Printing Photos at Home
The quality offered by small printers suitable for use at home or in a small office has increased over the past few years. The price of these printers has also decreased significantly during the same period of time. This makes home printing an attractive option, especially if you are looking to make the occasional print rather than print off a set of 400 holiday photos.
Types of Printer
Not so long ago it was only laser printers that offered sufficient quality for home printing. The market has moved on and there are now two types of home printer that dominate the market. These are inkjet printers and dye sublimation printers. Be careful if you are buying an inkjet printer as some are optimised for photo printing while others tend to offer more all round printing capabilities. If you are serious about home printing I would avoid the second type of inkjet printer and go for one that is specific to printing photos.
The majority of inkjet printers produce prints up to A4 size, although there are printers available that can produce bigger prints.
Dye sublimation printers are more likely to produce smaller prints. Be aware that even the more expensive models may not print above 6 x 4 inches or small snapshot size.
Options Offered by Different Printers
As well as producing standard prints many printers can also print items such as labels, stickers and post cards. The more advanced printers also offer some basic image editing functions such as red eye reduction. A few printers will also reduce noise, correct brightness and remove any colour caste. So if you are looking for a simple printing option that does involve correcting photos on a computer this could be of interest to you.
Most printers will connect to a printer via a USB cable, but some are capable of working in isolation through built in memory card readers. All you need to do with this type of printer is insert your memory card into a slot and then follow instructions to select the photos you would like to print.
Some printers also have a PictBridge feature. This allows you to connect your camera directly to the printer via a cable. You can then control printing using either the camera or printer interface.
A smaller number of printers are compatible with Bluetooth devices, but be aware in most cases you will need to purchase an adapter separately. You can also find printers offering wireless connectivity.
Printers often come with software you can load to your PC. This can allow you to add special effects and borders to your photos before printing.
Home Printing Costs
Printers can be found for under £50, but you do get what you pay for to a large degree. Not only will you get better print quality as you spend more, but you will also get more options.
It is hard to say how many prints you are likely to get from a set of ink cartridges. Volumes can even differ for different coloured inks. Always ensure you can swap out individual ink cartridges.
Print speeds vary greatly from printer to printer. A print could take between 15 seconds to 1 minute to complete.
To get the most out of a printer you will need to buy premium grade photo paper. For long lasting prints I would also suggest using ink from recognised brands. The cost of printing can start to mount up. Therefore I see the home printing option as one of convenience rather than offering much cheaper printing.
Convenience: you can print a picture at home any time you want to
Extra features give the ability to print directly to a DVD or on both sides of a page
It is hard to match the low price and quality offered by some online printing companies
Watch out for cost per print creeping up
The market leading brands are Canon, Epson and HP. They all offer printers with similar features and have printers on offer at a range of price points.