Journal

Photography, photoshop, and the philosophy of taking pictures by photographer Bill Wadman, co-host of On Taking Pictures.

The Glossy/Matte Debate

It's kind of funny actually, it used to be that photographers had an opinion one way or the other about the paper their images were printed on.  The older matte, more modern glossy, or a satin that was somewhere in between. Incidentally I prefer satin for reasons I'll explain in a bit.  What's funny is that not only has this argument become even more clouded with the explosion of inkjet photo paper options, but now it's expanded to computer screens as well.

For those who don't follow the debate, many photographers and graphic designers and some normal crazy people don't like the glossy screens on many recent laptops. Sony and HP and Apple have been doing this for a while.  Currently, all of the latest Macs come with glossy screens as standard.  This includes the 13", 15" and now 17" laptops as well as the iMac and the latest Cinema Display.  Up until this last revision in October, Apple gave the buyers of the MacBook an option to build the laptops with a matte screen, but now they don't (I know the new 17" has a matte option, but who wants to carry around a 7lb computer).

Well, a lot of people seem to be very upset about this and since I have two heads like Zaphod Beeblebrox, I'm willing to put one of them in the lion's mouth.  I don't see what the big problem is with glossy, unless you're working outside all day. Especially with the bright LED back-lights in today's displays which can overpower bright outdoor sun. Are there reflections?  Sure there are, but there were with matte screens too, they just got blurred and subdued and smeared so you couldn't tell what was a brightness difference from a reflection and what was from the screen itself.

I had a 15" MacBook Pro from late 2006 with a matte screen and I didn't like editing on that at all.  I gave it to my sister a couple months ago and replaced it with a new 13" MacBook. I wish it had the better screen of the Air, but I don't do color correction on this thing anyway, it's just for sitting on my bed writing blog posts and taking it on set to dump images to during a shoot. I have yet to have a reflection problem that couldn't be fixed by turning the laptop 5 degrees or tilting the screen a bit.

And on the plus side, the glossy screen has much blacker blacks, and side by side with an identical machine with a matte screen in the store, the glossy screen is a closer match to my calibrated Eizo and NEC desktop LCDs.  Others may feel differently, but I don't know many people who have gone glossy and then gone back. In my mind, it's a whole lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt out there. Maybe fear of change. 

Oh and for what it's worth, I like satin finish paper for the best of both worlds. Not too shiny, but with much richer blacks and more saturated color than matte paper.  I used to print my portfolio on matte and then one day I did a side by side with a satin print.  No contest, I reprinted my whole book that very night.  To be specific, Red River Arctic Polar Satin is my favorite and reasonably priced.

Let the onslaught begin.