Tips for Printing Photos at Home

Smartphone connected to the wireless printer is laying on the desk

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One of the great things about digital photography versus film photography is that you only need to make prints of the photos that look great. With film photography, unless you developed your own film and made your own prints in your own darkroom, the film processing company sent you prints for every photo on the negative strip, even if your uncle had his eyes closed in one shot, or even if your thumb covered the lens in another shot.

Printing your photos at home — and only printing the good ones — is pretty easy, as long as you have the right printer and techniques.

Use High-Quality Paper

Perhaps the best thing you can do when making digital photo prints at home is to use specialty photo paper. Either glossy or matte photo paper will work much better than standard printing paper — the photos will just look better. Because the specialty photo paper can be a little expensive, be sure to only print your best photos on it.

Match Aspect Ratios

Another key component to watch when printing photos at home is to make sure the image you want to print makes use of the same aspect ratio as the paper on which you’ll print the photo. If you try to print a photo where the aspect ratio of the image doesn’t match the size of the paper, the printer might inadvertently crop or stretch the photo, leaving you with an odd-looking photo.

Inkjet vs. Laser Technology

An inkjet printer should give you some outstanding color prints. Don’t feel like you have to invest in a color laser printer to receive great prints, as most inkjet printers can handle the job more than adequately.

Take Time to Print at "Best" Setting

If you have the time, be sure to set the photos to be printed at the “best” setting. You’ll be surprised at just how much of a difference this setting makes on photographs versus a “normal” or “fast” setting. However, it does take two to five times as long to print a photo in “best” mode versus “normal” mode.

Watch IPM Measurement

If you’re looking to purchase a new inkjet printer, pay attention to a relatively new standard measurement that should help you compare models. The “images per minute,” or IPM, the measurement should give you a good idea of the speed of the printer, as it’s more of an objective measurement. Other speed measurements, such as pages per minute (PPM), can be tweaked by the printer manufacturer, so you should not rely on them to compare printers.

Edit First, Then Print

If possible, perform any image editing on the photos before you print them. Although it may be easier to see flaws and areas that need tweaking after the photo is printed, you’ll waste a lot of paper and ink following this method. Look at the photos on a sharp computer monitor, make your editing changes, and only print them once they’ve been edited, meaning you should only have to print each photo once.

Keep an Eye on Costs

Finally, even though most people don’t think about the individual cost of each print, printing photos at home does involve some expense. If you’re printing a series of large color photos, you’re going to use quite a bit of ink, for example. You may want to consider taking the photos to a professional business for printing if you have quite a few of them.

Print One Copy

The best way to save money when printing photos at home is to only print one copy. If you make a print and then see a flaw you have to fix with image editing software, forcing you to make a second print, you're going to waste ink and paper...and money. Then perhaps on that second print, you decide you should have cropped the image a bit differently, leading to a third print and so on. Spend the time to perfect the image before you print it, so you only need to print one copy.