Getting The Best Prints From Digital Pictures


Digital cameras were only once a novelty item used only computer hobbyists and serious photographers still used film to take pictures the digital cameras of that era were very limited by the resolution of the CCD chip that captures images they couldn’t match the quality that film produced. Since then modern digital cameras have matched the quality that film produces. Getting prints from digital pictures has gone through a similar evolution, better quality and lower price.

There are two ways of getting prints from digital pictures, printing at home and sending pictures to a photo lab for printing. Several years ago home inkjet printers couldn’t even come close to matching the quality produced by a photo finisher. There are two kinds of printers for printing photos, the inkjet printers that we all know and dye-sublimation printers which is a smaller version of the printing equipment that photo labs use to print digital images which at the consumer level only prints 4x6 pictures. Dye sublimation costs more but quality is much better. Consumer dye-sublimation printers are designed to be portable and allow compatible digital cameras to dock directly to the printer.

Modern ink-jet printers have increased in resolution which makes them more suited for printing photos than printers made several years ago. Inkjet printers designed for digital photography now use six different coloured inks instead of the traditional four inks. Traditional ink jet printers use black, yellow, magenta (a shade of red) and cyan (a shade of blue) inks for printing documents and web pages. Photo inkjets also have light magenta for more colour accurate skin tones and light cyan which makes skies look better.

Getting photo lab quality prints from an ink jet printer takes more than going to the file menu and selecting print. The first thing needed is shooting your pictures in the highest resolution that your camera can shoot at. It may be a common practice to downgrade the resolution to 4 megapixels or less to conserve space on the memory in the camera but you’ll also downgrade the quality of the picture when printed. With the prices of memory cards falling there is no reason to shoot at anything less than the maximum resolution.

The second thing needed to get the best quality prints genuine manufacturers ink it may be expensive but going cheap with generic ink will result in a loss of print quality. Colours will be under saturated and the skin tones will not be colour accurate. There are two kinds of types of inks used in ink jet printers, pigment based inks and dyes based inks. Pigmented inks contain microscopic coloured particles suspended in a carrier fluid. When the ink is placed on the paper the carrier fluid evaporates leaving the pigment particles bound to the fibers of the paper. Dye based inks stain the fibers of the paper. While dye based inks can produce better colour, dyes often fade quickly. Pigments better resist fading and with improvements in pigment technology in the past couple of years, the difference between dye and pigment based inks is hardly even visible.

The next thing needed is photo quality paper. With regular paper used to print documents the ink soaks into the paper and spreads out from where the droplet is placed. Photo papers better contain the ink to where it’s placed to ensure the best colour and maximum sharpness. There matte and glossy inkjet photo papers that will make inkjet prints of digital pictures look as good as pictures from years past.

The best choices for printing digital pictures depend on the size and number of pictures to be printed. If there is no photo lab near by then printing at home will be best for all but mass orders of prints. For 8x10 prints, printing at home is going to be the most economical. For larger sizes of pictures then the photo lab is going to be the only choice.

Thanks to home photo printers waiting and paying for pictures has become a thing of the past. Getting photographic quality from digital pictures no longer requires a big investment, using the right paper and ink the photo lab has come into the home office.

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