The one photo paper I think all photographers should use
Posted: 31 Mar 2017
Anne Sutcliffe’s (FRPS EFIAP PPSA) images have been described as having a “painterly effect” or being “pastel pale and interesting”, portraying the uniqueness that ordinary people have conferred on their urban environment. For the past seven years, she has sat on RPS Distinction Panels and recently has helped the PSA establish the Portfolio Distinction as an alternative form of recognition to their established Distinctions which depend on exhibition acceptances. She is currently the Chairman of the London Salon of Photography and one of our much-valued Fotospeed Photographers.
Visiting photographic clubs around the UK, I meet photographers with cameras, lenses, and printers that are more up to date and expensive than mine. They spend huge sums of money on kit but claim that they print using cheap generic inks on the cheapest papers to save money. I cannot understand this approach. A print is a joy to behold and is often the culmination of hours of effort. Using the cheapest and probably least favourable paper for the final image is, I believe, false economy.
Many images can be made to look good on more than one type of paper assuming that screen and printer are properly profiled. Matte papers often suit painterly images and for many years I used them exclusively. Gloss or lustre papers work well with full colour or monochrome images. Even for photographers who choose their paper with care, cost and space dictate that most of us only use two or perhaps three different types. Once we have found a paper that suits our style of photography, knowledge and understanding of how to best prepare images for that paper come with experience. Unless there is a very good reason you, like me, are probably reluctant to try different papers.
If you don’t already use it, I hope to persuade you to try Fotospeed Platinum Baryta. Although in the past I favoured matte papers, many of my painterly images continue to look good, with suitable adjustment, on Platinum Baryta, which has a lustre surface. It is a good choice for nature images. My recent tentative attempts at monochrome photography have been most successful using Platinum Baryta. But why did I try it in the first place and come to love it?
Whiter Shade of Pale was captured in 1987 on transparency film at the Venice Carnival. When projected, the image was bright and airy and did very well in exhibitions. It became a favourite image of mine and I have longed to have a print of it to hang on my wall. Skilled darkroom printers failed to capture its mood on my behalf, as did two commercial laboratories. As a darkroom print, the colours could only be described as dark and ‘heavy’. When I started printing digitally, I thought that with appropriate manipulation, I could create the perfect print. Time after time, the image looked good on my screen but I was disappointed with the print. It was only after Fotospeed supplied me with a box of Platinum Baryta paper that my image finally burst back into life. The subtleties of its original colour were maintained and the paper mimicked the translucency that had made the transparency so successful. Although at some point I expect to be corrected, currently I am claiming that Whiter Shade of Pale is the image that holds a world record because it waited 25 years to find the only paper that suits it in print form!
On a trip to Colorado in 2012, I saw America’s Fall colours for the first time. I anticipated the glorious colours but not the fantastic glow that occurs in certain lighting conditions. Having failed miserably to capture the glow in camera, I was forced to recreate it using Photoshop. Aspens is the result. I printed it on several of my favourite papers …and it looked as dead as a door nail. Belatedly, I remembered my box of Platinum Baryta and placed a sheet in my printer. As the print emerged, as if by magic, the glow was there! Whether this is due to the brightness of the paper or its translucent effect, I do not know. But what I do know is that Platinum Baryta is a paper capable of bringing out the subtlest colours and highlights that can make all the difference to a print.
From that moment in 2013, my love affair with Platinum Baryta began, and it continues undiminished to this day. If ever Sue Lawley banishes me to my Desert Island, I am hoping my cameras, cards, printer and a lifelong supply of fully charged batteries and inks will float ashore with me. For my personal item, I will ask for an inexhaustible stock of Platinum Baryta paper!
Platinum Baryta 300 is a 100% acid free, Fine Art paper with a smooth unglazed gloss surface. A natural white base and state of the art micro-porous ink receiving layer gives Platinum Baryta a high D-MAX of 2.7 and wide colour gamut. Platinum Baryta 300 reveals delicate highlights and smooth transitions to shadows for both colour and B&W printing.
The paper is approved by the Fine Art Trade Guild and when used in conjunction with pigment inks will ensure a print life of more than 85 years.
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