Apple users – Stop using AirPrint to print your photos
This is something that’s never even occurred to me, but then, not being a Mac user, it wouldn’t. For those that don’t know, Mac users have this thing called AirPrint. It’s basically a service that allows you to send stuff straight to your printer over WiFi without even having to download and install a driver. It just works. I’ve used it in the past during my iPhone days to print PDFs with a regular mono laser printer and it’s a fantastic feature.
But, you don’t want to use it if you’re printing photos, as Glyn Dewis explains and demonstrates in this video. You see, as photographers, we spend far too much time calibrating all of our devices to ensure that our cameras, monitors and printers all see and produce the same colours. And all of this goes to waste the instant you send a print to an AirPrint printer.
You see, the big problem with AirPrint is that it doesn’t require a driver in order to be able to send your document to the printer. It’s its own printing protocol, so it doesn’t really need to understand how your operating system would normally talk to your printer over a USB connection. And even if you do have a driver installed, it completely ignores it. This means that it also ignores all your ICC and paper profiles that your computer uses to tell your printer exactly what colour everything should be.
It is possible to ignore AirPrint and just use the regular native wireless printer that’s included with the driver for printers with WiFi capability, but even those aren’t always perfect. While your colours might be accurate again, buffering on the airwaves can also potentially cause issues in the print, including seeing lines across the image where the data hasn’t been able to keep up with the print speed – and this one’s true for Windows, too.
Personally, I ditched printing my own photos years ago. It’s less hassle and way cheaper to have the lab do it for me. These days, all I print are documents with a cheap HP LaserJet M15w (which supports both AirPrint and regular WiFi printing). But for those of you printing photos at home and expect quality, especially if you’re on a Mac, if you’ve not been getting the results you expect, it might be because you’re not using that USB cable. Time to dig it back out of the box!
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.