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Thread: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

  1. #1
    Didace's Avatar
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    Didace

    Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    I consider myself a novice at moving beyond taking "just" snapshots, so I'm still looking for a lot of answers on what to do to move forward. Right now I'm working on producing quality (at least quality for me) prints. I tried searching the forum and didn't really find what I was looking for, and searching the internet returns what is mostly advertising puffery. So I'm turning here for help.

    Most photo processors seem to offer four different types of finishes - glossy, lustre, matte, and metallic (have I missed any?). I know they all have their uses depending on how you want to photo to look, but can't really figure out if there are any inherent significant drawbacks or upsides for each. So I have some questions:

    Are there any significant pros or cons for each finish as far as print quality for different types of photos - landscapes, portraits, black and white, etc.?

    Would your choice of paper differ if the photo was going to be framed behind glass?

    How does the metallic finish differ from glossy?

    Any other things to consider when choosing paper?

    Thank you for anything you can give me.

  2. #2
    Digital's Avatar
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    Bruce

    Re: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    Quote Originally Posted by Didace View Post
    I consider myself a novice at moving beyond taking "just" snapshots, so I'm still looking for a lot of answers on what to do to move forward. Right now I'm working on producing quality (at least quality for me) prints. I tried searching the forum and didn't really find what I was looking for, and searching the internet returns what is mostly advertising puffery. So I'm turning here for help.

    Most photo processors seem to offer four different types of finishes - glossy, lustre, matte, and metallic (have I missed any?). I know they all have their uses depending on how you want to photo to look, but can't really figure out if there are any inherent significant drawbacks or upsides for each. So I have some questions:

    Are there any significant pros or cons for each finish as far as print quality for different types of photos - landscapes, portraits, black and white, etc.?

    Would your choice of paper differ if the photo was going to be framed behind glass?

    How does the metallic finish differ from glossy?

    Any other things to consider when choosing paper?

    Thank you for anything you can give me.
    It is my impression that lustre paper is good for framing. Since mostly what I have been shooting is informal portraits this is the paper I have my lab use.
    I am sure there are more knowledgeable people on this subject than myself.

    Bruce

  3. #3
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Manfred Mueller

    Re: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    A glossy paper is going to give you the sharpest image and a matt paper is going result in a softer image, with a lustre paper ending up somewhere in the middle. I can't comment on metallic; I've never used that particular finish.

    When it comes to framing, there are several different approaches as well; normal glass or anti-reflective glass. Generally one uses a mat when mounting a print with normal glass; and I have generally tended to use glossy paper, but have used lustre as well. The actual print should not touch the glass.

    If you use an anti-glare glass, the picture has to mounted right against the glass, otherwise you will loose detail in the image and with those I always use a glossy paper in order to counteract the softening effect of the anti-reflective glass.

  4. #4

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    Allan Short

    Re: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    Didace: Printing can be a hold new different game, how it is about the feeling or mood that you can go create from your image. That is not to say that printing does it, it only adds to the mood that the photographer has created of their image. Say your have a image that is bright and cheerful, you would want to put it on a stock that reproduced those colours and feeling not one that dulled them down.
    Not knowing what you print with at this time, I would suggest that you find two images, one bright and colourful, the other more dramatic like something with some dark clouds, and not a lot of bright colours. Now get some manufacturers sample packs with at least 2 sheets of different type of stock. Now print each of the images on the same stock and see the difference, you will also find that each will appear different on the same type of stock but from different suppliers. You will find that you like the look from one suppliers say Epson's Luster but like Hahnemuhle for its' Matte FineArt and in that you may one like one of their Matte's only the Photo Rag 308gm smooth.
    The only thing you can do is to get sample packs from different suppliers, use a couple of images you like, start running test on how they look.
    Welcome to the world of printing.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  5. #5
    DanK's Avatar
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    Re: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    Didace,

    My default papers for framing are luster (Moab Lasal Exhibition) or satin (Red River Ultrapro Satin). Glossy does provide a bit more detail because it lacks the pebbled surface of luster and satin papers, but I personally don't care for the appearance. I also use a matte paper (Red River Polar Matte) for cards.

    However, it is really just a matter of taste. I strongly recommend that you try a bunch yourself to see what you like. Both Moab and Red River sell sampler packs with two sheets of each of perhaps 10 or 12 different papers, and they provide ICC profiles online for them. I agree with Allan--play with more than one type of image because what you like for one type of image may not be best for another. I found it a lot of fun to play at my leisure with different papers, and that's how I ended up with the choices I now use most of the time.

    Dan

  6. #6

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    Re: Photo Paper Finishes - Pros and Cons?

    A while back, I also wanted to move beyond snapshots. Someone recommended the Red River papers, so I bought their sampler box of paper. Also bought a sampler box of note cards. The price is right, and shipping was free, plus the name of each paper is printed on the back so you can remember which ones you like best.

    I used a "test photo" on one half, and a picture of a flower I had taken on the other half. Printed the same two photos on every piece of paper in the sampler. Then compared them. I quickly decided which were my favorites, and have been using RRP ever since when I want to do a "good" print. (In the meantime I use Staples 4x6 glossy or satin for my first test, and Staples 2-sided matte 8 1/2 x 11 photo paper to see how they look at 8x10. With their rebates, the 50-page packs cost only $1-2 each.)

    I downloaded the paper profiles from RRP's website, and use them when I am printing on their papers.

    My favorite is the Arctic Polar Luster, whose surface gives good depth to the picture while not being glossy. I also like the Polar Pearl Metallic for some kinds of pictures. It works great for some of my macro flower images, although not so good for others.
    As OP have said, a lot of it is a matter of taste.

    Susan

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