7 Tips for Printing Photographs Professionally

If you’ve ever taken a beautiful, brilliant photograph on your digital camera only to see it look like a muddy mess when you print it out, you’re not alone. It’s not hard to get professional quality photographs from your digital images, it just takes a little know-how and practice. Some of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your photos can be done before the ink ever meets the paper. Here are 7 tips that will boost your printed photographs up into the professional quality sphere.

  1. It starts with the camera – In general, the higher the megapixel, or MP rating, the better quality image it will produce*. 3 megapixels is the very lowest you can afford to go if you’re aiming for high quality reproductions. A more typical amateur photography range is from 5 to 7 megapixels. If you’re really into the hobby or want to make it a profession, the high-end digital cameras are topping out in the 12 megapixel range.
  2. Set your camera to save photos as a format that doesn’t drop pixels to save space – JPG or JPEG format is popular because it compresses image data, but it drops details to conserve that space on the storage medium. The RAW format is better for final image quality. If your camera won’t save images in RAW form, be sure to at least convert the JPEGs to TIFF in your image editor to prevent further image degradation.
  3. The image editor is your best friend – When you’re preparing photos to print while they’re still in digital form so be sure you make copies of the images and edit those, not the originals. Even the most basic editors will allow you to select image areas and “crop to selection” to rid the image of extraneous background. Most have an automatic colour corrector that fixes colour problems with the click of a mouse, or will let you “sharpen” those that seem out of focus. There are many ways to improve the quality of the image, don’t be afraid to play around with different combinations until the picture just pops off the screen.
  4. Use Print Preview before sending that image to the printer – Consider it your last chance to look that image over with a critical eye before committing it to ink.
  5. Use an inkjet printer, not a laser printer – Despite recent improvements in technology, laser printers don’t have what it takes to print out professional quality photographs.
  6. With ink and paper, it’s true that “you get what you pay for.” – Use the manufacturer-specified ink cartridges for your printer and invest in some photo quality paper, both glossy and non-glossy. You can save some money by using regular ink jet paper to test-print, but when you’re ready for the final version, choose photo paper and make sure you insert it correctly. Remember, it’s “glossy side up.”
  7. Go over your printer’s default settings before printing – Most printers have a “normal” setting for print jobs, though the range can run from “draft” to “photo image.” You can play around with the different settings and gauge the effects on the final product, but if you don’t have time to bother with it, choosing “photo quality” will provide the appropriate amount of ink saturation. A note here: Cameras with fewer megapixels produce their best images in the 5 x 7 inch range. If you try to print out a larger image, you may find it’s blurry or “pixellated.” If you want bigger photos, consider buying a better camera.
  8. Dry the finished photos flat, and allow plenty of time for the ink to dry – It can take up to ten minutes for photos on glossy paper to dry out enough to handle safely, and up to six hours before it can be framed. Make sure to store your masterpieces out of direct sunlight, and if you’re going to frame your favourites, make sure they’re under plastic or glass to protect the image from degradation due to normal environmental exposure.

Following these few simple tips will help you produce photographs that rival the kind of professional quality you’ll be proud to share with family and friends.

Today’s guest article was authored by James who is a writer and researcher at Cartridge Save, an online store offering the best ink cartridges in the United Kingdom.

*) Editor’s note: In recent years “more megapixels” doesn’t necessarily mean better images. What matters is the quality of the optics within the camera lens and the camera software that will be processing the data captured by the lens as well.

7 thoughts on “7 Tips for Printing Photographs Professionally”

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  3. You mentioned that laserjets are not ideal for printing photos. Also, you’ll want to consider which printer brand and model you’re getting. We’re big fans of Epson. Then the budget probably kicks in before you get too fancy with your printer.

    • That’s true, Epson keeps popping up whenever you’re talking “photography” and “printers”, so I’m sure they’re doing something right 🙂

  4. Well, I always shoot in RAW format because I know the camera doesn’t always see what I see. With raw, I can adjust things more flexibly to my liking. With regard to printers, I only have the basic Epson T13, so when I need a really cool picture printed, I go to the mall to have them printed.

  5. Great post and good tips.

    True that getting great results with even a very high end printer at home is difficult. It’s also expensive.

    I upload my photos to a local CVS and they print them on some zillion dollar machine that produces unbelievable results.

    4×6 is $0.19
    5×8 is $1.59


    Well worth it.

  6. Some nice useful information above.

    In additon, I use software called Qimage for printing photographs (it costs around £70), we now use this software in place of our Wasatch Softrip which costs 20 times as much. It uses colour icc profiles to produce the best colour accurate prints that we have ever produced along with other features that most professional printing rips do not have.

    Although creating your own colour profiles can be expensive (due to the profiling hardware), there are a number of companies who can produced these for your specific printer, paper & ink combinations, just google icc profiling service.


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