Digital imaging has given us all so much more creative freedom, and while it’s true that not every picture you take is worth making into a print, your favourite images deserve the print treatment. There’s nothing like producing a beautiful print – it makes all the time and money spent on your photography worthwhile. And you can do it at home easily. Professional lab-quality printing at home is one of the biggest benefits of digital photography. But printing photos isn’t as easy as just connecting cables and pressing a button. There are all sorts of things you need to consider. Below we’ve compiled what we believe are 19 essential questions most photographers forget to ask about how to print photos.
01 Which printer settings should I use?
With your image ready to go, hit the print button – there are a few things to be selected first. Use the Best Photo setting for your portfolio prints or for prints to display.
However, for general use you’ll get reasonable quality with the Photo setting and it’s fine for snapshots. The Best Photo setting will consume more ink and is usually slower.
Take your time to check the options carefully when you’re working through the printer options. For example, it’s easy to forget to set the correct image orientation. Slip up and you waste paper and ink.
02 How do I resize photos ready for print?
The easy option is to leave the resizing issue to Photoshop’s print feature, which options its own automatic resizing ‘Scale to Fit Media’.
This is great if you want to print out a few snap shots, but if you’re looking for quality printing, then this quick-fix solution isn’t the best option as it can cause all types of framing, cropping and resizing issues.
To resize photos correctly you need to either use the Crop tool, or the Image and Canvas Size commands. Before you start, go to Photoshop> Preferences, then under the Image Interpolation menu make sure Bicubic is selected rather than the the Bicubic Smooth or Bicubic Sharpening options.
When you’re preparing an image for print sharpening should be the last enhancement applied.
Step 1 Find the image size
Start off by finding the image size by going to Image>Resize>Image Size. Make a note of the document size – in this case its 21mm x 29.7mm at 240ppi.
Step 2 Pick a crop preset
Select the Crop tool and, from the Preset drop-down menu, choose 5 x 7 inch at 240ppi, draw the crop and then move it into position before applying.
Step 3 Customise your crop
If you want to crop at a size not shown in the presets, enter the details in the fields in the Options bar, making sure you add px, mm, in or cm for the unit type.
03 Do I need to maintain my printer?
Leaving a printer for a long period with its inksets in place can lead to problems and the ink can dry up and clog the printer head. Several cleaning cycles using the printer utility may be needed to clear any blockage. Generally, a printer can be left for a couple of months with no problems.
If you’re concerned and you’re not a regular print maker, either make a point of turning on the printer once a week or fortnight, for example, or buy a weekly timer to do this for you automatically. This makes the printer go through its charging and head-cleaning cycle so you should avoid blockages.
However, this process will consume ink and this is why some photographers who print frequently leave their printers permanently switched on to avoid this wastage. For long term storage, take out the inks.
04 Which paper should I use for fine-art prints?
The brilliant thing about inkjet paper is the huge range of surfaces finishes, weights and brands that are available.
Fine-art photo papers are generally more expensive than general photo papers. This is because they are more substantial – they’re heavier, and many are manufactured to very high archival standards.
Therefore, used with the right inks and stored and/or displayed sympathetically they will outlive you. Most photo printers work fine with heavier papers, but if you’re not sure, check the instructions before buying a box.
Fine-art papers are usually finely textured and can even have a tactile, cloth-like surface. Obviously, when handling it you should be holding paper by its edges and fingers should be kept away from the printing area.
If you’re looking for fine-art material, some paper suppliers will offer a sampler pack.
05 Should I use gloss or matte papers?
Either! Both! This is up to your own tastes as well as the images you’re printing, but there are no hard-and-fast rules. The best thing is to choose a paper that gives an end result that you’re happy with.
Generally, if you want the most impact in terms of contrast, colour saturation and tonal range, go for gloss. There are various grades of gloss from high, mirror-like finishes to ‘unglazed gloss’ surfaces that are reminiscent of darkroom papers.
Matte finishes have a much more subtle look and suit portraits and delicate landscapes really well.
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