If you have tried your hand in printing your own photos and been disappointed in the results, you might be making some errors that are simple to correct. Most inkjet and thermal dye printers now can print photographs at drugstore caliber or better with very little if any work on your part.
However, it sometimes helps to follow the 80-20 principle, but in this instance, it’s more of a 90-10 rule: you can get 90% of the finest possible photo for 10 percent of this effort that it would require the best. Here’s an overview of the most crucial things you need to learn to reach 90 percent. (A companion post, Easy Photo Printing Tips, and Tricks, is targeted to novices learning the different ways of printing: by PictBridge camera, USB key, direct in the pc, etc..)
A phrase on printers. To get a start, it is helpful to understand what you can expect from your own printer, which is also worth thinking about before you buy your next printer. The most important issue is your printer’s tech. There are only two printing technologies today that can print at true picture quality: inkjet and thermal dye (aka dye sublimation, although that’s a misnomer).
Laser technology is becoming better in printing photographs, but it is well behind inkjets on this score, and only a couple of color lasers now even come near to true picture quality. ZINK technologies, that is relatively new and improving quickly, may soon join thermal and inkjet dye as suitable for high-quality photos but isn’t really there yet.
Most general-purpose inkjets, if the manufacturer labels them photo inkjets or never, can publish photos at roughly the identical degree of quality as you would expect from a normal drugstore photo or an internet website. If that’s more or less the grade of the photos you’re printing, you are likely getting the most you’re out of your printer.
Two types of inkjets do better than drugstore-level grade: dedicated photo printers and near-dedicated photo printers. Customizable photo printers, a category which also contains thermal dye printers, are confined to small-format photos, which generally implies a maximum 4- by 6-inch photo dimensions, although some print panoramic dimensions plus some print photographs as big as 5-by-7. Printers within this class generally concentrate on ease of use together with photo quality. Most can print better-looking photos than you would get from a typical drugstore, but when they’re not printing at least at a drugstore-quality degree, you are likely doing something wrong.
Near-dedicated picture printers are targeted at serious photographers, both professional and amateur, and are one of the costliest inkjets you are able to buy. They’re near-dedicated because they can typically print at sizes up to approximately 13 by 19 inches, and which means they can print regular letter- and legal-size business documents. However, using them for such non-photo printing could be a waste of the abilities (and ink).
Printers in this category always have a wide selection of choices for picture paper–including many fine art papers meant for professionals–rather than the one or two choices average for most inkjets. Their output is a game for the sort of photo lab a professional photographer goes into for custom prints. If you are not getting exceptional quality for this type of printer, then odds are you’re doing something wrong.
1. Choose between direct printing options.
In case a mixture of camera and printer provides you a choice between printing directly from the camera and out of memory–that comprises cards and USB keys in this context–make certain to experiment with both. The two options can yield considerably different output quality for the identical file, together with noticeably different colors and retention of detail based on shading in light and dark areas. It’s well worth spending a little time and effort to publish several photos both ways to determine how great the differences are and which one you like better.
2. Get familiar with your printer’s auto fix feature.
Most current committed photo printers and also a few conventional inkjets incorporate some variation of an automatic fix feature that examines the picture and may adjust several settings at once. These may consist of anything from contrast, brightness, and gamma (which affects comparison differently at different degrees of brightness), to automatically deciding whether to apply red-eye reduction.
With the majority of photos, these automated fix attributes enhance the last result, but sometimes, they can do more damage than good or perhaps reverse an effect which you were trying for. Here again, if your printer includes an automatic fix option, it is well worth investing a little time and effort printing a range of photos both with and without the attribute turned on to get a sense for what it does and if you might want to turn off it.
3. Preview photos for direct printing.
If your printer can print directly from memory cards, it can limit one to upload photos by printing an index sheet or simply by looking at the pictures on a built-in preview display. If it gives you both choices, but keep in mind that there are advantages to every and that you might choose to use one or the other at any particular time.
Employing the preview display is faster since you don’t need to print two –once for your indicator sheet and once for the last print–and it costs less because you don’t need to pay for paper or ink to publish the index sheet.
On the flip side, if you’ve taken many similar photographs with small variations in preferences, for example–a trick specialist photographers use to boost the odds that one of the shots has the perfect settings for the picture to look its best–an index sheet would be the preferred approach for deciding which version to print in full size. The published thumbnails will provide you a better sense than the picture of the preview display of how colors will print in the final photograph and how nicely details based on relatively tiny differences in shading will reveal.
4. Get familiar with your printer’s editing features.
Printers with preview displays often allow you to edit photos before printing. The editing choices might be restricted to some basics like cropping pictures or eliminating red-eye, or else they might comprise options to adjust contrast and brightness, add images and frames that are stored in the printer, and more. The procedure is like using the type of photograph kiosk you may see in drugstores and is nearly always designed to be self-explanatory and easy to use. If your printer involves some editing features, they are certainly worth exploring.
