When looking to buy an inkjet printer for photo printing, take one of your favourite photos to the store with you on a USB drive or memory card. Ask to have the image printed on the printer you’re seriously considering and check the following…
1. The ‘Look’ of the prints
Look for highlight and shadow detail and avoid printers that block up tones at either end of the range. Examine the surface of the print for discontinuities in smoothness. Watch for signs of bronzing (colour changes) when you look across the surface of the print.
2. Colour accuracy
Does the printer reproduce the hues in the image accurately? Do those hues look ‘right’ in all types of lighting? Look for subtle colour casts in B&W prints. If B&W printing is important, a printer with at least three black inks is required.
3. Ink types and print longevity
How long will prints on different types of paper last? (More information on this subject is provided in Chapter 3 of Photo Printing pocket guide.)
How resistant are prints to normal handling conditions? Prints made with dye inks are usually more robust than prints made with pigment inks because dye inks are absorbed into the top layer of the paper, while pigments sit on top of it.
5. Paper handling
Can the printer handle the paper sizes and weights you wish to use – including ‘fine art’ papers for display and exhibition work? (See chapter 3 of Photo Printing pocket guide for more information.) Watch for paper mis-feeds and jams, which can cause paper wastage. If the paper is loaded correctly, it should pass cleanly through the printer.
6. Paper range
How wide is the range of papers offered by the manufacturer for the printer? The wider the range, the wider your options that ‘benchmark’ papers will be catered for in the driver and the more likely there will be additional ‘out of the box’ support, such as ICC profiles (see Chapter 5 of Photo Printing pocket guide).
7. Running costs
When calculating the cost of making prints, take account of potential for wasting inks and paper through mis-feeds, over-inking and user errors such as incorrect driver settings, poor colour control and unsatisfactory working conditions (dust, power surges, etc).
If you need prints in a hurry, a fast printer can deliver the goods. But check the way the ink is laid down, looking for signs of banding and blotchiness as quality may be sacrificed for speed. Fast printers may also produce less colour-stable prints. Overall, the odds of obtaining a high-quality print are higher with a relatively slow printer.
How well does the printer fit into the way you work? Can you extend your capabilities and learn more by using this printer?
Excerpt from Photo Printing pocket guide
Article by Margaret Brown – see Margaret’s photography pocket guides