Saturday, November 17, 2007

Surface Properties Of Paper

I could be completely wrong, but here's a theory. It's actually the presence of spurious reflections that creates the sense of three dimensionality of glossy paper.

Let me explain.

I have been working with the new Harman FBAL gloss paper. When you first look at prints they are wonderful, truly the closest to the old glossy dried matte we have seen. After a while though, you notice that the paper is so glossy (on my iPF 5000 anyway) that it's actually a little challenging to find a position in which to hold the paper without creating any reflections. This isn't a problem with the more pebbly papers like Silver Rag, Hahnemuhle Pearl, Canon Semi Gloss and so on.

I then noticed that if I hold the image perfectly still in my hand, other than deeper blacks, the image doesn't look significantly different from my matte paper images. Should I move my head slightly or move the paper even a small amount, the three dimensional look comes back to the image. I actually think that it's the reflections off the surface causing variation in the brightness in the tones in local areas which is creating that effect.

Of course, I'm talking subtle here - I'm assuming you have already placed the image in a position which minimizes reflections so that those remaining are barely visible - eg. faint reflections off your clothing as you hold the print - not glaring reflections of the lighting. I'm also talking the tiny movements which are a normal part of holding the print up to the right position, not a deliberate rocking back and forth.

Perhaps I'm completely off target here but see what you think. If I'm right, it has implications for the differences between hand held and rigid dry mounted prints, between in the hand and on the wall, and between bare and behind glass images.



doonster said...

I think you're on to something here for black and white prints. I went off to look at a few of mine and could see something along these lines. For colour, it's a completely different story. the tendency for the colours to be more saturated and intense really is the thing but I'm not sure that things are any more 3D as a result.

George Barr said...

Yes, I should have said that I was referring to black and white prints.


Gary Nylander said...

I have not tried the Harman FBAL gloss paper ( yet ), but I have tried out the Museo Silver Rag made by Crane & Co. and I must say having printed extensively in the darkroom in the past, the Silver Rag sure comes close to what I printed in the darkroom, overall I think its very beautiful paper. I also have to admit I love the fine art mat papers too, I find with the mat papers they seem to have a three dimensional look to them observed by others who have seen my prints. I'm not sure I see that with the gloss papers, most people who I have shown prints made on the Silver Rag ( and for that matter even my old fibre based darkroom prints ) have said that the reflections tend to be a bit distracting. One thing is for sure, the choices in terms of papers surfaces are numerous these days, which is a good thing, its up to the photographer to find what best fits their final artistic expression in terms of a print quality.