How to Print Photos Directly off a Camera

Find tips for using WI-FI and Pictbridge with cameras

Canon and Nikon digital cameras and lenses at the Masai Mara game reserve
Pascal Deloche / Godong / Getty Images

With some digital cameras, you must download photos to a computer before you can print them. However, more and more newer cameras allow you to print directly from the camera, both wirelessly and through a USB cable. This can be a handy option, so it's worth knowing about all of your options for how to print photos directly off a camera.

Match Your Camera to the Printer

Some cameras require specific software to allow you to print directly, while others will only print directly to certain models of printers. Check your camera’s user guide to determine what kinds of limitations your camera has for direct printing.

Give PictBridge a Try

PictBridge is a common software package that’s built into some cameras and is used for printing directly from the camera. It gives you several options for adjusting the size or selecting the number of copies, for example. If your camera has PictBridge, it should display automatically on the LCD as soon as you connect to a printer.

Check the USB Cable Type

When connecting to the printer over a USB cable, be sure you have the correct type of cable. Many cameras make use of a smaller than normal USB connector, such as Mini-B. As an added hassle of trying to print directly from the camera over a USB cable, fewer and fewer camera makers are including USB cables as part of the camera kit, meaning you'll either have to "borrow" a USB cable from an older camera or purchase a new USB cable separate from the camera kit.

Start With the Camera Off

Before connecting the camera to the printer, be sure to power down the camera. Only turn the camera on after the USB cable is connected to both devices. In addition, it usually works best to connect the USB cable directly to the printer, rather than to a USB hub that connects to the printer.

Keep the AC Adapter Handy

If you have an AC adapter available for your camera, you may want to run the camera from a wall outlet, rather than a battery, when printing. If you must print from a battery, be sure the battery is fully charged before you begin the print job. Printing directly from the camera can quickly drain the camera battery, depending on the model of camera, and you don’t want the battery running out of power in the middle of a print job. 

Making Use of Wi-Fi is Handy

Printing directly from the camera is becoming easier with the inclusion of Wi-Fi capabilities in more and more cameras. The ability to join a wireless network and connect to a Wi-Fi printer without the need for a USB cable is handy. Printing over a Wi-Fi network directly from the camera follows a set of steps that are almost exactly the same as when printing over a USB cable.

As long as the printer is wirelessly connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the camera, you should be able to print directly from the camera. However, the rule from above that mentions using a fully charged battery applies again here. Nearly all cameras will suffer a faster than expected battery drain when making a connection to a Wi-Fi network, regardless of why you're using Wi-Fi.

Making Image Editing Changes

One downside to printing directly from the camera is that you don’t have the option of extensively editing the photo to fix problems. Some cameras do offer minor editing functions, so you may be able to fix the minor blemishes before you print. If you’re going to print photos directly from the camera, it’s usually best to print them fairly small. Save the large prints for photos on which you have time to do any significant image editing on a computer.