How Color Theory Can Help You With Your Framing

Color plays a pivotal role in a visual artist’s work. Having an understanding of the basics of color theory can help create a logical structure for color and help to understand how color is formed. There are three main categories in color theory: The color wheel, color harmony and the context of how colors are used. In this blog post, we will be focusing on color context.

Color context is how color behaves. Meaning, how it is represented in relation to other colors (and shapes). Looking at certain different colors can affect the way we perceive other colors. For example, the way you view the brightness of a mid gray (hue and tone) is altered when placed adjacent to other colors.


Observing the effects that colors have on each other is a starting point in better understanding the relativity of color. One of the ways understanding color can help you is when you are framing your work.

The mat you choose for your work can change the look of your image based on its relationship to the values, saturation and the warmth or coolness of different the hues. Lets look at a couple of examples of how you can use your understanding of color when framing your work.

College Series: You've gradauted, Now what?

If you went straight from high school to college, you have been in school for almost all of your life. Now it is time to graduate and you are going to have to deal with the real world real soon. Art school tries its best to prepare you for getting a job but there isn't always talk about what to do artistically when you are out on your own. In art school, you have deadlines you have to meet, teachers for advice all around, and great opportunities to participate in critiques multiple times a week. Once that structure falls away, you will need to replace it with something so that you can keep making art even if your job or lack thereof isn't giving you the motivation you need.

One thing you can do to keep yourself making work is to set up a critique group. Talk to the people you graduated with or even artists you know around town and see if they would want to meet once or twice a month to discuss new work and ideas. You could even look on social media for open groups in your area if you are new to a city. Even if you are consistently making work without need for extra motivation, critique groups are great places to share your new things and learn to articulate your ideas. If you need a push to make things, this gives you deadlines and an open place to think about new ideas without the stress of grading. These groups can also help you make connections

Once you're out of school, most likely your job will not include being around art all day. If it does, you're one of the lucky ones. Try your best to go to openings, museums, galleries, and even artist's websites often. It is important to look at art whether you are making any or not to keep yourself stimulated creatively. You also want to be in touch with the contemporary art world and know what is going on in your city as well as globally. Follow museums and galleries on social media so that you know when events and shows are happening.

Finally, you need to continue making things or writing about making things and ideas. This is the hardest of the things you need to do when you graduate. Try to make something or write out ideas once a week. Like the cliche saying goes, you've got to use it before you loose it. Keep your mind sharp and don't forget all of the skills you learned in school.

Graduating can be scary if it your first time out of school in ten years, but there are measures to take so that your post-grad life is just as creatively productive as the forced deadlines and creative environment that art school provides.

Artist Spotlight: Michael Spencer

Michael D. Spencer, is a freelance photographer based in Somerville, MA, specializing in music documentary projects and album art, editorial assignments and studio portraiture. He is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council & Somerville Arts Council's 2013 Cultural Heritage Fellowship. Michael works closely with local social advocacy and non-profit organizations to advance their grassroots efforts. He also creates exhibitions and hosts fundraisers at his studio and gallery near Somerville's Union Square. Recent projects include a documentary series titled, "Homes for Hope," produced in partnership with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance.

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How did you become interested in photography? Was it something you grew up with?

MS: As is the case in a lot of families, I had an adoring aunt who was constantly taking Polaroids -- capturing holiday gatherings, vacations, and birthdays, and to be honest, it kind of annoyed me as a kid. Little did I know then what sort of weight her images would carry a few decades later for my family. As time moves forward and generations pass on, Aunt Mary's images now provide an amazing visual documentation of the people, places and things that make up the fabric of our family's story, and we're fortunate to have them.

