Photographic prints represent more than just ink on paper. There’s value in these tangible time capsules for both the photographer and the subjects captured. In the age of digital photography and fleeting social media posts, photo prints offer a means to interact with our memories and keep them top of mind rather than lose them in the cyber abyss. When it comes to having prints made, however, several paths exist to reach the final printed image, and the best path can vary for different people. In this article, we’ll provide a basic guide for navigating various options, from choosing materials to deciding on mounting, as we work towards creating the “perfect” photographic print.

Let’s begin.

1. Papers: Varieties and Their Unique Qualities

The choice of paper significantly influences the aesthetic and longevity of a photographic print. Poor quality paper will yield less than stellar results, while quality paper options can truly elevate the imagery. While you can save money having prints made at local big box stores, the true mission of preserving the memory via print will suffer. It’s worth seeking out a professional print lab, like Zno, to find the best paper options for printing your photos. Here are some of Zno’s prints. That said, each type of paper has distinct characteristics. We’ll explore some popular quality options below:

Paper examples from Zno, L-R: Lustre, Metallic, Matte Velvet, Glossy, Silk
  • Lustre Paper: Striking a balance between gloss and matte, lustre paper is resistant to fingerprints and slight glare, making it a versatile choice for both portrait and landscape photography. Its color saturation and detail rendition make it a favorite among professionals.
  • Matte Velvet Paper: Ideal for photographs that will be displayed under direct light, this paper mitigates glare while offering a smooth, soft surface. Its deep color absorption makes it suitable for highly detailed and moody prints.
  • Metallic Paper: This high-gloss, high-contrast paper adds a dramatic flair to images. Its metallic finish provides a 3D effect, enhancing the visual depth, making it perfect for portraits, vibrant landscapes, or even cityscapes.
  • Silk Paper: Preferred for its delicate feel and elegant appearance, silk paper offers a slight texture that adds depth and richness to images. It’s often the go-to choice for wedding photographs, portraits, and fine art.
  • Glossy Paper: Known for its shiny surface, it delivers high color density, sharpness, and vibrancy. However, it’s more prone to fingerprints and glare, requiring careful handling and framing. It’s worth noting that labs like Zno put an invisible coating on each print to help protect the print against fingerprints, spills and color fading.

Common Photographic Print Sizes

The size of a print plays a pivotal role in its visual and emotional impact, as well as its suitability for various spaces.

Small Photographic Prints

A small print, for instance, invites close-up viewing and often creates a sense of intimacy and personal connection, making it ideal for smaller, private areas like bedrooms or study rooms. These sizes are perfect for capturing delicate details or for creating a personal gallery of smaller images.

Large Photographic Prints

Conversely, large prints make a bold statement and are designed to be viewed from a distance. They can dominate a space, commanding attention and setting the tone of a room. Such sizes are well-suited for living rooms, lobbies, or exhibition halls, where they can be appreciated in their full glory. Large prints are particularly effective for dramatic landscapes, striking portraits, or any image where the detail and scale contribute to the overall impact.

Medium-Sized Prints

Medium-sized prints offer a versatile middle ground, suitable for a variety of settings, from small offices to larger living spaces. They can be used to complement interior design elements without overwhelming the space.

Photographic Prints Vs. Display Area

Additionally, the size of a print should be considered in relation to the space it occupies. A large print in a small room can feel overpowering, while a small print in a vast space might appear lost. The dimensions of a print can either harmonize with or disrupt the spatial balance, making size an important aspect to consider in photographic presentation and interior design.

  • Photographic print size options from Zno.

    Small to Medium Sizes (8×10, 10×15, 11×14): Ideal for personal albums, small wall spaces, or desktop frames.

  • Large Formats (16×20, 20×24, 24×36, 30×40): Perfect for statement pieces in galleries, living rooms, or large office spaces.
  • Square Formats (10×10, 12×12, 20×20, 24×24): Suited for modern, symmetrical compositions or to create a series of themed prints.
  • Panoramic Sizes (10×24, 12×36, 6×18, 18×36): Best for capturing expansive landscapes, cityscapes, or wide group shots.
  • Unique Dimensions (8×12, 12×24, 14×26, 16×16, 18×24, 20×30, 30×30): Tailored for specific artistic needs or custom spaces.

