Printing Your Photograph
Written by Kevin Reilly
There is nothing wrong with printing your photograph on your home printer. But, I suggest you only print your photos at home if you have a dedicated photo printer, high-quality photo paper and you are familiar with your printer’s ICC color profiles. ICC color profiles match your printer and your paper to achieve the best results. If that seems a little bit too technical, then make sure you stick with paper of the same brand as your printer – those ICC profiles should already be built into your printer’s software driver.
As an example, if you’re using an Epson Printer, choose a high-quality Epson photo paper and simply select that paper from the drop down list when you print.
If you’re sending your work to a photographic printing company, it’s a good thing to know that not all of these companies are equal when it comes to quality. A discount department store or pharmacy probably won’t take the time and effort to make sure your photograph comes out right. You might do better with one of the big name commercial printers like Snapfish or Shutterfly, but to get the very best results, consider a professional-level printer, such as Bay Photo, Aspen Creek or ProDPI, to name a few. They do tend to be a little bit more expensive, but if you sign up on their mailing list, you’ll most likely receive special email offers. That can save you a bundle.
One of the most common problems people encounter when they print photographs is having them all come out too dark. That’s because most of us have our LCD monitor’s brightness controls maxed out to the right. You can correct this easily by either turning down the brightness (I usually have my monitor’s brightness set at 80, but I turn it all the way down to 35 when I’m processing photographs), or you can add brightness to your photograph before you print. You can find the right settings by trial and error, or you can invest in a Color Calibration Tool, which will automatically adjust the brightness of your display. The added benefit of a good Color Calibration Tool is it will also calibrate your monitor’s color palette so you’ll ensure your prints look exactly like what you’re seeing on your screen.
Most photo contests only have a limited amount of wall space, and to make sure as many high-quality photographs as possible get on the wall, size limitations are strictly enforced. Most of the time, you’ll want to stay with a frame size of approximately 16 x 20 inches. Frame size is calculated by the inside dimensions (the opening) of the frame. If you added a frame width of 2 inches to a 16 x 20 inch frame, your total frame size would be 20 x 24 inches. Finally adding those two dimensions together gives you 44 inches.
It’s relatively easy to walk into a frame shop and come out with a 16 x 20 inch frame. You can even find pre-cut mats that are designed to fit perfectly in your new frame. But, then you’ll come up against a problem that has been plaguing photographers for years – the inside opening of your mat doesn’t match the dimensions of your photograph. Why in the world frame manufacturers and photo printers continue to concentrate on 8 x 10, 11 x 14 and 16 x 20 inch prints, mats and frames, when digital cameras produce 8 x 12, 10 x 15 or 12 x 18 photographs is beyond me. But it leaves you having to make some difficult choices.
The easiest thing to do is to crop your work to fit a standard size. This means you’ll have to reduce the width of your photograph to fit your mat. Then you can buy off-the-shelf mats and frames and you’re done. The second thing you can do is print your photograph in whatever format you prefer, and then cut or have someone cut a mat to match your print. If you have the skills and the tools, cutting mats yourself costs more up front, but saves a lot of money down the line if you’re going to be framing lots of photographs.
But having a custom mat is only the beginning. Now you’ll have to find a frame to fit it. The best-looking presentation includes a mat that has the same dimensions around each of the sides of your photograph. A two-to-four inch mat looks great. And while having the same mat dimensions looks the best, there’s nothing wrong with having an 11 x14 print in a 16 x 20 inch frame. Before you invest money in prints, mats and frames, make sure to take a moment and draw how it will look on a piece of paper.
Good luck with your entries.