Fine Art Prints: Glossy or Matte?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by brofkand, May 4, 2009.

  1. brofkand

    brofkand Member

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    What is the general consensus here for fine art prints? I know Ansel Adams preferred glossy papers, but my school's classes prefer matte papers.

    I have seen firsthand that glossy papers tend to reveal every last bit of the negative's potential: scratches where applicable, and also seem to hold more detail to my eye. On the other hand, matte papers don't show smudges, dust, or fingerprints. They have the ability to hide some scratches on the negative to me as well.

    When submitting work to a portfolio or gallery, which is generally preferred?
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Luster or Pearl. HA!

    Whatever you like. You are the artist. It doesn't matter what we think.
     
  3. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Glossy as a rule or observation. FB glossy is of course very different to RC glossy and FB is the standard for enlarged B&W exhibition prints. But rules are meant to be broken! If only RC was available I would probably not go glossy. I just don't like that look.
    Many major exhibitions/retrospectives where I live now seem to be going for inkjet prints due to cost and convenience. i.e. very few quality silver printers left, paper is expensive and availability declining, spotting is costly and the big pro labs are basically all digital now. Precious negatives can be drum-scanned, clone-spotted once in PS and put back in the vault with multiple digital prints available for sale at reasonable prices thereafter.

    If the work is great the medium will be a secondary consideration!!
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    In general natural unglazed glossy FB prints. I'm not sure that matt surfaces hided scratches, but you shouldn't have them in the first place :D

    Ian
     
  5. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Completely and totally up to you. There is no paper surface preferred by galleries, museums or collectors. It is only a matter of personal taste. A gallery wants to see what suits you, not what you think others will like. I choose a matt surface and have done so for years. It has the look, feel and sensibility I am after and I have never had any issues with any of the above rejecting my work based on this. Best of luck with your choice.

    Bill
     
  6. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    I choose the paper based on how I want the print to look. Not surprisingly, I change my mind over time. ;>)

    Neal Wydra
     
  7. mynewromantica

    mynewromantica Member

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    I beleive that the paper type depends on the image. Certain images look better in glossy rather than matte and vice versa. But for images that seem to be very neutral in that sense I tend to go with a pearl.

    When i print I usually print on pearl to begin with and then make a finished print on glossy and on matte and look at all three side by side to make my decision.
     
  8. WGibsonPhotography

    WGibsonPhotography Member

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    I used to prefer glossy, but I've slowly changed my preference to matte.
    Go with what you like best :smile:


    I have noticed, though, that matte paper wont completely hide fingerprints. I've had a few of mine show up when I carelessly handled a few prints (just test prints that really dont matter to me). I've noticed that they seem to show up in the darker areas of the prints, or that's where I have noticed them the most.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2009
  9. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    It may be blazingly obvious, but consider how you plan to present your work before the customer. Under glass or not? Will people be looking at something hanging on a wall, or will they be handling the raw prints or matted prints?

    My own feeling is that nothing beats a fiber matte print in the hands- it feels more opulent in the fingers, and gives the impression that the image is in the paper. But mounted under glass with controlled lighting... then it's a wash IMHO. But if and when I ever show something, there will be no glass involved, if I can help it.

    But it's definitely true that your choice may (and probably should) depend on the image.

    P.S. Regarding fingerprints, I find that those anti-oil face-wipe papers that you can get in a typical skin-care section of a store can sometimes do wonders. The ones that I use are little blue things with no liquid on them and no powder comes off. They seem to work quite well on lenses as well.
     
  10. lightwisps

    lightwisps Subscriber

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    Tony, as a gallery owner that sells quite a bit of photography we have found that not many are worried about whether it is matte or glossy. What is of importance is the fact that all of our prints are printed to archival standards. Hope this helps. Don
     
  11. Brofkand,

    You're probably more confused than before, following the responses you got. But, be advised, they're all absolutely right. Your sensibility is what matters; you print on what your vision/look dictates. If your class (or instructor) has a preference for matte papers (for uniformity's sake), then you need to conform to that.

    Outside of class, experiment as much as you can to find what you'll eventually prefer and be comfortable with. With time, you'll probably also want to experiment with different paper developers and toners, as well, to match a paper personality (again, very subjective on your part).

    But don't drive yourself nuts over this issue; concentrate and focus (no pun intended) on your image-making. Remember, "Less is More" -- choose one or two papers to work with, and master the art of printing. As for ancillary markings (dust spots, etc.), learn the craft of spotting.

    Freestyle Photographic Supplies (http://www.freestylephoto.biz/) carries numerous fine printing paper brands and finishes from around the world. See if you can get some "sampler" packs, or go to your local retailer and find out if they can show you some printed samples -- there might be sample books on display.

    Also, go visit photo exhibitions (if accessible in your area), and see what other people are using. You'll see an immense variety of preferences. I was very fortunate as an undergrad to have gone through an internship with the Prints and Photographs Division of The Library of Congress in Washington. First-hand, up-close access to thousands of historical and contemporary portfolios gave me an education and appreciation that I'll cherish the rest of my life. You learn a lot about what "subjective tastes" means, as well as what image-making materials are available to whom and when. But, this is a completely different discussion.

    I personally prefer glossy, fiber-based papers, on the warm side, and selenium bath. But that's me.

    Hope this helps. Best of luck to you... and most important, enjoy!
     
  12. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Yes, good archival practices are very important to mention especially with FB paper and offering prints for sale through a gallery. Personal and gallery reputation is a precious thing.

    It's easy to say 'you decide' but I sensed brofkand was looking for something a little more concrete than 'let your muse guide you' otherwise he/she would not have made the post!
    Many years ago when I asked a similar question I acted on the advice of just get yourself a box of Agfa MCC Glossy and once you have mastered that feel free to go crazy. (Sorry, brofkand but Agfa MCC is no longer available! FOMA and some others now make papers with supposedly similar characteristics.) I appreciated that (pre-internet) advice which got me more focused and disciplined when I had little experience, had difficulty evaluating all the options and was looking for a good practice.

    Of course, there is no "right" answer. Pick one of them to start and become good at it! Good luck!