The first major component of making great digital photo prints, is having a good quality digital camera. The higher resolution (the more megapixels) your camera has, the better its ability to produce good quality prints at larger sizes.
Assuming you have a good digital camera, the next component for good prints is a good quality, photo-capable printer.
The printer’s resolution should be at least 1200 DPI (dots per inch). Most printers out these days qualify. Additionaly, there are plenty of professional level printers in the 2400 DPI range if you want superior results.
However, DPI alone is not the end all of print quality. DPI is only a starting point.
Another factor that contributes to the overall quality, is the printer’s ability to accurately mix and apply inks to your media (paper). Some printers do a better job than others because of the size of the ink droplets the printer can produce.
A printer’s picoliter performance may even be more important that DPI. Most modern printers can produce a single color ink droplet of 4 picoliters. Some newer printers, can even deliver a 1-picoliter droplet!
To give you an idea of scale, a 4-picoliter droplet on paper is equivalent to the diameter of a single human hair. A 1-picoliter droplet of ink is so small, it cannot be seen by the naked eye.
The smaller the picoliter potential, the higher quality your final print will be. Smaller picoliter sizes will mean higher contrast, richer and smoother colors, and more natural tone transitions.
When shopping for a printer at a retail location, if it’s at all possible – do some side by side comparisons. Many places will have actual prints next to the printer for evaluation purposes.
One thing to keep in mind however, is that retail store salespeople may not know specifics regarding picoliter size or other features of the printer. So after you examine a few printers, you could benefit by visiting the manufacturer’s website for the actual technical specs.
Another printer feature to consider, is the number of separate ink colors the printer uses. For example, an HP or Lexmark printer will typically use a standard tri-color cartridge. A tri-color cartridge contains 3 separate colors all in the same cartridge. Epson and Canon on the other hand, typically separate all ink colors into different ink cartridges.
Generally, the tri-color cartridge is inferior to the newer 6 or 8 individual color cartridges that are now available. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, having more individual color ink cartridges will give your printer a larger pallete of colors to draw from. Having a larger color pallete means your printer can more easily replicate shades, and create crisper and more vivid photos
Secondly, an added bonus to this new separate ink cartridge innovation, is that when one color runs out — You only need to replace that single color, instead of the entire tri-color cartridge. If you run out of yellow but still have plenty of cyan and magenta, you just replace the yellow instead of all three. Over time this will produce less waste, and save you money.
One last quick tip for consideration when choosing a printer, is that printers with top loading paper trays can handle thicker types of paper than front loading types. Top loading paper trays will also produce less curl. Depending on the media type you’re using, this could be important.
In addition to your digital camera photo image and the printer you use, the other components you’ll want to be aware of are the ink cartridges you use, and the quality of your photo paper. Each component factors into your end result. In order to make good quality digital photos, you must consider all four factors.