In today's digital world, photo printing seems like a throw-away subject. People tend to overlook it because, what's the big deal, right? Well, I say it is a big deal. In fact, I would argue that attention to this detail is as important as it was in the early ages of photography.
The picture shown here of the brother and sister, who are all grown up now, likely with grandchildren and great grandchildren, was special for a moment when it was taken. Because it was special, it was printed in a nice quality paper, presented in a paper photo sleeve, and for years was displayed in a frame for all to see. Then it was moved to a drawer, then a box, a closet, then a basement. Now, it comes into light again as being something special because this was a mom, an uncle. The toys she holds, the dress she wears, his suit and hairstyle each depict an era, a lifestyle, an economic bracket, lives that will never be quite that simple again. It also shines a light on all that has happened since then but isn't even in the picture - loves found, loves lost, marriages, children, jobs....you get the idea. The point - this isn't just some random pic of someone's cheeseburger. It shouldn't be tossed into a pile or digital dump like a snap of a silly moment that has outlived its value and emotion. If we look at this photo with respect, it's obvious that it shouldn't be printed on the cheapest, fastest, who-really-cares-it'll-be-tossed-in-a-drawer-anyway paper.
This image is soft in tones and detail. There's some warmth to it emotionally and tonally. If we want to keep the slight sepia warm tone, we won't want to use a true black and white photo paper. Since we want it to remain soft, we don't want to use a pearlescent metallic paper. Color intensity and range aren't critical in this case either, so the other papers that do that brilliantly aren't quite right, either. No. Instead, we are going to use a deep matte finish photo paper that will maintain the softness in the reflected light and overall finish feel yet provide visual clarity. If we want some texture, we might chose linen to give it an aged feel and affect the way the light moves across it. Any and all of this paper selection is subjective to the desired look the owner wants to achieve. But while the "should's" and "should not's" may be flexible, they are too important not to consider.
Next, we want it to last. To achieve that we'll use archival paper, frame it with UV protective glass and/or store it in archival quality sleeve or box. The word "archival" triggers ideas of very expensive and hard to find, but that's not the case. "Archival" photo products are made so that they don't emit harmful gasses that erode the photo emulsion or the paper. Some glues in wood-based products like boxes, tissue paper(s), envelopes, etc. have acids that will break down the image and the paper over time. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun also discolors prints and can break them down, so using UV glass when framing protects the image. Photos shouldn't be hung in areas where the sun shines directly on them, but that can be unavoidable at times, so protective glass and quality framing materials will help preserve the displayed photograph.
All of the photo prints ordered through me are printed on archival paper, reproduced in a multitude of ways on archival quality products, such as books, boxes, boards, canvas, glass, metal, and more - all of which I am happy to help you choose from for your project. Archival quality storage boxes, papers, and sleeves can easily be purchased online and in many photo supply outlets, and UV glass and archival quality frames can be found at framing centers and online.
In the end, the paper matters because the photo matters.