It's no longer considered tacky to frame a photo and use it in place of a print or poster. In fact, photography finally has become recognized as the legitimate art form it always was.
Photos of family and friends, however, are often considered kitsch -- probably because they're usually added to rooms as casual afterthoughts. Good photos of children deserve a display place in our homes, carefully planned in advance. As the mother of four, I brought people-photos out of the closet a long time ago.
Framing and displaying family photos follows the same general guidelines that apply to any framed work. Try to frame the photos in the same way, so groupings focus on the image itself, rather than the frame. Too many different kinds of frames will over-shadow the image and cause unnecessary distraction.
There are simple frames that work especially well with family photos. One system is the plexiglas "instant" frame, a simple plexi box with a cardboard backing that is quickly and easily removed for inserting the photo. These were once expensive, but their evident popularity has brought the price down considerably.
Another system I like is the box-frame. Unless you're handy, this should be done by a professional framer. It is no more expensive than a conventional picture frame. The photo is fixed to the bac of the box and then hung on the wall so that the inside of the box rests on the nail.
Using either one of these systems, hang the frames in a cloud, or cluster, on any wall that is large enough to accomodate them. I prefer hanging a cluster of small photos over a console table in a hall or foyer or in the living room on a wall where the lighting is reasonably effective and where you can get close enough to see the faces. The cluster does not have to follow a precise shape because, unless you plan to stop taking pictures, you will want to add to your collection as the family grows.
If the images are 8-by-10 or larger, you can use a large grouping to take the place of a significant work of art in any room -- above a sofa, or simply arranged on a wall, independent of a piece of furniture.
Black and white photos look best in their own grouping, separate from color prints, which can also be grouped effectively. I've discovered that black and white prints in plexi frames or white frames, are especially effective against a brightly colored accent wall. In box frames, when the sides of the box are painted black, however, they look their best against plain white walls. Color prints look better against off-white or pastel walls.
Of course, all these precepts fly away if you collect frames as well as photos. In a home where the couple collected antique bronze Victorian frames, the family photos became the focus of the room. Incidentally, some of these wonderful frames are now being reproduced for those of you who love Victorians.
In this home, the furniture was simple and simply arranged. I used a modular system for the seating, in a loose U-shape around a square glass coffee table. The white walls and off-white round-textured cotton upholstery on the seating are contrasted against an elegant plush carpet in a rich bronze color. This same color is repeated in the contemporary reading lamps and a lacquered table.
Arranged on this table is a tremendous and impressive group of family photos in their intricate bronze frames, the dark and elaborate shapes blending into one another, therby focusing attention on the images themselves. It's an overpowering use of the cluster concept, bringing force and focus on a crowd of small images that now have visual, as well as sentimental clout.