January 25, 2013

4 Tips On Choosing Printer Photo Papers

As a digital photographer, on occasion you might need a hardcopy of your images. Printing your work is an alternative way to share your passion with a hardcopy that you and others can hold and feel, and that deserves more attention and it’s often perceived as ‘special’.

photo paper wall 

With so many options and considerations to take into account, selecting the most suitable printing media is sometimes a confusing one. So in this post, our guest author Joseph Eitan walks you through four important tips to simplify the whole process!


1. Narrow Down The Type Of Paper

Printers use either laser or Inkjet technology to disperse the ink on the paper. In the case of Inkjet technology the ink is sprayed microscopically onto the paper and in the case of Laser technology powder is laid loose on the paper and must go through a hot fusing process in order to become permanent.

Photo paper that is designed for one technology should not be used on the other, as it will damage it. The vast majority of photographers use Inkjet as their preferred printer type, as Inkjet can print in higher DPI (Dots Per Inch) resulting in colours, especially skin tones and solid colours appearing accurately.


2. Size Of Photo Paper

Photo papers are available in predefined sizes designed to accommodate a number of printing needs. A common mistake is purchasing the wrong size resulting in further printing costs of ink and paper due to reprinting. While it is possible to cut to size a measurement which is too big, it will result in wasted time and unnecessary costs. Naturally the same base paper in its larger measurement will cost more than in its smaller measurement. If the print is too small for your needs, there is no other option but to reprint. Sizes vary from the smallest 10x15cm to the largest A3 oversized before you enter the world of large format media.

10cm x 15cm – These are the smallest photo paper sizes that most printers can safely accommodate. This measurement is aimed at standard photo albums. You may also come across it as 6”x4”.

13cm x 18cm – Slightly biggest, they too are designed to fit into standard photo albums. You may also come across it as 7”x5”.

A5 and A4 – Standard A4 sheet is precisely double the size of an A5 sheet. These measurements will be supported by all Inkjet photo printers and designed for photo frames (desk or hanged on the wall).

A3 and Oversized A3 - Standard A3 sheet is precisely double the size of an A4 sheet. It is reserved for the professional world, as it requires an A3 printer.

3. Photo Paper Quality

Quality in photo papers refers to two aspects. The first is the durability of the print before it fades or in low quality case becomes yellowish. The second is the tones and colour representation from what your digital camera captured to the printed result.

Two means to measure the quality of the base paper that is used and the weight of the paper:

Base Paper – Photo papers contain a receiving layer designed to hold the ink without soaking the paper which results in cockling (waves on the paper caused by over inking, which happens when printing an image on normal bond paper). The type of receiving layer will influence the colour palette of the print. Budget and lower quality photo papers use cast coating, while higher quality use PE coating and Micro-porous coating. PE coating will result in higher definition due better stability and humidity resistance.

Paper Weight - Weight is measured in GSM (grams per square meter) and refers to product per unit of area or product density. The higher the weight is, the better the printed result will look in terms of actual colour representation. Bond paper, which is your normal uncoated printer paper, will normally weigh between 80 to 90 grams per square meter, while photo paper can even exceed 300 grams per square meter.


4. Photo Paper Finish

Once you have decided on the most suitable size and quality for your circumstances, you need to choose the finish. Photo papers are coated in a translucent layer designed to enhance its appearance. It is measured in level of glossiness from high to low.

photo prints on wallGlossy Finish – The most common finish, glossy finish contains the highest level of glare. While it makes viewing from a direct angle superb, viewing from an angle might prove limited. It becomes apparent when photos are hanging for display and people crowd around the photos from all sides.

Satin Finish – It includes some level of glare, but naturally less than glossy. You may come across satin under its aliases of pearl and Lustre in which levels of glare will vary.

Matt Finish – While glossy and satin contain some level of glare, matt is the only finish that is completely absent of any glare properties.

So, how are you planning to get your digital photos printed? Still in some doubt? Drop your comments, we would love to hear from you!

Joseph Eitan

About the Guest Author:

Joseph Eitan is the founder and Managing Director of the photo paper retailer - Photo Paper Direct. For further information, tips and tricks read the Photo Paper Direct blog.