Hahnemühle Photo Rag Satin Paper Review

Initial disclaimer:  Prints were done with Epson 3880 with manufacturer supplied profiles.  The scanner isn’t anything special and doesn’t offer much color calibration options, so I did my best to get the print’s scans to look as close to the real print as possible, but obviously there are some differences due to the ambient light under which the prints are viewed.

When I first published my reviews for papers, I was not impressed with Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin.  In an attempt to print the following picture, I got a dull, flat, dark cluttered print shown below the original shot:

Sunset from Crystal Mountain

And the print:

hahn pho rg satin 1

I still had one sheet left in the sample pack so I decided I would try it again.  I picked this shot of an abandoned school from Kandahar, Afghanistan.  A little background on this photo.

I took this photo with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon EF 17-40 f4L Lens.  Photos were taken at f11 and about 25mm if I remember correctly.  I’ll show the individual exposures that were used at the end of the post.  It is actually two, 3-shot horizontal exposure blended images merged together to create a vertically framed photo that comes in at a little under 40 megapixels at full sizer.  Basically, 6 photos blended into one.    I used Nik HDR Efx Pro to blend each 3-shot HDR image together, then I combined the two HDRs together in Photoshop CS5 to create the final composition.  I like the color version but it looks too cheery.  In reality, at the time this image was taken, the school had been unused for a long time due to the war, and even though it had just been renovated, painted, and re-stocked with supplies, no one was using it yet.  As such, I feel the black and white really pulls the image together and makes it convey the feeling that I felt when I was there to take it.  That was in December of 2010.  Today, the school is in full use, fully staffed and equipped, and it educates dozens of Afghan kids from the local area.

Here is the digital file:

The Empty School

and here is the print:

hahn phot rag satin

This print definitely takes the strengths of Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin into full effect.  The image retains all the mystery and subtlety of a matte paper, but the blacks are deeper like a glossy paper.  It really, really captures the emotion of the shot, as I felt it.  Personally, the texture of this paper is amazing, just perfect for this image, and as a “gloss” paper, the texture lends it that great look that you often only get with textured fine art matte paper. That being said, here is a print of the exact same file on Moab Colorado Satine, a fiber paper with a satin finish but with a much smoother surface and slightly heavier gloss.  You can easily see the texture differences in the scans, and can tell that the Colorado Satine has much greater contrast:

moab colo satine

The Colorado satine is much truer to the digital file, but all technical aspects aside, I really like the ‘feel’ and artistry presented in the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin.  You can tell that the lower brightness of the Hahnemuhle retains the highlight detail of the white walls better than the Moab Colorado Satine.

Overall both papers kept the sharpness high, although at 8.5×11 for these prints, the 40 Megapixel file lost much of its finest detail.  A 17×25 print would have done this image way better justice!

I suppose that these tests only further prove that paper is such a personal choice.  I can definitely see times when I would want to use either of these papers.

Now getting away from the comparison itself, here is the first image done in Black and White on Moab Lasal Photo Matte.  I think that this shows that the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Satin really didn’t work for this image, as the straight B&W conversion came out significantly better on this matte paper than it did on the satin:

moab lasl phot matt1

And Lastly! Here is the color version of the Afghan School, you will easily see that it is much “cheerier” than the black and white rendition.

The Empty School

Here are the files I blended in order to get the final product on the school:

Bracketed Shot  001 Bracketed Shot  002 Bracketed Shot  003 Bracketed Shot  004 Bracketed Shot  005 Bracketed Shot  006

Fromt those I got these two “HDR” images:

HDR file  001 HDR file  002

Which stitched together to get me this baseline composite, from which I generated the Black and White version, and the Color version:

The Empty School

From here all my work was in Nik Silver Efx Pro to get the B&W.  To get the color version I used Nik Color Efx, via the Pro Contrast filter, to get a bold image.  Then I went into Photoshop and converted it to LAB color.  From there I applied two identical curves to the A and B channels to increase the contrast without the constraints of the color gamut.  At that point I converted back to ProPhoto RGB with perceptual intent.

All output sharpening was done with Nik Sharpener Pro, for all the prints and for the web sizes of the digital files

Thanks for looking!!

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