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Home Photo Printing Tips
Handy tips for creating your own top notch photo prints
By David Fleet
These photo printing tips will help you to start creating great prints of your images, without having to pay for a specialist company to do it for you. When you snap a great photo it's an achievement in itself. But the story doesn't stop there. It's nothing if you can't share it, or present it to people in physical form.
We can upload digital photos to a computer to view, share them online, or even connect them to digital photo frames. But don't you want more? There's still nothing like a crisply produced print of a photograph. In fact, printing your digital photos is almost a whole other art form!
Taking the picture you spent time thinking about lighting and carefully considered the composition. So, why not continue this attention to detail as you move to the next stage in the workflow - printing?
Is Your Printer Up to Scratch?
The first requirement for printing top quality digital photos is to have a good printer on hand. A lot of companies have a line of printers that are designed specifically for photo printing, as opposed to text documents (some high-end printers are suitable for both). These all have the capacity to print nice quality digital photos.
You really do need a printer that has been designed for photo printing. Regular printers - whether inkjet or laserjetink - simply aren't built to support the vivid colors and fine details that printing high quality photographs requires.
Choosing Your Ink Carefully
The specific ink that you use is critical for creating the brightest, most accurate hues that colour beautiful prints. It's poor ink choices, as well as the wrong type of printer, that can result in dim blue skies, lifeless portraits, lackluster flowers and generally dull images.
While ink is relatively expensive, one of my top photo printing tips is to stick to manufacturers' genuine ink - at least until you know what you are doing.
So, apart from choosing manufacturers' ink, what other options do you have in this regard. Well, there are two primary ink types to choose from: pigment inks and dye based inks.
First, pigment inks are designed to be more water-resistant than their dye based counterparts. Because of their composition, however, they have to be used frequently.
If you only print a handful of photographs every few months it is possible that pigment based inks will clog your printer - not only wasting you money in lost ink, but also giving you the hassle of cleaning the print heads.
Pigment inks are the best choice if you are going to be selling your work, or if you plan on keeping your prints for a long time, as they resist fading much better than dye based inks.
Dye Based Inks
Dye based inks, on the other hand, dissolve completely in water. This means they flow through your print heads more easily, and so are less prone to clogging.
But, in turn, they are more susceptible to unexpected encounters with water (they run easily). So if you do use dye based inks, be sure to keep your prints safe and protected from the elements (granted, you should of course do this with prints that use pigment based inks as well.)
Arguably, dye based inks are a better alternative for amateur photographers, simply because they are less likely to clog if you don't use your printer for a few weeks/months.
(The Canon Pixma Pro 9000)
In fact, just yesterday I got a Canon Pro 9000 Mk2 out from storage, where it had been in its box for nearly 12 months. I powered it up and checked for clogged nozzles (the bits where the ink comes out on to the paper)...and they were absolutely fine! It printed perfectly first time! I wouldn't dare try this with my Epson Stylus Pro 3880 pigment ink based printer.
Epson has historically provided the top-rated pigment based inks, whilst Canon has been the leader in dye based inks. Other options are also available, but these are the most common choices for consumer level photo printers.
Before you print a photo, you need to make sure you set your printer resolution. This is one of the most important photo printing tips. Why...?
Well, the resolution number that you select refers to the density of ink droplets on the paper. Higher resolutions tend to correspond with more detail and larger photographs.
It's worth saying, though, that cranking up printer resolution beyond about 1440dpi produces negligible benefits. Plus, A higher resolution will also require a longer printing time, because more ink is being placed on the paper.
So don't always assume you need a really high resloution; consider what you are working with to find the right level. It's important to think the size of the photo you're producing, the detail within it and the paper type.
Personally, I find that using 2880 DPI for glossy papers, and 1440 for matte papers, generally provides great results. But as with everything to do with printing, the best way to see what works for you is to buy a stack of paper and get testing!
Paper Types - A Creative Opportunity
Now, the last of my photo printing tips relate to photo paper:
- Always use quality photo paper
- Always follow your printer manufacturer's recommendations for printer settings with a given print media (paper type).
There are a lot of paper varieties available, so you can customize yourprints according to your preferences. Choose between glossy, matte, pearl, semi-gloss, and other paper options for the ideal finish.
Never use cheap, plain paper though, because your printed photographs will lose their colour detail quickly. For quality photographic printing it's always worth investing in proper photo paper.
When first starting out with home photo printing, it is highly recommended to stick to your printer manufacturer's own brand papers. Why? Because they are set up to work with your printer without too much effort.
But there are several outstanding third party paper producers, whose products you can begin exploring once you're familiar with the basics. It's a great way to get creative with your printing
Here are few third party papers that I have used and can vouch for in every case:
- Canson Baryta: Semi gloss finish, with a very slight texture to the surface. A thick paper with very deep blacks and a sharp look.
- Canson Rag: A Thick Mat Rag paper with a smooth surface and beautiful colour rendition. Gives an arty look to your photos. Not as sharp as Glossy type papers.
- Ilford Smooth Gloss: Quite thick, high gloss paper which renders images sharply. A good quality, reasonably cheap paper.
With the amazing home photo printers available today, you have the ability to print stunning photographs without the help of an outside printing service. Bearing in mind the photo printing tips in this article, you can produce top quality photographs from start to finish entirely on your own.
As well as printer type, ink type, resolution and paper type, there's another important part of home photo printing. It relates to making your photos match what you see on your screen, and making the colours on your screen appear accurately.
This is known as 'colour management'. Colour management can seem like quite a complicated subject, but it is something that I have tried to simplify for you here.
Have Your Say and Share Your Photos
Printing digital pictures is often about experimentation and being willing to make mistakes. Pass on some of your own photo printing tips here...