Digital Camera Photo Printing Tips

Home photo printers are getting better and better! Printing digital pictures at home has always been fairly easy, but now it’s also able to give great quality. My personal view is that 90% of the time a printer needs to have no less than 6 ink cartridges to reproduce a good photo print. This gives it a better chance of accurately rendering colors and producing smooth graduations between different ones.But even with a decent printer you can still mess up easily! We’ve all been infuriated by seeing our favourite snaps slowly emerge on the printer tray with a horrid red or blue tone that destroys the actual light! What little steps can you take to ensure this doesn’t happen, and that printing digital pictures on your home photo printer leads to good results every time…?Color Management Tips:So, the problem we’ve got to overcome is that computer screens and printers work on a different color system. The image on your monitor is made up of pixels in the RGB (red, green, blue) system. Meanwhile your printer produces photos made up of little dots of ink (dots per inch/dpi) comprised of the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key black) colors.Printers blend together the inks from their cartridges to accurately capture the colors in a photo. This leads to slight differences in the colors represented on a screen, which are built of individual pixels. But don’t worry, it’s easy to bridge this gap in color systems by playing around with the settings on your printer’s software.Firstly, here’s what I do to make sure my monitor is displaying photos as they should be printed. I calibrate the monitor using a ‘colorimeter’, like Spyder or ColorMunki. Then, I take picture in fairly plain daylight that features someone’s skin. This shot is then send off to a really top notch professional company, who render the colours and tones brilliantly. This print serves as a guide and standard against which to judge those produced on my own printer.What next? Well, successful photo printing involves making adjustments to the settings within the printer software, or ‘printer driver’…Using the Printer Driver:In Windows this can be accessed by going ‘Control Panel’ > ‘Printers and Faxes’ > ‘The name of your printer’. Then select ‘Printer’ from the toolbar and ‘Properties’ from the drop down menu.Printer drivers usually come complete with a few preset options, or ‘profiles’. A profile is just a combination of ink, paper and printer settings that will lead to good results. So do try these out, but you can fine tune things manually as well.If your printer is turning out images with an inaccurate color tone, giving everyone green skin or bright red lips (!), enter the ‘color management’ section of the printer driver. Here you can tweak the intensity of cyan, magenta, yellow and black in your prints, by simply using the sliders shown.Keep making changes until you get a print that accurately reproduces your on-screen photo and looks similar to the professional job you had done.Using Photoshop To Control Output:You can make the same adjustments to paper type, color intensities and so on using Photoshop or other editing software. In Photoshop go File > Print > Page Setup > Printer > Properties to access the settings.Do be sure to specify that the settings you have configured in Photoshop will determine the appearance of your prints, rather than those in the printer driver. Otherwise it’s possible to ‘double up’ and get very bad results.So if your digital camera photo printing has been less successful than you would have liked so far, making use of the color management options available in the printer driver or editing software should help you see an improvement.So, color management for photographers is actually pretty simple, and will greatly enhance the standard of your prints. Getting to grips with your printer driver, and Photoshop’s printing options is also well worth while.

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