To exist in the modern world is to collect digital memories. On your smartphone. From your camera. From a gadget you wear on your forehead. The images are piling up, and most of them are doomed to live out their existence in simple digital formats and ever-changing social platforms. You should print them.
Not all of them, of course — in fact, not even one percent. But if there are even a hundred photos that you value, then you should print them out — nicely! — and put them on a wall. Or your desk.
There are four key ways to do this: Order Out, DIY, Pro-Grade, or DIY-Simple. I’ve experimented with all four, and in the process have learned a great deal about printing photos. So when you get the urge to have people oooh and aaah over your art in real-life person, consider these options.
ProDPI.com or AdoramaPix.com
Order Out. You can order prints from any number of sites online, including Walmart, Walgreens, Snapfish or Shutterfly. In general, the consumer-oriented sites are fine for people who want 4×6 prints from vacations or graduation parties. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about proper prints suitable for your wall or desk frame.
If that’s what you’re after, two sites rise to the top: ProDPI.com or AdoramaPix.com. They both offer a wide variety of options, including mounted and framed wall hangings, fully printed books, and, of course, straight prints on paper, which you can mount yourself or place in an album. The prices are reasonable, they both work very promptly, and in my experience the prints have been excellent reproductions of the digital files.
Canon Pixma TS9020
DIY. Though it’s always nice to have a print show up at your doorstep framed and ready to hang, there are advantages to printing at home. You can run test images, tweak the processing, and crank out as many copies as you want. Canon’s Pixma line offers high-quality inkjet printing of your best work, in dimensions up to 8×14. I tried the Pixma TS9020 ($200), which uses six ink cartridges and offers wi-fi connectivity from your computer or mobile device. As with any mechanical thing that hooks into your computer, setup takes a few minutes, but once connected and once you get the gist of the printer’s logic vis-à-vis paper feeds and printing steps, it’s a snap to use — and the prints looks great. The five-inch touchscreen makes general operation easy, the printer can work with all kinds of papers (including fine-art-grade glossy stock), and it also includes a bed for scanning and copying. Finally: It’s a “normal” printer, too, so you can run off documents as well.
Epson SureColor P600
Pro-Grade. If you’re serious about scoring gallery-quality, large-format prints whenever you want, this the SureColor P600 ($766) is your printer. It’s pricey, but the results are astounding, thanks to its dedicated, photo-specific inks and the precision nozzles used to generate the images. The blacks are deep — it has a dedicated black-and-white mode, too — the details sharp, and the color gradations seamless. You can print on a variety of high-grade papers up to 13 inches wide and, if you have an epic panorama, up to 10 feet long, thanks to an option to use spooled photo paper.
It’s a high-end machine, so you do need to accept its quirks and pro-caliber features, including a paper-feed mechanism I had to go to YouTube to figure out. But once you have it dialed, you can retain precise control of your printing whether it’s work you’re selling, exhibiting, or printing for pleasure. It’s not a multifunction, all-in-one printer, which of course means it’s focusing on doing one thing exceptionally well (case in point: it takes nine ink cartridges). It also features wi-fi connectivity and printing straight from mobile devices — though you might be disappointed in results from an unedited smartphone photo being printed by something of this caliber.
Canon Selphy CP1200
DIY Lite. If you’re looking to fill a bulletin board or an album with pics, there’s no shame in low-balling the whole process and grabbing a quickie 4×6 printer. The Selphy CP1200 ($97) cranks out excellent prints at up to 4×6 sizes, via a direct connection, card slot, or wi-fi, including mobile devices. Plus, the ink-and-paper kits are nicely synced up so you can buy supplies in packages of 18, 36, or 54 photos. It does the job, with no fuss.