Glossy vs. Matte Photos: Which Paper Is Better for Printing Photos?

Keeping photos on mobile phones is common these days, but it does not necessarily mean printing photos is already dead. Aside from huge posters, a lot of people still love to keep photos in photo albums or hang them on walls.

When it comes to choosing which photo paper to use, the matte vs. glossy finish seems to be an endless debate.

Whether you are an aspiring professional photographer or printing photos for personal use, you should know which photo paper is the best for you. To start with, you can use either glossy or matte for any kind of photo.

But if you are after image quality and you want to please viewers with your physical photos, this article can help you decide. 

What Does Glossy Photo Finish Mean?

What Does Glossy Photo Finish Mean

As the name implies, a glossy photo finish means that your photo print is shiny. It uses glossy paper, which has an added coating to reflect as much light as possible.

A glossy finish creates a positive effect on the colors of images, making them sharper and more vibrant. It also adds definition to the borders of your photo, resulting in clearer images.

There are two main types of glossy finish – high gloss and semi-gloss. As their names suggest, the former has the highest gloss possible, while the latter is between the highest and lowest gloss (or no gloss). In short, using glossy paper is a great option if you want your photos to look more professional and have a more stylish appearance.

When Would You Use Glossy Photo Finish?

As mentioned above, glossy photo paper produces brighter colors in your images and enhances them. Hence, it is better for high-definition colored photos than for black-and-white images.

This includes small photos at Christmas parties, children’s birthday parties, weddings, and family gathering occasions that you will put in photo albums.

Pros and Cons of Glossy Photo Finish

Despite its popularity, a glossy photo finish is not ideal for all kinds of situations. Note that in this photo printing technique, shininess and light reflection is due to the added layer of coatings in the paper. But before deciding to use glossy paper for photos, here are some advantages and disadvantages you should understand so you won’t regret it later:


  • The shiny surface helps emphasize the details of the image
  • Great for photos that will be kept in photo albums for a long time
  • Absorbs less ink, which makes printing cheaper than a matte photo finish
  • Photo framing is low-cost since you will not cover it with glass
  • Glossy photos are more common than matte photos


  • Not ideal for few-colored or black-and-white photos
  • Not ideal for large photos due to light reflection
  • Light reflection can create viewing difficulties at some angles
  • Since glossy photos are sticky in glass, replacing glass frames can destroy the photos.
  • Prone to scratches and fingerprints due to less surface protection

What Does Matte Photo Finish Mean?

What Does Matte Photo Finish Mean

As the name suggests, the matte photo finish is not shiny and feels muted. Unlike glossy photo paper, matte photo paper has no added layer and has an uneven texture. With this kind of photo finish, light is refracted instead of reflected. Therefore, you are less worried about the reflection of light that can distract your viewers from different angles.

Compared to a glossy photo finish, a matte photo finish offers simple-looking images rather than a luxurious appearance. The difference between matte finish and semi-gloss is also noticeable since the former has no gloss at all. Aside from being simple, it adds beauty and mystery to the classic look of black and white and sepia-toned photos.

When Would You Use Matte Photo Finish?

Contrary to what some people may think, a matte photo finish is not obsolete. This photo printing technique may be less popular than a glossy photo finish, but it produces subtle effects and an outstanding balance for your image. Since there is less or no reflection of light, it is ideal in studio photos, and galleries and works well in glass frames.

Pros and Cons of Matte Photo Finish

A matte photo finish is the direct opposite of a glossy photo finish in, so many ways. Since there is no added layer on the photo paper, there is less contrast and brightness in the images. Nonetheless, it does not necessarily mean you cannot use it for colored photos. Here are some of the major advantages and disadvantages of using a matte photo finish:


  • Photos can be displayed in glass frames and can be replaced without damage
  • Less susceptible to scratches and fingerprints, and can be handled often
  • Since light is refracted, lookers can appreciate the photos from every angle
  • Ideal for large photos, which can be displayed anywhere without glaring
  • Ideal for printing images from film cameras and for imitating a film effect


  • Image sharpness is reduced, and colors are less vibrant
  • Photo prints of matte finish are prone to bending
  • Printing requires more ink and is expensive in huge quantities
  • Not economical and impractical for everyday printing

Glossy vs. Matte: Which Photo Paper Do Professional Photographers Use?

Professional photographers prefer using matte photo paper over glossy paper. A glossy finish enhances the colors of the image better than a matte finish, and they may look better at first glance. However, the latter produces fewer glares, which is the worst enemy of professional photographers. Not to mention, it does not stick to glass frames.

Glossy vs. Matte: Which Photo Paper is Better for Printing Wedding Photos?

Now that you already know the differences between glossy and matte photo paper, it is no longer difficult for you to choose for printing wedding photos. As you can see, you can use either of the two depending on how you will keep your photos. If you want small colored wedding photos to be laminated or framed without glass, use glossy photo paper.

If you want to reduce glares on your colored photos but still look glossy, use a semi-gloss finish. On the other hand, use matte photo paper for photos that you would like to place on glass frames.

If you want your relatives and visitors to touch your wedding photos or to display them where there is natural light, a matte finish is a better choice.

Glossy vs. Matte Photos: Which Photo Finish has Better Image Quality?

In terms of image quality, glossy photos appear to have better image quality. This is because colors are more enhanced, and photos can have a premium look. But then, matte photos have a stunning classic look on black and white photos. With that, both photo printing styles produce high-quality images, as long as you use them correctly.

Glossy vs. Matte Finish: Which Photo Finish Lasts Longer?

Glossy and matte photos are both durable and can last a lifetime. However, their lifespans depend on how you handle them. If you cover your glossy photos properly and will not allow anyone to touch them, the chances of getting them damaged are less. On the other hand, matte photos can last for a very long time if you frame them as soon as possible.

There will always be debates on glossy vs. matte as to which photo finish is better. The answer though depends on your purpose and how you will keep your photos.

If you are still in doubt about what to use, try to visualize the result and use your imagination. If possible, do some trials with a few photos. After all, that’s what photography is all about.

Glossy vs. Matte Photos: Which Paper Is Better for Printing Photos?