By Tom Hubbard for the Portland Metro Photographic News (11/09/2009)
For exhibiting photographers, one of the most time consuming, costly and frustrating experiences is packing valuable pictures for shipping. I consider this on-going and thankless event a total waste of my time. Yet, it can’t be avoided.
Pictured above are the tools of my picture packaging trade.
• Bubble wrap
• Various types of tape
• The compulsory first-aid items
I’ve been preparing pictures for shipping for decades. Even with my experience, I can expect to spend about 15 to 20 minutes wrapping each framed picture. Multiply that by an exhibit containing 20 images and I’ve lost 5 hours or more of my day. And, I still have to box up all the wrapped images to FedEx or UPS specs.
The result looks something like the picture above – a framed picture enclosed in bubble wrap and secured with “the tape of the day”. It works, but in the process, I have cut the bubble wrap to size, “popped” several bubbles and probably nicked my fingers on the tape dispenser or knife.
To make matters worse, I have to carefully unpack each picture to re-pack them at the conclusion of the exhibit. Forget about the tape, it’s trash. New tape will have to be applied when repacking the picture. As a result, I take extra bubble wrap and tape to each exhibit to replace any damaged shipping material.
Can you tell that I dread this chore?
A company called Frame Destination, based in Dallas, Texas sent me samples of their newest product GalleryPouch Gold. The decision to send PMPN these samples was not arbitrary. A PMPN Guest Commentator and PMPN Photo Contest judge, Andrew Darlow, was one of the developers of this product. Andrew is aware of the vibrant fine art photography community in the Pacific Northwest and was eager to give PMPN a first-look at this 21st century packaging solution.
GalleryPouch is a simple, but impressive, solution for packing fine art prints. After using the GalleryPouch, the first question that comes to mind is, “Why didn’t someone think of this before?”
GalleryPouches come in two flavors – with a flap or with a Velcro strip. They are heavy-duty, see-through plastic “envelopes” made of a special 3/16 inch bubble wrap material that is permanently sealed on three sides. The open end of the pouch is secured with a flap or a reusable Velcro strip. PMPN tested the Velcro strip version (shown above).
I first noticed the label in the corner of each GalleryPouch. In large block letters is the size of the pouch – making it easy to find the right size bag from a collection of multiple bags -- with room remaining to personalize the pouch with the name of the picture enclosed.
Close up of the unique bubble wrap envelope with pre-positioned Velcro strip
The bubble wrap material is special because it’s SMOOTH on both sides. There are NO exposed bubbles. Popping bubbles is nearly impossible. I intentionally tried to pop some of the bubbles. This included the traditional “between the fingers” popping technique every child relishes as well as standing on the envelope. It wasn’t until I used a sharp object that I could destroy a bubble. Being smooth on both sides means the picture EASILY slips into the wrap without catching on a bubble OR, worse yet, popping a bubble.
My picture slipped into the end of the pouch. (Taking all of 2 seconds.) GalleryPouches come in a variety of standard sizes or you can request custom sizes to fit your specific frame dimensions. Nice.
GalleryPouch closed and sealed with two-part Velcro strip
When the picture is slipped into the pouch for the first time, the protective strip from the Velcro is removed and the flap is bent to contact the pouch surface for a permanent seal. From this point on, the two-part Velcro strip only needs to be brought in contact with each other to seal the picture. Another 2 seconds.
Walla -- my masterpiece is packaged, sealed and ready for boxing. The entire process took less than 5 seconds. And the pouch can be re-used indefinitely. Imagine, a one-time packaging investment to protect an image for its entire exhibition life. No more rolls of bubble wrap. No more tape. No more scissors or knives. No more frustration and time wasted. Because the pouch is clear, I can see the image without taking it out of its protective bubble.
Because of their construction and perfectly flat design, I can store all my GalleryPouches in one of the final shipping boxes. That’s quite a space savings and headache eliminator.
For a few pennies more, protective corners can be ordered to prevent a sharp-edged frame from piercing the bag. (Add 5 more second to attach the corner.) If you normally place cardboard on either side of your shipped pictures, there’s room for that too.
Now when it’s time to strike an exhibit, I can pull out all my pouches, place them below each hung picture, take the picture off the wall and slip them directly into their protective shipping pouch. An entire exhibit “struck” and ready for boxing in 10 minutes or less.
The GalleryPouch I used was 20” x 24”. It can be ordered with the flap/Velcro on either the vertical or horizontal edge. You specify the opening when you order. Pouches can be ordered in more than 100 standard sizes or custom sizes up to 50 inches by 156 inches.
The same pouch can be ordered in a “tube” version for rolled prints, posters, etc. The pouches in their smaller standard sizes also provide excellent protection for your camera gear. Camera bodies, lenses and sensitive accessories can be afforded extra protection from bumps, dust and moisture when placed inside a GalleryPouch.
Because the bubbles are nearly impossible to break, I found that the GalleryPouch also make an ideal knelling cushion and work surface when shooting on location.
For it’s primary purpose of economically protecting photographic artwork and simplifying the packaging process, I know of nothing better. Frame Destination gets high praise from PMPN for developing a creative, versatile and cost-effective solution to an on-going problem as well as giving photographers a simple product that saves hours of time and frustration – the GalleryPouch.
Prices for the GalleryPouch are size dependent and begin at $5.37. It’s worth mentioning that each re-usable GalleryPouch is a long-term investment. These are not one-time, throwaway shipping envelopes.
This post was originally published on pmpn.com and has been reproduced in its entirety.