How to Create the Family Photo Gallery Wall of Your Dreams
Although I love a great photo as much as the next gal, I've never been an avid or enthusiastic photographer. I've come home from many vacations without having a single picture to document the trip, and I've always relied on friends and family members to share their photos of important events, like birthday parties and weddings. So when I had my first child, I knew that I'd have to enlist some help in the photo department, and I quickly started booking professional photographers to capture pictures of my kids and our family.
The downside: family photo shoots, especially with young children, can be super stressful and require a lot of planning. The upside: when they go well, and thankfully ours usually have, you end up with some beautiful, display-worthy images. After years of shoots (my oldest is now almost 8 and my youngest just turned 5), I've collected a ton of photos beautiful enough to hang on my walls, but getting them there took some careful consideration. I wanted a wall of pictures showing my family, I wanted it in an appropriate space, and I wanted it to be able to grow as my kids did. Tricky, right?
If you have a family photo gallery wall dream like I did, it's important to think long-term about the details, including what photos to frame, what kind of frames to use, and where to hang them. Here's how to get started.
Find a Photographer You Trust, and Make It an Annual (at Least) Event
The first step in creating your gallery wall is getting enough frame-worthy images of your family. Find a photographer (or two) that you like and whose style you vibe with (maybe not this one), and make your session an annual — or when your children are superyoung, even a twice-yearly — event. Tell your photographer that you'd like a mix of candids, more artistic shots, and typical smiling-at-the-camera family photos. All will blend well on your wall.
Buy Frames and Prints in Various Sizes
The greatest decision I made when starting my gallery wall was purchasing these simple, white, large-matted frames at Target in both 8 x 10 ($17) and 5 x 7 ($12) sizes. I bought about seven or eight to get started, and boom, I had a gallery wall for around $100. Seven years later, Target is still selling the same frames, which means adding a photo or two to my wall has been easy and inexpensive. In addition, the white frames and mats, hung on a white wall, are superforgiving when it comes to exact measurements between frames (in other words, I eyeballed everything).
I just started a second wall (as I said, I've been at this for a bit now), and switched from white to these Project 62 brass frames ($15-$30), also from Target and available in three sizes. The common theme to both sets of frames: large mats that add some gravitas and uniformity to the photos.
Print Quality Photos
I usually get all of our photo shoot images digitally, and years ago, a photographer directed me to Mpix for great print quality. I've never looked back. The prints are beautiful, inexpensive, and delivered quickly. Years after hanging Mpix photos on a wall that gets a great deal of direct sunlight, I've never had any problems with fading.
Don't Be Afraid to Mix Black and White and Color Photos
This isn't an art gallery, so feel free to keep things more fun and casual, including mixing black and white and color photos. Just be sure to keep things balanced. Don't put all your color images on one side and black and whites on the other, and don't place one black and white photo on a wall with 12 color images. However, you also don't need to stress about making sure you have an equal number of each.
Find a Spot That Can Grow With Your Family
Personally, I'm a member of the "limit personal photos in public spaces" design camp, meaning, I prefer to keep paintings, art prints, and drawings in our living/dining/kitchen spaces and family photos in our bedrooms/upstairs areas. I picked a blank wall in the hallway connecting our bedrooms to create my first gallery space, filled that sucker from floor to ceiling, and am now working on a second wall in my master bedroom. If you're limited on space, remember that just because you've put a photo in a frame does not mean it can't ever be changed out. Let your wall develop and mature as your family does.