Lustre vs glossy: which kind of photo paper to use?

A huge part of delivering the final product in photography is the finish on the print. Two very popular finishes are lustre and glossy. In this post, let’s compare the difference between lustre and glossy.

It is very important to consider the kind of finish you will use, because the finishes will determine the texture, whether the surface is smooth or not, and the colors and details of the final prints.

What is a lustre finish on photos?

Lustre finish is actually halfway between glossy and matte. Glossy finishes are very shiny and smooth, whereas matte finishes can be a little dull.

The texture you can expect to see from lustre photo paper is very fine particles, as if you were running your fingers across very small pebbles clumped closely together.

One of the main advantages of using lustre paper is the glare is less than that of glossy finishes. That’s not to say lustre is free of glare, though.

Lustre paper also displays colors and their saturation better, as well as displaying more details of the image.

Professional photographers prefer lustre paper for a wide variety of applications.

What is a glossy finish?

A glossy finish is exactly as it sounds. The paper is shiny and will reflect a lot of light. Colors will also be very saturated and glossy prints are the kinds of prints that you’ll typically find in family albums.

The smooth finish makes it easy to scan glossy finished photos in a computer, but it is a huge pain to try to scan it with your phone’s camera as it will reflect a lot of light, almost like glass.

Additionally, the shiny surface will also show fingerprints very easily, so be careful and mindful if you have oily skin!

lustre vs glossy

This image from SmugMug really demonstrates the difference between lustre and glossy. The photo of the lady is lustre finish, which even with glare looks normal. The photo of Darth Maul on the right is glossy and reflects the glare.


What is the difference between matte and lustre finish?

Next up in our comparisons is lustre vs matte finish. Matte finish has a lot of texture on the surface, so it won’t pick up fingerprints as easily as glossy paper.

However, the matte finish on photos does come with a hidden cost: the images won’t be quite as vibrant or colorful. Matte finish photos are useful for very small prints like the ones you keep in your wallet, or passport photographs.

Matte photos are also good for black and white pictures.

Lustre prints on the other hand will have the best of matte and glossy pictures, with the robustness of the print seen in matte photos and the vibrance and colors of glossy prints.

Is lustre or glossy better for framing?

Finally, let’s address the question of framing. Is lustre or glossy better for framing photographs?

I feel like it is a matter of personal preference, but lustre is actually better for framing. Nowadays, a better alternative to using glass in frames is treating the photos with a special lamination film that covers the entire surface of the print.

Upon lamination, the photo ends up looking like lustre print anyway. I am not a huge fan of glass anymore because moisture can sometimes sneak in between the glass and the photo and cause it to warp or worse, cause some water damage.

More: Acrylic vs Metal prints

Not having any glass on the frame also means there will be less glare, and the lamination is easy to clean, too.

Where to store your digital photos

There are quite a few services out there that offer photo hosting and portfolio building, but by far, our favorite is SmugMug.

SmugMug is great for storing memories as well as for amateurs and professionals to show off their shots.

Once you sign up, you have unlimited storage so you can upload any resolution of your photographs that you need.

You can also build a portfolio site to show off, as well as access your photos from anywhere.

And if you need prints, you can order them from within SmugMug itself. It’s a one-stop solution.

You can sign up here for a 14 day trial, and get 15% off if you decide to subscribe.

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