Easy Frames and Matting with Lightroom

While I almost always darken the edges of my photos and put a 1 pixel contrasting stroke around them, I usually post them with no borders (or “mats” or frames).  But sometimes a surrounding canvas can make a photo more compelling. If someone is planning to purchase one of your photos, they’re probably going to frame it and placing your photo in a “mat” can help them visualize how it will look on their wall. At other times a special composition of multiple images on one canvas may be the effect you’re trying to create. Smuggers Curtis Budden and Dianne Ward, among others, frequently use matting to excellent effect in many of their works.

Before getting into this it is helpful to understand the standard sizes for frames and mats. These are easily found on the web by searching for; ‘standard sizes mats frames’, or something similar.  Standard frame sizes don’t necessarily correspond to the 4:6 aspect ratios of DSLRs. And even if they did, the crop of your composition may dictate something other than 4:6, 5:7, 8:10, etc.  That’s where a mat comes into play as it bridges the aspect ratio of the image to the aspect ratio of the frame in an attractive way. Actual mats can be cut fairly inexpensively (if you don’t make many mistakes) whereas custom frames can be expensive.

There are a number of ways to get to the end result some of which include graph paper, a calculator, etc. Fortunately, programs like Adobe Lightroom 3 make it a lot easier. I’m sure other programs do the same but I use Lightroom for cataloging and Raw processing so it’s easy for me to switch to the Print module for these tasks since this module also outputs to JPG files.

If you follow this Blog you’ll know that I work primarily in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3. The rest of this Post assumes a good working knowledge of Lightroom. So if you don’t use Lightroom or are still coming to grips with it, this might be a good place to stop reading and pick up your camera. There are many excellent resources for learning Lightroom, but I’m not one of them. Sorry.

By the way, if you’ve been thinking about purchasing Lightroom, there’s a big discount being offered right now. You can purchase it from B&H Photo for $164.99 instead of the usual $299.99 until March 13th.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Software for Mac & Windows

Once I have finished processing and saving my photo in Photoshop, I place a 1 pixel Stroke around it and extend the Canvas by 1/2 inch on all 4 edges and save it again under a different file name. This preserves the editing in case I want to go back and print or post the photo without the additional canvas extensions that follow. The reason for extending the canvas at this stage will become apparent later. After saving the extended version, I go back to Lightroom and import it into the same folder. The size of the canvas extension depends on the size of your photo. ½ inch works pretty well for 5 by 7 inches. You may want to try 1 inch for 8 by 10 inch photos.

After selecting the photo from the Library module, switch to the Print module and select the Fine Art Mat (for an image like the one below) from the Template Browser in the left hand panel. At the bottom of this panel, I select Page Setup and set my paper size (frame size) and orientation from the pop-up printer interface. Then back in the right hand panel I un-check all Image Settings except Stroke Border, which I set to 2 or 3 pixels and black. This is where the extended canvas comes in as the stroke will be placed around the canvas instead of just the photo. You’ll see that this creates and accent around the photo or the appearance of a double mat.

Under Layout, I set the Cell Size to the dimensions of my photo (with the added canvas) and set all the Margins to zero. Then I adjust the Bottom Margin to move the photo up in the mat until I have room for a title. I create a title using the Identity Plate feature with a titling font such as Trajan Pro. This feature is a little “fiddle-ly”. After getting it “un-rotated” (default), I drag it down below the photo and center it by dragging it around while looking at the rulers. (There has to be a better way to do this, Adobe!)

Then under Print Job, I select Print to: JPEG File. And we’re done.

From this: 

to this: 

takes between 2 and 3 minutes once you’ve gotten comfortable with the process.

Lightroom comes with a lot of built in templates for placing multiple images on one page, or creating mats and  frames. Many others can be downloaded free from the web. Once you’ve been through it a few times I think you’ll find it a very easy way to show off your photos.


2 thoughts on “Easy Frames and Matting with Lightroom”

  1. Excellent information….!! Very quick & helpful, framing is the last step that I often think I would like to add to my photos, but have not yet figured out how to do it quickly & easily. This soves the problem for me & I’ll be trying it very soon…. thanks so much!

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