I didn't connect with photography myself until late in high school, and even that was casual at best. I was the kid who had five art classes senior year and became photo editor for the year book -- not because I was necessarily qualified for the role, but more so because I never left the art room. After that, it fell off as a hobby for years and then it wasn't until my mid-thirties that it resurfaced with a vengeance after a career change. Since moving to Somerville in 2006, I've had the honor of calling many talented musicians and artists friends, and it was seeing them live their passions full time that gave me the inspiration to leave a 12 year corporate career and pursue my own path as a photographer. That was 8 years ago and it's been a great ride so far.

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What first drew you to photographing people? How do you make the clients feel relaxed in front of your camera?

MS: Photographing people is difficult to do well; I enjoy that challenge. Whether I'm backstage with a band, in a boardroom with an executive, or walking backwards looking out at thousands of protesters in the street, the impetus is the same. Regardless of circumstances, as photographers we need to capture the best images possible of those people in those places at that time, and I work well under that type of pressure.

Formal photo shoots are often high stress events for people and photographers. For every seasoned lead singer or CEO that loves the camera, there are two others who would rather be doing anything else that day. For those people, it's important to provide direction and not leave them feeling awkward or unsure. I try to remove pressure and expectation from them and put it all on myself. I don't enjoy being the subject either, so I empathize.

Recently, you started a documentary series called “Home for Hope”. How did you get involved with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance (MHSA)?

MS: I had been searching for the right organization to start a long term documentary project with for a couple of years up until I was introduced to MHSA by a couple of good friends in 2016. My goal was to develop a series that dealt with a serious local issue, such as homelessness, but to approach it in a positive manner with a focus on the depth of human experience, rather than exploiting the desperation of the circumstances that we so commonly see in imagery. MHSA advocates for the transition from short term emergency based systems to longer term solutions as a means for ending homelessness. For example, the "Housing First" philosophy prioritizes moving people back into housing and providing access to appropriate supportive services, rather than leaving people to live on the street while extending minimum, short term aid. I'm drawn to organizations that take a larger picture into consideration, especially when it comes to facilitating real change in the lives of real people.

When I met with Joe Finn, President & Executive Director of MHSA and his fantastic team, we hit it off right away and decided to give it a go. The goal was to create a two-part series: a photo documentary of people in the homes provided to them through MHSA programs, and a second photo series conducted at my studio for a more formal portrait session. It's been a fantastic experience being invited into people's homes, listening to their stories, and being allowed to photograph them in their spaces. We then invited each person along with their case workers to my studio where we took the context of a physical home out of the images, and aimed to capture the individual in their essence. If I capture even a portion of the pride that exudes from my new friends as to what having a home has meant for their journeys, then I consider this project a success. I really love how these images have turned out so far, and I look forward to working with MHSA on an ongoing basis, meeting more amazing people, and helping to share their stories with the world.

The exhibition will be launched publicly at MHSA's upcoming annual meeting in Boston on May 17th at the MHSA and take a look at the excellent work they're involved in here in Massachusetts.

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What are some tips/advice you would give to someone just starting out in photography?

MS: Worry more about your craft than your equipment. You can always buy the Hasselblad when you start booking the 5-figure commercial gigs down the road. Until then, keep yourself in control of finances and equipment upgrades, and focus on developing your skills and your voice as a photographer first. It's an ultra competitive market out there, and rising to the top will have much less to do with what's in your bag than what's in your head.


Do you have any openings or special event coming up?


What do all those paper terms mean?

When looking at digital papers, they always give you these terms and facts about the paper that sound like a whole bunch of jargon. We decided to make a little glossary of these terms to help you out when looking at different brands and paper types:

Just some of our many archival paper options

Just some of our many archival paper options

Acid free symbol

Acid free symbol

Acid Free: Acid will break down the chemical compounds within paper, resulting in the paper yellowing and becoming brittle. According to the Library of Congress, the more acid present in a paper the faster the aging process happens. This is why it is important to use Acid Free paper for any Fine Art printing, matting, and framing you choose to do.

