In our digital age, we experience images mainly on screens. We share family memories and our creative photography on social platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We can be quick to forget the value, beauty, and significance of printing photos. It’s something tangible.
For the serious photographer, printing is an art that transcends daily snapshots. Printing photos large scale, framing and exhibiting them helps viewers, curators, collectors and anyone viewing them experience their maximum potential.
Printique has made high quality printing available for all photographers. This guide provides you with the fundamental process for printing photos, including paper and texture options. In addition, there are tips for editing and displaying your photo prints.
In an age where millions of photos are taken every day, it can feel like most of those images quickly vanish into a digital void. This often raises the existential question: does a photograph exist if it’s not printed? While we’ll leave that one to the philosophers, we firmly believe in the power of printed photographs and the value they bring to our lives.
Prints demand a longer look and take images to a place beyond the digital world of endless scrolling and forgotten memories. They are essential to preserving our most cherished family memories.
For professional photographers, creating print products offers another revenue stream for your business. Helping your clients understand the value of prints and books is essential for running a successful business. You can learn more about how to grow your business with print products with our Pro Business Courses.
If you are a hobbyist or artist, making high quality prints elevates your photography and will give it the respect it deserves.
Amidst the thousands of photos you might make each year, how do you decide which photos to print? Developing an editing workflow is the essential first step in the printing process. First, determine if you are working on a long term project, portfolio or a client job.
Creating work prints is a helpful way to decide if an image will truly hold up and deserve the investment. You can print a bunch, lay them on a table or tack them to a wall without worrying about damaging a final product. It’s also helpful to print them at various sizes to test how large you want to go.
After you’ve made a stack of work prints, it’s time to get that edit down. Depending on the project, there are a number of devices you can use to help your editing process. Here are a few of our favorites:
Group by subject: Start by choosing two to three subjects and group the photos together. For example, create a group for portraits, landscape and interiors.
Remove redundant images: Start by grouping similar images together and selecting the best of the bunch. Continue and repeat until you have a tightly refined edit.
Make small, medium and large edits: Imagine you have 100 images to choose from: try making groupings of 10, 18, 30, and 50 images. These exact frequencies aren’t set in stone but can be a guide for thinking about a project in unique ways.
If you’re shooting digital, we recommend using the largest available file size your camera allows. Shoot raw if you have that option. and convert your raw files to TIFFS for the best results. This helps to avoid image degradation. JPEGS at level 12 compression are also fine. If you’re shooting film, make sure you’re using a decent scanner. Check your files at 100% magnification for noise, and spot any dust or scratches.
If you’re making prints that are larger than the camera’s native file size, up-ressing in 5-10% increments is a surefire way to avoid noise or pixilation. Printique’s experts will flag any images for quality issues if they appear. Here are some other techniques that might help increase the resolution with limited file degradation.
If you’re skilled at color correction, you can make your own color adjustments before going to print. For best results, we highly recommend that you calibrate your monitor. But rest assured, our skilled technicians have years of experience printing commercial and fine art jobs. They will do a great job making sure your prints are color corrected if you prefer to take that route.
Although we print from digital files, our standard printing process sticks to photography’s roots with the traditional silver halide process. Similar to what you might remember from your high school or college darkroom, we project your images onto light-sensitive paper and silver-based chemistry. The prints are sharper and the colors and tones are more vibrant. If you’re partial to ink, many of our specialty papers use that process without sacrificing quality. We include those options later in this feature.
When you’re finished editing and ready to make your final round of exhibition, portfolio or client prints, choosing the right paper type can help give your work an extra edge, and can often add more meaning. From our standard papers to elaborate options like metal and acrylic, each have different characteristics with a different impact. Here’s a breakdown to help guide your decision.
Lustre: It’s our most popular paper, the happy medium between glossy and matte, perfect for a range of uses, from weddings, portraits and commercial prints to fine art. It’s subtly reflective with a hint of sheen without being too shiny and its rich blacks and pure whites pull you in.
Glossy: Smooth, polished and slick, glossy is perfect when you just need that extra shine. Whites are extra bright and colors pop most on glossy paper, with the widest range of tones. It’s slightly more delicate than our other papers and is vulnerable to fingerprints, so make sure to handle exhibition prints with some white gloves. Like Lustre, Glossy is great for portfolio prints, and also for landscapes, street photography and – because of its high tonal range – is perfect for small prints.