Mounting Options: Enhancing Durability and Presentation

Mounting is important for print preservation and presentation, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes. Functionally, mounting provides structural support to the print, ensuring that it remains flat and stable over time. This is especially important for larger prints, which might otherwise warp or buckle. Aesthetically, mounting can enhance the visual appeal of a print. It creates a buffer between the print and the framing material, adding depth and focus to the image. Furthermore, the choice of mounting material can complement the photograph’s style and the room’s décor. For example, a sleek, modern photograph might be best served by a minimalistic, rigid mount, while a traditional portrait might benefit from a more substantial, classic mount.

The color and texture of the mounting material can also play a significant role in how the final product looks and feels. A well-chosen mount can elevate a print from a mere picture to a piece of art, enhancing its impact and ensuring its longevity in a collection or as part of a home’s interior design.

mounting options for photographic prints
Mounting option examples (from left): Styrene, Masonite, and Gator Foamboard
  • Styrene Mounting: A flexible, thin, yet sturdy option. Its moisture-resistant property makes it suitable for humid environments.
  • Masonite Mounting: A classic, heavy-duty choice that adds substantial weight and depth to prints, often used for professional and gallery displays.
  • Gator Foamboard Mounting: Combines lightness with rigidity, making it perfect for large prints that need easier handling and hanging.

border options for photographic prints

  • Border Options: Adding a border can enhance the visual impact of a print. Borders can be chosen to complement or contrast with the image and can range from subtle white to bold black or any color in between. You can find a wide option of border sizes available. We’ve highlighted three of them above.

Best Export Options in Lightroom for Prints

export presets for creating photographic prints

It’s important to make sure that your photo files are properly prepared for print. Luckily, you can set up up export presets in Lightroom to do just that. Optimizing photos for printing through Lightroom involves the following key steps:

  • Resolution and DPI: A minimum of 300 dpi is standard for high-quality prints, ensuring sharpness and detail.
  • Color Space: Choose sRGB for most consumer-level printers and Adobe RGB for professional prints.
    File Format: JPEG is versatile and widely accepted, while TIFF offers higher quality at the cost of larger file sizes.
  • Sharpening and Noise Reduction: Apply these judiciously to enhance detail without introducing artifacts.
  • Monitor Calibration and Printer Profiles: Ensure your monitor is calibrated for accurate color representation, and use printer profiles that match your paper type for consistent results.

Ordering Your Photographic Prints

from design to photographic prints

To order a photographic print, it’s in your favor to choose a high quality printer for both quality final products as well as the process of ordering them. If you’re a professional who uses an online gallery to host images, for example, you will likely be able to order the photographic prints directly from a gallery like Zno Gallery. This holds especially true for a lab like Zno, who operates as both a professional print lab and photography software platform. Meaning they have the ability to both design AND sell/print albums, which we discuss in more detail in this review of Zno Gallery and its online store.

Packaging Options: Ensuring Safe Transit

shipping options for photographic prints

What good is a quality print if it shows up at your doorstep (or worse yet, your client’s doorstep) in horrible shape? Proper packaging is essential for the safe transport and delivery of photographic prints, acting as the first line of defense against potential damage. During transit, prints are vulnerable to a variety of hazards, including moisture, bending, creasing, and impact damage. Effective packaging addresses these risks by providing a protective barrier.

  • Flat Packaging: For flat packaging, sturdy, rigid boards or specialized plastic cases are often used to prevent bending and creasing. These materials are particularly important for smaller or medium-sized prints, which can easily become damaged if not adequately supported.
  • Tube Packaging: For larger prints, tube packaging is typically employed. These tubes, made from strong, durable materials, protect the prints from tears and creases by allowing them to be rolled rather than folded. They also offer a degree of impact resistance, safeguarding the print from knocks and drops that can occur during shipping.

Furthermore, the packaging material should be chosen to be as environmentally friendly as possible, reducing the ecological footprint of art transport. In addition to these physical protections, proper packaging often includes moisture-resistant materials to shield the prints from humidity and water damage, especially important in varying climate conditions during transport. All these considerations in packaging ensure that the photographic prints arrive at their destination in the same pristine condition they left the studio, ready to be appreciated by their new owners.


Creating photographic prints is an art in itself. The right combination of paper, size, mounting, and preparation can transform a digital image into a stunning piece of tangible art. Whether you’re a hobbyist capturing life’s moments or a professional crafting a portfolio, understanding these elements will elevate your photographic prints to new heights, ensuring they not only capture but also enhance the essence of your work.