Over the last two weeks I showed you tips for taking and editing black and white photos. Now, for the final week of my black and white series, let’s talk printing.

For the longest time, I had no idea what the difference was between all the different kinds of photo paper finishes. I didn’t care if it was glossy, matte, or ultra super fancy-pants brilliant – I just wanted what was cheapest. And not surprisingly, what is cheapest is rarely the best fit for what you’re printing.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is your printer. It’s always best to get the paper that works best with the ink your printer uses. You can usually look on the ink packaging or on the company’s website to see what paper is suggested. I use the HP eStation printer with HP inks, and the suggested paper is (not surprisingly) manufactured by HP. There IS more to the suggestions than just driving sales – companies test their inks on paper, so they are very aware of what will make their product look the best. In HP’s case, they design their inks and paper with each other in mind, so when you use them together you’ll get the ultimate result. I imagine that it is a similar situation for all other printer/paper makers out there.

So, what IS the difference between the different finishes? Glossy makes colors richer and more vibrant, while matte adds texture, reduces glare, and resists fingerprints. There are a million different variations of these two basic finishes: satin, ultra high gloss, premium, soft gloss – you get the idea. I wanted to see the difference for myself, so I grabbed three different finishes and put my printer to work.

I put these pictures under my window to see how they reacted to the light. And honestly? This isn’t the best experiment to document because the differences are hard to see in a still image. The regular gloss picture made the picture look rich and bold. The matte seemed flat, and the ultra high gloss was really, really shiny.

So, based on my EXTREMELY scientific experiment, I am suggesting a Glossy Finish for your B&W photos. It really helps bring out all the subtle shades of black, white, and gray. (I used the 4 x 6 but it also comes in 5 x 7 and 8.5 x 11 – the best thing about HP is free next-business-day shipping) Of course, it’s all personal preference – matte may look better for what you plan on doing with your printed black and whites. Freedom of choice, yay!

Want more information on picking paper for your photos? You can find it here, thanks to HP, my awesome photo partners. If you have any questions, let me know!

I hope you liked learning about Black and White photography! Next week is a new series, woo hoo!