Printing Basics

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Most people don’t print their photos anymore. We’re all getting lazy. The capability to view the photos on the camera’s LCD and manipulate images on a computer is enough for most people. However, nothing will ever replace the feeling of actually seeing and holding a print of a great photo you took.

CC Photo by daviddesign


There are standard print sizes available depending on where you go to have your photo printed. Below is a list of some of the most common sizes available.

Most DSLRs have an aspect ratio of 3:2. This means that your photo will not automatically fit all commercially available print sizes. Let’s take the Canon 40D for example. An image with a resolution of 300ppi straight from the camera is sized at 12.96×8.64. I can downsize it to 8×12 and 4×6 or blow it up to 10×15 and 12×18 without cropping. If I follow the default sizes and want to print at a different size then I would need to crop the photo to a different aspect ratio.

Of course you can always have your printer/developer output your photo at a customized size but then you’d also need to have custom frames and albums made specifically for the size you print at.

CC Photo by Travis Isaacs


There are four common finishes you can have on your photo – Linen, Matte, Glossy, and Metallic. I personally prefer matte paper since I really hate seeing thumbprints on my prints. Metallic prints are a different matter altogether. The chemical coating added to metallic paper makes white look like pearl which can can ruin a perfectly good photo, but a lot of photographers prefer this.


We used to just store prints in a photo drawer. This was really inconvenient especially when clients wanted to go through them. We always had to be careful not to crease the prints. We have them all mounted now. The two most common mounting material used is a regular board or a foam board. The real main difference between the two is the thickness. A regular board, or what is sometimes called a sintra board, is about a 1/8 of an inch thick. A foam board is generally much thicker.

Different colored sintra boards

Some Notes:

1. Printed photos will show you a lot more detail than what you can usually see from your monitor. Masks and Healing brushes (among others) that are not used correctly will be clearly seen on a finished print.

2. Look for a developer that uses archival paper to make sure that your prints last for as long as possible. The professional printer we use prints on Kodak Endura Professional archival paper.

3. Color management becomes critical when you print. If you’re printer provides their own ICC profile then it’s best you use this to ensure that what you see is what you get.

4. If you’re planning to display your prints, then it’s better to have them done by a professional printer rather than printing it out on a regular inkjet printer. This is of course assuming you don’t own a pro-spec printer of your own.

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