San Diego portrait photographer

Reexamining the Greener Print

Reexamining the Greener Print


By Dawn Tacker
Images by Mark Pawlyszyn

Whether your do your own printing or task that to a competent lab, Greener Photography recommends using natural fiber paper in place of traditional RC/silver halide paper for printmaking as a greener option. Read more about that in our Greener Photographic Prints article. But which natural fiber paper to choose? One important factor to consider: the use of OBAs, or optical brightening agents.

OBAs are used to make paper look more uniform, and more white. But at what cost? As OBAs break down, their effects do as well—and they don't break down uniformly. A paper that is made unnaturally white through the use of OBAs will start to yellow—it is a matter of the paper returning to its "natural" color. However, when OBAs break down they can cause irregular yellowing. OBAs call into question the longevity of a photographic print—what good is a lightfast rating of 200 years if your print will yellow sooner than that? The greenest options for printing are also those that will withstand the test of time.


What's a photographer to do? To avoid color shifts and yellowing of your fine art prints, chose papers with zero or very low levels of OBAs. How do you find out if your paper has OBAs? Check out the manufacturer's website, and look for information on OBA content. Click on "Continue reading 'Reexamining the Greener Print'" to find our list of a few examples of papers that have zero-to-low levels of OBAs:


Hahnemuhle Matte Digital Fine Art Paper: smooth

Hahnemuhle Matte Digital Fine Art Paper: textured

Moab Paper (Moab by Legion Paper)

Red River Paper

PPA and Greener Photography member Mark Pawlyszyn is known for his beautiful images and printmaking skills. He has worked with nearly all the Hahnemuhle papers. In his experience, "The Hahnemuhle Bamboo paper is a great paper. It is in no way inferior to their other papers. It just has a different look. And it's a quite distinctive look, too. The paper has a very nice tooth, or texture, like a watercolour art paper. The texture is in between their Photo Rag and Museum Etching papers. There is a warmth to the paper that really works well with warm images. It's not yellow, though. It's more like the rich cream of an old writing paper. It takes the ink very well, though like with all matte papers the blacks are not as deep as with gloss papers. I like it more for images with a vintage look to them, though you could really use it with any image that didn't require really bright whites or deep blacks."


Want to read more?

How do OBAs effect longevity of fine art prints?

Print permanence ratings for specific papers at the Wilhelm Imaging Research website.

How does your favorite paper rate? Leave us a comment below and let us know! Greener Photography is working on compiling a comprehensive list of recommended papers.

Dawn Tacker is a San Diego-based portrait photographer and co-founder of Greener Photography.

Marketing Yourself as a Greener Portrait Photographer


By Dawn Tacker Originally featured in Professional Photographer.

It's relatively easy to show the world that you care about the environment. Demonstrate your green-ness in your business as well to connect with the educated, savvy group of families that make wonderful, caring portrait clients. Together you and your clients can help bring positive change.

Understanding the Eco-Aware Family

Many families who are concerned about the environment view all their purchasing decisions through a green lens. The power of supply demand is a beautiful thing - as more like-minded consumers ask for and purchase greener options, more options are available to them. The photographic industry is in its infancy when it comes to offering greener products. Ride the wave of change by understanding your eco-friendly options in photography, educating your clients about their greener options, and letting your environmentalism shine through all that you do.

Educate consumers

  • Have a well-articulated environmental policy on your website that indicates all the things you do to run a greener business. Going through Greener Photography's certification process will provide a roadmap for writing your statement.
  • Help your clients understand the environmental impact of traditional photographic products. For example, explain why RC prints are not eco-friendly.
  • Ensure all aspects of your business reflect your environmentalism. For example, use recycled paper/natural paper options for printing promotional materials. Start with Greener Photography's list of offset printers offering such products.

Offer greener portrait products

  • Add natural fiber prints to your offerings, such as giclee-printed sugarcane, bamboo, or cotton rag paper, and canvas gallery wraps. Several options are listed on Greener Photography's Green Guide.
  • Provide albums that are giclee printed and covered with natural fibers. You can get specific ideas on companies here. Read more about the eco-friendly album here.
  • Finish your eco-friendly portraits with greener framing options. For example, use reclaimed wood frames, or frames made from recycled materials. Check out more on greener framing options here.


Walk the walk

Wave your green flag in any number of ways to show how green you are. A few ideas:

  • Plant a tree to commemorate your clients' new babies, high school graduation, and every milestone in between. Check out Plant a Tree USA, or purchase a potted plant or tree for your portrait clients to plant.
  • Donate a percentage of your profits to an environmental non-profit such as 1% for the Planet. Check out non-profit ratings on Charity Navigator.
  • Become certified with Greener Photography at the Basic, Premiere, or Leadership Circle Level to demonstrate your commitment to running a greener photography business.

Dawn Tacker of Eos Photography is a portrait photographer based in San Diego County. She is co-founder of Greener Photography.

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