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Printing Photos At Home - Do Photo Printers Work?
The affordability and continuing evolution of low cost digital cameras and cell phones with built-in camera lenses has resulted in more amateur photographers snapping and sharing photos with friends worldwide than ever before.
If you use a digital camera, there are 3 ways to get your photos printed:
Research suggests that about 45% of digital photographers print their own photos at home, while an equal number trust their digital photos to online retailers. Consumers seem to vary their behavior depending on the number of photo prints desired:
Which of these options makes the most sense? And more importantly, which will result in the most cost savings?
Advantages of printing your own photos
The decision whether to print your own photos or have them processed is exactly the same issue as having your own darkroom or sending film out to have it developed by a lab – it is all about controlling the final output. The primary advantage of printing your own photos is that you have complete control over the image quality. If you are not happy with a print, you can adjust it using photo editing software and reprint, learning as you go.
There is something very satisfying about taking a raw digital image and manipulating it until you feel that it is “just right”. For those who enjoy having creative control over their photos, it is more of a control issue than a cost issue, and worth the extra cost. If you are serious about photography, you may agree that commercially made prints (made by some operators) can never match the prints you make yourself.
One way to cut printing costs is to print the images smaller than the final desired size, until you are sure that the output will be what you expect. Considering that not every print on a roll of 35mm film will be a “keeper,” likewise not every digital image will be ideal. The goal is to select the best images and make them as perfect as possible.
To get the best results when printing color photos, be sure to use photo paper because it is designed to absorb the ink correctly. Photo Paper Glossy delivers a smooth, glossy finish for everyday photos with the look of true photographic prints. Premium Photo Paper Glossy costs a little more but it has a high gloss finish that is perfect for printing your favorite cherished photos and enlargements for use with glass frames and photo albums. Whichever paper you use, be sure to change your print settings to select the correct type of photo paper that you are using.
If digital photography and printing your own color photographs is your passion, inkjet color printers will offer you the variety and color controls that you need for the best price. Be sure to check out our Featured Printer: the new Epson PictureMate Snap 4 x 6 Photo Printer, which offers incredible image quality and ease of use for an unbelievably low price.
The Total Cost of Ownership
For some people however, the price of that image control is too high. Although inkjet color printers may appear to be very affordable, and are often part of a package deal with the purchase of a new computer, they are not cheap when you consider the total cost of ownership. After you make an initial investment, you are going to pay at least 28 cents a print, if you believe the manufacturers' math. It could be closer to 50 cents a print if you trust the testing of product reviewers at Consumer Reports.
Why does it cost so much to print your own photos? The major printer manufacturers do not make their money from the sale of printers, which return relatively low profit margins. It is the sales of ink, toner and photo paper that are the top profit generators. Ounce for ounce, the cost of the ink in brand name cartridges is four times the cost of Dom Perignon champagne, which sells for around $425 a bottle.
In addition to the cost of supplies, another disadvantage of inkjet printers is that the cartridge ink might dry out relatively quickly, depending on the humidity of your environment, and how frequently you use the printer. Ink cartridges have a shelf life once they are in the machine – that means you will need to replace every cartridge at least twice a year whether it is empty or not.
Of course purchasing refill kits, remanufactured or compatible ink cartridges can provide a significant cost savings. Most inkjet cartridges can produce about 120-150 printed pages.
Even though the manufacturers try to convince consumers that printing at home is fast, convenient, and a whole lot of fun, and the printers themselves are practically free, you need to weigh their TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) before making the decision to purchase a inkjet color printer.
Advantages of Using a Photo Lab
Snapping a huge number of photos with a digital camera is easy, but printing your pictures and showing them to friends and family can be a hassle. Recent surveys show that many people are tuning out the marketing by printer manufacturers and opting instead to send their digital photos to an online lab for processing.
There are many Web sites that allow you to upload your photos to online albums and other sharing tools, and to order prints of them to be mailed to your home. The last couple of years have seen an explosion in the number of these photo-sharing and photo-printing sites, which means that print prices have dropped, and the range of services offered has expanded. Whether you have a handful of vacation shots or you're a serious photographer with a big image archive, there are plenty of sites that can make printing and sharing a pleasure.
Most people are very happy with the lab results and the price of printing a 4-by-6-inch snapshot at a retailer's photo lab, like those inside a Sam's Club, which cost as low as 13 cents. You cannot print your own photos on a inkjet color printer for less than that. In addition to the low cost per print, the fact that all of the processed prints typically have a continuous tone, you don’t have to make a capital investment in a printer, and you don’t have to spend time looking for deals on inkjet supplies, can all add up to a significant cost savings.
By using an online printing service, it is a simple process: you upload the photos, choose a print size, provide a credit card, and check your mailbox. It’s that easy.
Whether you decide to print your own digital photos or use an online processing service is really based on personal preference, and which factors are most important to you. If creative control of the image output or printing your photos immediately is more important, do some research and purchase a good inkjet color printer that will produce the best prints for the lowest TCO.
We highly recommend taking a look at the new Epson PictureMate Snap 4 x 6 Photo Printer, which offers incredible image quality and ease of use for an unbelievably low price. Click here to see our review of this amazing printer.