How To Get the Best Results Printing Photos at Home

in Photography + Gear


Over the past few years, printing photos at home has become much easier and quicker than it used to be. Producing great results is now within anybody’s reach, provided that a few simple factors are borne in mind. Here are five of the most important.


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A common mistake when selecting an image to print is to use one that is of too low a resolution. A photo to be printed on paper needs to be of higher resolution than one that will remain on a computer screen, so the camera being used should be set to its highest possible image quality levels. Using a digital SLR rather than a compact camera will generally produce sharper, more detailed results. It’s also important to remember that colours look different on paper from how they appear on a computer monitor; some test prints of smaller pictures will help in making a final selection.


PRINTERS: Quality is Key

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It’s easy to be dazzled by a lengthy specification list. However, if a printer is incapable of printing high-quality images, no amount of options and settings will give satisfying results. Choosing a printer from a well-established manufacturer with a good reputation is more likely to bring success. The best quality is generally obtained from a colour laser printer, but this type is still considerably more expensive than an inkjet printer. Some cheaper inkjet models have no separate black ink tank, instead emulating the colour by mixing other inks together; these are usually unsuitable for photo printing.


SOFTWARE: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

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It is often tempting to buy photo-editing software that can do absolutely everything, even if it is expensive. Occasionally, these pro-level features are required for perfect results. Most of the time, though, doing this is simply throwing money down the drain, since the features that are needed for the majority of people are included in much less expensive packages. Once software has been purchased, it helps to spend time getting comfortable with it and learning its basic features. Then, printing out photos can be accomplished quickly and efficiently, without the need to keep referring to the manual.


PAPER: Finding the Perfect Finish


Even if everything else is perfect, the wrong paper can leave a photo looking lifeless, with photographers unfairly blaming their equipment for the disappointing appearance of their prints. Therefore, the desired finish needs to be considered: the most basic division is between matt (or matte) and gloss papers. The glossier the paper used, the more vibrancy pictures printed on it will have – but at the cost of potentially distracting glare. Satin paper is a semi-gloss style which gives a good balance for general use. Cheap paper can have imperfections in its finish, so skimping on this is usually a false economy.


HUMAN FACTOR: Great Results Take Time

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However good the equipment available, poor results are still likely if the process is rushed. It is important to allow plenty of time, not just for the actual printing but also for preparation. Enough paper and ink should be available to allow several trial runs, so that the final photo will look just right, rather than looking like a first draft. It also helps not to get worked up if things go wrong, since this is likely to result in impaired judgement and a higher chance of making mistakes. Finally, getting someone else’s opinion can be valuable in spotting previously unnoticed flaws.

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