This afternoon I grabbed an easel and both stacks—glossy and matte—of the Nighthawks pictures. I set up the easel in a room with lots of diffuse daylight and went through the photographs, comparing the two versions. The first thing I noticed was that I’d gotten the editing right: the images looked quite similar. In fact, they looked much more alike than I’d expected. The glossy images containing highly chromatic color had a noticeably greater gamut, but the difference in Dmax was not much apparent. In fact, viewed from some angles some matte pictures appeared to have deeper blacks than the corresponding glossy ones. Some images looked slightly better matte, some better in glossy, and some were a wash.
Surprised, I took the images to a location where they were illuminated by a group of overhead halogen spots. Now the glossy images were clearly the winners. The blacks were deeper, and the colors popped more, without appearing garish, except in a couple of Miami Beach scenes where garish was the order of the day.
Why did the light make so much difference? I don’t think the fact that the tungsten lighting was warmer than the diffused daylight had much to do with it. When the glossy images were in the diffuse environment, there was really no angle from which you could look where some light source wasn’t reflected into your eyes, so you never got to see what the low values really looked like. Under the lights, which were about 45 degrees off the viewing axis, all the reflections just bounced to the floor, and you could see the nice deep blacks.
Since there doesn’t appear to be an environment in which the glossy images, taken as a group, appear worse than the matte ones, I’m going with the glossy images. I’ll take the matte ones along for backup.