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Printing digital photos

Most people who own a computer have a printer that goes along with it, and this printer is most likely capable of printing out digital photos. Here are a few tips to get the best results when printing your own photos.

Each major printer manufacturer also makes its own paper and ink. For most printing jobs you can usually use any type of paper and ink, but in order to get the most accurate colour reproduction for photos it's best to use the same brand of paper and ink as your printer. Each brand of paper is formulated to give optimal results for a particular type of ink. Mixing brands may give you altered colours. When you know the quality of the photo prints when you are printing your digital photos with the paper and ink of the manufacturer of the printer you can go on with some small scale experiments using cheaper types of ink and paper.

When choosing paper for printing digital photos, you may be tempted to select special archival paper which is reputed to prevent photographs from fading for 20 years or longer. This paper is quite expensive, so before laying down the bucks consider this -- the 'zeros and ones' that make up a digital file will not fade over time. You can always print the picture again to recapture its original brilliance.

That is not to say, however, the paper is not important. You need to use specialized photographic paper that is designed for inkjet printers. It is available in different finishes from glossy to mat. Store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight and away from agressive chemicals. Photographic paper is more expensive than regular printing paper, so it is a good idea to minimize waste. Photo printing software can help you to position photos on a sheet of paper so that the maximum area is being used.

Ink is also quite expensive. To avoid wasting it, make the proper settings on your printer for the type of image you are printing. If you are printing a picture which has a resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch), for example, there is no need to use the 'high' or 'best' printer setting – 'normal' is sufficient. When the printer is set to 'high' it uses more ink and will not produce noticeably better prints as long as you are printing at or above 300 dpi.

How can you tell if your photo is 300 dpi? This can be calculated by dividing the dimensions of your image (in pixels) by 300. For example, if your image is 3000 pixels wide by 2100 pixels high, the maximum size the printout can be (at 300 dpi) is 10" x 7". You can print photos larger than this (down to about 200 dpi), but in this case you want to select the 'best' printer setting to achieve a good printout.

Printing digital photos with dedicated photo printers

An alternative to using your regular inkjet printer for printing photos is to get a dedicated photo printer. These use a different printing technology that produces high-quality pictures. The downside to dedicated printers is that many are limited to a maximum print size of 4" x 6". These are, however, quite small in size and easily portable.

Some of these dedicated printers use thermal-dye technology. Dye is transferred from a ribbon to the plastic coating of the paper and the resulting picture is more like a traditional photograph than the ones produced by inkjet printers. They also tend to last longer than inkjet printed pictures because of the way the ink is laid down on the paper. Each colour is printed as a separate layer and there is a finishing overcoat which can protect the image from deterioration.

These printers are easy to use and may include simple photo editing functions. They can print your photos directly from your digital camera or memory card, and battery operated models can be used anywhere.

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