Getting your photos taken is just the first step! Don’t let your photos get lost in computer memory or the timeline abyss of social media profiles. Printing your photos is how to bring them to life and how to make them timeless. Studies have shown that seeing themselves in photos on the walls of their home improves children’s self esteem. Incredible, huh? I also wrote a blog post on why I think getting your photos printed is important.
A print release is included in with all your digital images which allows you to print your photos at a lab of your choice. This guide will help you get the best printed photos outside of a pro lab.
Aspect Ratio and Print Size
The aspect ratio is related to the size of the image that you print. The most common print sizes are 4x6 inch, 8x10 inch and 5x7 inch. However, none of your photos will match these aspect ratios. I crop all your photos to an aspect ratio of 15:11 (or 11:15 for portrait oriented photos). This creates a happy medium between the most popular print sizes. This means all the images that you print will require some cropping, but none will require significant cropping. I make sure that your images are composed and cropped so that you won’t have to crop anything important out when you print the photo. Make sure to verify the auto-crop your print lab creates before completing your order to make sure you get what you want.
Commercial Print Labs
A professional print lab calibrates their printers on a regular basis to ensure that colors are correct and that they print at a high quality. Budget print labs, such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, Target, Costco and drugstores like DM and Walgreens do not do this. Their quality standards are much lower and your photos take the hit. Check out this article to see the differences in print quality. If you choose to order prints through me, they will be printed at Richard Photo lab, located in California. I have tested them and trust their quality standards.
If you choose to print on your own, and I hope that you do, I highly recommend mpix.com. They are the commercial front for Miller’s Professional Lab which means they have the same quality control standards as their pro lab brother. I order all my personal printed photo products from Mpix because I trust them. When ordering prints from Mpix, you have a few choices in papers. I always choose e-surface for my color prints and true B&W for my black and white photos. Make sure that you double check the crop before you submit your order.
The larger your print size, the more important the details become. Prints 8x10 inches and larger require a higher quality print in order to maintain proper color and sharpness. When you order your prints directly through me, I custom sharpen each image based on the print size. Your digital images are sharpened before they are delivered to you, but larger prints require more specific treatment. I sharpen at a happy medium for small sized prints and web publishing. I can only guarantee the color and quality of prints ordered directly through me.
Depending on where you order from, you may be given several options on papers. Glossy is a common paper offered by budget print labs. Glossy paper has a sheen to it and is highly reflective. It is easy to attract fingerprints because there is no texture to the paper. It looks great in glass and has excellent clarity. Lustre is an industry favorite. It is a happy mix between Glossy and Matte papers. Lustre has a slight gloss which helps bring out the colors and details. Lustre has a subtle texture to it which helps curb glare and fingerprints. Matte is often preferred by the pros. Matte paper is smooth with no glare and has a very professional feel to it. I print my “gift size” (4x6” up to 5x7”) images on Lustre paper. And I prefer Kodak Matte paper when I print images 8x10” and larger.
Now you are armed with the knowledge to get the highest quality prints from your photographs! Take this information and print to your hearts content! After all no one ever said, “What a beautiful USB drive of family photos you have!”
One last tip: Mpix is always running sales. Make sure you sign up for their newsletter so you can buy at the best price! They also have a free rewards program where you can earn points and $$ off your orders.