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How to Mount Photographs

written by: A. Jitesh•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 8/27/2009

Learn the various methods available for mounting your photographs or other artwork. The article describes the use of hinges, photo-corners, dry and wet mounting.

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    “Mounting a photo’ refers to the technique of securing a photo to a frame, mat, display board or any such mount. Selection of the right mount depends on various factors, important amongst which are the level of conservation required, cost and availability of equipment.

    Under ideal conditions, like those in a museum, totally acid-free conditions must be used and maintained, as acid often decolorizes the photographs. Further, photos must be able to be detached from the mount without leaving any mark or trace. Though for general purpose use at homes and offices, such extreme care of often not necessary, its always good to be aware of it and to use acidic material for mounting. For most purposes, commonly available materials like photo corners, mounting corners, and hinging tapes and tissues would serve the purpose.

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    Mounting Using Photo Corners

    Photo corners are sets of small plastic hinges that attach on a mat or board and are supposed to cover the 4 corners of the photo. There are two immediate advantages of using photo corners:

    1. It allows free movement of the photos. Usually photos buckle if tightly attached to a mount as the rate of contraction and expansion of the photo and the mount, with change in temperature and seasons, is not identical. Photo corners leave the photo quite loose and allow them to contract or expand at its own rate, preventing buckling.

    2. They are not limited by size of photo. The same set of corners can be used for as big or as small a photo as required.

    Care must be taken not to use photo corners containing PVC plasticizers or acidic components. Safe photo corners are usually made of polypropylene or polyester film (Mylar).

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    Mounting Using Hinging Tape

    Photos can also be mounted to mats using self adhesive Hinging Tapes. It’s a good method if you intend to frame your pictures thereafter. But the disadvantage is that its not easy to remove the picture or change the mat subsequently.

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    Album Mounting Strips

    Photos can be mounted to albums using see through album mounting strips. These are usually made of polyester. The plastic covering the photos must be acid free. Again, care must be taken to store the albums at a relative humidity <80%, else the plastic may adhere to the photo surface.

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    Dry Mounting on a Mount Board

    Dry mounting is a technique where a special adhesive tissue is placed between the mount board and the photograph. High pressure or vacuum is then applied, which attaches the photo permanently to the mount board. The disadvantage of this method is that one cannot reframe the photos or change the mat. Over time, if chemicals or acid seeps into the photo, it cannot be cleaned or reframed. An extra backing or a frame may be used to delay the process, though. Again, polaroids and inkjet prints are not suitable for dry mounting.

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    Wet Mounting

    This is the most basic mounting technique in which a glue is applied to the photo and mounted on a board using even pressure of a glass sheet and left to dry for 2-24h. It’s a very basic technique and not to be used for important or expensive artwork.

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    Spray Mounting

    An alternative to glue is to use spray adhesives. Though cleaner than glue, they’re not as permanent, and have the same disadvantages as wet mounting.