Custom Framing vs Wholesale Frames

Custom Framing vs Wholesale Frames - Mastin Labs

Selling finished wall art is the final frontier for photographers. You’ve done all the hard work, and your gorgeous photographs shouldn’t just sit on a drive or in the Cloud somewhere gathering dust. Your art should be in your clients’ homes, on their walls, to be enjoyed for years to come.

There are three ways you could go about framing your photography for clients:

  1. Off-the-shelf frames from a big box store. Not recommended because usually the materials used in these frames aren’t high-quality and can age your images. Plus, chances are your client will spot that Target frame you just sold them and realize you’ve upcharged them at least 3x.
  2. Custom framing. For a professional, premium presentation, this is ideal. Your framer will use top notch materials to construct the frame and treat your artwork with care. Downside? It’s expensive. Think minimal markup, maybe 20%. Alternatively, you could also go DIY and purchase all the tools and materials to build them yourself. But who has the time for that. You’ve got other things to do!
  3. Wholesale. We’re talking about businesses that cater directly towards photographers with quality keepsakes that can’t be found anywhere else. Our friends at Design Aglow offer two options for photographers looking to frameReady-Made Frames, designed for the photographer that wants to print & assemble the frame themselves, and Framed Prints, a new service created to print, frame, and deliver fine art ready-to-hang photography, hassle-free.

If you want to operate a successful boutique photography business, sourcing frames from places like Michael’s or HomeGoods shouldn’t be an option. You (and your clients!) deserve better than that. So to custom frame or not? We’ve done the math, with the help of a local framer, to break down frame pricing between custom framed photography and wholesale.

Our friend will be pricing out what he would charge to make frames using the same exact same moldings in the Design Aglow Frame Shop. We had him price out three frame sizes in the Hollywood style: 8x10, 16x20 and 24x30; each framing photographs the next size down: 5x7, 11x14 and 20x24. He used the same Larson Juhl hardwood moldings and acid-free mats, and the same frame grade acrylic, backing board and hardware. We’ve compared his results with the Ready-Made Frames and Framed Print lines. With his help, we’ve laid out exactly what your costs would be from custom framing and pro lab printing, to wholesale framing prices.

*excludes shipping, costs depend on your location

Keep in mind that between custom framing and the Ready-Made Frames, you’re getting the same exact frame. Everything from the frame mouldings to paper used is exactly the same. Printing costs are for fine art paper at a large pro lab. Framed Prints requires no additional math as the print cost has already been factored into the wholesale price. As you can see from the math above, a custom-made 8x10 frame is more than 7x the price of a Ready-Made frame. That isn’t including the cost of your print. Compared to Framed Prints, custom framing is 3x the cost.

By Domus Aurea Photography

No matter how you do the math, custom framing ends up being significantly more expensive than wholesale framing. Plus, keep in mind that if you live in a state with sales tax, you will have to add that on to your custom frame investment.

Now let’s move onto your studio markup. Most photographers mark up wholesale frames 3-4 times to make a sustainable profit. Let’s take a look at how that converts to your bottom line:



Remember that these are profits on single frames only. Consider framing wall galleries and gift prints and then multiply that by every client you serve. How much do you think framing can add to your bottom line?

Plus, it's now easier than ever to have your work printed, framed and delivered 100% ready-to-hang, all in one spot. We love Design Aglow’s Framed Prints. It is the platform to use if you’re looking to add your very own frame line to your studio while streamlining your workload. Effortlessly framed fine art photography is now right at your fingertips.

We know all that math might have overwhelmed you, but we promise that offering framed photography to your clients isn’t a complicated thing. Not only will your clients appreciate the full service, but you can delight in the fact that photography proudly hangs in their homes.

** Special thanks to Anna Harris, Joseph West, Julie Rollins, Tessa J for use of their lovely images in our samples.