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1. Fundamentals of photo finishes: Matte vs. glossy

Matte vs. glossy photos: Which is best for picture prints?

When it comes to selling your photography prints online, your goal should be to provide customers with the highest-quality prints that capture the essence of your photograph. The finish you choose for your product can significantly impact customer satisfaction. 

You might wonder whether a matte finish or glossy prints are the best option for your product. Each has unique traits and advantages. Since the purpose of your printed images will influence the finish you choose, there is no universal option. The guide below will help you choose between glossy vs. matte prints for your photographs.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Matte and glossy print finishes each offer unique advantages: glossy photo prints deliver vibrant colors and high-definition detail. In contrast, matte photo paper minimizes glare and provides a more subtle, artistic aesthetic.

  • The choice between matte and glossy depends on the photos' intended use, the viewing conditions, and personal preference.

  • Both matte and glossy photo finishes can be laminated for added protection, but it's important to note that lamination can increase the reflective qualities of glossy prints.

  • When it comes to portrait photography, many professionals prefer matte papers due to their ability to reduce glare and highlight fine details.

Fundamentals of photo finishes: Matte vs. glossy

There are two basic types of paper: matte and glossy, and the type of paper chosen affects the quality of printed images. Glossy paper is smooth and has a shiny covering. In contrast, paper with a matte texture is rough and has no reflecting coating. Both have their uses when making photos or printing photo books, but those uses vary in different situations.

Characteristics and benefits of a matte finish

02_Characteristics and benefits of a matte finish

The matte photo finish is the best choice if you want prints with a softer, warmer tone. It gives your photographs a soft texture, making them seem less crisp and more grounded. Your prints will seem elegant and vintage thanks to the matte paper's non-glare texture, which decreases reflections and glare.

Did you know that matte finishes aren't exclusively for photos, though? Various other printing tasks can also be accomplished with it. It can be used, for instance, to print business cards, greeting cards, flyers, and brochures. These printed documents stand out from the crowd because of the matte finish, which gives them a polished and professional appearance.

The matte finish's superior forgiving nature over glossy paper is another fantastic advantage. The matte coating texture can help to cover up any flaws in a photograph, such as scratches or dust smudges. This is so that any imperfections in the image will be less likely to stand out because glossy paper reflects light more readily than matte paper.

For framing your prints, matte paper generally works best. Because of the non-glare matte coating, you won't have to be concerned with glass reflections, which can lessen the appeal of your image. The matte surface additionally offers a classic appearance that goes with any type of decor.

Furthermore, matte paper is easier to handle and is less prone to smudge or accumulate fingerprints, making it perfect for large images that may be damaged during handling. Because of this, professional photographers who want to guarantee that their prints stay in mint condition frequently choose it.

Characteristics and benefits of a glossy finish

03_Characteristics and benefits of a glossy finish

A glossy photo finish may give your images a more polished and vibrant appearance. This is because the shiny surface of the paper provides your images with a premium appearance that is ideal for promoting your work or capturing a particular moment.

Additionally, glossy photo finishes can enhance the depth and perspective of your photographs. This is so that your photographs will appear more three-dimensional, thanks to the reflecting coating on the paper's surface. Photos with a lot of contrast or sharp edges will show this effect the most prominently.

However, a gloss finish isn't exclusively for photo printing. Printed items like calendars, posters, and photo books can also be made with it. Glossy finishes can be a terrific method to make your printed products stand out from the competition and draw in potential customers or clients.

Glossy finishes also have the benefit of enhancing the color and lifelikeness of your photographs. This is due to the glossy paper's ability to reflect light, making your photographs seem more vibrant and lively. Photos with vivid colors or detailed details will show this effect the most.

The glossy coating can be a terrific way to keep your images safe for years. This is so that your images will be shielded from fading or damage brought on by exposure to light or moisture, thanks to the paper's reflective layer. For printing images that you wish to keep for a long time, a glossy photo finish is frequently advised.

A comparison of matte and glossy photos

The decision between glossy or matte photos relies on your personal preferences and the intended use of your prints. Let's look more closely at the key characteristics that set matte and glossy finishes apart:

  • Color: Glossy photo prints have high saturation levels, giving colors a vibrant brightness. Because matte images have less color saturation, they have a softer, more delicate appearance.

