If you are doing your own photo printing, you presumably already know you’ll get better output if you spend more on paper and ink. (Sounds like marketing speak, but it’s all too true in this case.) Regardless, there are some other tricks you’ll need to get the best results, all of which kick in long before you click on the print icon.
I compiled this list of suggestions from a presentation by consultant Jonathan Briggs at the Focus on Imaging conference in Birmingham.
While some of this might seem like obvious advice, Briggs said even professionals often mess up the fundamentals: “It is amazing how much is missing in the basic understanding.”
Calibrate your monitor regularly
If you think your printed photos don’t match what you see on screen, it may be the screen that’s at fault. Briggs advises calibrating your screen at least every six weeks to ensure that you’re looking at an accurate and consistent colour representation. If you’re looking for calibration tools, check out previously mentioned Screen Check and Calibrize).
Consider the effects of ambient light
Another factor in how you perceive both the display and printed output is the surrounding light quality. You may not want to splash out on studio-quality ambient lighting, but you can avoid obvious mistakes like starting an editing session in the evening under only artificial light then continuing it the next day in a sunny room.
Watch out for the surrounding colours
The colours you perceive on screen and paper are also influenced by other surrounding colours (which is why Photoshop and other image editing programs offer a neutral grey background). Make sure you don’t apply changes like adding a coloured border to avoid changes in colour perception. Use features like tiling multiple images with caution – large swathes of colour in an adjacent image can affect your judgement. And watch out for multi-monitor wallpaper if you work on more than one screen.
Frankly, if you’re just running off snaps for the rellies, heading to the nearest chain store with a kiosk is probably going to be cheaper anyway. But for bigger or special projects, a little planning and preparation like this can make a major difference.