Print Surface Differences
Print Surface Differences
This article will help shine some light on the different print options.
Lustre photo finishes are semi-gloss and the standard for event photography, like weddings and portraits. The finish is true to skin tones, and its texture helps minimize the chance of fingerprints and glare.
The next level up in gloss from lustre is a highly reflective photo paper.
Glossy photos have excellent clarity and make the photo’s colors bolder and brighter. A glossy finish is added as another layer on top of a picture and is also great for showing off your subjects’ skin tones. They are designed to reflect as much light as possible.
Matte photos have zero gloss or shine on the surface. The finish is smooth and has no glare. This is achieved by printing a photo without adding the extra layer of gloss. Matte images show a lot of texture and are great for landscapes or black and white photos.
Metallic photo paper has a 3D effect designed to bring out the light in the image.
These prints are sometimes known as metal prints because they are printed on an aluminum panel and don’t require a frame.
Metallic photos have a slight shimmer, deep colors, and sharp details. The paper itself is sturdy and resistant to tearing and curling.
Comparisons Between Photo Finishes
Now that we’ve briefly summarized each photo finish, how do you decide which one for your printed photo? Below we’ll compare the finishes to help with that decision.
Lustre vs. Glossy
Industry photographers often prefer the semi-gloss finish for events like weddings and personal or school portraits because lustre surfaces combine the light attraction of gloss with a texture that is a bit more resistant to glare.
The size of your printed photo also makes a difference when comparing lustre to gloss because each finish is designed to reflect light. As a result, lustre-printed images aren’t as glossy and don’t make colors pop as much as high-gloss photos will, so if you have a small-sized headshot or family photo, you might opt for a glossier finish.
Lustre vs. Matte
If you’re looking to hang up a photo in your home behind a frame, you might want to consider a matte finish over a lustre photo. Because matte-finished images have no added layer of gloss, they reflect less light than lustre photos, making them more suited behind a pane of glass — as glass will reflect light for you. A matte photo would be seen very well compared to a lustre photo in highly illuminated areas full of natural or artificial light, such as your living room.
And while lustre photos have a texture that is more resistant to fingerprints and damage than a glossy printed photo, matte options provide even more protection since a smooth layer of gloss, even semi-gloss, makes photos less resilient to handling.
Lustre vs. Metallic
Metallic photos have a modern look because they don’t require frames. They are incredibly durable and can last decades mounted on your wall.
However, lustre paper is known for accurately representing subjects’ brightness, colors, and skin tones. Metallic prints can sometimes turn out brighter and with higher contrast.
Because both surfaces will reflect light — metallic finishes are known to reflect sunlight — the content will determine which finish using.
Choosing lustre when your photo contains people might be a better choice, but a metallic print might do a better job of capturing a landscape.
Glossy vs. Matte
Besides the noticeable difference between a layer of gloss versus no layer of gloss, glossy photos don’t stand up to the quality of matte images if your image has a low contrast or pastel colors. While the color will remain faithful, the glare from a glossy finish makes it more challenging to see the contrast than a matte photo.
However, matte finishes don’t stand up to glossy images when it comes to the brightness of colors. A matte photo is a better choice behind a glass frame, hung up on the wall, but a glossy photo would fare better inside a photo album.
It’s also worth considering that matte finishes are great at highlighting texture, or what some might call moodiness within an image, but that means a matte finish could also bring out unwanted texture like noise from high ISOs.
Glossy vs. Metallic
The decision between a glossy or metallic photo depends on the size.
Both finishes offer striking, sharp visuals, and each one is great for displaying images that are bright in color. But glossy photos that are blown up increase the surface area reflect more light, and are more delicate than metallic photo paper, fingerprints, and wear and tear.
A metallic photo offers a chrome-like appearance and an extremely durable, long-lasting alternative and seems to absorb rather than reflect light.
Glossy photos don’t fare as well inside a glass frame, whereas metallic images are ready to be hung up and sans frame.
Matte vs. Metallic
While metallic photos will absorb light, your matte photos will refract light, making matte finishes more suited to moody, black and white images and metallic finishes better for vibrant landscapes with bursts of color.
Both metallic and matte photo finishes are made to last, but metallic prints, like the other finishes with gloss (glossy and lustre), are more susceptible to fingerprints.
What are the best finishes for you?
Whichever finish you choose will ultimately depend on your style.
If you want a moody photo, try a matte finish that brings out the textures in your image.
If you’re looking for the best finish for a photo album: Any of these finishes would work great in an album, but try for a lustre or glossy photo for accurate skin tones and bright colors.
If you want to hang your photo behind a glass frame: A matte finish is perfect as it adds a luxurious feel to your pictures and doesn’t reflect light behind glass, the same way glossy photos would, making it easy to view from various angles.
If you want a modern, clean style: Try a metallic photo for an exceptionally vibrant pop of color and striking imagery. Mounted on a metal plate, usually aluminum, the metallic print will often not need a frame to hang on the wall.
Or if you want quality and price that will last several years: All of these finishes and paper choices are made to last, but metallic finishes tend to be a bit pricier.
Any of the choices above, when handled with care, will capture your images in beautiful and diverse ways.