AmSnaps - Digital Photography Basics For Amateur Snappers

Top Tips On Choosing High Quality Digital Photography Printers

Which digital photography printers offer the best results? Which ink is best for photos? Printing your favourite photos in the comfort of your own home has never been cheaper or easier.

Let me guide through the jargon and help you choose a printer that meets your needs. I have written some in depth reviews on specific printer models which include:

Different Types Of Digital Photography Printers

Compact Printer - These small printers produce 6x4in prints. You have a choice between the inkjet or dye-sub models.

These can easily be connected directly to cameras, mobile phones and computers via a range of methods such as Bluetooth, USB, Infrared and even WiFi. Many of them also accept memory cards and have an LCD screen where you can preview your picture before printing.

A4 Inkjet Printer - Modern inkjets offer high quality and high speed printing that can match that of conventional photographic prints. The latest models now boost a resolution of 9600x2400 DPI.

Recent advances in ink and paper quality have also improved the lifespan of inkjet prints, which can now last as long as colour silver halide prints. Choose a model which has a USB connection and built in memory card slots.

A3 Inkjet Printer - Slightly more expensive than A4 models. The operation of these printers is the same as other inkjets. As inkjet printers, print line by line, you may find an A3 model useful for printing banners by attaching a roll of paper and using the right software.

Multifunctional Printer - These all-in-one digital photography printers are useful if you are on a limited budget. They provide printing, scanning, copying and even fax facilities in one unit, freeing up valuable desk space. Quality isn’t as good as individual devices, but standards are improving which make these a good overall solution.

Digital Photography Printer's Technical Terms

Maximum Print Size - When buying a new printer you need to consider what size of photographs you want to print.

Standard inkjet printers print up to A4 size, which is about 8x12in. This gives you a good range for your pictures, but if are a serious enthusiastic who wants larger prints, then, the A3 printer is for you.

This will give you prints up to 16x12in which look very impressive. The only constraint at this level is cost. The bigger the printer, the higher the running costs.

A really popular printer at the moment is the compact inkjet printer. It only produces 6x4in photos, but is ideal if you want to quickly print your photos to show your friends.

Printer Resolution - As with cameras, the resolution of inkjet printers is measured in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the dpi rating, the better the print quality.

Most recent inkjet printers range between 4800x1200dpi and 9600x2400dpi. Dithering also affects the print quality of a photograph.

Dithering is the term used to describe the colours produced by a pattern of dots. The driver software of the printer usually determines how good the dithering will be.

In practical terms, you can only get a true representation of the quality of a printer by examining the photographs it produces.

Ink Types - There are two basic types of inkjet printer ink...dye-based and pigmented. Pigment inks are more expensive but don’t fade as quickly as dye-based inks. A disadvantage of pigment ink is that it's a matt finish and doesn’t absorb into glossy papers easily.

You can’t mix and match these inks. If you have an inkjet printer that uses a dye-based ink, then you must use this type or you could damage the printer.

Most inkjet printer inks are available from third-party manufacturers, which produce an ink cartridge that is compatible with each model of printer. They are generally never as good as the manufacturer's own brand with regard to quality and longevity.

Dye Sublimation - An alternative process to inkjet printing is dye-sub. Drops of ink are placed onto specially coated paper. A ribbon with thermal dye is used in this method and the results generally look much more like traditional photo prints.

Most commonly used by compact printers but some A4 printer models use this technology as well.

Dye-sub printers have the advantage of being simplistic and convenient but are disadvantaged by not being as versatile as inkjet printers. When you buy ink for these printers you also get enough print paper to match, so you know roughly how many prints you are going to get from each cartridge. Useful for working out your cost-per-print.

Photo Paper - As with inks, the best quality prints are achieved with the printer manufacturer's own brand of paper. Other brands of paper can be used and will generally produce good results without the same risk that you have when using third-party inks.

Photo paper comes in a variety of formats and sizes. You can have finishes in matt, pearl, satin, glossy and even ultra-glossy. These formats give greater control over the final appearance and feel of your prints.

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David Coote
Wedding Photographer
Northern Ireland