Choosing the Right Paper for Incredible Professional Portraits

Choosing the Right Paper for Incredible Professional Portraits

One of the most common questions I get from Marathon customers is which papers I recommend for portrait images or what are my personal favorites. Being a Fine Arts Degree graduate I am a self-admitted paper junkie. I’ve not only done a lot of research on paper but I’ve even gone so far as to make it as well. It makes you look at your portraits in a different way and why I am so passionate that everyone should own a beautiful print.


These papers allow you to promote yourself differently to the consumer. Let’s face it, there are a lot of similar products that the consumer can get anywhere, which means they tend to shop for the lowest price even with your great photography skills. Not so with the Bella papers. These are MUSEUM quality papers. The inks absorb into the fibers of these papers. They look and feel every bit of quality. This allows you to promote the uniqueness of your prints, which minimizes pricing sensitivity.


Not all paper is created equal. A lot of in-depth investigation & testing went into the process before a decision was made on all the Bella papers by the owners at Marathon Press. Each became a labor of love and the ones selected really are extremely elite.


Just like not all papers aren’t created equal, neither are printers. After a lot of research on this Marathon decided to invest in the incredible HP12000 inkjet printer and archival inks. This is not a small machine as you can see in the photo. It produces the finest color and depth in prints available in the world.


The HP 12000


The technical term for this combination of ink and inkjet paper is called Gicleé prints. It’s an artist’s dream is what it is. It used to be financially restrictive due to the expensive technology and a limited number of printers offering it but thanks to the evolution of technology everyone can now afford this.


My Top 3 Professional Portrait Paper Recommendations


#1. Bella Pearl. Just like the name sounds, you have an incredible balance, depth, and saturation to go with a pearly, non-textured finish. It works well on just about every type of image, black & white or color, and the paper has a fabulous weight to it.


#2. Bella Watercolor. This paper fits my personal photography style the most when I get “artsy”. Especially when I want textured paper. The colors are just slightly muted as you’d expect with watercolor. And the best part – the texture isn’t obnoxious. You don’t lose detail in small faces, etc. This paper oozes quality when you hold and touch it. All the Bella prints can stand on their own and be a product you could sell as a group in a beautiful display box.



#3. Bella Fine. This paper is unique. It has the brightest white point and the sharpest reproduction but due to the finish being a little flatter it isn’t one that works ideally for all my personal images. So why is it a top 3 favorite? Because when it does work with an image I have in mind it’s unbeatable. In addition to the whiteness, the surface is smooth, the weight is fabulous and there are few papers out there that give me that perfect combo that works particularly well with my black & white portraits.



Side by side paper comparisons show the uniqueness of my favorite Bella papers


While all the Bella papers are amazing, these are my top 3 all-stars. All Bella prints maintain the finest gradation of tones and colors. Skin tones remain consistent and true. Never any distortion caused by any of the textures, even in small head sizes, etc. My digitally painted images look as if I actually painted them directly on these papers!


The papers that are textured are textured throughout the paper. Not just the surface. All maintain the tiniest of details. Look at the font used in this sample. Even the thinnest part of the font line is absolutely perfect. And look at the detail in the gradation of inks!



Of course, Marathon also has the Pro Photo paper that offers you the more “traditional” looking prints but Bella will take your images and quality to a whole new level. But even the Pro Photo papers are more archival than traditional prints due to the inkjet technology used. Oh, and by the way, the side-benefit to inkjet technology? The prints are water-resistant!


Another thing I love is doing a deckled edge (torn) look with these papers. While this is not a service Marathon provides, it is not hard to do with a little practice. I just use a long ruler (metal, wood, or even a hard edge table will work). While I’ve personally never used a Deckled Edge tearing ruler, you can purchase them from just about any hobby store or online. The beautiful fibers revealed in these papers are second to none. These prints make GORGEOUS float mount prints! Another selling option upgrade!



A New Product Line to Sell!

The Bella Prints aren’t just for portraits. Use this paper to sell your Fine Art, limited edition scenic, and art prints. Get inspired by how Fine Art Galleries display their limited edition prints. From just the print itself packaged individually to framed finished prints, you can easily set up a dedicated section of your studio to feature these. Remember, you can’t sell what you don’t show!


Be sure and add an 8×10 tabletop display that promotes – “About the Artist”  to add even more value to your limited edition prints for sale


My Summary – The Bella Art Prints give you the finest paper available in the industry. From professional portrait prints to limited edition fine art prints, these papers give you something unique and incredible to sell as this is not something the discount stores offer. Oh, and these papers are also available in Marathon’s Bella Lay flat albums too. You can even get a free Bella Kit to review and get inspired by the papers until you get your own too.


Want a wall-size Bella Art Print of your own? Get one for 50% off!

