographic paper but you can have photo books made by companies such as photobox, blurb or bobsbooks. 

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When gathering photographs for your children to have as part of their childhood archive do make sure you have all the important and cherished people in them.  It’s really precious to have parents and grandparents in photographs – these will be treasured when the children grow up – who doesn’t love a photograph of themselves as a child with their parents.  Perhaps next time you have a family gathering with grandparents, uncles aunts and cousins, get your camera out or hire in a professional to create a beautiful record of all of these important people together, capture the dynamic of the special relationships they have with each other. Your children will take these photographs with them into adulthood, their own family history, a precious archive with all included. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to actually get photographs on the wall. It’s so easy to think ‘I’ll just wait until the children are a little older and their front teeth have grown back’ or ‘I’ll just wait until the new baby is born so we have an equal number of portraits of each of our children’. Our advice is to ‘do it now’, ‘Do It today’. If it is delayed, the likelihood is the children will be at school or even university and your precious baby photographs will still be languishing on the computer or in a drawer. These precious moments should be enjoyed and shared on a daily basis. Family galleries are always a work in progress. Like your family, they will evolve over years, sometimes decades. The reality is, if you don’t start your gallery, you can’t build and enhance it. Go on - do it today, and while you are at it, back up those photographs on your phone and computer!

To see more from Helen Bartlett, visit her website helenbartlett.co.uk