  • Sharpness: Glossy photographs have a stronger contrast and can better bring out the details in an image than matte photographs.

  • Glare: Matte photographs lessen glare and reflections, making prints more easily viewed from various perspectives. Glossy pictures, on the other hand, reflect light and are more prone to glare and reflections, making it challenging to see the picture well.

  • Durability: Glossy pictures hold up well over time and resist fading and smudging, making them a dependable option for long-term storage. For prints that are handled regularly, matte photographs are the best option because they are less likely to scratch.

  • Environment: The environment in which the images will be presented should be considered when choosing between glossy vs. matte treatments. For instance, matte finishes could be preferable if you plan to show your prints in an area with lots of natural light because they minimize glare and reflections. Glossy finishes, on the other hand, could be preferable if you plan to exhibit your prints in a gallery or other public setting because they can bring out the richness and vibrancy of the colors in your pictures.

  • Paper: The kind of paper utilized is a different consideration when deciding between matte and glossy finishes. The reflective qualities of glossy finishes are generally enhanced by printing them on smooth, shiny paper. On the other hand, the more textured paper used for matte finishes serves to absorb light and lessen glare.

  • Aesthetic: It's also important to remember that the decision between matte and glossy photo finishes can significantly affect the general aesthetic of your images. For portraits and other types of photos where a more muted, understated appearance is sought, matte finishes can be especially effective due to their softer, more delicate feel. Glossy finishes are frequently utilized in landscape and wildlife photography as well as other types of photos where a dramatic, arresting appearance is desired due to their great contrast and brilliant colors.

Finally, your personal preferences and the setting in which your images will be presented will ultimately determine whether you choose a matte finish or a glossy one. You may choose wisely and get the right look and feel for your prints by taking into account aspects like color saturation, clarity, glare, and durability.

How to choose between matte and glossy

04_How to choose between matte and glossy

There are a few things to think about when selecting between glossy vs. matte photo treatments. Below are four of the most important factors to consider.

What’s the intended use for your photos?

Take your photographs' intended use into account before selecting a treatment. You can select the finish that best highlights the colors and features of your images if they are primarily intended for viewing or display. 

If they are intended for long-term storage, choose a treatment that offers the strength and security needed to preserve the caliber of your prints. Due to its propensity to hide smudges and fingerprints, matte paper is frequently more robust than glossy paper. To help with damage prevention and to lengthen longevity, glossy paper can, however, be coated with a protective layer.

The strength of the paper should also be taken into account. Glossy photo paper could appear fantastic when first printed, but it may be more prone to fading over time. Matte paper can endure longer without losing its vibrancy, it's typically more resistant to fading.

What is the subject matter of your photos?

A matte photo finish is ideal when it comes to portraits or fine art prints, which are designed to be viewed up close. Focusing on the finer aspects of the image is made possible by the matte finish's non-reflective surface, which reduces glare and reflections. A wonderful choice for frequently handled prints is a matte finish because it's less likely to display fingerprints and smudges.

On the other hand, a glossy photo finish is perfect for prints of landscapes or urban scenes that are supposed to be viewed from a distance. Glossy finishes reflect light, enhancing color vibrancy and giving your photos a polished, shining appearance. Glossy finishes, however, could need more careful handling because they are more likely to collect fingerprints and smudges. Not a great idea if your photo product is meant to be handled like a wedding invitation.

Black and white photos vs. color photos

Black and white photographs typically look better on matte paper because it enhances the textures and fine details of the picture. Glossy paper, on the other hand, is frequently chosen for brilliant and lively photographs since it brings out the hues' vibrancy.

The best finish for your images ultimately depends on your preferences and the intended usage of the image. Matte paper may be a better choice if you want to show your images in a room with lots of natural light because it minimizes glare and makes them easier to see. However, glossy paper might be the way to go if you want to use your images to produce a more dramatic impression.

Where will your photos be displayed?

It's crucial to take into account the surroundings in which your prints will be presented. A matte finish can be a better choice to reduce reflections and glare if your images will be hung in a room with plenty of windows and bright lighting. A glossy finish, on the other hand, can be a better option if your images will be displayed in a poorly lit space because it will reflect more light and make them appear brighter.

