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How to Create A Beautiful Family Photo Gallery Wall

Nothing cozies up a home like wall full of family photos—especially those arranged as a gallery.

I have two such family photo galleries in my home: One of them sits atop my entry/stairway…

family photo gallery top of stairway

And another sits above our TV in the family room.

family photo gallery

These photo galleries add so much warmth and personal charm to these areas and visitors enjoy looking at them as well.

I get compliments all the time about them and some have even asked me if I’m a professional photographer!

I’m so embarrassed by this question because the truth is, I almost flunked out of photography class, not once, but twice-once in high school and again in graduate school!!

But despite my shortcomings as a photographer, I learned that I could still create a great looking gallery wall and you can, too!

In just 5 simple steps, which I outline below, anyone can create a beautiful gallery wall.

Believe me, if a former photography flunky like me can create one, anyone can!

5 Steps To Creating A Gallery Wall

1. Get Inspired

Although my gallery walls didn’t look that great when I first started, it wasn’t hard once I learned to follow a few simple steps.

But here’s a look at how bad I was at this before you think I’m being overly critical…

My first messy gallery wall

As you can see, gallery walls were not my “thing” at all.

But look at what this gallery wall looks like now…

family wall gallery
My second much improved gallery wall

See how this one draws your eyes in and gives you space to focus in on the photos rather than all the clutter around it?

I got the inspiration for this streamlined gallery design from Emily Clark, a design blogger.

Gallery wall by Emily Clark

I would not have known what was possible until I saw hers.

This is why you should get as much inspiration from other gallery designs before you even get started on yours. Seeing what others have done will provide you with a template for what you can do, too.

This is so much easier than coming up with a gallery design on your own.

Pinterest is a good place to find images or you can Google them. Collect as many inspirational images as you can and try to see if there’s a pattern emerging of what you like and what you don’t.

2. Tell A Story

Have you ever heard this saying?

A picture is worth a thousand words…

A good family photo gallery is, in this way, a good story but in visual form—may that be a story of your family’s travels, or various significant events in your lives.

This is another key aspect to getting a gallery wall that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

For instance, I wanted the gallery wall in my family room to show how much fun my boys have had growing up over the years.

From pictures of them skipping waves, trail walking, and hunting for hermit crabs or going fruit picking…you won’t find many photos here where they’re standing there posing for the camera.

Choosing photos that all hi-light one theme or one story will make your gallery feel like a cohesive art piece-not just a mish mash of individual photos (refer back to my first attempt as a clear example of this).

Once you have a theme or story line you’re telling, figuring out which arrangement would best match the type of story you want to tell will become a cinch.

3. Create Balance

There are lots and lots of gallery arrangements you can choose from but choosing one that will fit in with the particular space you have in mind will be the key to creating a stand out gallery wall.

Take this spiral gallery arrangement, for instance.

Image from Pottery Barn

Just like the arrangement shown above, I started with one 8×10 sized photo where my boys are standing in front of a breathtaking beach scene and chose other smaller beach photos to hi-light that.

family photo gallery
My stairway gallery close up.

I chose this spiraling pattern to make the best use of the sharp corner angle of this adjacent wall.

If I had a straight narrow hallway like the example below, I’d have gone with something more symmetrical:

Image from Pinterest

But I chose to an arrangement that worked with the space I had and not try to make it work in spite of it.

In contrast, I went with a more linear arrangement for my family room gallery since there to deal with another set of challenges.

For one thing, the left side of this wall is almost a a foot wider than the left. This is why if you’ll look at the photo below I have 4 frames across the left and 3 on the right.

To minimize this contrast I chose to go with bigger 8×10 sized frames rather than with a cluster of smaller frames like this:

Image from Pottery Barn

Also, because of the square cut out in the middle of this space from my kitchen, an arrangement like this one would have made this space look too busy:

Image from Pottery Barn

Choosing to use black and white photos instead of color and using white frames, which matched the walls, also helped to balance out this space even more.

So depending on what type of wall space you’re working with, choose a gallery arrangement that will help you blend in the photos with the space.

For lots more ideas on how to arrange your gallery check out my Pinterest Board: Gallery Wall.

4. Edit Your Photos

Although most people keep the photos as is or just get them enlarged to fit the frames, there’s one simple editing trick that I like to use to make my gallery photos stand out.

You can do this too, as long as the photo editing software you have on your computer comes with a cropping tool.

I don’t know about you, but many of the photos I take show too much background and less detail (Almost failed photography, remember?).

But this flaw can be easily corrected once you learn how to crop and constrain your photos using your photo editor.

Take a look at this typical photo I recently took of my youngest at the park.

Photo without any cropping

Now take a look at this same photo AFTER I constrain the image to focus exclusively on him and less on the background-as pretty as it is.

Photo after cropping.

Notice how he’s become the focal point and not the two trees in the background?

This is THE #1 “secret” to making your photos look “professional” in your photo gallery.

Here’s a great article explaining how this works.

Aren’t you glad that we can edit these photos so easily now?

5. Do a Mock Up

Once you decide which gallery arrangement will work for you, you should also mock it up before you even strike your first nail into the wall.

I can’t stress enough how important this last step of the process is, even though many “experts” will tell you it’s all about getting the spacing right.

Some people like to do a mock up and play around with the photos on the floor next to the wall where they’ll be hanging them up. I personally find it easier to just cut out frame templates and tape them directly on to the wall for size like this blogger did:

Image from Driven By Decor

You can use Kraft paper cut to size, or use the cardboard insert that comes with the frames. If you do use these, just remember to add in whatever amount to accommodate for the actual frame size.

As for how far apart you should hang these frames, the standard rule of thumb is to space them 2-3” apart. I just find it easier to eye ball it most of the time—especially when you’re putting up different size frames like I did for my stairway landing.

Also, once you settle on the arrangement you like, mark out onto your templates where the nail would go.

Then once you’re satisfied, hammer in your nails using the template as a guide.

Putting It All Together

As you can see, putting a gallery wall together is really a matter of following a few simple steps. Once you can do that, anyone, even those who aren’t that good at taking photos like I am, can turn a bland space into one that’s worth looking at.

So if you’re keeping all those lovely family photos you’ve taken stored away in those boxes, there’s no better time than now to put them on display in your very own gallery wall.

Believe me, you and everyone else will appreciate them so much more when you do!

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