When you print a digital photograph, you can print them either on matte or on glossy paper. But which type of photo printing is better? Simply put, glossy prints look shiny, whereas matte ones are more neutral. Both have their own pros and cons, and it is in understanding these that you can decide which one to pick.
Both matte and glossy use the same paper. The difference lies in the finish. This means different processes and different chemicals are used. Glossy is highly reflective, which means the colors look rich and vibrant. Matte, on the other hand is not as reflective and therefore creates a duller, darker look.
The eye likes to see glossy prints because they are shiny. They appear of high quality and look fancy, thanks to the vibrancy in their color. Furthermore, they look quite deep and rich. However, if seen under an intense light source, such as a high wattage bulb or even bright sunlight, this shininess can become a bit of a problem. In fact, it can blind the viewer to a degree, making it very difficult to see the image. Furthermore, glossy pictures seem to attract fingerprints and dust, which means they often don’t last as long. Lastly, black and white pictures look unnatural on glossy paper.
A matte print is not reflective, which means they can be viewed under any type of light condition. Furthermore, they don’t attract as many fingerprints or as much dust, which means they don’t get dirty as quickly. Black and white photos look fantastic on matte paper as well. However, matte pictures don’t have that fancy, high quality look to them and they lack the vibrancy as well.
Which One to Choose
Choosing between the two types of prints is all down to your personal preference and to what you want to do with the image. A rule of thumb is that black and white images should be printed on matte paper, and colored images on glossy. However, if you know lots of people will touch the image, then matte is also better. Similarly, if you want to enlarge the print and hang it up, which usually means adding a light to it as well, matte is definitely better as it won’t hurt the eyes.
At the end of the day, personal preference is what matters most. You should experience both types of paper, so that you can really find out what works for different images and different ways of showcasing the images. It is about looking at what you personally like and what you feel works best. Photo printing nowadays is very affordable, so it won’t cost you too much to have prints on both matte and glossy paper, just so you can see what does and does not work. Photography is a form of art and there are no wrongs or rights in art, only expressions of personal vision, and you need to find out whether you best express that vision with glossy or matte paper.