Photo Paper Buying Guide

Photo Paper Buying Guide


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In the past, photographers used darkrooms to create wonderful pictures by using a series of chemicals on light-sensitive papers to project the photo negatives. This was a very time consuming process, yet delivered some great looking enlargements. The digital revolution has provided photographers with a new and improved way to get amazing pictures in a short span of time with the help of printers. Now, instead of going into the darkroom for hours at a stretch to develop photographs, photographers can make use of color printers to create high quality photo prints easily. As light-sensitive paper used to develop photos in the past, today’s photo paper is used to print through the photo printer. This photo paper is specially formulated for laser or inkjet printers, and is shinier and less porous than plain paper.

Purpose of the Guide

When printing photographs, most prefer their prints to be the highest image quality possible. Photo papers have certain properties and features for achieving the best possible print quality for all your pictures. These photo papers produce crisp, clear, colorful prints that cannot be matched by traditional printer paper. This helpful guide will assist you in purchasing great quality photo papers.

What is Photo Paper?

Photo paper, also known as photographic paper, is used specifically to print high quality photos. As compared to plain papers, photo papers are shinier and less porous; they have a slick look and feel and are covered with protective coating which makes it possible to get vibrant colored detailed images in print. Photo papers have different finishes that affect the look of the print. There are plenty of varieties of photo papers which are made with different technologies based on different applications.

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Features of Photo Paper

When buying any kind of photo paper it is necessary to ensure that it will give you the image quality you require. As with choosing a photo printer, you need to purchase photo papers with very good quality which can aid in achieving great looking pictures after printing. There are some points given here that need to be considered while purchasing photo paper.

Paper Surface

Photo Finishes

The best quality photo paper is one that has a good finish. Photo papers can have a glossy, or matte finish or even textured finish like the ones on art papers. Different kinds of finishes are available for photo papers, the most common ones include gloss & semigloss, matte, canvas and art paper. Photo papers that have a gloss or semigloss finish are preferred by novice shooters as they produce rich colors upon printing. Photo papers with a matte finish give darker blacks, producing better contrast images as compared to the gloss papers. Canvas finish papers deliver contrast and color like matte papers but are unable to reduce contrast and saturation as there is no glass over the print.

Paper Weight

Photo paper needs to be heavier, thicker and have a solid look and feel to it. The top quality photo papers tend to have heavy weight and are mostly used for exhibits, framed prints and other such occasions. Ideally, it is preferable to opt for photo papers that weigh around 24 to 71 lbs.

Color or Brightness

Usually, the consumer grade photo papers tend to be whiter and produce brighter colors and contrast. It is possible for the paper to start yellowing after keeping it for a long time. As opposed to consumer grade photo papers, professional grade photo papers can give warmer (golden) or cooler (bluish) colors that affect the overall picture quality. There are other types of photo papers that give natural color without the need of using brighteners or dyes. In order to get better quality photo paper, it is essential that it has higher brightness levels and more vibrant colors. The level of brightness differs and is rated from 1 to 100.

Paper Opacity

Photo paper opacity refers to whether the paper is transparent or see-through. In most cases, a higher level of opacity ensures that the ink won’t run over on the other side of the paper.

Archival Photo Paper

Archival photo paper is made with acid-free and chlorine-free materials. This enables the paper to last for a longer time. The longevity of these photo papers can differ, with some lasting for 20 to 30 years.

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Utilities of Photo Paper

Each and every photo printer is different so the photo papers used in them also vary. When purchasing any type of photo paper, it is necessary to make sure whether it is compatible with the photo printer it is going to be used in. This can give a clear idea about the quality to be expected when printing pictures on the photo paper.

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Top 3 Manufacturers

When trying to purchase the correct photo paper, it is helpful to know the companies that manufacture the best quality papers.


Fujifilm is a well-known Japanese company that manufactures a wide range of products including digital cameras, binoculars, CCTV lenses, digital photo printers, medical imaging products, photo papers and much more. It is one of the leading brands in providing imaging and photography products and is famous for its high-end lenses.


Ilford is a world-class company known to offer integrated research and development initiatives for dyes, inks and coated media. It provides the best in class solutions for producing outstanding printed images and displays. Ilford photo papers are quite well-known for their high quality, and also because they deliver amazing printed images. Ilford papers are made with innovative multi-layer coating technology which makes it the best choice for photo printing.


Kodak Kodak is a world famous producer of imaging and photographic equipment that delivers top quality products for graphics and entertainment markets. It is a pioneer for delivering imaging innovations and uses the latest technologies for its products.

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