I am a complete newbie to art fairs and have many questions. I am a photographer specializing in nature including animals, birds, land/seascapes, sunrise/sets and abstracts.

My first show is May 12th in Oriental, NC

My questions are about printing and inventory.


  1. Do you print with a border (1 or 2” per side) or not to allow for buyers to frame their own
  2. My ratio is 4x6 and I print as 16 x 24 and 24 x 36 both portrait and landscape. If I print with a border, what should the image size be? 24 x 26 including the border or 28 x 40 with the border?
  3. Should I use a 3/8” foam backing or mount on a stiff backing and add a mat for the items in the bins?
  4. How much inventory should I start with? I have no idea which images may sell. I have to balance inventory and costs as most people probably do. I was thinking no mare than 3 of each size. Is that enough or too many to start with?


I appreciate any feedback or direction to other resources.

Best regards,


David McManus Photography

Raleigh, NC

You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Votes: 0
Email me when people reply –


  • I have a border around all my prints. But that is due to my printing methods. I like to have handling room around my prints, whether they be by wet work or digital printing.

    As I do all my own printing, cut my own mattes, cut my mountoard, cut my frames, cut my glazing and do ever step of it, myself, in conservation, archival materials and methods.

    I allow for the mattes to overlap the photo at least approx. 1/4".

    I use foam core matboard. this gives the best support and structural integrity for the larger prints.  Although Larry B is correct in space savings using matboard instead.

    Everything, paper print, is matted and mounted, ready to frame, in standard frame sizes. If it is hung, I have already framed it. I carry extra framing material in case someone wants a print from my bins framed.  

    I use only one color matte. I have other matte colors in stock and will re-matte for a customer at an additional charge and ship it out, free, if purchased at the show.

    Everything is matted. No exceptions. The matte protects the print.

    I also print on metal and canvas but rarely have more than one medium at a show.

    Inventory? Don't bring more than 2 sizes of the same image. For other images two or three sizes is fine. 

    Too many in a bin is a waste. People will leaf through a couple, then grab groups at a time and move on. Never seeing most of the work.

    I don't even sell smaller pieces... 4x6????? why bother? They will buy your 4x6, scan it and have a larger print made up for them. Now you have given your creation away cheap.

    Many shows will state all works must be ready to hang. Except for a limited number in bins.

    • Larry,

      Thank you for the reply.

      I typically do 16 x 24 or 24 x 36 prints. Many of my photos seem to work best with a 2x3 ratio, but I have others that can be cropped to a 4x5 ratio. Is one better than the other from a buyer perspective? 

      From a process perspective, what size image would you print when the size with border will be 16 x 24? I was thinking either 14 x 22 or 14.25 x 22.25. Do you use a 1 or 2" mat?

      Thanks again,


      • I'm not sure what you are asking / saying?

        The aspect ratio is dependent on 2 factors:

        A) The composition of the photo desired

        B) Space and constraints of the available frame, matte and display area.

        I only worry about "A" as I can make my mattes and frames any size I want.

        I do not believe any particular ratio is best from a buyer perspective, except being able to use a standard frame. However I have plenty of times gone with custom frame sizes, when the customer requests it.

        The next question you ask is what is most confusing. I believe you are asking:

        When you have a limit of a 16"x24" matte and mount board, what size image?

        Depending on the image it'self / composition, I might use a 2 1/5" to 3" border of matte window.

        I have used 4" window on a 8"x10" print and a 2" window on a 20"x24" print. It is not common but fit the desired effect and display I wanted to achieve.

        I do not count "border" in my measures. I figure total matte size, desired view-able image size, desired window size (window size might be thought of as "border" on the matte). The cut out is "Window opening" to me.

        • Larry,

          I keep reading and learning. I agree composition drives aspect ratio and where it makes sense I change from the camera ratio of 2x3.

          I found some sites that provide guidelines on matte size to image size and that helps. I also looked up standard frame sizes.

          Thanks again,


      • What do you mean by 1 inch or 2 inch mat? Larger sizes requires a wider mat to look good. For example, I would use a 30x40 mat for a 20x30 print. Always try and use standard frame sizes.

        Larry Berman

  • Bin prints are a difficult thing to figure out. 

    Initially I had 4 sizes.  I found the largest size competed with the 16x24" plaque MDF prints I had on the walls of my tent.  I did not re-order the mats for the biggest prints after my first year.  I even gave the last ones away with large acrylic face mounts to get rid of the conflict and entice a sale.

    The second item is to mat or not.  Buying precut mats is an expense in money and time.  Doing an archival T-hinge at the top takes time when you multiply it by 100!  Often the buyer has a specific mat color in mind.  I frequently was asked if I had mats in various colors. I did not.  I stuck with black and white.  Trying to keep my inventory down I did not offer everything in both mat colors.  I got numerous requests to switch mat colors at shows.  Buying the wrong clear bag style with the adhesive on the flap can stick to a print and damage it. UGH.

    New for this year, I am providing 3 sizes a clear bag, the border less print and a mat cut out the same size as the print for a backer board and an info sheet about the shot. No T-hinge needed.  Every customer owns or is going to buy an inexpensive frame somewhere, so I am thinking they will buy a mat of their choice in color and size too.  This allows for a bigger print (IE, a 8x10" print instead of an 8x10' mat with a 5x7" opening. It lowers my cost in expense and time.

    I have observed other photographers that do this and I was always getting questioned by customers why my 8x10" mat with a 5x7" print costs the same as the other guys 8x10" print with no matting other than the backer.  

    By the end of the summer season I'll know if this was a good choice or not......

    • Randy,

      Thanks for the reply.

      I initially printed 16 x 24 and 24 x 36 on foam backing with no border. My concern is that this doesn't allow for the buyer or me to mat the print because of the thickness of the foam backing (3/8'). I just ordered some prints without foam backing with the intention of matting them for display in the bins.

      It sounds like the image is not attached to the backer board in the clear bag and the backer board is the same size as the image. My guess is the backer board is less than the foam backing I get with the print. This sounds like a good potential approach. I hope it works and I may well adopt is as well.

      • I am confused... how does the thickness of the mountboard / backerboard 3/8" have any affect of the ability to mat it?

  • My prints have are borderless and there is 1/4 inch of the print all the way around under the mat. All matting should be done to a standard frame size so unframed (matted) prints are easy to sell. I've always used mat board to back matted prints in an unframed bin. It allows you to show more matted prints in the same space.

    Now I realize you're probably talking about just selling loose prints. Though some photographers do it, I don't advise it. Selling ready to frame will help you make a lot more sales because people can't put unmatted prints behind glass without the print sticking to the glass and getting ruined, which means you'll be busy replacing damaged prints a few months later.

    Here's an article I wrote on how much inventory when starting out:

    Larry Berman

    • Larry, 

      Thanks for you the reply. I appreciate it.

      It sounds like what you are saying is print the image with a 1/4" border at a standard size (including the mat without the foam backing. When it arrives, use a backing and a mat at a standard size to allow the buyer to frame it themselves.

      I'll read your article about inventory as well.

      Thanks again,


This reply was deleted.