How To Display Matted Prints
As a Wisconsin-based landscape photographer selling prints at art fairs, I knew early on that I would need some type of container in which to display various sizes of prints. Research indicated there are many ways to accomplish this task.
Some photographers placed their prints in boxes (ranging from simple wooden boxes to fashionable decorative units) on a table. Others use bins of some type, be it canvas flip bins, Pro Panel bins, or print bins on wheels. Some creatively developed their own. I liked the placement flexibility free-standing units provided over the table arrangement. That decision helped narrow my initial selection.
Initial Investment - Canvas Flip Bins
With the 2012 art fair season my inaugural season, I wanted something that was easily transportable, lightweight, and held the prints securely. Not being very handy with tools, I opted out of any creative do-it-yourself project and narrowed my focus to those bins available for purchase. Having placed much of my start-up budget into my Flourish Trimline tent, I went economical with the canvas flip bins, knowing I could always replace them down the road if needed.
The canvas print flip bins were in my tent for most of two full seasons. They definitely were easy to transport.
By my second season, I was using five in my booth, which then grew to six. Three were approximately 24″ wide (outside dimension), the canvas sling being 18″ wide. Three were approximately 32″ wide, with the canvas sling 26″ wide. Each was dedicated to a specific print orientation and size and, ranging from 11×14 to 20×24. (I no longer carried 8×10’s).
Always trying to make my booth more inviting with a better customer experience, I noticed a couple of issues that negated this goal. Neither issue is a direct fault of the print bin.
Three Issues - No Fault of the Print Bin
Most shows I do are on grass, often not quite level. (A couple of locations can have a difference of 3″ in ground elevation from front to back). This uneven ground forced placement of the bins slightly different than what I considered optimal. If the legs weren’t firmly seated on the ground, the bin would easily move as a customer flipped through the prints. An annoyance I wanted to avoid, if I could.
The second issue was one of space. Because of their design, the bins stuck out into the center area of the booth more than I desired. This was particularly noticeable on uneven ground.
Also, longer prints extended beyond the back of the bin. To avoid hitting the wall, the print bin was moved away from the wall. Combine this with the placement issue (from the slightly uneven ground) and suddenly the 10 foot wide tent was quite narrow. As a result, only a few people would enter the booth at any one time, and the ones in the far back tended to be blocked by those viewing the prints in the forward bins.
A third issue appeared with increased inventory. Beyond a certain number, the prints exceeded the “floor capacity” of the bin and “climb” up the front canvas. It was then more difficult to easily flip through the prints. Reducing the number of prints I displayed remedied this issue.
Pro Panel Adjustable Bin Conversion
Late my second year (2013), I made a business decision to change out the canvas bins for Pro Panel flip bins. I purchased four 30″ wide and one 38.5″ wide bins. Because I was displaying a range of print sizes, I opted for the adjustable sling version. Adjusting the sling effectively raised the floor of the sling, thus presenting the prints higher to the customer.
The 38 inch wide unit displayed 11x14 prints. After about two seasons, I dropped the 11x14s completely.
Later Upgrade - Custom Depth
Just prior to the 2016 season, Pro Panel was kind enough to make me four custom depth bins, each dedicated to the specific print size. (Yes, it was a rather substantial upgrade). These are much easier to pack and transport and most importantly, now place the prints very appropriately for viewing. This also provides a much more uniform look throughout the booth.
Pro Panel print bins solved a couple of issues immediately.
The first issue was bin support. Because these are rigid rectangular “boxes”, uneven ground doesn’t affect their stability. If needed, I carry along a few blocks of wood (painted black) to elevate the appropriate leg. Their stability, even with the leveling block of wood under the leg, is not compromised.
The second resolved issue was one of space. With the prints residing within the bin dimensions, I can now move these tight against walls. Gone were the angled front legs of the bins that customers always seemed to hit with their feet.
View the two images directly above. It was amazing how much space was opened up in my booth with just this change of the print bins. Both are taken the same year, with the same booth layout. The top was the last show I used the flip bins, the bottom image was the first show I used the Pro Panel bins. Notice the visual and spatial difference?