Alpha Cellulose: Alpha cellulose is a major component of wood, plant and paper pulp. It is separated from the other components of the pulp that are undesirable in fine art papers. The pure white, alpha cellulose is insoluble and is filtered from the solution and washed prior to use in the production of paper. A high percent of alpha cellulose in paper will provide a stable, permanent material. Linen and cotton contain high proportions of alpha cellulose. Alpha cellulose can be isolated from a variety of plants. Manufactures do not usually state from where the alpha cellulose is sourced.

Barium Sulfate: Is the chemical name for “baryta.” A thin layer of barium sulfate is used to coat the paper base of many inkjet and darkroom papers. This coating leaves the paper surface smoother and more even, as well as having at brightening effect (due to barium sulfate’s high whiteness value).  Barium Sulfate coated papers have a unique look and feel, which has been sought out by photographers worldwide.

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Rag, Fibre/Fibre, Paper : Are terms that today are virtually interchangeable. At one time, rag meant cotton taken exclusively from cotton rag/cloth/towel remnants. Very few cotton papers are still made from rags. The difference between true rag papers and cotton papers made from linters is that the rags have the longer cotton fibers and the weaving seems to add strength. The symbol of quality is still a paper that is made from 100% cotton rags. That is probably why people prefer to call both cotton linter and cotton rag papers “rag.”

gsm or g/m2: Grams per Square Meter. Literally how many grams a 1-meter x 1-meter sheet of paper will measure in grams. A higher gsm paper will have a heavier and usually thicker feel. Due to difference in materials and manufacturing processes not all papers with the same gsm will have the same thickness.


OBA: Optical Brightening Agents, also known as 'optical brighteners' or UV brighteners, are white or colorless compounds that are added to the printing surfaces of many inkjet papers. Their purpose is to make the papers appear whiter and brighter than they actually are. They achieve this by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the ambient lighting and re-emitting it through fluorescence, mainly in the blue portion of the visible spectrum. Consequently, they only work in lighting with a relatively high UV content, such as sunlight, fluorescent lights and halogen lamps. When not illuminated with a sufficient amount of UV light, the color of the paper will appear with its natural creamy or yellowish hue.

All UV brighteners are inherently unstable chemicals. In the process of fluorescence, the absorption of a photon triggers the emission of another photon with a longer wavelength. This transfer of energy comes at a cost: slow changes in the fluorescent chemicals. As these chemicals break down, their ability to fluoresce deteriorates until they will no longer do so. When this happens, the color of the paper will revert to its normal creamy or yellowish hue.

 Giclée: Was adopted by Jack Duganne, a printmaker working at Nash Editions. He wanted a name for the new type of prints they were producing on the Iris printer, a large-format, high-resolution industrial prepress proofing inkjet printer they had adapted for fine-art printing. He was specifically looking for a word that would not have the negative connotations of "inkjet" or "computer generated". It is based on the French word gicleur, the French technical term for an inkjet nozzle. The French verb form gicler meant to spray, spout, or squirt. Duganne settled on the noun giclée, meaning "the thing that got sprayed.”     (In other words, it’s a fancy way to say inkjet print.)

Adobe Bridge vs. Adobe Lightroom

When it comes to organizing your images digitally, there are two main programs that photographers work with: Adobe Bridge and Adobe Lightroom. Deciding which program to use is mostly a matter of preference and of the type of content you make. No matter which one you choose to use, make sure to label and organize your work with a clear system that you will remember.

Adobe Bridge:


Bridge is a great program for viewing your files and seeing all of the information for the files. In Bridge, you can sort the files by different methods as well as see your files under different displays. Another great feature of bridge is its filter settings. You can show just images taken on a single day or even images with the same aspect ratio. Bridge allows for you to mark images and files with star ratings as well as colors that can help organize and filter images as you work. If you have a Mac computer, Bridge is like having a more sophisticated Finder. It is very easy to use, which makes Bridge perfect for anyone. Because it does not have any editing software within it (other than camera raw), Bridge is simply a program for organizing your files. This program is great for photographers who shoot film or designers who need an organizational program that is visual.

