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Digital Photo FAQ's & Tips: Printing at Home

This section of the web site is a collection of digital photo Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and Tips.

Before buying a printer, consider all costs

Before buying a digital photo printer, be sure to consider all of the costs involved. Here are the questions you should ask:

  • How much does the printer cost?
  • Are all of the required cables included with the printer? If not, how much do they cost?
  • How many ink cartridges does it require?
  • How much does each ink cartridge cost?
  • How many photos can be printed with a full cartridge?
  • How much does photo paper cost?
  • Are there other accessories required to print quality photos?

For additional information on this topic, please see our Should You Print or Develop? article.

In search for less expensive photo paper

Generic answer: For best results, use the printer manufacturer recommended paper and ink. But what if you would like to try a less expensive brand of photo paper? Frustration has been reported by photo printer users when trying different papers, because of less than satisfactory results. The truth is, the paper may not be at fault. Three components work together to produce a photo: a) printer, b) ink, and c) paper. Changing the paper can produce unsatisfactory results because the ink may not be a good match for it.

If you have found a less expensive brand of photo paper that you'd like to try, perform this simple test: Keep the ink the same and try the other paper. If you do not like the results, try a different type of ink made for your printer and the same paper. By carefully tracking the paper/ink combination, you may find a cost-saving formula.

Which is cheaper: printing at home or developing?

Developing digital photos at a lab is considerably cheaper for common print sizes such as 4x6", 5x7", and 8x10", even after paying modest shipping costs.

In early 2006, the average cost to print a 4x6" photo at home is about 50¢. The average cost for developing online and receiving the prints in the mail is about 25¢, including shipping. Having photos developed locally is even cheaper at around 20¢ each.

Be aware that even though labs may use the terms print or digital prints, they actually develop your digital photos using the same process as film. The resulting photos look like traditional pictures and are usually of higher quality compared to inkjet printed photos.

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