Why (and How) You Should Display Your Family Photos

Walls are big business. There are so many companies out there all competing to earn a space on your wall. Everywhere you look it’s black and white portraits of icons, monstera leaves and palm trees against pastel pink buildings. And with the rise of typographic prints and the gallery wall, I started really thinking about the walls in my home and asking myself - what do I actually want to look at anyway?

And I decided that whatever I had on my walls, it was going to mean something to us.

Why are family photos important?

Photos remind us of the people, places and things that we love. Photos help us to remember the past, and recalling happy memories makes us feel good.

Photos cement us to our networks, they ground us and root us. they keep us feeling linked to our friends and family and give us a sense of belonging. For children especially, this helps them to learn who they are, and how they fit in to the wider family.

It also tells them that we are proud of them. It reaffirms for them that they are valued and they are loved. My children often pick out particular photos that have become rather iconic to us, talking about who’s in them and remembering where they were taken. Each time they pick out one of them as a baby I try to tell them something they didn’t already know, about what they were like when they were little or how things were then.

How to display your photos

Maybe you’ve noticed, I like gallery walls. I have a large one behind my sofa, and an even larger one going all the way up the staircase. I like the way you can mix family photography in with other things, and each gallery wall is completely unique. To create a large gallery wall like on my staircase, don’t try to tackle it all at once. Just start at the bottom, and let it grow and evolve, adding photos as you get around to it. It’s a good idea to stick to a similar theme when picking frames and to leave roughly even spaces between the frames. Read more about gallery walls...

Gallery wall of family portraits above the stairs in pale wood, white and pastel coloured frames

Gallery wall of family portraits above the stairs in pale wood, white and pastel coloured frames

Gallery wall in muted tones and with eclectic charity shop frames

Gallery wall in muted tones and with eclectic charity shop frames

As well as gallery walls, I’m partial to propping small pictures up against the wall too, like I’ve done on my mantelpiece. You can then use the space in front of them to layer and group objects together. What works really well is to group 3 objects: something vertical (your photo), something horizonal (e.g. a book) and something structural in between (e.g. a vase or candle).

Photos propped against a wall look inviting and allow space for styling in front, and that gallery wall again in the mirror

Photos propped against a wall look inviting and allow space for styling in front, and that gallery wall again in the mirror

Grouping and layering on a shelf

Grouping and layering on a shelf

It’s currently very on trend to display photos and prints unframed. In more formal areas of my house I’ll stick to frames but in the kitchen, kids bedrooms and my workspaces I have been trying out some of the following ideas:

  • Standing pictures on picture ledges, like the ones found in IKEA, great for chopping and changing things around when the mood suits.

  • Using washi tape to quickly and easily tape pictures to the wall without damaging paintwork.

  • Pinning pictures to memo boards. I’ve got my eye on one of those wire mesh notice boards, you can easily attach your photos with small bulldog clips along side things such as postcards, written notes and drawings.

  • Making photo garlands. Clip your photos to twine using small wooden pegs. You can even clip them to string lights. It looks great when the photos are printed polaroid style, and there are loads of companies that do this.

  • Fridge magnets are fun and always a conversation starter. As they are so small and temporary anything goes, there’s room for the silly ones here.

Are my photos good enough?

Do you like it? Then it’s good enough. Any photo that makes you feel something is good enough. Your photos are personal, unique and beautiful.

The vast majority of the pictures up on our walls we took ourselves, mostly holiday snaps, and many of the more recent ones were taken on a mobile phone. We have had professional photos taken at a few milestones…. on our wedding day, when our first child was born, and recently when our little boy turned 3 and our family was complete. Mainly as it’s me that takes the pictures and I wanted some nice ones with us all in them! If standing looking at the camera and being told to smile, weirdly isn’t your thing, there are now plenty of professionals that specialise in lifestyle family photography which aims to capture you much more naturally.

So let’s make our memories tangible, and permanent. There’s no better or more meaningful artwork than your own, so release those photos from your phone. Go tell your family’s story.

Family_Photos_Portraits.JPG

These family photographs of us in Carshalton Park were taken by Michaela Strivens Photography. It seemed easier than dragging the kids out ourselves and watching them grimace and kick each other while we lose our rag and shuffle home hoping there might be one or two pictures we can salvage.