Photographic Print vs Poster (A Simple Comparison: The Difference Between Photographic Prints & Posters, & How To Choose Between Them)

Is a Photographic Print & Poster the Same Thing?

A photographic print and a poster may look the same, but they are actually quite different.

In this post, we’ll explore the key differences between these two types of prints. By the end, you’ll know which one is right for your home or office.

Let’s get to it!

What Is the Difference Between a Poster & Photographic Print?

Although both high-quality photographic prints and posters are more similar than they are different, the main difference is the type of paper used.

Posters are made with poster paper which is water-resistant, so it doesn’t crinkle up or rip easily when it gets wet. It’s also a little thicker and more durable compared to the regular printer paper you typically see.

On the other hand, photographic prints are made with photo paper which is resin-coated and light-sensitive (more on that later). This type of paper is also water-resistant but is typically thicker than poster paper.

To really understand the difference between photographic prints and posters, let’s look at each of them separately.

Photographic Prints: Paper & Printing

Commonly, digital photographs are printed on plain paper with a printer, but this is not considered a photographic print.

A photographic print is a reproduction (copy) of a photograph or artwork, and it must use photo paper (paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals). This type of paper is smooth and has a gentle polished look or a glossy finish.

Photographic paper is typically made with much higher-quality materials than posters.

Today, most of the high-quality photographic prints sold online are what you call silver halide photographic prints (like Redbubble’s photographic prints). Silver halide photographic prints are printed by exposing photo paper to light and having the image infused in the paper through a silver-based chemical process.

There are many benefits to photographic prints. One is that they can last a lifetime if printed on archival photo paper, and properly stored and cared for.

They also have excellent detail and tonal range, making them ideal for enlargements. And photographic prints are known to have colors that look very natural yet vibrant with amazing highlights and shadows.

Another great thing about a photographic print is that the dye is inside the paper, as opposed to laying on top of the paper, so it’ll be resilient to being damaged by things like scratching and liquids.

Posters: Paper & Printing

Similar to a photographic print, a poster is a type of print (a reproduction/copy of an original work of art or photo).

Standard posters are usually used to advertise events, ideas, or products. For example, a movie studio may release a poster to generate interest in an upcoming film.

These posters are easily printed in high quantities and use lower-quality inks and sheets of paper. Its lower standards of quality are what make posters much more affordable than most other types of prints. But their lower standards in quality also limit their life span and careful attention to the true color of the image is usually not a top priority.

Poster Prints

Today, posters also come as poster prints, which is a superior version of just the standard poster. When you go to popular sites like Society6 and Redbubble, you’ll quickly find that poster prints that are sold as high-quality wall art.

However, compared to other types of prints, poster prints are still one of the cheapest ways to decorate bare walls.

Although poster prints are considered to be of lesser quality than photographic prints, sites like Society6 and Redbubble have posters that are printed on premium, smooth gloss/semi-gloss poster paper.

The weight for most poster paper is usually 120-140gsm* which is sturdy enough for temporary posters you would find nailed to a post outside, advertising a band’s gig, or trying to find a missing pet. They can definitely handle a bit of wind and rain.

However, poster prints that are meant to be hung on your walls as artwork should usually be 185gsm in weight or more, especially if they won’t be framed. (Quick Tip: you can get great, affordable poster frames on Amazon).

Society6 posters are around 271gsm and Redbubble posters are 185gsm in weight.

Conclusion: Choosing Between Photographic Prints or Posters

When choosing between photographic prints or posters, there are a few things to consider.

First, think about the space you have available. Since posters typically come in large sizes, posters inside poster frames may be the best option if you have a big empty wall. If you have a smaller space or want to create a gallery wall, then photographic prints might be a better option.

Second, it’s important to consider the quality of the print and the artwork or photography itself. If the image is of a landscape or cityscape, a big poster may be the best way to show off the beauty of the image. If the image is of a portrait or close-up, then photographic prints might be better so that viewers can see the subject more clearly.

Third, if you want the print to last a lifetime, a professional photographic print that is made with archival photo paper is an excellent choice.

Finally, think about your budget. Posters, even with DIY framing (Amazon), are typically less expensive than photos. So if you’re looking for a more affordable option, posters might be the way to go.