Cheap photo paper is a term some users use when searching for a good value for money photo paper. But cheap photo paper is rarely a good value for money option in the long run due to its poor archival properties. Archival or long lasting properties are achieved based on the chemicals that coat the photo paper as well as on other industry patents and technologies.
Photo papers and photographic papers are quite sophisticated in the way they are made and require to some extent a complex knowledge of chemistry to produce a high quality coating. Chemistry alone is not enough to produce photo paper, that is if you are looking for one that allows for high printing results AND has the ability to receive the ink without smudging. It also has to ensure the following:
- Some coatings react adversely after time due to the involved combination of chemicals and change their complexion so the paper gets a new unintentional acquired shade of yellow, blue or even reddish. As a result, image definition deteriorates.
- Some chemicals may influence the ink and after a while will cause the image to fade. If keepsake is important to you, these will prove a great disappointment.
- Some coatings do not accommodate every type of ink (pigment vs. dye based) so will cause the image to smear, as the ink didn’t really adhere or penetrated the coating especially in pigment inks. Such coatings are not instant dry and you need to be careful when holding the print.
- Some papers will have a foggy look to them like a thin hazy layer.
- Some will not display a wide colour definition in particular missing on the entire sub tons that are especially important for skin tons in images.
As you have read from the above, cheap photo paper can come cheap in price, but very poor in the results it yields. Often, after a short while when the coating has damaged the quality of the print, you will be required to re-print your work amounting to further costs in terms of more ink and more paper. That is, if you still retain a digital copy of the image and you haven’t deleted it from your hard drive or camera.
Nowadays there are many manufacturers of photo paper coatings especially from the Far East such as China and India that are producing cheap photo paper. However, the quality is lacking (based on the points mentioned above) so although you have paid less for a cheap alternative and got a reasonable quality result in the immediate run, the future may not be so bright. When comparing to the higher quality photo papers and measuring it over time in terms of fading and change of colour, you can see that cheap photo paper doesn’t come cheap.
The solution is to seek affordable prices, together with evaluating quality as the utmost important indication of value for money.
How do determine a good value photo paper?
1. Search for European or Japanese manufacturers that have a long history in research & development and are very experienced in producing photographic papers. For example, ILFORD, but many others are also available.
2. It is important to evaluate what type of coating the paper has. Normally, high quality option will have a micro porous or nano porous coating that will allow for a much better print in all kind of inks including pigment inks
3. Not every description that reads ‘this paper produces excellent prints’ is always true. It is important to try few small packs of various suppliers and compare the results.
4. Some users refer to quality by the weight of the paper (measured in GSM). While it is correct that heavier paper feels nicer when held, it won’t necessarily print better as it may have a poor quality ‘cheap’ coating.
Enjoy long lasting photographs with brilliant colours by using high quality photo paper and it will be worth it all!