Tips for buying a photo printer
There are three main types of printer to consider when purchasing a photo printer. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages, so you will need to think about how you want to use the printer. A standard inkjet printer is designed to handle 8.5” x 11” paper, so you are able to print 8” x 11” photos. There are larger models available which can accommodate larger paper and produce larger prints. Another inkjet printer variable is the number of ink cartridges it requires to print in colour. The more colours you have, the closer the colours will represent true life. Also, you may just want to replace a particular colour cartridge that has run out, instead of replacing an entire multi-colour cartridge. A colour laser printer is also another option to consider, however they don’t always provide the best photographs. A photo produced by a laser printer will not have the same level of clarity or brightness as other options. The final option is a snapshot printer; this is a good choice if you want to produce high quality photos mainly in 4” x 6” or under. Some snapshot printers are designed to be portable and they won’t take up a lot of space on your desk.
If you want to truly judge the quality of a photo printer, you need to see some actual results. Ensure you ask the shop assistant if you can view some samples before purchasing the printer. Some stores may even print some of your photos for you, so always bring your memory card with you. The most important thing when viewing the results is to examine the fine details of the photo.
Another important factor to consider is the longevity of the print out. Ideally your photo should be waterproof and long lasting. Most thermal dye printers lay down a clear overcoating to protect the image. Some inkjet printers also offer waterproof prints. The key term you need to keep an eye out for is lightfastness; this refers to how long your photos will look good for. You can look for printers which use ‘archival’ inks, these are supposed to prolong fading.
A few years ago you would have to transfer all your photographs from your camera to your computer, choose your favourite shots and then send them to the printer! Nowadays, many printers come with the convenience of a USB port or even a memory card slot, so you never need to turn on your computer at all. It would also be sensible to try and find a printer with an integrated LCD screen so you can view your photos and even do some basic editing before printing!
If you need to printer smaller photos such as business cards or photos for your wallet, make sure your printer works with smaller sized paper as well.
Also, consider the types of paper available for the printer; many professionals prefer the look of matte paper.
Ensure you check the cost per page. You can get the exact cost per page for thermal dye and other printers that sell their cartridges in sets with a specific number of photo paper sheets and a matched supply of ink cartridges. Prices range from 15 pence to 50 pence per 42 x 6” print.
The three most important things to look for in a photo printer are quality, quality and quality! Everything else in secondary!