Adobe Lightroom:


Lightroom is slightly more complex than Bridge. With Lightroom, you first have to import images into the program; then you can begin to organize and edit. Unlike Bridge, Lightroom has internal editing software. You can select images and make global edits on one image as well as batch editing. You can also create catalogues within Lightroom with images and files of your choice with different tags, keywords, and ratings. Images need to be exported from Lightoom in order to get onto a hard drive or to print. All of the edits and organizing will stay only on the program if you do not export. It is great for digital photographers who do a lot of separate shoots and for commercial photographers who work with batch editing and organizing. This program has more moving parts than Bridge so it takes some practice and maybe even a class to learn all of what Lightroom can offer.

These are just two of the many organizational and editing programs out there. Organization of files is important; You want to know where to be able to find individual images and files easily and conveniently. With these programs, it will make it easy for even the most scattered person to catalogue their files.

Just a reminder: backing up your files on an external hard drive (or multiple drives) is just as important as organization.

How To Properly Store Your Negatives


Keeping your negatives clean.

Make sure to keep your negatives are clean and have no fingerprints, dust, dirt, lint or any other buildup on them. Sometimes getting finger prints or dust on your negatives in unavoidable but if it does happen make sure to clean your negatives carefully before you store them. It might also be helpful to purchase archival white lint-less nylon gloves to handle you film with and a can of dust off compressed air. After you have cleaned you negatives you’ll want to protect them.

After you have cleaned your negatives you’ll want to protect them. Use only archival negative preservers. Other plastic sleeves may be made with materials that could harm your negatives. Some plastic sleeves have a glossy surface and could stick to your negative or cause ferrotyping, which is a kind of glazing which causes density variations during the printing process. Archival quality contains no PVC and are safe for long term storage.

Controlling the temperature and humidity

Since all photographic films contain gelatin as a principle ingredient it is important that negatives stored long term must be kept in low temperatures. The ideal temperature should be between 35F and 55F with a humidity level between 30 and 35 percent. If the humidity falls below 25% your negatives are at risk of becoming brittle and the emulsion cracking. If the humidity is above 60% mold or fungus could form on your negatives. High temperatures and humidity can effect processed negatives. You can also you a dehumidifier or any other ways of reducing the humidity.


Protecting your negatives from light.

Most manufactures sell paper or plastic enclosure and storage boxes designed for film formats. When deciding on what box or enclosure make sure the materials it is made from is archival meaning that it passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). The PAT determines if a storage material will cause fading or staining.

Famous Photographs from Past Winter Olympics

(This wonderful blog post was written by our intern Elena)

In lieu of the upcoming Winter Olympics this year, I thought it  would be fun to put together a list of famous photographs from the past Winter Games from the very first Winter Olympics held in France to the photos taken this year preparing for the 2018 Winter Olympics. This year the Olympics will be held on February 9th to the 25th in South Korea.

There are no pictures of his in this list but you should also check out David Burnett's website for his large format photos from past Olympics!

First Winter Olympics 1924 ( Photos via Chamonix 1924 Official Olympic Report)

First Winter Olympics 1924 ( Photos via Chamonix 1924 Official Olympic Report)

Andrea Mead Lawrence first woman gold medalist in alpine skiing training at the age of 15 in 1947 (TIME magazine-- George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Andrea Mead Lawrence first woman gold medalist in alpine skiing training at the age of 15 in 1947 (TIME magazine-- George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

1964 Olympics (The Atlantic--AP Photo )

1964 Olympics (The Atlantic--AP Photo )

Parking lot for Innsbruck Olymics 1976 (TIME magazine--Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Parking lot for Innsbruck Olymics 1976 (TIME magazine--Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Ski Jump Innsbruck 1976(TIME magazine--Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Ski Jump Innsbruck 1976(TIME magazine--Ralph Crane—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

USA beats USSR in hockey called “Miracle on Ice” 1980 (

USA beats USSR in hockey called “Miracle on Ice” 1980 (

First Jamaican Bobsled team 1988 (Canada Alive!)

