Is there really a difference in the paper I select to print my photograph on?
In a nutshell, yes, it makes a huge difference. How the photograph appears, the sharpness, color and how long it will last are all factors that apply to the photo paper you select. Basically, you get what you pay for when it comes to photo paper. Cheap paper produces cheap results and eventually will fade, discolor and lose its clarity. If your current printing lab doesn't list the types of photo paper and printer that they use, chances are they are using inexpensive paper. If your print options only state choices such as Matte, Glossy or Luster finish, with no additional details on the type of paper they use, I suggest you call them and inquire before you invest in a fine art purchase.
What qualifies as Fine Art Paper?
Fine art paper is usually made using 100% cotton rag content, is most often acid-free and therefore is suitable for archival purposes since it addresses the problem of preserving documents for long periods. Just as important as the type of fine art paper is the printer your images will be printed with.
When I decided to open my gallery, the first investment I made was my printer. I wanted a top-of-the-line printer that no one else had available in the area. After a lot of research, I purchased the Canon IPF9400 professional fine art photo printer. This unique printer allows me to print up to 60 inches wide and uses a 12-Color LUCIA EX pigment ink set. The results are unmatched and to date, one of the best investments I have made.
Fine Art Paper.
There are literally hundreds of types of photo printing paper on the market. Almost all of them claim to be fine art paper. After a lot of test prints and research I found a company that produces the worlds finest fine art paper. The company is located in Germany called Hahnemühle and has been in the paper business since 1584, yes you read that right. Hahnemühle's Digital FineArt Collection is the world market leader in the high quality inkjet paper segment. It's a unique that Hahnemühle produces its paper at the same place for 430 years.
Hahnemühle William Turner 310 GSM Textured Paper: This by far is my favorite fine art paper. I use it on almost all of my gallery prints. I have turned a lot of my local clients on to this paper and now they insist on only using William Turner on their prints. Its a Matte finish, textured 100% cotton paper that looks amazing.
Hahnemühle Museum Etching 350 GSM: Also 100% cotton paper, very thick and also a textured paper. The luxurious texture of a traditional etching board and the natural white point make Museum Etching the ideal medium for images with soft tints or fine grey nuances. A nice black and white photograph print extremely well on this fine art paper.
Hahnemühle Photo Rag Pearl 320 GSM: This is a 100% cotton natural white pearl finish. This fine art paper has a smooth, uniform surface texture with the unique pearl coating. It is especially suitable for photography and art reproduction with warm grey and color tones.
Breathing Color Lyve Canvas 450 GSM: Archival certified and OBA free, this is my favorite canvas to print my own work on. It produces incredible detail and resolution, eye popping color and a bright white finish. Most of my clients demand on using this canvas on their own works.
Canon Artistic Satin Canvas 350 GSM: This canvas is meant for museum quality archival printing, whether fine art reproduction or photographic portrait creations. This cotton/polyester blend (35/65%), double weave canvas has a fast drying, satin finish surface. This canvas also features a high white point without optical brighteners which means it won't turn yellow over time.
Hahnemühle Metallic 350 GSM: Canvas Metallic is a bright white FineArt Inkjet canvas with an extravagant metallic gleam. The novel surface impresses with an elegant silver and pearlescent gloss. The metallic finish on a fine structured fabric ensures an extreme lively and appealing image effect.
If I was forced into selecting just one type of fine art paper and one type of canvas to print my photographs on, I would select the Hahnemühle William Turner textured paper and the Breathing Color Lyve Canvas. I hope this helps you in your selection. Phil