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If you didn’t catch the first part of “How To Make Photo Rails,” you may want to head there first. But if you already have rails in your home (mine, or otherwise) and you want to know how to fill them on a budget, keep reading.

Step 1 | Can I Skip Frames? (YES!)

As you see to the left, I prefer to avoid frames when displaying my photos on a rail. I think it brings attention to the image itself and allows you to enjoy non-traditional photo sizes. Plus, the beauty of the rails themselves is more apparent. That said, if you are a frame person, you can make the photos look more varied in size by changing the mat size. For example, a 16×20 frame can fit a 16×20 print or an 8×10 with a large mat. When you mix this up, it looks heavenly!

Step 2 | Where Do I Order?

Now for getting those prints. I recommend what photographers call “mounted” prints. You can’t get these at your local drugstore. However, there are a few companies out there that sell mounted prints to non-professional photographers. In addition, these companies have a print quality that is much better than your drugstore. Don’t believe me, this blog post by a expert proves it! My favorite non-pro lab is called Mpix.

Step 3 | What Exactly Do I Order?

I recommend foam core from a price stand point. If you can manage the cost of the canvas on stretcher frame, go for it. Both are lightweight choices and both add some substance to an otherwise floppy print. With time, foam core may warp slightly but at the rate that I change out my prints anyway, it’s not a huge disadvantage to me. That said, it’s your choice.

Step 4 | How Big Should These Be, Anyway?

On my wall, the largest print size is 16×24. My smallest print is 9×12. Which means all of the prints are larger than an 8×10. Most people rank an 8×10 as a large print in their home. But for this purpose, bigger is better. Actually, in almost all cases, bigger prints are better, but that’s a post for another day!

Here’s wrap up of the print sizes on the wall, from top left to bottom right. I’ve include a description of why each photo is special to give you an idea of how a blank wall can be turned into something very sentimental.

Wispy Red Flower, 2008 (11×16): This was taken at Fearrington Village in rural NC during an outing with some friends. For a while, I considered it the best photo I’d ever taken. But as I continue to grow as a photographer, I always have a new favorite. The best photo I’ll ever take has yet to be taken, so this photo is a nice reminder of that.

South African Sunrise, 2009 (16×24): This photo was taken by a good friend Katherine Wallace. She visited South Africa to visit family and vacation over Christmas. It’s an honor that she allowed me to use it as my “yellow” picture on the rainbow photo wall. Usually, people declare this their favorite photo and then ask me if I’ve taken all the photos on the wall. I have to explain that I took all except the sunrise. Awkward, but I truly don’t mind.

Jamaican Butterfly, 2010 (11×14): During our honeymoon, we went on a bicycle tour of the Blue Mountain Coffee region of Jamaica. We road in a questionably maintained bus to get to our destination. On the way, we stopped at a dingy gas station where we found this beautiful field of butterfies.

The Almost Full Moon, 2008 (9×12): My dad and I love the moon. Years after moving out of the house, I would chat with him on the phone, standing outside, and admiring the moon. We’d debate whether it was REALLY a full moon or if it was missing a sliver.

The Ugly Dandelion, 2008 (10×15): When I purchased my first non-zoom lens, I was anxious to try it out on just about anything. I found an ugly dandelion (not yellow, but with the white puffy stuff) in the middle of the grass while walking in the neighborhood. If this lens can make a dying flower look beautiful, I’m sold on it.

Pompeii, 2005 (11×16): In 2005, I studied abroad in England. During spring break, I backpacked in Italy and visited Pompeii with a friend. After studying Latin for 5 years, it was incredible to visit I place I read so much about.

Rotenberg Roof, 2008 (9×12): The nice thing about a spouse that travels for work is that sometimes I get to tag along. This photo is a close up of a roof in Germany from one of those trips. From far away, many people think it looks like a collection of pennies.

Portland, 2010 (16×24): This is one of my favorite photos from a trip to visit friends on the West coast. Our hosts took us all over the state to the mountains, beach, and downtown. The food we ate there was so incredible.

If you have any questions about making a wall for yourself, feel free to email me anytime at