For almost a year now i have been playing around with printing, trying to learn the subtleties of the image, the paper and the machine. There is a recipe to all of this and part of it comes down to personal preference. I mean every photographer prints images that he or she likes so if that’s not personal what is?! Well once you get past the image you have to decide on the paper. That’s where things get interesting.
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Paper is a big step and I’m certainly no expert on ALL the papers out there because frankly i haven’t tried most of them. Then again there is a lot of paper choices, most of which have really stupid fancy names that seem confusing. Well lately i have been printing a lot on Red River Paper, specifically Red River Polar Matte 60lb 8.5×11 and Prem Matte 13×19. Both of these papers have been doing a terrific job on my Epson 2880, with my aviation work.
Now i realize that many people like the glossy papers for Aviation which is understandable. Quite frankly it is difficult to get some of the saturation and colors to look the same on a matte paper as well as on a monitor. Specifically reds. A lot of that has to due with monitors being a transmitted light and paper is reflective light. If you compare any matte paper and any glossy paper you’re going to see that the glossy papers reflect light a whole lot better than matte. That’s why it’s easier to get images matched up, the downside is that glossy paper is going to reflect, EVERYTHING! I have two prints hanging above me ones on Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art and the other is a metal print by Image Wizards. Now needless to say the metal print reflects everything, it’s metal, it needs car polish to stay looking good. The Fine art print doesn’t reflect a thing; however, that same print which happens to be of a P51C “Red Tail” as the name implies has a red tail doesn’t look red, it’s more orange. That simply comes down to it not being able to match up, it just can’t happen on that paper. The nice thing is i can look at it and not see the computer monitors, lamps, walls, or anything else i have in my room.
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Now as i said earlier i have been using Red River Paper a lot lately. Well i have noticed a few differences with that paper and say Epson Enhanced Matte or Ultra Smooth Fine Art. For starters the Polar Matte is 60lb which is a medium weight paper. IE it’s comparably stiffer than any copier paper and it’s noticeable with Epson papers. This can be a good thing depending on what you’re doing. Now it also seems to be a brighter white than Epson Matte or Ultra Smooth Fine Art. Keep in mind Enhanced Matte is a Bright White paper and Ultra Smooth Fine Art is a Hot Press paper. If you really want to know what all these things mean, you’re gonna have to look at the numbers.
Now the one thing that i am very curious about is how well Red River Paper acts as an archival paper. I know for a fact, because I’ve seen it, that Ultra Smooth Fine Art lasts one long ass time. From all the years of being at DLWS with my Dad and the rotating gallery, from being shipped, unpacked, left out for a week, packed, stored and then done all over again in every environment in this country, the image on the paper lasts one long time. The image doesn’t fade. The prints start to look beat up but the images still look good. Well this is a knowledge that i don’t have with Red River yet. I don’t know how well these prints will look in 10 years or 50 years. Because that is the goal here isn’t it? Every photographer wants his work to be noticed and remembered even after he or she is gone. It’s part of being in an ever changing art form. Keep one more thing in mind. Out of everything that we photographers have to pay for, paper is one of the cheaper things. Spend the extra money, experiment, and play with different papers to find out what works well for yourself and your photography.