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Photo Paper Reviews
The papers I love to print with!
By David Fleet
I'd like to share some brief photo paper reviews, following on from my other guide to choosing a printer. In the age of digital photography it's easy to forget that, like all artists, photographers are working with physical materials.
The choice of those materials has a massive impact on the work we create. In fact, paper is integral to the character and quality of our work. So, as a professional landscape photographer, 'good enough' prints are not good enough, I need my prints to be exceptional!
How To Choose Photo Paper
These days we're blessed (or burdened!) with an almost overwhelming choice of inkjet papers. There's textured matte surfaces, glossy smooth papers and everything in between!
As a starting point, stick with your printer manufacturer's own brand papers, as they are designed to work well together. This way you can begin to experiment with different textures and surfaces, without risking any disasters!
But once you've sussed out a few paper types that you like, the fun really starts. You can now move on to some specialist third party paper manufacturers.
Epson and Canon are the major players in the photo printing world, and fortunately both manufacturers are really good at producing their own papers.
I have an Epson printer and often use their papers for both everyday printing and exhibition pieces. For everyday prints I recommend making use of their luster and semi-gloss papers. For exhibition prints, or any you intend to sell, try their 'Traditional' ('Exhibition Fiber' in the USA) papers.
Third Party Manufacturer Papers
Finding papers that you like is all about experimenting. There are a number of manufacturers who specialize in producing really stunning quality paper that will truly do justice to your best images.
Having tried some of your printer manufacturer's own papers, try some of these third party options. I recommend having a look at papers from : Ilford, Harman, Canson and Hahnemuhle (not a misspelling!).
There are no fixed rules about papers. You are as free to choose the material to work on as if you were sketching or painting. Personally, I really love the way baryta fibre based papers, like Harman Gloss and Canson Baryta Photographique , render very deep blacks and the full gamut of colours. Although these papers have very delicate surfaces, so when prints are to be handled a lot I tend to go for Epson Premium Semi-Gloss or Luster papers, which are rather more durable.
Top Tip: Lots of paper manufacturers offer sample packs, which include a selection of their different papers. I definitely suggest buying some of these and playing with the results. You'll end up with a list of papers that you know work well with certain images. I have about 10 papers that I use a lot at the moment. I've listed them below:
Brief Photo Paper Reviews of My Current Selection
Professional quality everyday papers:
- Epson Premium Semi-Gloss 250 – Similar the baryta papers, in its surface and rendering of colours, but more durable and consistent. Easy to work with.
- Epson Premium Luster 260 - Very nice surface, more textured than semi-gloss.
- Ilford Smooth Gloss – High gloss finish, very sharp and crisp. Good paper thickness so it feels nice and substantial. Reasonably priced.
Baryta fibre based papers:
- Canson Baryta Photographique 310 – Very sharp paper, slightly more durable surface than Harman (below).
- Harman by Hahnemuhle Gloss Baryta - Slightly glossier than Canson Baryta but not quite as sharp. Whiter than Canson Baryta, warmtone is creamier.
- Harman by Hahnemuhle Warmtone - As above but with a warmer/creamier tone.
Fine Art Matte Papers
- Canson Rag Photographique 310 - A beautifully smooth matte paper surface. Pretty sharp considering it's matte. Expensive.
- Epson Hot Press Bright – Smooth matte paper, very similar to Canson Rag, but a bit whiter.
- Epson Hot Press Natural – The same as above, but the Natural finish is warmer/creamier.
- Hahnemuhle German Etching – A textured surface that adds a bit of bite to images. Images appear sharper than on smooth surface matte papers.
Have Your Say and Share Your Photos
You can share your own photo paper reviews with other Photography Art cafe readers here: