Matte and glossy paper are the go-to choices for photographers when printing images. Glossy prints shine with sharpness and quality while matte finishes showcase professionalism and eloquence. When choosing what type of print finish to use for your photos, it is important to weigh the advantages of the two.
Glossy print finishes tend to make colors in photographs appear more vibrant; they are slick and shiny. Images appear sharp and if they are ever digitized, the texture of the print will not be picked up by the scanner. Matte finishes are more muted and less flashy. When matte prints are digitized, the texture of the paper with be recorded by the printer.
One of the major drawbacks of glossy photographic prints is image glare. Because glossy finishes are so shiny, light reflections on the surface can distract from the actual image. It is often difficult to look at a glossy print from anything other than a straightforward angle. Viewing glossy images from diagonal angles is often impossible because the finish will bounce glaring light, overpowering the image. Matte prints are not as reflective as glossy images, making them viewable from all angles in most lighting conditions.
Black and White
Matte finishes make monochrome, or black and white, pictures tend to look better. Monochrome photography is based on light and dark values within the frame. Matte frames keep outside light from obstructing the composition.
Matte finishes tend to benefit enlarged prints simply because of the lack of gloss. A large glossy print is essentially going to be a gigantic light reflector picking up the glare from any light it faces, causing a major distraction. Such problems do not occur on a matte finish. Eliminating shine from a large photo makes it far more visible.
Matte prints are less susceptible to accidental damage. The stickiness of glossy prints can make fingerprints, dirt and debris clutter an image. Matte finishes are not sticky so they do not attract such artifacts. While fingerprints can be cleaned off glossy prints with a microfiber towel, the act of wiping itself can cause further damage.
Kevin Smith has been writing professionally since 2007. He has published material in "The Guilfordian" and online at CampArrowhead.org. Smith also works as a photographer, videographer, substitute teacher and sculptor. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and visual art from Guilford College.