I have always believed that a printed photograph is far more powerful than one on a display. A lot of photographers know this and print their work on a constant basis. Some turn to commercial labs while others rely on home printing. I favor the later one because of the complete control it offers. Not only that, but let's be honest, printing at home gives you an awesome feeling and it's the present day version of having your own darkroom.
With that said, let's discuss paper. After all, it is the support of the printed image and quality doesn't have everything to do with buying an expensive printer. Here are the most widely used types of paper and a little bit about their characteristics.
It is one of the most widely used types of paper. Professional photographers often print their work on it for a number of reasons. Matte paper has a white coating and one if its strong points is that is allows ink to dry quickly. While it has a professional feel to it, it lacks color vibrancy and it also soaks more ink than other papers, ultimately reducing sharpness.
On the other hand, it is a durable paper and it's unlikely to become smudged from fingerprints.
Glossy paper is very popular with amateurs and enthusiasts it’s preferred because it produces vibrant photos with clear details. Professional photographers who need absolute maximum details use it as well.
The glossy finish absorbs the ink and it is vital that it remains untouched in the first few minutes after being printed. In fact, this is one of the major drawbacks of glossy paper. Fingerprints are easily left on it and the best way to hold it is by the edges.
It works well with most types of images, but it is excellent for pictures with predominant highlights.
Gloss Laminated Paper
In the case of this paper, the photo is printed and later coat of glass laminate is applied. This coat increases vibrancy and saturation. It is often used in postcards.
Silk paper could be positioned somewhere between matte and glossy. The vibrancy and sharpness are still there, but the shininess is reduced. It is rapidly becoming popular choice for wedding albums.
Specific Paper for Specific Printers
There is specialized paper for certain printers and they are usually both manufactured by the same company. The idea with these is that they are optimized for working together and producing the best results.
Ink Jet Paper
As ink jet printers are the most common, there are different variations of photographic paper, including glossy and matte. Quality depends on printer performance and it is usually reflected in the cost of printer and paper.
Laser paper is less used for printing photographs as it is widely used for printing text.