While all hobby photographers dreamed of having their own darkroom in the past, a printer can provide the same service to us in the present. Then, should we buy our own printer if we want to hold our photos in our hands rather than just looking at them on a screen? Or should we still consult service providers for good fine art prints?
You can take the images to a photo lab for printing, but once you start printing regularly, it usually makes sense to invest in your own printer.
"If you only need paper photos occasionally, you would be better off with a service provider," says photographer Wolfgang Elster. Picking up prints at your local copy shop or some other place where you can get instant prints is a lot cheaper than spending hundreds of dollars on printers, paper, and ink.
When it comes to photo printing services, the photo format, paper quality and the process used all determine the price and delivery time.
There's a wide variety of options available, from fine art prints (inkjet printing on art paper) to museum-quality (printed on durable, acid-free paper).
The alternative is to do it yourself. "I recommend everyone to get their own printer sooner or later," says photographer Rolf Walther. Doing so also helps amateur photographers develop their skills.
Especially for photographers who exhibit their work or who need large quantities printed, buying your own printer makes sense in terms of cost.
Compared with paying a photo lab, "those who print themselves get the same for around a third of the price and can determine their own print,” Elster says. However, it does take a little practice.
"You should definitely deal with the topic of color management," Walther recommends. Color profiles are stored in the printer itself and can be edited or created using programs such as Photoshop. This is essential for colorfast prints.
Good inkjet printers are available for around $800. For the A2 format or larger, you have to plan to spend at least $1,300.
Then there are the expenses of paper and ink, with the former in particular being very pricey. “There are an infinite number of types of paper, but the differences aren't that great," Walther says.
In order to gain the necessary expertise, Elster recommends workshops or web seminars. The latter are sometimes offered by the printer manufacturers free of charge.
Getting training beats going it alone with your new printer. "When learning by doing, you simply pay too much money," he says.
Anyone who has mastered the techniques and technology of printing can then live out their full artistic freedom in photography, whether for exhibitions, competitions, murals for their own home or as gifts.
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