Nothing brings a final frame to life like seeing it printed. But for many photographers, printing can often be the most daunting part of the process – what is the best way to print to ensure what you see on screen matches your final print on paper? Should you print at home, or outsource and receive your prints via an external service provider? Both options have their pros and cons and it’s therefore important to consider the technicalities in order to ensure you achieve an accurate reproduction of the photograph you have spent valuable time creating.

Colour management – getting it right first time

A recent colour management survey carried out by Datacolor revealed that 65% of participants experience disappointment with colour reproduction when using a print service provider. Whilst it’s important to remember there will always be a difference between your screen and a print as you’re looking at projected light versus reflected light, it is possible for the two to closely match. A calibrated screen is the best starting position for your prints to ensure that subtle tones and brightness within the image are faithfully represented, without having to go back and forth with corrective reprints. A clear knowledge of colour management therefore, is essential to save you time and money when printing.

Service providers – a convenient and hassle-free option

Service provider printers offer a cost-effective and simple way of printing quickly and on a wide range of finishes. With advances in print-on-demand services, these service providers have multiplied in recent years, making them a convenient choice for printing.

Fashion photographer, Holly McGlynn, votes in favour of outsourcing her printing to external print services, finding their knowledge and professionalism hard to beat. In addition to having the freedom to print on a range of papers with ease, rather than having to stay stocked up on cartridges and paper, Holly recognises the importance of colour management when it comes to outsourcing printing. “Colour is such an important, defining feature of my work, and I can’t afford for it to lose any of its punch in the printing process”. This was something her printing service provider also realised, imploring her to begin sending over calibrated images to ensure the colours were printed exactly how she intended – the kind of expertise received from a professional printing service.

Printing service providers also bring along a range of practical benefits including being able to print on a larger scale without having to invest in costly home printers, which need to be regularly calibrated and serviced. In addition to this, the ability to print from anywhere in the world is a key benefit that Richard Peters, a UK-based wildlife photographer and Nikon Ambassador alumni utilises – “As I travel a lot, using a print service provider means rather than a client having to potentially wait several weeks for me to arrange a print, I can typically do so within a day or two at most, ensuring the print arrives to them before I even arrive home.”

However, the downside to outsourcing to a print provider is that you aren’t able to see the print before it is sent out. To combat this, Richard says, “I have my own test prints made with the vendor for any new images before I offer them for sale. This ensures the reproduction is faithful and, thanks to a calibrated screen, they typically are.”

Home printing – retaining complete control over the printing process

Home printing on the other hand is now much more advanced than it used to be. With the developments in digital printing technology, printing at home is a viable and convenient option for producing quality prints yourself. Although an at-home printer may be an initial investment, the advantages of doing so include immediate results and complete control over the calibration and editing process of images while you print from the comfort of your own home. Woodland and landscape photographer, Simon Baxter sees the benefits of home printing, enjoying the freedom to run small test prints and tweak the image prior to producing the final large print. “When I hit ‘Print’ I know exactly what the result will be, and I have a great sense of satisfaction from having turned an outdoor experience into something beautiful and tactile that I’m proud to sell or hang on my own wall.”

Restrictions however, include the size of printing that is possible, the maintenance of a fully-functioning, calibrated printer, stocking up on ink and paper, and finding space for it all in your office. What’s more, home printing can be expensive –  on top of a high-quality printer, unless you’ve got access to a good supplier, the cost of inks and paper may be a barrier. A con of home printing may also come down to the fact that you simply don’t feel confident in printing your own photographs and would prefer to hand them over to a professional, which is fine in itself.

Printing to suit your needs

Whichever printing option you choose to best suit your project, whether it’s through a handy service provider or from the comfort of your own home, ensuring your image has been correctly colour managed will ultimately save you time, money and frustration.

Datacolor have teamed up with FUJIFILM Fotoservice Pro to offer customers the opportunity to experience creating fully-calibrated images and printing via a service provider until 31st December 2019. You can receive an exclusive one-off 50% discount on a premium print product when you purchase a qualified Spyder product both online and in retail stores. These include the Spyder5EXPRESS, Spyder5PRO, Spyder5ELITE, Spyder5STUDIO Spyder5CAPTURE PRO and SpyderCHECKR.

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Home printing vs service provider printing: which is the best option for you?
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Home printing vs service provider printing: which is the best option for you?
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Yasemin looks into the question of home printing vs service provider printing: which is the best option for you?
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Camera Jabber
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