How to Choose the Right Paper Type for Your Photo Books

Marianne Stenger
1st September 2020

Are you currently in the process of designing your first photo book? One aspect of the design process that often causes some confusion is the paper type. As you may have already noticed, there are different types of paper to choose from, including classic, matte, and gloss-coated.

The bottom line is that different types of paper have different benefits, and which one will best suit your photo book depends primarily on style of photo book you’re looking to create and of course, your personal preferences.

So how do you choose the right paper type for your photo book? Here’s an overview of the different types of paper and the benefits of each one.

Book Binding

There are many different types of book binding, but the two you’ll most often see used for books containing photos are perfect binding and lay-flat binding.

Perfect binding is the most common, and although it works well for most books, one downside is that it doesn’t allow for an image to be placed across two pages without part of the image being hidden in the book’s spine. For this reason, lay-flat binding has become popular with photographers, as it’s perfect for showcasing wide angle wedding photographs as well as landscape and panoramic photos that stretch across two pages.

Lay-flat vs Perfect Bound

Perfect bound books with digital paper

Perfect bound photo books are a traditional style of books where the pages 

Classic paper

Classic paper is the most versatile of paper types as it will suit photo books of all sizes and can be used for both hardback and paperback covers. It’s a satin finish paper, which means it’s a bit more subtle than gloss-coated paper and also provides a higher level of readability. This makes it a good choice if you want to include text alongside your images, and it’s perfect for family photo books as well as brochures or portfolios.

Classic paper, perfect bound

Gloss-coated paper

As the name suggests, gloss-coated paper is treated with a high gloss finish, which can give your photo books a slick modern look and helps the colours pop. It can be used for both hardback and paperback covers and is a great choice if you want to include high-quality photos that contain a lot of detail, because the gloss finish brings out image clarity and sharpness.  

Matte paper

Matte paper is only available for hardback covers. It has a much more subtle sheen, which gives photographs a softer look and muted colours, which makes it ideal for black-and-white photos, wedding photography, and artist portfolios. These books have a beautiful fine art quality to them, and a true matte finish that is ideal if you want to achieve a professional, anti-glare finish for your photo book.

Matte paper, perfect bound

Lay-flat books with photographic paper

If you decide that a lay-flat book would be the best way to showcase your photographs, here’s a quick look at the types of photographic paper you can choose from.

Gloss photographic  

As with the gloss-coated paper you would use for perfect bind photo books, gloss photographic paper has a smooth high-shine finish. This enhances vibrant colours and detail, which makes it a good choice of paper for animal and nature photographs or macro photography where you want every detail to be crisp and sharp.

Matte photographic

Matte photographic paper has a soft matte finish, which doesn’t reflect light and produces a very artistic effect. Because a matte finish tends to mute colours, it’s the ideal choice for black-and-white photographs, portrait photography and professional portfolios, where you don’t want overly vibrant colours distracting from your subjects or composition.

Matte photographic, lay-flat binding

Lustre photographic

Lustre photographic paper is kind of like the best of both worlds. It has a semi-gloss finish and produces vivid colours with sharp detail, but without the levels of shine you’d get when using gloss photographic paper. It allows the photos to be viewed under a variety of lighting conditions without too much glare, and is a good option for travel books, wedding books, and family albums.

Lustre photographic, lay-flat binding

So to sum it all up, although the paper type and binding style you choose will depend largely on your personal stylistic preferences, there are some instances where a particular option might produce a better result. With this in mind, it’s always a good idea to do a bit of research and make sure you understand your options so you’ll end up with a photo book you can be proud of.

You can order a sample swatch pack with all of our papers to get to feel which one is right for your next project. They cost £5, but with your order you will receive £10 worth of Bob Rewards points.