Photo Printers

Photo Printers: A Buyer’s Guide

Photo PrintersOne of the best developments for amateur digital photographers in recent years has been the release of affordable, compact photo printers for the home. These printers make it possible to forego a trip to major discount retailers or camera stores to print 4×6 or 5×10 prints, instead turning the home into its own photo studio of sorts. In the 21st century, this is probably as close as most consumers will get to having their own dark room. After all, who needs a dark room anymore?

Shopping for one of these photo printers can be a harrowing experience in some cases, though. Like all technologies, the market for such printers is rapidly evolving and advancing to meet new consumer needs and push the boundaries of what can be done in a typical home printer. With careful considerations of a few details while buying, consumers can head home with the best combination of flexibly printing, a great color gamut, and professional results.

First Things First: Think About the Printer’s Color Capacity

The earliest photo printers produced borderless prints using just three colors. All prints were produced using the CMY color package, which stands for cyan, magenta, and yellow. Even professional photo editing applications like Adobe Photoshop come with built-in support for this limited range of colors so that consumers wind up with accurate prints on-screen and off. But those colors weren’t left untouched for very long.

Shortly after the release of CMY printers, many companies began adding black, light cyan, and light magenta, which helped to increase the quality and tone of pictures produced by home printers. That was a good start, and it has filled the market with many great printers, but it wasn’t the end of the road for companies that are always looking to innovate and improve the customer experience.

In recent years, colors like red and green have made their way into photo printers, as have red and blue color combinations. That allows the printer to not only improve the quality and tone of the pictures that it prints, but it also allows printers to expand the gamut of colors they can produce using the installed ink cartridges. It makes sense, then, that consumers shopping for a printer should pay very careful attention to any ink or color details paired with a printer’s labeling and packaging.

The best printers are those that can actually expand upon the color gamut offered by earlier models or lower-end competitors. With more colors at the ready, photos will appear more realistic and they’ll look more convincingly professional. A wider gamut eliminates the home-printed look, instead giving photos the appearance of those produced by professional camera shops and major retailers.

Look at the Maximum Print Size Supported by the Printer Before Buying

The first photo printers were innovative because they allowed buyers to create 4×6 prints at home without heading to major retailers. That was a pretty big step forward, but further advancements have made home printing of 4×6 photos to be relatively old-fashioned. Indeed, most of today’s best printer models support prints at least as big as 5×10, and the best printers on the market will allow for borderless printing of 8×10 pictures.

Before buying a printer based on its appearance, compact size, and ink colors, be sure to also look into the size of the prints that it can produce. If the printer isn’t capable of producing anything above borderless 4×6 pictures, then it’s probably time to move on to a better model that will enjoy added usefulness and longevity in the home.

Remember that the point of buying a printer is to leave the professional studios and camera stores behind. This can’t fully be achieved if the printer does not have a wide range of sizes and styles available.

Research the Cost of the Ink that the Printer Requires

It’s certainly no easy task for a printer to use as many as eight kinds of ink to produce a professional-looking result on prints of all sizes. Ink for these printers can be relatively expensive, especially when compared to the ink cartridges purchased for more traditional printers that don’t produce photos at all. Accept that the ink for a photo printer is going to be a larger expense, but research each brand’s ink cartridge replacements to judge how much each print will cost.

Without paying attention to ink costs, consumers can easily find themselves printing pictures at home that cost nearly a dollar per picture. Even more surprising is that it can cost a dollar per picture for even the small 4×6 prints produced by today’s printers. Other sizes will be appropriately more costly. When most studios today charge less than 25 cents for a 4×6 print, that makes a photo printer a losing investment.

With the right printer and the right ink, consumers can actually save money compared to professional studios. All it takes is careful research before buying, and careful attention paid to details, in order to avoid the high price of unconventional ink cartridge colors, sizes, and producers.

Don’t Fall for the “Compact Size” Gimmick When Buying a Printer

Consumers have been trained to think that thinner and lighter is inherently better, but that’s not always true. Especially in the case of a photo printer, consumers need to buy the model that is big enough to produce high-quality prints. That means sometimes buying the model that is a bit wider, a bit heavier, and certainly not thinner, than the competition. It might seem like taking a few steps backward, but that’s actually not the case. Instead, it means taking a few steps toward professional production, which is something every buyer can appreciate.

A Great Way to Forego Third-Party Printing Services

Today’s photo printer market is more robust and competitive than ever, giving consumers a great way to avoid the studios and do all of their work at home. With the right ink, the right printer size, and the right built-in capabilities, most people will find that there are really no compromises when choosing home photo printing over the services provided by their nearest studio.

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