Use code – Save50Bella under the Promotions tab during check out. Receive 50% off one Bella Print order through Marathon ROES. Limited to one discount per studio. $20 order minimum still applies. Cannot be used on previous orders or combined with any other offers. Expires 8/31/22.



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This article was written by
Mark Weber

Mark Weber M.Photog., Cr., M. Artist, CPP is a veteran professional photographer and marketing consultant with Marathon Press. He spearheads the MAP Program at Marathon Press which helps photographers gain control of their business to take their business to a new level with ongoing marketing support. He holds several Photographer of the Year titles and was recently presented with the PPA National Award, given for outstanding service to the photographic industry.

There are 145 comments for this article
  1. Carly at 2:45 pm

    I have been a photographer for more than 5 years. By far, Bella paper is my favorite. For portraits I usually choose Bella fine. For my more artistic work, I usually choose cotton, I love the thickness of this paper, or watercolor for the texture.

    • Mark Weber at 3:04 pm

      Interesting to read Carly. I always enjoy learning which papers and why photographers select the papers they do. Cotton is another great choice as well. That is another one I love doing a deckled edge to with the right image.

  2. Judith Jihnston at 2:54 pm

    I have used all three of your favorite
    Bella papers for different applications. Besides being a professional portrait photographer, I am also a fine artist. I have made the giclee prints from my oil paintings and the watercolor paper works stunningly for me.
    In our portrait studio we offer higher end photo giclee prints that are mounted and framed.
    The colors stay rich and deep.
    Thanks to Marathon for providing amazing service on these.
    Mark you have been a great help in deciding which papers to use.

    • Mark Weber at 3:10 pm

      Hi Judy! I LOVE your oil paintings. I have seen some of the Bella prints of those come thru the Lab. They always get a lot of excellent comments from our production people when they see them. Glad to have been some help with the paper. I hope you have another art show in Norfolk soon! What a great display of your talents!

  3. Doug at 3:05 pm

    Until you sent me samples of the various Bella papers with one of my images on it, I had no idea the quality of this paper. I have to admit , Pearl is my favorite. Especially with the non textured finish. It holds the colors well. A nice addition for a little extra wow factor that most clients have not seen before. I tend to lean toward fine for my portrait work. I would agree that the fine paper with a black and white image is outstanding.

    • Mark Weber at 3:16 pm

      Hi Doug! Or should I say, “Mr. Loan” (now Image Excellence) King? LOL. I see you have the same great taste as me with the Pearl being a favorite? Seriously, it is one of those papers that has full saturation and the pearlescence doesn’t have a glare or need a head-on viewing angle to look amazing. It’s just great under any light and any angle. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Nikki at 3:52 pm

    After reading more about the different Bella paper options, I am looking forward to trying out a couple options. A very interesting read!

  5. Mark Weber at 4:04 pm

    Glad you found it helpful Nikki. If you’ve not ordered from Marathon Press before, consider getting our 10 free Color Test Prints available in Roes. You can have Marathon color correct your files or if you calibrate your own monitor, you will find some information on our website here about the settings we recommend – Feel free to send me some files to look at in advance too. I’m happy to be your eyes for you and give you some immediate feedback before you send anything in. My contact is or 800-228-0629 ext. 283.

  6. Hollie Klimek at 11:00 am

    I personally love the Bella for my landscape and certain styles of my portrait photography. It’s great to offer something unique to our clients with a local feel! Thanks for offering the samples too…this makes a world of difference when determining which paper type is appropriate.

    • Mark Weber at 12:29 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Hollie. We believe in samples! That’s why we also offered the 50% discount code so you can get a Bella Art Print of your own because you can’t sell what you don’t show! Keep up the great work you do with both your portrait and landscape work. Your work is always beautiful and creative.

  7. Hollie at 11:01 am

    I personally love the Bella for my landscape and certain styles of my portrait photography. It’s great to offer something unique to our clients with a local feel! Thanks for offering the samples too…this makes a world of difference when determining which paper type is appropriate.

  8. Jason Deyo at 5:42 pm

    Great read Mark! It’s amazing how the change of paper can turn your image into a masterpiece! We love the water color paper for our black and whites.

    • Mark Weber at 11:53 am

      Thanks Jason. The work you all do is a masterpiece on their own but with the Bella papers I agree. They take images to the next level. Great choice on the black and whites. Linens is another favorite with black and white. It reminds me of some papers I used to use in the dark room days!

  9. Jerett Kelly at 11:26 am

    There’s some great insight in here, Mark. Thank you for that! Having seen many of your prints on these products, I definitely agree that the quality is amazing.

    • Mark Weber at 8:19 am

      Glad you agree! I’ve entered some of these in the Professional Photographers of Aerica print competitions in the past and I believe that has also added to a higher score. If you haven’t tried the Bella Test Prints in Roes you get 10 free 8×10’s on your choice of Bella papers. A great way to see what your images look like on those papers!

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