It’s important to remember that your photos will only be as good as the paper you use, no matter how good your camera is. Even a David Bailey photo will look terrible if printed on poor quality paper.
Always buy paper designed for printing photos, rather than basic plain paper. Photo paper is treated with a special coating that prevents the ink from being absorbed into the paper leading to a dull, blurry image.
Basic, everyday and premium
There are different grades of photo paper, generally called basic or everyday and premium. The usual difference is the weight, given in grams per square metre (gsm).
Heavier paper (premium) is usually denser, so will normally accept more ink without soaking and is less likely to curl.
The photocopier paper used in offices is around 80gsm.
Low end ‘everyday’ glossy or semi-gloss paper is 150-190gsm. Although called ‘everyday’ paper, some can still produce reasonable quality photo prints, they just don’t have the quality feel of a heavier paper when you’re holding the photo between your fingers.
Top of the range glossy paper is usually between 250 and 285gsm
Another choice is the finish. Typically this is between gloss or matt, but it can also include high-gloss, soft-gloss, or semi-gloss, each depicting the amount of shine.
Some manufacturers also name the colour of their paper. Other than the expected white, you may find ultra-bright or super-white. This describes the papers brightness - the brighter and whiter the paper, the brighter and lighter the image should be.
The price of paper, including photo paper, can vary dramatically. So shop around to find a good deal, and consider buying in bulk to save a few extra pennies.
Remember as well as buying the paper, you’ll also have to pay for ink and toner. Costs can quickly mount up so you may be better off using a professional processing service.
In our printers test we assess the running cost of each printer based on a guide price for the cartridges the printer uses and how much ink is used to print photos, text and graphics documents.
You’re likely to get better value for money from a photo processing service if you order multiple photos. However, if you just want to print one shot on A4 it may be cheaper to print at home. Print cost largely depends upon your printer.