When printing digital photos there are two main options for choosing the paper the prints are printed on matte or glossy. Choosing between matte or glossy is not just a matter of how you like your prints to look. There are other things that you should consider.
Some people love glossy shiny things. Usually these people would also choose to use glossy photo printing paper as opposed to matte. Other people prefer more relax things or are laid back and most times end up printing on matte photo paper. But your personality only is enough in order to make the right choice between matte and glossy.
Matte of glossy prints are implemented through a special chemical that is layered on the digital photo prints. As any chemical implementation matte or glossy have different characteristics when it comes to withstanding heat dust and other photo prints handling. Glossy photos have a shiny finish. They tend to look brighter and more cool. Glossy prints sport richer colors as they tend to look more vibrant and more alive. The prints finished with a glossy layer also seem to look sharper and more crisp or in contrast.
Glossy prints have many disadvantages though. Prints that are handled by many people and are designed to be touched a lot are usually implemented as matte prints since glossy prints tend to capture fingerprints and other organic stains more easily. You can try it yourself simply take a glossy digital photo and touch it with your fingers. Look at the photo from close by and you will clearly see your fingerprints on it. When glossy photos get stained with fingerprints or other organic material they need to be cleaned. Cleaning any photo prints can damage the print for example by scratching it. The reason is simple cleaning involves rubbing and rubbing a photo means rubbing its chemical layers which damages them resulting in scratches and other imperfections.
Glossy photos are also not practical if planned to be viewed outdoors or in any environment that is highly lit. The reason is simple glossy photo prints reflect light and thus product glare when exposed to a strong light source. Matte photo prints on the other hand can withstand fingerprints and other organic material that would otherwise stain a glossy photo. Black and white photos tend to look much better when printed on matte paper. When viewing matte photo prints in a highly lit environment there is no glare and no light that is reflected back from the photo print.
Matte prints on the other hand tend to fade colors. Color rich digital photos usually do not look as vibrant and rich as they could look when printed on matte paper.
It is clear that the choice between matte and glossy is a matter of how the photos will be used. Before choosing the paper type to use you should consider how and where the photos will be viewed. For color photos that simply go into a well protected photo album a glossy choice is better. For black and white photos a matte is always the safest choice. For color rich photos that are going to be viewed outdoors and by many different people the choice is not clear. Use glossy if you are willing that the photos will have a short lifespan before they are stained and damaged. Use matte if you want them to last long.
Danette Mckay explains about this subject in more depth at printing pictures