Sunday, November 18, 2007

On The Surface

This blog entry is about the various print papers that are out there especially for ink jet printers, I have been Intrigued by the variety of paper surfaces that are available to photographers in this digital age,
hence the post title 'On The Surface'.

First a bit of my photographic print history, back in my days when I printed in the darkroom, I printed exclusively on only one kind of paper, that was glossy fibre based paper made by various manufactures with slightly different glossy surfaces, these prints were always air dried and often selenium toned , I would not think of printing on any other kind of paper, it was the Holy Grail of fine art printing and for many still is. When digital printing started to mature, I took notice one day back in 2003 when I had to make a very high quality print from a digital file an image I shot with a Nikon D1H DSLR camera for the paper I work for of a Osprey feeding its young. This print was for the prestigious Fogg Art Museum ( the print was donated by the late John Kenneth Galbraith ) , it had to be the very best I could produce. I searched around and had various prints made none of which I was satisfied with, that is until I discovered a local photography outlet who at the time had a Epson 7600 printer and made a print for me on Somerset Velvet paper. When I saw the print made on this paper ( sorry I can't post the image, I don't own the copy right ) I knew I had found a new nirvana , a paper that I thought was so very beautiful. I eventually bought myself a inkjet printer a scanner and a stack of Somerset Velvet paper and started making prints and pretty well left the darkroom printing behind.

Part two of this post is about a informal print comparison survey that I conducted recently. A month or so a ago Crane & Co. sent me some paper samples to try out, one was their Museo Silver Rag a glossy paper that replicates the traditional fibre based paper made in the darkroom and the other sample was Museo Portfolio Rag, a matte paper with a smooth finish. I picked out one of my images and made a print on each of the paper samples using the same identical file ( see image posted of my friend Mac made with a 5 x 7 view camera and a 270mm lens in Metchosin, B.C. ) I showed these prints to friends, family, work colleagues including other photographers I know. I ended up with 37 people who viewed the two prints and out of that group , twenty-eight preferred the non-glossy matte surface print, two people couldn't decide ( they liked both ) and eight preferred the glossy surfaced print. My own preference is I would have to lean lightly over to the matte paper side, it seems to have a 3-D look to it which is one of the comments which many people said about the matte surfaced print, a number of people found the glossy print was hard to look at because of the reflections of surrounding light on the surface of the print, I have to admit though that the Silver Rag paper is beautiful and very close to the kind of prints I had made in the glory days of my darkroom years. In conclusion I really like the fine art mat papers, they help inspire me when making future photographs which are then turned into prints which I can share with others.


JB said...

I have to say that I went thru the same journey. I Prefered air dried matte surfaces back in my wet darkroom days but have gravitated to matte watercolor papers now I do digital prints.

But when I printed some test shots on Red River Polar Gloss, for a friend, I have to say those deep blacks sure looked nice.

On another issue I'm trying to decide how to use matte vs mat. I copincidently looked it up in the dictionary this morning before reading your post. And they have mat as being correct when referring to mat board used around prints in framing and matte when you refer to the flat non-glossy surfaces. What do you think?

Gary Nylander said...

Thanks for reading my post and I never thought about the matte vs mat !, thanks for the sharp eye.

lolly said...

Great shot, gary! Slightly different from your normal nature pix, but well seen, of course! :~))