Digital Photography Printing: In-Store Or Home?

Printing your photographic memories onto paper is the last, yet most paramount, step in professional or personal digital photography. And the rarest freeze frames would not be given their duly earned credit if you’re lacking outdated equipment or poor printer inks. Because your hard work should never be for naught, deciding exactly where you’ll print your photographic masterpieces is as integral as the photos themselves.

In deciding whether CVS, Walmart or your trusty HP will print your photographs, consider these questions before making that elusive final decision:

Costs: Would paper and ink cost more home, or away?

Photograph-quality paper isn’t cheap, and each bundle doesn’t come with hundreds of blank sheets.  Ink tends to wear down quickly when printing high-definition prints.  Most stores will charge somewhere between .25 - .55 per print, depending on size and expected resolution.  Weighing the benefits of leaving your home or developing your film downtown depends first, and foremost, on the costs of said development.

Equipment: Is my printer up to snuff, or will professionals do better?

Commercial digital printing equipment tends to hold up better than box store printers.  In fact, the heavy investment required to commandeer such equipment isn’t because of size – the technology is simply amazing.  Sure, your photo printer will handle professionally taken photographs on smaller scales; what if you had 1000’s to print?  Unless you’ve got the patience, software and time to devote to printing your HD photos, you really need to consider having your digital film professionally developed to avoid bad developments.

Experience: Could I honestly say I operate equipment at above novice levels?

One of many human eccentricities that makes us ‘unique’ includes hating to admit we’re wrong, or inadequate.  Photographers that spend months wandering around looking for new action shots aren’t always technologically sound.  Nor are they great with printers.  Since your portfolio is at risk here, assessing your self-printing expertise with honesty could avert potential disaster.  Especially in the case of professional resume backing, printing your freeze frames professionally would probably be your best bet if any doubt arises you can adequately operate printing equipment.

Time: Would spending hours at home thwart forward progress?

Simply put, professional photographers are busy individuals.  Spending 8 hours dillydallying with their printer could cost them valuable field time.  That being said, gauging whether dropping film off at professional stores or printing them at home really boils down to how much time you’ve got to devote to this activity.  If you’ll have several days of downtime, and your experience, equipment and costs offer plenty of wiggle room, by all means – do them solo.  However, if any elements are missing as mentioned above, you’d be doing your photos a disservice by attempting to print them at home.

Final Thought: Choose Wisely

Printing is that coveted final stage in photography where all your hard work comes to fruition on paper.  Wasting your time, money and effort just to have crappy pictures flushes your work quickly down the drain.  Weigh experience, price, equipment and available time into your final decision when the printing stage arrives in the photography process. Ultimately, your goal is to create high-quality, award worthy photos and anything that hinders that process can only be detrimental to your productivity,

About the Author

Roger Kowalewski is a freelance writer and photography buff from Indiana. You can follow him on Google+.