There are many reasons to print your photos: we’ve urged you to do it dozens of times. Having your images printed has plenty of good sides, but it comes with a set of questions that makes most of us confused. In this video, Aaron Nace of PHLEARN teams up with Xander Fischer of Print Lab Chicago to talk about this topic. They answer some of the most asked questions about photo printing and give you some tips that will help you get perfect prints every time.
1. The photo looks different in print than it did on the computer
The first thing to think about is the brightness: you’re dealing with a backlit image on the screen, which will appear brighter and with more saturated colors than it will in print. Also, if your print is going to be displayed in a relatively dark room, it will look darker and maybe even a bit washed-out. So, before printing, darken your monitor a little. Use Curves to brighten up your image a bit, and if you’re printing on matte paper, lift the shadows a bit too.
2. Does your monitor need to be calibrated?
Calibrating your monitor certainly has its purpose and its perks. However, if you don’t have a dedicated print monitor, Xander notes that calibrating the monitor won’t really solve all your problems. But worry not, if you send your photos to a professional printing service, they should take care of it.
3. Do you need to convert files to CMYK before printing?
This is what I encountered at least 70% of the times when I sent my photos to print shops. “Please convert it to CMYK and then send it to us.” But Xander appeals to all of you: don’t send photos in CMYK to print shops, as its color space is smaller than RGB or sRGB color space. It only makes sense if you’re going to an offset press, but your fine art prints aren’t made like that, so… Leave them in RGB: Adobe RGB (1998) works best, according to Xander.
4. How big can you print and what DPI or resolution do you need?
DPI/PPI and resolution are confusing for many photographers when it comes to printing. How big can you print at what resolution and what DPI? Does your camera resolution matter? Ugh, so many questions! Xander explains in the video a bit about resolution, DPI, print size and viewing distance, which are all connected. And you can learn more about it in this brilliant video from Thomas Kuoh.
5. What is a print profile (ICC)?
A print profile basically makes sure that you get the most accurate color and detail in your prints. Xander notes that ICC profiles are very particular: every printer has a separate profile for every paper. And professional print labs calibrate every printer for every paper they use to give you perfect prints every time.
6. What is the best paper for photos? Is there such a thing at all?
There are different kinds of photo paper and the same type won’t always work for different images. Some images look great on glossy, while others can look just terrible. For example, product and fashion photos usually look good on glossy paper, while matte is a better choice for foggy landscape photos. So, in short, there is no universal answer and there’s no such thing as “best paper.” You should choose a paper that will enhance the subject of your photo.
Extra tip: framing
Framing can also add a lot to the beauty of your image if it’s done right. Xander recommends framing in glass if your photo is displayed somewhere where there’s a lot of foot traffic. But if you’re framing it for an exhibition or simply in your home, then avoiding glass is a good idea because you’ll avoid reflections and glare.
I hope that these tips have helped you learn more about printing (and perhaps stop worrying about some aspects of it). Make sure to watch the entire video for a more in-depth explanation, it’s fun and filled with useful information.