First Jamaican Bobsled team 1988 (Canada Alive!)

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1998 ( Almavy/AFP/Getty Images )

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1998 ( Almavy/AFP/Getty Images )

Opening Ceremonies Vancouver 2014 Olympics (UC Magazine)

Opening Ceremonies Vancouver 2014 Olympics (UC Magazine)

Shaun White 2010 Vancuver Olympics-- US team won an unprecedented 37 medals ( Beck)

Shaun White 2010 Vancuver Olympics-- US team won an unprecedented 37 medals ( Beck)

Roberto Dellasega (Italy) Ski Jumping 2014 ( Hassenstein/Getty Images Europe)

Roberto Dellasega (Italy) Ski Jumping 2014 ( Hassenstein/Getty Images Europe)

Image Courtesy of Lou Jones (

Image Courtesy of Lou Jones (

Image Courtesy of Lou Jones (

Image Courtesy of Lou Jones (

Alpensia ski jumping center for 2018 Olympics (NBC---Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

Alpensia ski jumping center for 2018 Olympics (NBC---Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)

Photographing the Supermoon

This past week there was a triple threat moon so we got three of our staff members to shoot the moon in three different ways. On January 30th and January 31st, 2018 the moon was a super moon, a blood moon, and a blue moon all at the same time. Brandon, Bruce, and Nick all put their spins on photographing one of the most photographed night skies of the month.


Brandon Used a Sony A200 with an 18-70mm stock lens. These images were taken near the highest altitudes in Bristol County at 390ft. They were taken at 6:30pm on January 30th, 2018.

Image taken at maximum focal length

Image taken at maximum focal length

Image taken at minimum focal length

Image taken at minimum focal length



Bruce's camera of choice for this was his Canon 5D Mark IV. All of these photographs were taken at f/2.8 with a 200mm lens. He made three images varying in time and location.

This image was taken at Chickatabut in the Blue Hills at 6:05am on January 30th, 2018.

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The image below was taken at 9:46am on January 30th, 2018 in Randolph


The final image from Bruce was taken at 5:59am on January 31st, 2018 in Randolph

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Nick used an iPhone 6 to photograph the supermoon. This photograph was taken at 5:07am on January 31st, 2018 from Quincy Center.

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*Bonus Image* Paul:

Paul also took a photograph of the supermoon! It was taken in Weymouth some time in the early morning on January 31st, 2018.


Nick's Favorite Framing projects from 2017

As we start the new year I wanted to review some of my favorite framing projects from last year. If you see any framing techniques or styles that you would like to replicate with one of your own pieces, stop on down for a one-on-one framing consultation!

Vintage David Bowie Poster


Hand Painted Kenyan Rug & Pillowcase


A Mark Hamill Signed Star Wars Poster


Stephen Sheffield's Hand Sewn Collage


Andrew Seguin's Cyanotypes for Panopticon Gallery's First Exhibition


A Selection from Newport Art Museum's 'be of love and other stories'

NEW IN 2018!

We've been busy here at Panopticon adding new services to our roster. Now, we are ready to officially announce all of the new services that we now provide!

Color Film Processing

We are very excited to announce that we are now processing COLOR FILM! Our new processor can develop all formats of C-41 film from 35mm rolls to 8x10 sheet film. Not only are we developing color film, but we are also offering develop and scan as well as develop, scan, and print packages. These new services will be offered with black and white film development as well.  If you want to know more about pricing and film packages, visit our Film Services page.


Bulk Negative Scanning

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Have developed film you want a quick look at? We now offer roll, strip, slide, and individual film bulk scans. These are great for quick looks at negatives or for making small, medium quality prints. Our Fuji Frontier can scan both black and white and color film as well as positive film! Along with your bulk scans, you will receive free digital file transfer and an 8x10 contact sheet. For more information, visit our Scanning Services page.


