Printing out your own photos from home can be fun and convenient-and it can give you more control over the way your images look than you’d typically get at the store. But to get really great pics from your printer, you need to know what you’re doing. Here are a few tips to get the most from your digital images.
Better cameras equal better photos. No matter how good your printing setup is, if your camera isn’t taking good pictures, you won’t print good pictures. Typically, the higher the resolution the better; if you’re planning to make a 4 x 6-inch print, you’ll need a .5-megapixel camera with approximately 800 x 600 dpi capability. For bigger prints, look into a 1.2 or 2-megapixel camera. The higher the resolution, the more expensive the camera-and the images tend to take up more memory and load more slowly on your computer. But the pictures are better, too.
Choose the right printer. Inkjet and dye-sublimation printers both have their strong points and drawbacks. Dye-sublimation printers work by fusing layers of film onto paper, and they typically print photos faster. Dye-sublimation prints are also water- and dirt-resistant.
Inkjet printers used to produce lower-quality prints than dye-sublimation printers as a rule; it wasn’t unusual to see smudging on prints. However, today’s inkjet printers have made marked improvements in photo printing quality. Their ink tends to be less expensive, their photos are more water-resistant now than they were in the past, and some models offer six or even more ink colours to provide improved colour gradation.
File type matters. The type of image file you make with your pictures does make a difference when it comes to photo quality. Most of the time, cameras save pictures in JPEG format. This is a common file type for images, but the compression involved can damage the image slightly. If you’re printing, save your pictures in TIFF format first.
Touch up your pictures. If your pictures are under-exposed, you can control light saturation by adjusting brightness and contrast-it’s one of the advantages of digital printing. You can also use more creative effects like black-and-white or sepia-tone imaging to give your pictures a unique look. Before you print, make sure you adjust for the best exposure possible.
Get your printer ready. You may need to do some reconfiguring to make sure your printer is on the best settings for printing photo-quality images. Unfortunately there are no one-size-fits-all directions for this, as each brand and sometimes different models of the same brand have different procedures. Check your manual for ways to increase your dpi settings; this will improve picture resolution.
Choose the right paper. In most cases, glossy photo paper is best for printing photos. If you’re printing black-and-white photos, matte may be your best choice. But test the image out first on plain white paper to make sure it looks as it should before you commit to using your expensive glossy or matte photo-quality paper; you may not get your print settings right the first time.
Take care of your printer. The way you take care of your printer can affect the way your photos print out. With inkjet printers, it’s critical to clean the print heads if you’ve gone weeks or months without using your printer beforehand; if not, your print heads may have clogged and your pictures won’t print well.
You should also do your best to keep dust out of your printer. Even the tiniest pieces of dust can get into your printer, accumulate inside and trap ink on the printer components-leading to smudges on your photos once you print. If you want to avoid dusting regularly, buy a dust cover.
Printing your own photos can be extremely rewarding. If you do it right, it’s convenient and fun-and you often get flexibility in adding special visual effects and improving the quality of your pictures. But there may be a few things you don’t realize you’re doing to limit the quality of your photo printouts-and your equipment definitely makes a difference. Follow these tips when buying cameras, printers and consumables-as well as printing out photos-and you should be able to get high-quality photo printouts every time.