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Here are the pros and cons of printing your own photos

THE STAR/DPA – If you have photos that you like, you may at some point want to hold them in your hand rather than just look at them on a screen.

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 copyshop 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,” said 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 said. However, it does take a little practice.

“You should definitely deal with the topic of colour management,” Walther recommends.

Colour profiles are stored in the printer itself and can be edited or created using programmes such as Photoshop. This is essential for colour-fast prints.

Good inkjet printers are available for around USD800. For the A2 format or larger, you have to plan to spend at least USD1,300.

Then there are the expenses of paper and ink, with the former in particular being very pricey.

“There is 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 said.

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.

Digital photos take on a completely different quality when you print them out on paper, but there’s a big difference between small home printers and fine art prints. PHOTO: DP