Which surface finish is best for you: Matte or glossy?

In the end, the finish you choose will depend on your own preferences and how you want to use the printed images. Consider ordering test prints in both finishes if you're still not sure which finish to go with.

It all comes down to personal style and the particular requirements of your project when deciding between a matte or glossy photo finish. The matte finish may be a better option for you if you're going for a more subtle and natural appearance. On the other side, a glossy finish can be the best option if you want to produce a more dramatic and powerful image.

It's important to keep in mind that other treatment options, such as metallic and lustrous finishes, each have certain benefits and qualities to offer. So make sure to consider all of your possibilities before making a choice.

Choosing high-quality photo paper and a printing method that will ensure the lifespan and durability of your images is more crucial than deciding between a matte or glossy finish. You may produce breathtaking and unforgettable photographs that will endure a lifetime with the proper finish, paper, and printing selections.

Glossy vs. matte photos according to professional photographers

05_Glossy vs matte photos according to professional photographers

Professional photographers often use glossy photo finishes for their marketing materials because they offer vivid, precise colors and are great for exhibiting their work. They aren't as concerned about attracting fingerprints or dust, as exhibitions are not hands-on affairs, and light reflection isn't a problem since galleries compensate for this with lighting setups.

Not all photographers use glossy for everything, however. Despite offering less contrast and saturation compared to a glossy photo, matte finish photos can add a vintage or artistic vibe to images, making them a popular choice for portraits, wedding photos, and fine art photography. In essence, the choice between glossy and matte finishes largely depends on the intended use, viewing conditions, and personal taste of the photographer and viewer.

Bring your photo products to life with Gelato

Your personal preferences and the intended usage of your printed images will ultimately determine whether you choose a glossy or matte photo finish. When making your decision, keep things like color saturation, clarity, glare reduction, durability, and preservation in mind.

Overall, glossy finish prints are a good option if you want bright, vivid colors and don't mind glare or fingerprints. Choose a matte photo finish print if you prefer more neutral tones and a finish that is less reflecting and more resistant to fingerprints. In either case, you can be sure that you're selecting a photo finish based on solid information.

Offering a variety of finish options helps you cater to the diverse tastes of your customer base and make sure each customer finds their perfect match. Partner with Gelato to expand your photo print product offerings through print on demand. With operations in 32 countries, Gelato empowers creators and ecommerce sellers to scale their business, reach customers faster, and reduce waste, costs, and carbon emissions.

Ready to design? Create a high-quality matte photo book with Gelato today!

Matte vs. glossy photos FAQs

Are glossy photos superior?

Glossy prints aren't necessarily superior, but they do possess distinct advantages. They excel at highlighting the vibrancy and saturation of colors, making them an excellent choice for photo prints with vivid, bright hues or stark contrast. Glossy photos also deliver sharp, high-definition image quality. However, they can reflect light, causing glare, and are more susceptible to fingerprints and smudges.

Why is matte superior to glossy?

Matte photo paper offers its own unique benefits, which can sometimes make it a better choice than a glossy photo finish. It reflects less light, making it ideal for viewing under bright lights or from various angles. Moreover, matte coatings are less likely to display fingerprints and smudges, which is beneficial for prints that are frequently handled. Matte finishes can also impart a softer, more subtle aesthetic appeal.

Is matte photo paper suitable for art prints?

Indeed, matte photo paper is an excellent option for art prints. It's especially apt for black and white prints or prints with a vintage or artistic vibe. Also, its low light reflection characteristic makes the print easier to view in various lighting conditions, and its texture can enhance the depth of the artwork.

Can you laminate glossy photos?

Certainly, glossy photos can be laminated. Laminating can add an additional layer of protection, helping to guard against damage from UV light, moisture, and handling. However, the lamination process can enhance the glossiness and the potential for glare, so it's worth considering this before deciding to laminate.

Which type of paper is best for portraits?

Many photographers prefer matte papers for portraits. Matte surfaces do not reflect light, enabling viewers to see the image clearly from any angle, and its texture can help emphasize the fine details and subtle tonal variations often critical in portrait photography. However, the ultimate choice hinges on your personal preference and the specific aesthetic you aim to achieve for your portraits when printing photos.

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