7 Tips to Improve the Printing Process of Your Digital Photos

As a photographer, you take pictures. You develop them. Then they sit on your computer's hard drive or in your tablet's memory storage.

Have you thought about printing them? This option is certainly the most rewarding for a photographer. But it is not so easy. In this article, I will explain a method to improve the printing process of your digital photos.

Turret Arch in Arches National Park in Utah in the United States. The magic of black and white conveys an ethereal atmosphere. Photo in black and white by Amar Guillen.
Turret Arch in Arches National Park in Utah in the United States. The magic of black and white conveys an ethereal atmosphere.

The Story Behind This Article

During the creation of a photo project about the Arches National Park in Utah in the United States, I captured over a thousand landscape photos.

This project lasted two years. I made several trips during that time.

Once the development phase was over, I created a collection of twelve fine art photos.

But as always in my work, developing fine art photos with a computer is a necessary, but not the ultimate step. The final step is printing.

This last step is the one which validates that a photo has been processed well, and the quality has been enhanced. Once a photo is developed, it is printed in my studio.

I carefully check the general tone of the photo: the dark, mid, and bright tones. Then I check the details.

For this collection, which will be only black and white photos, I re-printed three out of the twelve photos at least five times each. I was never satisfied with the result of those three.

In the end, I managed to create a coherent and consistent collection.

It is during the development of this photo project that I realized that I had to share with you the result of my experience and my thoughts.

In the rest of this article, I will explain my method to print your photos correctly whether it is on a personal printer or by a professional lab.

A Photo Should Always Be Printed

I used to say that a picture only exists when it is printed.

As long as a photo remains on a digital screen and not on paper, it is merely an image.

I believe that the ultimate goal for a photographer is to have prints of his photos in front of his eyes, whether in a book or in a frame.

However, few photographers take the plunge. As a photographer shoots, develops, and posts on social media, something seems unfinished, even when capturing an incredible work. Often, the photos are stored on the computer. They will never see the light of the day. For me, these photos do not even exist. It is as if they are just fleeting ideas and unfulfilled dreams sitting in one’s mind, waiting to be shared with others.

Do Not Be Ashamed or Afraid to Print Your Photos

I have talked to many photographers in the last few years. Some of them had the idea that photo printing is reserved for the elite, professional photographers. Believing this is a big mistake. Printing photos is the culmination of any photographic project, regardless of your skill level.

If you are ashamed of wanting to print your photos or if you are afraid of criticism or the gaze of others, remember that we are all humans, therefore, we experience these same emotions.

Printing a photo is an essential step. It is like giving birth. It occurs in stages. It is difficult. Indeed, we will reveal to others who we really are. I can vividly remember experiencing each stage of the printing process.

Printing a photo is a magical moment. The exhilaration is at its peak.

This is what I call the moment of truth. Looking at a photo on a screen is a fleeting moment. We do not take the time to really look. After the first glance, our eyes naturally tend to move on to the next image.

Holding a paper photo is an entirely different exercise. The reality of a photo becomes tangible. It exists. We are no longer in a virtual world. We can now see, feel and even smell the paper or medium upon which our photo rests.

If you offer a printed photo to someone, they will take the time to look at it carefully and analyze it. To print a photo is to enter another dimension within our world. It is a portal to another moment in time, and yet at the same time, we are grounded in the reality of the moment surrounding us.

Do not be ashamed to print your photos. It is the only way for you to progress and refine your photographic approach.

How to Use Your Printed Photos

At this stage of the article, you will certainly ask yourself what purpose a printed photo can serve apart from the fact that it exists concretely and not only virtually.

There are many uses for a printed photo:

  • You can mount it to a wall in your living space, office, home, workshop, or studio.
  • You can submit it to a photo contest. Many contests require paper photos for judging.
  • You can participate in an exhibition.
  • You can show it to your club members as part of a photo review.
  • You can gift it to someone in celebration of a birthday or holiday.
  • You can print it for yourself, so that you can be reminded to stop and enjoy the fruit of your hard work.

You have so many options to choose from. As you can see, there is always a good reason to print a photo.

Tip #1: Print at Home on Your Printer

The first tip I will give you for learning to print is to have a personal printer at home.

Why do you want to do this? To be able to perform dry test runs and practice. Indeed, if you send your photos to a laboratory, you will never know which settings have been applied. Moreover, if you are not satisfied with the result, you will have to start again. The process can be long and tedious.

It is not necessary to have a printer that prints large formats.

I personally have two printers. The largest size they can print is thirteen x nineteen inches (40 × 60 centimeters). But this is a size I use very rarely. For my tests, I always print in letter format (21 × 29.7 centimeters).

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The result is satisfactory. The important thing for me is to judge the tones, the details, and the general rendering of the textures.

I know that if the result is satisfactory with this format, it will be satisfactory on an enlargement. One of my printers has twelve cartridges. The other has eight.

Finally, for reasons relating to cost, I use the one with eight cartridges. On this letter size, I do not notice any difference.

  • To print at home, I recommend that you purchase an inkjet printer. Choose a well-known brand, it does not matter which as they all produce the same result.
  • Eight ink cartridges are sufficient.
  • Be sure that it has the possibility to print on letter format (A4 format).

Ink cartridges for inkjet printers are expensive. For a cartridge sold by the manufacturer's brand, the price is often between thirteen and twenty-five dollars. It all depends on the model of the printer.

If you have a printer with eight or twelve cartridges, the price of the total refill can exceed one hundred dollars.

This fact will certainly encourage you not to print much. That would be a mistake!

If you do not use your printer often, the cartridge nozzles will dry out. You will have to change your cartridges more often than if you use them often. My advice: if you have a printer, use it as often as possible.

Tip #2: Use Different Types of Photo Paper

 

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