Bulk Image Scanning

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Bulk image scanning is a fast and cost effective way to scan that shoebox of photographs you've had for years. Our scanner can handle images up to 8.5x11 inches so all of those old photographs can be digitally preserved or put onto a DVD included with your order. If you'd like to know more, visit our Scanning Services page.


Value Printing

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Last but not least, we would like to introduce our value printing services. Value prints are great as test prints to know what to print larger or for little images to give away to clients, friends, and galleries. They are also great for duplicating  or preserving old family photographs. For more information, visit our Digital Services page.

Take a look at our updated services pages on the website or stop by the office to talk in person with one of our staff members about us helping you with all of your photographic needs.

Holiday Framing

Everyone has those prized images from their past or beautiful images of their children or grandchildren. You've got to do them justice and get those memories framed. Framed images make great presents for the holiday season or any other time of year. We here at Panopticon have a huge range of custom and ready made frames for your treasured images.

When you come in to the shop, our staff will be there to work with you through all of the steps of framing an image. First we will help you pick out a frame and mat color and shape that suits your image. Then we will discuss mounting and glass options. Our job is to make sure you love whatever display we come up with. We also work within your budget to make your image look the best that it can without breaking the bank.

Digital Restorations: A gift of a Memory

The holidays are coming up, why not give a one of a kind gift? Really personal and special gifts are difficult to figure out. Imagine what it would be like to give a loved one back a fully digitally restored image. Here at Panopticon Imaging, we can take your old, damaged, or otherwise original images and make fully restored digital copies at almost any size you would like. Not only that, but we can create a beautiful custom framing job for a complete holiday package. Memories may fade, but your photos don't have to.

The process of restoring an image begins with the original. From there, we make a high resolution scan that we then bring into Photoshop and edit until the restoration is complete. Then we make an archival print (or many prints) for you and your family or friends to look at and enjoy for the years to come.

Choosing the Right digital Paper for You

Last year, we came out with a blog post about the different digital papers that you can read HERE. Now, we are going to go a little more in depth on the most popular papers that we use and what they are used for so you can decide which works best for your images.

Matte Papers:

Epson hot press natural:

Hot Press Natural is a matte paper that we use very often here at Panopticon. It is a cotton rag paper with a smooth finish. Because it does not contain added brighteners, the paper has a warmer, natural tone rather than a bright white.

This paper is good for warmer black and white or sepia toned images. Colors are slightly less vibrant and more natural which holds up over time. Hot Press Natural has a wider tonal range than some other matte papers that we have come across.





Canson Rag Photographique:

With Canson Rag Photographique there are two weights: 210gsm and 310gsm. If you are looking for a fine art exhibition print, make sure you get the 310gsm. The lower weight paper is great for test prints. This is a bright white cotton rag paper that is also archival. The smooth surface is quick drying and has a higher water resistance than other papers to protect the image from damage.

Rag Photographique holds color very well and is great for making vibrant matte prints. If your image has a lot of blues, this is the paper for you because it holds a wide range of blue tones.



Glossy papers:

Canson Platine fibre rag:

Platine is a cotton rag paper with a smooth, lustrous surface. Sometimes, the paper flakes at the edges when cut, but if you use a fresh blade, there should not be any problems. This true bright white paper does not contain any brighteners that can affect the longevity of the image. Because Platine is a luster paper, the blacks maintain much of their detail from screen to print.

Platine is great for both color and black and white images that don't call for a very glossy paper, but want some vibrancy and life.



Canson Baryta:

Baryta is very much like Platine in its level of gloss, but has more stiffness. It is another smooth cotton rag paper but it has a slightly warmer tone than Platine. This paper has great sharpness and has great density in the blacks. Baryta has a slight amount of brightener that makes it 99.1% white. It also dries very quickly and has a high water resistance to protect from damage.

Baryta is great for almost everything. It has the same finish as silver gelatin fibre paper so blacks look great and colors have a wide tonal range.