Much like film, at-home printing seems more and more like a dying art with every passing day. There are still some of us who enjoy the feeling of picking up a print you made yourself. I understand it can be somewhat intimidating at first, so here are some quick tips that will help you get up and running.
Calibrate your Display!
I almost can’t repeat this one enough, because calibrating your display should be required if you want to start printing photos at home. If you want to edit an image for print, calibration is a critical step, since it helps sync what is being shown on your screen with what will (hopefully) pop out of the printer. This all relates to the problem of: if you can’t see what you are working on, how can you know with any certainty that what you are doing is good? Make sure you can calibrate your display, or even invest in a better screen, to help make prints at home.
Choose the Right Paper
There are many different paper types on the market—arguably too many if you ask me—glossy, baryta, matte, metallic, etc., and all these options can be confusing to someone who has never spent time in a print lab. This topic was deserving of its own guide, which you can check out here, but my one tip is that if you are looking to start printing seriously, pick up some sample packs first. This will give you hands-on time with a variety of different papers without burning a hole in your wallet.
Going from a raw photo to a Photoshop document on a monitor to a print takes many conversions, edits, and translations to happen. One crucial step is from your software to the printer and, since every combination of printer and paper is slightly different, you will need to make use of a profile to ensure everything gets translated well. Many paper manufacturers provide downloads of these files and, with a quick installation, you should be able to get great results. While not always perfect, due to slight differences in ink and paper between batches, these profiles help you get as close as possible to what you see on the screen.
In advanced imaging software, there should be a function called “soft proofing.” This is an incredibly helpful tool because it will generally use a profile matched up with the specific printer and paper you are using to show you what colors can and cannot be printed. It’s a quick way to see whether that patch of red will turn out as vivid as you wanted, or if toning it down may help reproduce a better overall image. Also, you can use it to analyze different paper types quickly and see which may be better suited to a certain series or photo, since different papers and printers will produce different ranges of colors.
Check Prints Under Good Light
Not everyone is going to be able to afford a perfect viewing station with the properly tuned lighting, but just make sure you are checking out your images in neutral lighting or the light under which you expect the image to be displayed. When in doubt—if you can—check under daylight from a window. That may serve as a reliable light source, especially since most artificial light cannot accurately reproduce the same range of colors. If you do want something affordable, a dedicated color viewing lamp could be the right call.
Holding a print you made can be extremely satisfying, but nowhere near as much as hanging a framed photo. Every once in a while, you should have a photo you care enough about to frame and, today, there are some kits that can help you finish this process at home. It is the final step in any successful printing routine and is arguably the most satisfying, since now you can hang your photo for your friends and family to enjoy.
The Last Word
Before we get finished here, I want to touch on why you should do your own printing. First, you will find that when you have more control over the entire process, you can get exactly what you want more easily. Second, over time you will likely find out that you have become a better editor, since looking at photos in print is a good way to pick out flaws and issues you may not have initially noticed on your screen. And finally, in the end, you have the satisfaction of having produced a final product that you can hang proudly on your wall.
Are you interested in printing at home? Any more questions or need help finding a printer or paper? Let us know in the Comments section, below!