How to "Frame" Your Clients: A DIY with Canvas Minis

Guest Blog Post by Chianté Black

With so many image sharing platforms available online, it can be a challenge to inspire your clients to print their photos.  Especially when budgets are tight. To combat this issue, photographer Chianté Black, of Reminisce Studio Photography, has created various DIY framing projects to bring her client's images to life. Black uses Canvas Minis to create eye-catching photo frames that inspire her clients to think big, even with small prints. Continue reading to see how each project takes shape, and gain inspiration for incorporating DIY framing in your studio or business.

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It’s 6:30 am on Saturday morning, and my alarm has just gone off. I scramble to silence it before it wakes my husband. I’m not a morning person. There are few things that get me up early on the weekend, but this is one of them. I run out of the house in my sweats—no need for fancy attire where I’m going—and throw whatever’s in my car, into the garage, never knowing when I may need extra room. (One time I stuffed an entire minivan with three chairs, one bureau, a cabinet, and two barstools. The poor store employee insisted it wouldn’t fit, but I ensured him my Tetris skills were alive and well.) As I drive up to my friend’s house, I send a text, and pretty soon she comes out and jumps in my car. We escape like convicts into the early morning light—off to find hidden treasures among the castoffs. Flea markets, antique shops, garage sales, and wholesale warehouses—they hold gold even Midas himself would be jealous of. Feeling like we’ve made out like bandits, we take our treasures home to paint, reupholster, and repurpose them into masterpieces.

The Midas Touch

Why do I do this? Because I’m a photographer, and a photographer often sees beauty where others don’t. An artist’s quest is to make the mundane spectacular and to bring magic to the ordinary. We are filled with creativity just begging to be unleashed. It drives us in all aspects of our lives. Three years ago my husband and I decided to buy a fixer-upper. We were painting before we even moved in. After gutting the kitchen, putting in new floors, and literally hanging from scaffolding, we had our dream home. I simply love making things beautiful, and that is why I love photography.

Finding Creative Ways to Showcase Your Clients’ Images

Many of my clients spend more time deciding what they want to wear or the location of the shoot than deciding on what they want to do with their images. As photographers, we hand over our works of art and expect our clients to know how to properly showcase them.  It breaks my heart to see clients print at bargain places and devalue their photos. They don’t realize what goes into getting the lighting and color just right. They end up destroying all that effort with bargain processing. Thankfully, there are some inexpensive ways to ensure that your clients’ pictures are stunningly displayed—like a piece of original art.

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Clearance Finds: Boxed/3D Frames

Subway art is all the rage right now and you can find it in just about any store these days. Because each saying appeals to a specific taste, you’ll find many of the unpopular word collages in the clearance bin. So grab a deal on a size that works for your current project and say good-bye to that cheesy saying by painting over it. Then, using a hot glue gun, glue your Canvas Mini over the paint (once it dries, of course!). I recommend a hot glue for two reasons: 1) it won’t damage the Canvas Mini since the print has a backing, and 2) if you ever want to display your Canvas Mini on something else, you can move it with minimal trouble.

To finish it off, buy a piece of trim molding from your local hardware store. Cut it at a 45-degree angle, measuring from the inside of the corner of the angle. Measuring from the inside means that if you want the frame to be 5" x 5", you’ll need to measure five inches of the trim and, at the corners, make your cut with the angle moving away from the mark. That way when you put your frame together, it will hold a 5” picture. For 3-D frames, combine two subway plaques and layer them to achieve the desired effect.

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Reclaimed Wood Frame

Reclaimed wood is another great way to showcase your pictures. Where can you find it? Rip down your old fence (I made a beautiful accent wall in my house using our 20-year-old fence) or use old pallet wood. You can also take new wood and age it by distressing and applying an antiquing glaze. For this project I used Rocky Mountain blue stain pine recovered from beetle-kill trees. I was able to find it at Home Depot, milled and finished. I chose a 3"x 8" piece that had spectacular natural grey veining. I was also able to find 1'x1' metal sheeting that I used as the back. Cut four pieces of the beetle wood at a 45-degree angle, 12” at the inside of the cut, and create the interior frame. Attach the metal sheeting by adding a ¼”-thick piece of medium-density fiberboard to the back. Cut another four pieces of the wood, also at 45-degrees, leaving 12”on the inside of the cut. Then attach these pieces to the outside of the interior frame, giving it an original look. To allow the canvas to stand out, create a French cleat. Cut three 1"x1" pieces of foam poster board and hot glue them together. Do this step three times and then hot glue to the back of the canvas mini. Then hot glue the canvas mini to the metal sheeting.  This look has an Aztec appearance, but it’s easy to change up the shape just by gluing the pieces in another direction.

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Repurposing Antique Frames

I found this fantastic frame at an estate sale, but don’t let that fool you! It was a reproduction, so it had no real value. I was able to look past the original color and see the frame’s design, but its current shape wouldn’t work for what I had in mind. So I disassembled it and cut it to 8"x8". Here’s how you can easily recreate this. After cutting the frame to your desired size, paint it with silver metallic spray paint. Next, paint the outside edge black and use Valspar’s antiquing glaze to give the entire frame a brushed-nickel appearance. Finish it off by giving it a coat of polyurethane. Once that’s done, cut the original picture to fit the new frame size. You can do what I did and paint over the old image with a soft gray, or you can chose a fun color to mix things up. Next create a small accent frame with smaller molding. The last step is to glue both the small frame and the canvas onto the new antique frame, thus taking a classic look and reinventing it.

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Wrap Up

Be forewarned—once you start making frames, you’ll see possibilities everywhere. I’ve found I look at everything as a potential frame—so consider your wallet and how many “potential” frames you want to store away for “someday”! Whether you overdo it on frame collecting or not, being creative in the presentation of your work can be personally fulfilling for any photographer no matter your style or skill level. So get out there and let your creativity get the best of you!

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Chianté Black

Chianté Black