Giclée Fine Art Prints vs. High Street Printing: What’s the difference?

May 24, 2023 | Family Photography, Printing

How are you choosing to preserve and protect your family photographs? Have you considered prints or albums from a professional photographer? If so, you might be wondering what the difference between giclée fine art prints vs. high-street prints is, especially if you haven’t seen a fine art print for yourself yet.

I absolutely love fine art prints, they are by far the most wonderful way to print and preserve your images for future generations. You will notice a difference in costs, but these are completely worth their investment.

When I talk about prints to my families, I always refer to fine art prints and in this blog post, I share the vast differences between these and high street prints.

What is a photographic print?

First, let’s consider a standard print you might get from the high street: these are done using a chemical process, resulting in typically glossy images using a commercial grade inkjet or a technology known as dye-sublimation. This process employs heat to transfer dye onto materials such as paper or fabric. However, they lack the textural variety, colour matching and longevity associated with fine art Giclée prints and will yellow or fade over time.

Giclée Fine Art Prints: The Making of Excellence

Fine art prints, often produced using the Giclée method, stand as the epitome of printmaking technology. The term ‘Giclée’ , pronounced ‘zhee-clay’, derives from the French verb ‘gicler’, meaning ‘to squirt or spray’. It succinctly describes the process involved in making these beautiful prints.

The technical bit first: giclée printing involves the application of tiny droplets of pigment-based ink onto archival-grade paper. This method ensures extreme precision, allowing the reproduction of minutest details with a broad range of vibrant, accurate colours.

Unlike standard printers, a Giclée printer uses a colour set with multiple variants of each primary colour, enabling a much wider colour gamut. The colorants used in this technique are lightfast, meaning they resist fading when exposed to light. The result you’ll get? A fine art print that bears an incredible resemblance to the original image, captivating you with its superior colour accuracy and attention to detail. Skin tones are captured beautifully which is vital for family portraits.

You’ll also immediately notice the finish of a fine art print: it is completely matte, without any reflection or sheen to it like high street prints have – another reason why it looks like a piece of art.

What is considered fine art paper?

The choice of paper significantly contributes to the quality, texture, and longevity of the fine art prints. But what exactly constitutes fine art paper?

Fine art paper is a high-quality, archival-grade paper specifically designed for fine art prints. It’s made from 100% cotton or alpha-cellulose, free from acid that can cause the paper to yellow or degrade over time. This inherent durability of fine art paper is one of the reasons why giclée prints can last for over a century.

The albums I offer consist of 400gsm paper, meaning they have lovely thick texture and feel very luxurious. As soon as you touch the paper you’ll know it’s special.

giclee fine art print album opened up

The importance of ink

There are two types of ink used to print photo books; dye ink and pigment ink. Dye inks work by staining the paper which over time will bleach. This results in the image fading or changing colour. If you have old photos you may have noticed this. Unless stated otherwise, high street printers will use the cheaper dye based ink.

The company I work with to supply my beautiful albums uses pigmented inks which are literally microscopic particles of pigment to achieve the giclee printing described above. The oil paintings you see hung in museums are created using pigment ink. This ink is more expensive but is archival and creates a beautiful result. Fine art prints also use a 12 ink system which creates an almost perfect representation of your image. High street printers only use 4, so you will see dramatic changes in colour tone.

How long do fine art prints last?

Short answer: a very long time and your (great!) grandchildren will be able to enjoy these images! Thanks to the use of pigment-based inks and high-quality archival paper, these prints can last for more than a century without any noticeable fading or colour change.

The longevity of a fine art print, however, is not just about the materials used. It also depends on the care and conditions in which it is kept. These prints should ideally be stored or displayed away from direct sunlight or high humidity areas. When framed, UV-protective glass or acrylic can be used to further protect the print.

Even with minimal care, Giclée Fine Art Prints can maintain their vibrancy and detail for upwards of 100 years, becoming cherished heirlooms for future generations of your family. This exceptional longevity is not a claim that high street prints can make.

How to care for your fine art prints and albums?

There are a few simple tips to keep your fine art prints beautiful:

  • The key thing when caring for your fine art prints and albums is keeping them away from direct sunlight. This can lead to damage over time and cause bleaching of the beautiful paper.
  • Keep your prints in a cool, dry place, avoiding extreme temperatures and high humidity which can degrade your print.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners; use a soft, dry cloth for dusting.

Preserving your family photographs for your children to enjoy in the future

Imagine your children sitting on the sofa, years from now, carefully unwrapping these prints or leafing through an album with you (you won’t do that with your MacBook will you 😉 ?!). Albums and prints are a beautiful way to preserve your story and the love you share with your family. Thanks to my father and his persistence to carry around his camera everywhere, I have lots of beautiful photos when I was little, often showing memories I wouldn’t even recall otherwise. They are some of my most treasured possessions and I love sharing them with my children also.


In essence, while high street prints serve a purpose in certain scenarios, they simply do not compare to the rich detail, exceptional colour, and longevity of Giclée fine art prints. When it comes to investing in photo art that holds its value and allure over time, Giclée prints are undoubtedly the preferred choice. So, when you are considering prints for your treasured family photographs, I invite you to experience the superiority of giclée fine art prints. I am also always happy to share sample prints with you to see for yourself before ordering any products for yourself.

About me

I am maternity and newborn photographer based in Chelsea, London. Specialising in lifestyle maternity, baby & toddler, and family photography, I cover Central and West London, such as Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Battersea, Clapham, Richmond, Westminster, Mayfair and Notting Hill. Please do still get in touch if you live outside of these areas but would be interested in a family photoshoot together. Not quite ready to book? Follow me on Instagram and let’s stay in touch.

Over the last few weeks, I have been featuring various other photographers’ work. This week, I am sharing this article on Indianapolis Prenatal Yoga which outlines where to find the Best Prenatal Yoga Classes in Indianapolis.


  1. Ashlie

    Thank you for explaining the difference in such great detail. This was very informative!

  2. Michele Quattrin

    Love giclee fine art prints, seriously the best!

  3. Becky

    And now I must go order a photo book for my family! So interesting!

  4. Aleah Gregory

    This is super informative! I love the great tips on taking care of your fine art prints.

  5. Charis

    what a great explanation about the differences in printing. Such great points!



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