5. Don’t fix photos before you see how they really look.
Remember that the colors and shading that you view on screen (whether your monitor or the printer’s trailer display ) will virtually never be an exact match–and are frequently not even close–into the published version. (This is true for all sorts of reasons which are way beyond the scope of this essay ). For photos you care enough to want the best possible photo with minimal work, it is generally a fantastic idea to get any cropping that you would like, publish the photo, then make any manual adjustments that you like based on what the printed version resembles. If the printer or the program you’re printing out of has an automated repair option, you might want to test printing the photograph both with and without the fix feature before making any manual changes.
6. Use paper that’s appropriate for the task.
Better-quality paper yields better-quality prints, although it costs much too. If you are printing a photograph to frame and hang on a wall, then, by all means, utilize the highest-quality paper available to your printer. If you’re printing a photo to place on the office bulletin board or stick below a refrigerator magnet, yet, look at using plain paper, inkjet paper, or a less expensive photo paper. —
7. Experiment with different papers.
The glistening finish that you’ll find on most pharmacy prints and most photo paper is so prevalent that most people do not even think about other possibilities, however, there are other options. Some printer manufacturers don’t offer any other choices, but you need to check to find out whether there are any available for your printer. Many professional photographers prefer how photographs look on matte paper, for example. You may want to try it also.
Papers from different manufacturers are another possibility, but be aware that output quality–and colors specifically –will vary with the paper you use, something you may prove readily enough by printing a photograph on both photo paper and plain paper on almost any inkjet. Before you spend in a great deal of third-party photo paper, believing that it will save money, experimentation with a couple of sheets to compare the output with the exact pictures on the printer maker’s own paper.
8. Make sure the printer is set for the paper you’re using.
One printer placing deserves particular attention. Make sure the printer (for immediate printing) or printer driver (for printing by a computer) is put for the type of paper you are printing. More than 1 producer has advised me, according to calls for tech support, the single most common mistake people make isn’t altering the paper type setting to match the paper.
Some producers have attempted to bypass the issue with sensors that automatically detect the paper type, but they don’t consistently work reliably. Unless your printer utilizes symbols onto the back of the paper the printer can read just such as barcodes to confirm newspaper type, do not assume an Automatic Paper Type setting will do the job. Get in the habit of setting the newspaper type manually.
9. Print from an editing program.
For your best-quality prints, then move your photographs to your computer and print out of a photo-editing program. Photo printers aimed toward professionals generally don’t provide you direct printing, since professionals–and serious amateurs–know that they get much better control over fundamental features like resizing, cropping, and color management, as well as far more advanced editing tools, with a photo-editing program. With some printers, a photo-editing program will also let you publish higher-resolution pictures than you possibly can when printing straight from a camera or memory card.
You probably have a couple of easy-to-use editing apps that came with your printer, camera, or scanner and are well worth investigating. In addition, you can download a free copy of Picasa in Google.
Even low-end programs often include surprisingly competent, easy-to-use attributes for repairing common problems in photographs, such as red eye, yellow eye (the equivalent problem to red-eye for creature photos), backlighting (with a glowing background, like sun streaming in a window behind somebody and turning her or his face into a silhouette), and much more. Better yet, if your printer or scanner is aimed at a relatively sophisticated market, it might well have come with a mid-size or high-end photo editor designed for this audience.
You may not want to spend the time and effort it requires to master even a reasonably complex photo editing program, but if you already have one at no cost, it’s well worth taking a look at it. Even in case you use only some of its features, you could not be aware of how far you can do to boost your photographs with very little work.
10. Edit copies, not originals.
Before you begin editing a photograph –that may mean anything from making minor tweaks to applying special effects to cropping the original to use only a part of it–create a backup first. That way you may go back to the first if you need to. And don’t intend on editing and then saving under another title. It’s safer to create copies until you open a file to prevent accidentally overwriting it. Once you’ve got a backup to work with, you can don’t hesitate to experiment.
11. Avoid compression woes.
Most cameras default to–or are even limited to–saving pictures at a compressed JPG format. It’s always a good idea to turn compression off (if you can) when you desire the best possible photo quality. Even more important, however, is that you should never edit a compressed photo in your computer and save it back to a format that is compressed. JPG is a lossy compression scheme, so it loses information each time you store the file and recompress it. Should you edit a compressed file, save it at the editor’s native format or a format such as TIF, without compression, to avoid degrading the image further.
12. Explore your printer driver.
Virtually each printer driver offers settings that affect image quality. The choices could be limited to choosing between good, better, and top quality, or you might have the ability to adjust brightness; contrast; red, green, and blue levels; and more. If you’d like the best possible outcome, it is worth investing the opportunity to research your driver. In the very least, experiment with all the superior settings to find the influence on the output quality and speed so you can decide whether the enhanced output at high-quality modes is well worth the extra time necessary to print.