Matte: For the refined printer, matte paper has excellent color reproduction with no glare, and a silky smooth texture. It has a subtle color range and is best for large portraits, still life and images without dense shadows or dark blacks.
Silk: One of our newest additions to our standard printing options, Silk offers the refined textures of our other papers, with a vintage flare, a thicker weight and soft reflection similar to vinyl and works best for weddings, family photos and portraits.It’s one step closer to our specialty prints.
Specialty prints offer some extra flare and can help photographs go a step beyond our standard paper types. New technology enables us to print on a variety of surfaces, from metal, acrylic, wood and canvas.
Metal prints add sparkle and shine. It’s smooth and reflective like our glossy paper, with extra punch that helps colors jump out and black and white tones shimmer. Metal prints are perfect for black and white, landscape, street photography and Instagram images. You can learn more about this high quality option in our guide to metal photo prints.
Acrylic prints are printed directly on the sheet. Acrylic is more durable and has a longer life than traditional printing methods. These sleek high definition prints and blocks display sharp vibrant colors. They are printed on polished high grade acrylic, and the high gloss effect makes it perfect for images with high tonal range. They’re great for the home, studios and galleries. One inch desk prints make for modern, high quality gifts.
Wood prints can add a new dimension to your work and catch viewers by surprise. Like our other non-traditional surfaces, it’s best to approach wood from a highly selective process. Wood prints work best with landscapes and nature which blend seamlessly into the wood’s surface. Wood can also be great for black and white, but, like nature and landscapes, keep in mind that warmer tones and heavy grain will shine through turning black and white tones into rustic, brown tones.
Canvas prints give your photos a gallery-worthy treatment. Printed on high-quality, heavy weight canvas stretched onto a sturdy, 1½ inch, pine wood frame, these specialty prints come alive for formal family portraits. The painterly quality make them a great option for floral still lives and bucolic nature scenes.
Our Giclee prints are for professional photographers who prefer thicker, more textured inkjet printing.
Giclee printing often has a three-dimensional feel, which is enhanced by different paper types with different weights and textures.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the different papers and when to use them.
Low Texture – Bamboo 290: Matt FineArt – Smooth. 290 Gsm, 90% Bamboo Fiber, 10% Cotton, Natural White
This super smooth paper is best for warm toned and monochrome prints. While its archival quality is ideal fine art, digital art, limited edition and exhibition prints – these will last a lifetime – it’s also suitable for albums and greeting cards.
Medium Texture – Albrecht Durer 210: Matt FineArt – Textured. 210 Gsm, 50% Cotton, 50% A-Cellulose, White, Mold-Made
This paper, with more texture than Bamboo 290, is a traditional watercolor paper that heightens the artistic quality of any image. Like the Bamboo 290, it’s ideal for a range of image types, from fine art with high archival standards to albums and greeting cards.
HEAVY TEXTURE – German Etching 310: Matt FineArt – Textured. 310 Gsm, 100% Cotton, White, Mold-Made
The most coarse giclee option, this paper adds highly textured surface to your images. Like the medium and light papers, it’s ideal for a range of uses – it all depends on how much grain you like. What’s also cool about this paper is that it comes from Hahnemuhle, a company which has been around since 1584, centuries before photography was even an idea.
Now that you’ve upped your printing game, it’s time to think about display and framing options. Printique offers a variety of affordable professional quality custom framing options to help your work shine, whether it’s displayed above your couch or in a gallery.
Once you’re through the editing, printing and framing process, the next step is determining how you are going to display your work.
If you’re exhibiting your work in a group show, the gallery is likely working with a curator who has their own vision for how to display your work alongside other talented photographers.
However, if you’re preparing for a solo exhibition or are trying to organize your work in your home, Printique’s Wall Design Wizard can save you a lot of trouble – and math! The best part about our Design Wizard is that it’s free. It’s also a great way to virtually sell multiple prints to collectors by showing them different ways the work might look on a wall or even in their own homes.
Printique prints may be archival, but we highly recommend the following easy steps to preserve and care for them. If you’re framing using Printique frames, you won’t need to do much as we use all archival materials and UV coated glass to protect your images from fading. If you’re storing them in a portfolio book or box, we recommend using acid free materials. Make sure to keep them in a dry (30-40% relative humidity), cool (room temperature or below, but not too cold!), clean, and stable environment. For best results, avoid attics, basements, and other locations with potential leaks and environmental extremes.
After you make your prints, it’s time to start thinking about making a photo book. We’ve got you covered in our epic guide ‘How to Make a Photo Book.’