Brian's Photo Blog — Article 96
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Mounting Photos For Competitions
Tuesday 8 May 2012   —   Category: Competitions
Yesterday I mounted my last batch of photos of the “year” for the monthly camera club competitions. Albany’s Valley Viewfinders Camera Club follows a school-year schedule, meeting from September through June of each year, with two months off during the summer (so we have more time to take pictures, I suppose). During the past seven months I've learned through trial and error the do’s and don’ts of mounting photos for competitions. What I’m sharing today can help you avoid the same mistakes, and get good results quicker and easier.

When I mounted my first pictures last November, I had no idea what I was doing. But I did realize that I needed a few basic pieces of equipment in order to do the job right.

I was going to be making straight cuts through foam core board, therefore a long metal ruler would be indispensible. I looked around at the art-supply section of the local community college bookstore, as well as on, but I wasn’t really pleased with the options and prices.

Then I headed down to Home Depot and found exactly what I was looking for: an Empire 48-inch Adjustable T-Square (pictured to the left). I simply removed the “T” head across the top, which left me with a heavy-duty, four-foot ruler and straightedge. Because it’s made of aluminum, it’s very durable without being overly heavy.

Next I needed a cutting board, so while at Home Depot I picked up an 18 x 24 inch sheet of polycarbonate, which, according to the label, is break, shatter, and impact resistant and has excellent durability. Sounded good to me! Lastly, I also needed something to cut with, so I got a Husky utility knife.

Armed with the necessary tools, I was now ready to turn my attention to the mounting supplies. First, I needed some foam core boards. I found that they pretty much come in one size: 20 x 30 inches. Over the months I've also found that most of the other club members mount on white boards, but since black is my favorite color, I opted for the black version, which Walmart sells for a great price.

To complete my preparations, I also needed some spray glue. At first, I tried a couple of different 3M spray adhesives, but then I ran across Elmer’s Craft Bond Multi-Purpose Spray Adhesive. I prefer the Elmer’s spray for a number of reasons:
  1. It’s one-half to one-third the cost of the 3M sprays. Over the course of a year, that’s going to save me a lot of money!
  2. The button on top of the can which you press to spray is bigger. This keeps my finger from getting so tired, and also keeps the glue off of my fingertip.
  3. It has a metal ball inside for mixing the glue, so when I shake the can, I get the sense that it is mixing better, and I like the sound of the ball clanking around in there!
My first attempt at mounting photos did not go so well. My big mistake was that I cut the foam board to the size of the photos FIRST, and then tried to glue the photos onto the board. Bad, Bad, BAD! It’s almost impossible to get the photos lined up prefectly along all four edges of the board. My wife, who has taught artcraft in primary school for many years, suggested that I glue the pictures first, THEN cut the board to size. Hmmmm ... why didn’t I think of that?! Brilliant idea!

Spray glue is messy, and gets all over everything in the immediate area. After one batch of photos, the garage floor was turning into human flypaper, even with protective sheets of paper under what I was spraying. So I got a huge sheet of cardboard to lay down first, which is really saving the cement floor.

I also needed to find a good source for cheap rolls of butcher paper or newsprint. As before, I wasn’t happy with what I found on Amazon. So I contacted the local newspaper, and found that they sold their leftover rolls of newsprint for pretty cheap. I’m still working through my first roll, which I bought in February. Check with your city newspaper; I’m sure they too sell their leftover rolls.

To help me efficiently handle this large roll, I did buy a 24-inch paper roll dispenser from Amazon. I’m SO glad I did, because it makes tearing off various-sized sheets of paper from the roll VERY easy! This demonstrates once again that having the right tool for the job makes the work so much easier.

After half a year of mounting photos, I've pretty much got a system worked out. For the club competitions, I’m entering both 8 x 12 inch and 12 x 18 inch photos. Using the aluminum ruler, the sheet of polycarbonate, and the utility knife, I cut the foam core boards into halves (for the larger photos) and quarters (for the smaller photos). This leaves an inch or two of extra space around the photo, which makes placing the picture on the board much easier.

Out in the garage, I lay the large sheet of cardboard on the floor, and then lay a sheet of newsprint over that. I put the photo face down on the newsprint, and spray on a layer of glue, pause for a few seconds, and then spray on another layer. Then I carefully pick up the photo and carry it to a table where the foam core board is waiting. I flip the photo over onto the board, and then, laying another sheet of newprint over the photo, I press moderately with my hands, smoothing out the photo so it lays flat on the board without any air bubbles. For each photo, I use fresh sheets of newsprint.

It’s helpful to have some mineral spirits or paint thinner around, so you can periodically clean glue residue from your fingers. As you handle the glue-sprayed photos, some glue will inevitably get on your fingers. You definitely don’t want to get glue on your images! But even if that happens, all is not lost. I've found that rubber cement thinner does a good job of removing the glue without damaging the photo.

Once all the photos are mounted, I take them all back up to my office to trim off the excess foam board. Then I print out the competition lables that need to go on the back of each photo, take everything down to the garage, and mount the lables.

Finally, I’m done! All of my tools and months of practice have combined to render the process as easy and painless as possible. All that is left is to take the mounted photos to the next club competition, and hope that my fellow club members will find something to like in my picture and so vote for them. At that point, the results are totally out of my hands — but at least I have nicely-mounted photos!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 96
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