Photo Printing Advice

I thought I'd do a little writing about printing.  Up until now, everything I've shared has been about the shoot or about processing, but maybe a little something about what you hang on your wall.

I've struggled a little over the past couple of years with printing.  Do you push canvas or do you push prints.  Typically I suggest people purchase a canvas to hang on their wall because when all is said and done, they look great and the final cost to hang on the wall can be far less than a print on paper.  Specifically, buying a frame off the shelf of your local retailer will cost you at minimum, the same as it cost to buy your print.  More likely, it will probably be like 2-5 times that cost.

If you choose to get a print custom-framed with mat (or double mat), you can quickly find yourself spending hundreds of dollars, particularly if you're buying non-reflective, shatter-proof glass.  The results are stunning, and they really look phenomenal on the wall, but it is ironic to me that the frame would cost many, many times the cost of the actual piece you are framing.

To help with that cost, I have been looking into different printing options.  I have tried the big-box stores, I've tried the small local shops and I've tried the true professional fine art printer (who I currently use today) and I'm in the midst of trying a high-volume professional printer.  Here is what I've learned so far.

  • You get what you pay for - and sometimes that's perfectly fine.  Not everyone needs or wants a print done on paper that will last 100 years.  Sometimes cheap and quick is exactly right.
  • Looking at a fancy storefront doesn't necessarily mean you're getting something that's ideal to sell to showcase your work.
  • Quality really doesn't have to cost a lot more but the quality is immeasurably far apart.

Having had my work printed at half a dozen places so far, with one more to go, I've found that prints really do look their best with a professional printer.  The storefronts that offer 1-hour prints are probably using the exact same paper and equipment that Walmart does and again, that can be just fine if that's what you want, but you're probably paying more for nothing.  Just don't be deceived into thinking the fancy looking store is giving you anything different.

My criteria today is that a photo should not be glossy.  At all.  If it's going to look it's best on paper, in a nice frame on a wall, it should be in a place that is lit well, and on the right type of paper.  A reflective photo will bounce white (or yellow) light back and you'll struggle to find the right angle to view it at to avoid the glare.  

I will continue using a professional fine art printer because the few extra dollars are more than worth what you get and with this particular store, it's a matte finished, heavy paper, giclee print that will live looking it's best far longer than I will.

Obviously I'd love to sell you my work, but if you want advice on whether a certain store is going to give you the best results, by all means feel free to email me with a link to the store and I'll let you know what to look for or give you my opinion and hopefully save you the leg work I've done.  You can reach me at