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Family Photo Wall

By James Caldwell | Published: June 2nd, 2010

I have been prodded by several friends to showcase my ‘Family Photo Wall’ but I don’t really like the idea of placing my personal life on display. However a good friend suggested that I write a brief instructional of how I accomplished this task because they knew that I documented the whole procedure. (Actually they were politely poking fun at my sometimes meticulous nature.) Of course they were correct and so the following is a brief instructional on my inexpensive, albeit time consuming, family photo wall.

Photowall Snapshot

Photowall Snapshot

My Impetus

I love my family and friends but I don’t really like family photos spread all around a home and for me the problem with photo albums is that I liken them to corporate art stored in vaults… no one gets to appreciate them. I wanted to showcase my life with family and friends so that I could let them all know I appreciate them and to make myself smile knowing that there are so many people and situations that I have enjoyed. So I set out to create an anamorphic, film dimensioned 2.35:1 photo wall that I could easily update that contained many photos – besides I had the wall space.

The Requirements

I wanted this process to run smoothly so I knew I had to do a little research upfront. I wanted showcase my snapshots but not the frames because with a repeating pattern of photos the frames would seem heavily weighted in the end product. I also needed them to be inexpensive because I was going to have to buy a lot of them. I choose frames from IKEA called ‘Clips’ they fit my need perfectly. These frames can be hung either vertically or horizontally which is great, they have no frame whatsoever, they are extremely light and thankfully inexpensive. I only bought the 4”x6” frames… 220 of them of which 204 are on the wall.

When I examined the frames I realized that I would have to get nails that supported each of the frames well enough so that if the glass frames were poked (by little kids and big ones), they would not easily fall off the wall. And this is where I had to do some research. To make a long story short I found a company called Under the Roof Decorating that produced a product called ‘Deco Nails’. The reason I choose this particular product was that it did a few things to make my life easier:

  1. The nails don’t make a large hole in the wall.
  2. They have a double ‘saucer’ type head in which they secure themselves to the wall and also make a more secure hanging point for the ‘Clips’ frame hanging mechanism.

I actually think that these nails are rather ingenious, although a little pricey so I worked with a woman named Linda at their main office in Calgary to bring the price down significantly for the quantity that I needed.

The Procedure

And I am sorry folks this is where I could start writing volumes but I am going to be extremely brief in this section. However the pictures at the left of the screen match up to the steps below.

  • Step 1 | Since I needed to make sure the whole picture wall would be evenly hung and accurate because of the sheer number of photos I decided to make a template in Adobe Illustrator that I could easily print out and tape together. This template contained all the markers I needed to both align the separate sheets of paper into one large sheet and also highlight each specific point where a nail was to be hammered into the wall.
  • Step 2 | Next I taped the whole sheet upon the wall and make sure it was level. By the way, this is why I went through the pain of ‘Step 1’ because afterwards the rest was very simple since everything was aligned and leveled and nothing more needed to be measured.
  • Step 3 | Another close up of the whole sheet upon the wall.
  • Step 4 | I used one of the nails to make a smallish imprint or sometimes a hole into the wall at every point in the template where a final nail was to be hammered in. I then removed the large sheet from the wall and hammered the Deco Nails in one at a time. This took awhile; having more arms would have helped. There was also a bit of wall cleanup involved.
  • Step 5 | This is a sample of the first two ‘Clips’ frames on the wall, one with a photo and one without. Notice how the nails sit flush against the wall.
  • Step 6 | At the beginning I had only a few pictures to place in the frames, but I still placed the empty photo frames on the wall.
  • Step 7 | This is how the frames look on the wall. When designing the template I spaced every frame about 3 centimeters from each other in both the x and y axis. (some of the frames contain a white piece of paper, some do not)
  • Step 8 | All the frames up but only half the pictures.
  • Step 9 | The finished ‘family and friends’ photo wall.
The Result

Thank God it is done. It took some time and good old-fashioned elbow grease but I am extremely happy with it. I have already begun to place in new photos and I am looking forward to my photo wall’s evolution. I think I have the most fun though when the younger kids see it because they quickly start scanning the wall and always let out an excited shriek when they find themselves.


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    Thoughts on “Family Photo Wall”
    ( 10 comments )
    1. Tommy Boy says:

      Cool idea! Template was a great way to keep everything level. Might try this on a smaller scale.

    2. InteriorGurl says:

      Nice job. The template looks like it took some time to figure out though. I wonder if there is an easier way to do this first step.

    3. T says:

      brilliant. this is exactly what I was looking for. my plan was a 512 photo wall with differing themes and this gives me the perfect means on achieving my goal. thanks!

    4. ian says:

      A comment from another company that designs frames for photowalls:
      Hi James, that is a very impressive photo wall & very professionally laid out. If anyone has been inspired to create their own this link maybe helpful. It has a list and discussion of 7 things to consider before putting up a photowall.
      http://www.fridgi.us/photo-wall/7-things-to-consider
      Cheers, Ian

    5. Natasha says:

      Wow, this photo wall is absolutely beautiful! I’ve been looking to do one for my gorgeous family but am struggling to work out how I would make things line up. I don’t have Adobe Illustrator but was wondering if you could tell me if there’s another way I could create the template? Want to be sure everything is lined up! Congrats again, it looks amazing.

      • Bill says:

        Nice work James! For those of us who don’t have your talent or the time to get this perfect (got to be perfect or it just looks bad right?) this company sells their patented all in one system for creating a picture wall. Bit more pricey that ikea but the frames are handmade solid wood in different finishes, acid free mats are included (don’t forget the cost of the mats) all hardware, image library downloads for the frames free shipping – the list goes on and on but the best part is – on your wall in 15 minutes – no measuring, no figuring and no mistakes are Picturewall’s tag lines.
        Anyway worth a look if… like I said you don’t have James’s talent and want it done NOW! smile

    6. S. says:

      Lovely.. Perfect for my hall way.

      Want them line up a bit differently.. maybe a heart shape.
      Would that be difficult? Suggestions?

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