This document explains how to present your photographic prints for NPG competitions and the Annual Open Exhibition. This information also applies to inter-club competitions and exhibitions within the East Anglian Federation of photographic societies.
The main reasons for mounting are for uniform presentation and protection of your image. The mount provides stiffening to allow a print to support itself when being displayed either on the print easel at competitions, on the exhibition stands, or whilst being stored/transported in a print box with other prints. It protects the image from creasing and getting damaged at the edges, and in the case of recessed mounting, protects the surface of the print from rubbing against other prints when stacked or carried in bulk.
In terms of aesthetics, a mount around a print can greatly improve the presentation, adding contrast, impact and leading the eye into the picture.
Unless you have a very strong reason for choosing a colour mount it is preferable for all mounts to be in pale colour, like Antique White.
There are two basic methods for mounting prints,
This is the simplest and easiest method, particularly when you are starting out. The print is simply stuck onto the front of your chosen mounting board. The print is afforded protection by stiffening, but the surface of the print is still liable to be scratched or rubbed when in contact with other prints.
This method requires a little more skill and equipment, but worth the extra effort. A piece of mount board has an aperture cut in it, usually with bevelled edges, and the print is mounted behind the aperture. As well as producing a very professional finish, the main benefit of recessed mounting is that the front surface of the print is better protected from being rubbed by other prints when stacked or carried. In order to cut the apertures yourself you will need specialist cutting tools and a steady hand. There are alternatives and mounts can be cut with apertures from proprietary companies such as examples; Cotswold Mounts and Paper Spectrum. We are in no way affiliated to either of these companies. They will cut and deliver mounts to a very high standard for a reasonable price. This is by far the easiest way of mounting your prints if you have not done this before and / or do not have access to a hand-held mount cutter.
The following “YouTube” link gives an example of how to mount on a recessed mount.
Unless you really want to use a backing board it is not needed for competitions, but always remember to secure the picture on all sides.
A standard mount size of 50cm x 40cm has been set by the East Anglian Federation and prints submitted to any inter-club competitions and exhibitions must adhere to this. At NPG we have also adopted this size ruling for our Annual Open Exhibition and all internal competitions.
Remember that the actual print size can be anything that will fit within this mount, typically from A4 size upwards to A3+
Most print boxes and cases are also designed to accept the 50cm x 40cm size.
It is important not to use cheap masking tapes (e.g. decorators’ masking tape, parcel tape, cheap sellotape, etc.) as they do not by their nature have long lasting adhesive properties. Over time the tape will fail and start to lift allowing the mounts to slip. The tape also has a bad habit of marking the pictures due to the adhesive used. One other unwanted side effect is tape lifting and sticking to other prints while they are stacked together. Use a quality tape from a craft shop, such as those that claim to be ‘acid-free’ or ‘archival’ quality. The more you value your print, the more attention you need to pay to the quality of adhesive you use. But if a print is being mounted for a short-term use, you need not be too worried.
Preferably this should be a neutral colour board something like “Antique White”, cored mounts gives a pleasing effect once cut. It is often dictated for external competitions that the maximum thickness is no greater than 4mm. Mount board and foam core board can be purchased in large sheets from craft shops and picture framers, some of these outlets will cut the board and apertures for a price. But as I mentioned earlier there are online companies (e.g. Cotswold Mounts and Paper Spectrum who will also do this for you.)
The following “YouTube” link gives an example of the different types of board.
This is probably the easiest of the mounting methods as you simply stick your photograph onto the front of your chosen mounting board. Having said that it is important to get the picture square to the board edge and not crooked. The easiest way is to measure the exact position of the picture and mark the board very lightly with a pencil. It’s normal to mount the picture central on a horizontal line and give a greater depth of border below the picture than the top. This tends to emphasise the picture on the mount. When it comes to sticking down the picture you can use spray adhesive, which give a good adhesion pattern and are positionable for a few minutes before the adhesive sets. You could also use double sided tape, which again takes a time to fully set. However if using tape you will need to make sure that it is close to the edges of the picture to avoid the edges lifting. No matter what method you use, make sure that you press it down well once positioned.
By the nature of cutting an aperture into the mount board you need to be very accurate with your cutting. If you have an unsteady hand the edges can easily become ragged and corners if not completed accurately look messy. Having said that once you have mastered the technique then you can cut apertures to fit your photograph. You will probably need to purchase a hand-held mount cutter which holds a blade at 45 degrees to cut the bevelled edges, as well as a special metal ruler with a channel that guides the blade exactly along the line that you have marked. It is important to practice as often as possible on offcuts before embarking on the real thing as it takes time to master the skill!
If you decide to cut your own board, don’t leave too little of the mounting board around the edges. Anything less than about 50mm of mount board at the edge can lead to a rather floppy mounted print.
The following “YouTube” video gives a good explanation of how to mark out the back of the mount board for any given aperture.
There are always the ready-made recessed mounts. These can be bought from craft shops and online stores (examples; Cotswold Mounts and Paper Spectrum). They come in a range of colours and sizes. You can either buy ready cut mounts which will be at standard sizes or you can detail exactly what size and position you want your aperture.
Once you have decided on the aperture size you want, mark out the lines on the reverse side of the mount board. Position your mount cutter at the start of the cut (usually indicated with a guide mark on the mount cutter) and press firmly and make the cut in one move. Do not stop half-way, and do not go over the cut a second time or you will end up with a messy edge. When all four cuts have been made, the centre piece of your mount board should fall out easily. If it doesn’t, take a craft knife blade and carefully insert it into the corner that is sticking and gently cut through the board to release the join. Do not pull it or it will tear and spoil your neat aperture.
The best way to mount your print is to fix it to a backing board, as described in the video clip.
Don’t be tempted to economise by not using a backing board and simply taping your image directly to the front mount board. The photograph will be unsupported and possibly get damaged. If you use tape all around the edges of the print, as would be necessary to hold it in place, this will not allow the print to move in relation to the mount, often resulting in unsightly ripples appearing in the photograph over time, spoiling its presentation. More importantly, any tape used on the back of a mounted print can have sticky residues along its edges which very often causes it to stick to any other print coming into direct contact with it, e.g. when placed in a pile of prints at a competition night. You would not want to be responsible for damaging the surface of someone else’s valuable print!