Portrait photography is not cheap. Once upon a time, portraits were viewed as investments that preserved a family’s history and were meant to be passed down from generation to generation. It is this tradition of honoring family and past generations that drives Michael Broyles’ passion for portrait photography. With younger generations embracing digital photography more now than ever before, it can be hard to impress upon them the need to protect and care for print portraits to ensure they last for years to come. Yet, portraits do require love and care if they are to maintain their long-term value. One way you can preserve your portraits is through archival framing.


Why does my portrait need protection?

It is easy to think that placing a beloved photograph in a frame will protect it from the elements. It is behind glass after all…it should be safe, right? Not quite. If a photograph is not properly framed from the get-go, it is at risk from environmental damage that can lead to tearing, scratching, and mold. Add in light exposure and your photograph can fall victim to yellowing, discoloration, fading, or even become brittle. You can frame a reproduction of your photograph instead, though it will be subject to the same risks and commissioning a well-made reproduction can be expensive. This is where archival framing can make a difference in the lifespan and value of your portrait.


What is archival framing?

Archival framing, also called conservation framing or preservation framing, is a framing process that takes steps to protect a portrait for the long-term, using materials and techniques that prevent damage and help maintain a portrait’s quality and value. As you might imagine, archival framing is much more expensive than regular framing because it employs higher-end materials with properties that function to protect your portrait from various environmental hazards. These include:

  • Conservation quality glass or acrylic. Ordinary glass allows UV light to pass through, however, conservation quality glass or acrylic can filter out most UV rays. Acrylic has additional benefits of being lightweight, acid-free, shatterproof, and porous, which allows air to circulate within the frame and reduces acid build up over time.
  • 100% acid free mat boards and adhesives. Acidity is the culprit behind much of a portrait’s deterioration over time. To minimize the amount of acid your portrait comes in contact with, archival framing practices employ alpha-cellulose and cotton rage mat boards and acid-free adhesives like Japanese wheat or rice paste.
  • Paper dust-covers. Paper dust-covers protect portraits from dust and insect intrusion.
  • Aluminum frames. High quality anodized aluminum is physically stable, preservation grade, and environmentally-friendly. Solid wood frames can also be a good choice, although wood can degrade, albeit slowly, over time and may give off by-products, like formaldehyde, that can be harmful to your portrait. Choose sustainably harvested, Forest Stewardship Council certified woods whenever possible.


Just as important, and often overlooked, is choosing the right tape to mount the portrait to its backing. Your framer should use a mounting method that prevents your portrait from tearing, buckling, or yellowing.


Although the price tag may be higher than conventional framing, if you want your portraits to last for many generations, archival framing is the way to go.


What else can I do to protect my portraits?

Just because you have selected archival framing for your portrait does not mean you are off the hook. Here are some additional steps you can take to protect your portrait from everyday wear and tear.

  • Keep your portrait away from direct sunlight and bright lights.
  • Avoid hanging your portrait near working fireplaces, radiators, and intake/outtake vents.
  • Try to hang your portrait on an interior wall to avoid the moisture and temperature extremes typical of exterior walls.
  • Keep your portrait out of areas of your home that are prone to extreme temperature fluctuations and high moisture levels, such as the  attic and basement.


Mother’s Day may be over but our special promotion for mom runs all month long! If you schedule a photo session for mom with Michael Broyles Photography between May 1 and 31, she will receive an 8″ x 10” portrait for $100. Learn more about this offer by calling Michael Broyles Photography today.