If you find yourself contemplating the irony of taking a LOT of photos, but not having too many in actual physical hold-in-your-hands prints, you can clear out your digital backlog pretty much for free by taking advantage of coupon codes for free 4X6's that photo services offer very frequently. I mean really frequently. As in, I've received 105 4X6 prints from Walgreens alone this month! You can find freebie codes online (try google searching them), from other bloggers (I like the Freebie Junkie, most of her posts actually work), and by creating an account with a couple photo services like Walgreens, Target, or CVS, and letting them email you special offers. Today Walgreens emailed me codes for 15 free prints (free4x6) AND a free desktop calendar (freeforu) (only good for today, Nov, 5th).
Unfortunately, the quality of some of these services is less than stellar. I've printed better-quality photos from my photo printer on photo paper, but that is quite costly. Finding and using freebie codes is a good way to test out a particular service before you actually spend money there. It seems like some companies try to auto-enhance your photos for you, which is not a good thing if you digitally edit your photos yourself. If your colors are already bright and pretty in your digital file, the generically-applied "auto-enhance" treatment makes them look almost neon, and sometimes downright garish. Photos you've edited to be sepia or black & white, in my opinion, come out the best.
You may also want to manually crop your images to the size you'll be ordering (such as to 4X6) because if their computer does it, you get some random results (heads partially chopped off, etc.) depending on where they auto-center the image. Walgreens offers a "digital" size that's slightly smaller than 4X6 where it fits the whole image to the space, instead of cropping some away, but most just center and chop. Unfortunately, it auto-recognizes which files it things are from a digital camera and offers to do this just for those. ALL of my photos come from a digital camera, but it only has recognized a few.
Be wary of the services that let you pull directly from Facebook. Yes, that's super quick and convenient, but the images have been compressed in FB, and you'll get some grainy, fuzzy, inferior prints (some will work, but most will be 'blah' at best). If you've lost some of your photos on your hard drive that you have on Facebook, you can select "download" from FB when you view the image, and then if using windows, there will be a feature to edit in Picasa (a free program I use for most of my quick & easy edits) where you can save in higher quality to your computer.
The bottom line: you'll have to experiment A LOT with settings -on your end and by learning the idiosyncrasies of each service before you can get reliably good prints, which is why it's great to get them for free--less disappointing when they don't turn out like your perfectly-edited digital file.
So your stock of freebie photos is growing, now what? I sorted mine into the good, the ok, and the trash pile. With the ok photo's, I've chopped these up to fill all the little photo frames we've accumulated: oddball sized frames we've filled with family photos for our 3 year old's room, even a couple Spongebob Burger King kiddie meal refrigerator-magnet photo frames. You get the idea--Frames you wouldn't waste your best photo prints on. Collages or other crafting uses for these prints would be another good way to put these "ok" quality prints to use--just check out Pinterest for more ideas than you can hope to accomplish!
I just made this little project with some of my freebie 4X6 prints that came out quite nicely (all sepia). I have quite a collection of nature photographs I've taken at the various Columbus, OH Metro Parks this year--mostly macro shots of insects, flowers, seeds, mushrooms, moss, or anything else of textural interest. My husband and I picked out 15 of our favorite, and I used them to create this wall hanging.
Supplies for my model: 36" square dowel rod, painted with acrylic, I used "metallic espresso," a number of photos which appear aesthetically pleasing together, the same number of 3X3 sticker-backed card stock squares in neutrals (scrapbooking supply), three 36" lengths of 2"-wide ribbon, three flat-headed thumb tacks, ruler, 2 brad nails, hammer, level, painter's tape.
I spent a considerable amount of time deciding what photo would go where--being mindful of many aspects: orientation (vertical or landscape), busy-ness or pattern (some have many details throughout the whole photo, some were more simple), subject (I used all nature prints, but of these some were insects, butterflies, flowers, etc.), and coloration (some of my freebie 4X6s had printed with more yellow hue to the sepia than others), and anything else that affects how the eye perceives your photos as they lie next to each other. Keep in mind where your eye will see the installation first (depends on where & how high you plan to hang it) and place your very best or favorites there. This is more difficult than it seems: not only must you be aware of how a particular photo looks, but how it looks above/below/beside another, AND how the whole group looks!
When you finally figure the above out, I recommend marking their position on the back. I used a simple coordinate system (e.g. 2,5 for row 2, 5th photo) so you don't have to try to remember your set-up once you stumble on arrangement perfection.
I hand-folded the scrapbooking cardstock stickers into mounts which just showed at the top of the photos, but you could omit this, or mat them all, or whatever you like.
I evenly spaced the ribbon strands, tacked to the back of the dowel with a flat-head thumb tack, let the ribbon wrap around to the front of the dowel, and secured the photos with painter's tape to the ribbon, also evenly spaced.
You could do a horizontal ribbon & clothesline version, whatever you like!