Photo Printer Buying Guide for Photographers
A lot of photographers love seeing their work on print, whether they’re into portrait, landscape, macro, architectural, or black-and-white photography. There’s nothing quite like being able to hold, feel, and see one’s art on paper because those photographic prints essentially become the embodiment of one’s passions and creativity.
In the old days, people had to rely on darkrooms to be able to develop photographic prints using sheets of paper that had been coated with light-sensitive chemicals. Nowadays, the process of transferring photographs on paper is much easier with the help of modern printing equipment.
If you’re keen on creating lasting printouts of your favorite photos, you should invest in an excellent photo printer that adequately meets your requirements, whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer. Below are some tips to help you get started on finding the right one.
Dedicated photo printers vs. regular photo printers
Most photography enthusiasts who shop for their first photo printers often choose between dedicated photo printers and regular photo printers.
Dedicated photo printers can only print specific sizes on small photo papers, e.g. wallet size (2×3 in), small portrait size (3×4 in), and full-size (4×6 or 5×7 in). Because they can only print smaller photos, these printers are typically compact in size and are very portable.
Regular photo printers, on the other hand, can print on larger paper sizes like A4 (8.27×11.69 in). It’s a great choice for when you want to produce bigger, better-quality printouts of the photos you shoot.
Consider even larger photo printer models
Going beyond the capabilities of regular-sized photo printers, larger prosumer and professional-grade photo printer models can print on even bigger media such A3 (11.7×16.5 in) and A2 (16.5×23.4 in) paper sheets.
These photo printer models perfectly balance output quality and functionality. They usually produce superior printouts, are more robust, and can perform a variety of tasks as well. They can also be cheaper to operate in terms of cost per page printed simply because they use ink cartridges with larger volumes compared to regular ink cartridges. These ink cartridges normally cost less per unit of volume compared to those found in smaller models.
If you’re concerned about ink expenses, also consider buying high-quality remanufactured and compatible ink cartridges instead of ink products from original equipment manufacturers.
Inkjet vs. dye-sublimation technology
Photo printers can also be classified in terms of the printing technology that they use. A majority of photo printers use inkjet technology, which transfers an image by spraying minute droplets of ink onto the paper. The droplets are so fine that they are not normally visible to the naked eye.
Some photo printers, however, use dye-sublimation technology, which employs heat in order to deposit the dye on the substrate. As heat is applied, a layer of the dye is melted from a plastic ribbon onto the paper, thus producing the image. Unlike inkjet printers, dye-sublimation printers don’t produce droplets that form dots on the paper. This results in very smooth printouts.
Printers that use dye-sublimation technology typically use media or paper products that are specifically designed exclusively for them. Make sure to take this into consideration before deciding which printer brand or model to purchase.
Although many inkjet and dye-sublimation photo printers today produce equally excellent outputs, it is important to carefully study the specific features of the models you are considering so that you can make an informed decision about which one to buy. Also read product-specific consumer reviews online for first-hand insights regarding particular printer models that other photographers have actually bought.
Will you be printing monochrome photos?
“Will I be printing in color?” is a question that people who mostly print text documents often ask themselves. When it comes to printing photographs, the question is usually reversed: “Will I be printing in black and white?”
The reason for this is that printing in black and white is not something that all photo printers can handle in the most excellent manner. In fact, it is much easier for many consumer-grade printers to produce satisfactory color prints than black-and-white prints.
More expensive printers that can print larger photographs typically produce better-quality monochrome prints. These printers often offer multiple options for black ink (e.g. matte vs. glossy) and special monochrome modes that accommodate various requirements for black and white printing.
Printing speed and capacity
Factors like printing speed and printing capacity are especially important to photographers who need to produce a huge volume of printouts on a regular basis.
When it comes to speed, you’ll be happy to know that most photo printers nowadays print at a reasonable pace. Printing capacity or duty cycle rates, however, is a different thing altogether. As a general rule, never settle for an entry-level equipment if you know that you’ll be needing a dependable workhorse that can produce many printouts when you need it to. Choose professional-grade equipment instead.
Getting the right photo printer is ultimately a matter of knowing what you need as a photographer. Do your homework by conducting thorough research about the different potential printer models that you have shortlisted. If you are totally new to buying such equipment, it always pays to consult colleagues from your field or other knowledgeable individuals who can give you an unbiased appraisal of the models that they own or have used previously.