Creating great digital prints

Although summer is just a memory, you can keep your photography experiences memorable by printing your digital images. Too many digital photographers rarely, if ever, print their photographs. While digital photo frames are gaining in popularity the quality of the images does not compare to the great prints available from a lab or home photo printer.

Print of Cowboys at Sunset

Print of Cowboys at Sunset

Memory card prices have dropped to the point where there is little excuse for photographing at anything other than your camera’s highest resolution setting. Starting with a high resolution image provides the greatest flexibility for cropping (cutting off the sides of an image to make it conform to a specific size ratio) and printing a high quality image at the size you desire. The following chart gives an estimate of the maximum print size you can expect based on the number of megapixels in your image.

Although many labs and home printers provide the ability to print images directly from a camera or memory card, you’ll often get better prints using photo editing software to prepare your images for printing. Most photo editing software includes the ability to remove dust spots and red-eye effects as well as straightening and cropping an image. Adjusting the exposure, contrast, colour saturation, and sharpening are other tasks best accomplished in your favourite photo editing software.

Megapixels

High Quality

Good Quality

3

5″ x 7″

7″ x 10″

4

5″ x 8″

8″ x 12″

6

7″ x 10″

10″ x 15″

8

8″ x 12″

12″ x 18″

10

9″ x 13″

13″ x 19″

11

9″ x 14″

14″ x 20″

12

10″ x 14″

14″ x 21″

16

11″ x 17″

17″ x 25″

While adjusting the exposure (brightness) and contrast, remember that a printed image will appear darker than it did on a monitor because prints reflect light instead of emitting light. Increasing an images’ colour saturation will help images jump off the paper as long as the saturation conforms to reality. Most images from digital SLR cameras benefit from the application of sharpening to enhance details. Viewing an image on a monitor at 50% magnification provides a good indication of how an image will appear when printed. Use this method to help determine the amount of sharpening to apply. Apply sharpening cautiously to avoid introducing an artificial appearance.

Your home prints will benefit by using high quality ink and paper. While using the printers manufacturers’ inks usually provides the best results, I suggest that paper is an area to experiment and shop around. There are many manufacturers that sell a variety of papers and specialty medias (canvas, metallic paper, t-shirt transfer, greeting cards, etc.) that will work with your printer.

Print of the image Snowflake Shashaiti

Print of the image Snowflake

Glossy paper is great for showing fine details but is susceptible to finger prints and glare. A semi-gloss or pearl paper hides finger print smudges and reduces glare. Many fine art photographers produce their prints on matte paper which is available in a variety of textures, thickness and colours. Matte paper is an excellent choice when framing a print behind glass because the paper does not contribute any glare. Purchase a sample pack of paper that works with your printer to find a paper you prefer for your prints. Consider using canvas to add an extra dimension to your prints.

Prints that have survived since photography was invented in the 1800’s demonstrate the longevity that printed images have.

Please print your favourite images. Get them into albums to preserve them and if you love them, print them big and get them on a wall. Leaving a photograph to languish in the cyberspace of a hard drive or memory card is no way to treat a favourite photograph.

I’m happy to answer individual questions on this or any photography subject; just contact me.

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