The Ultimate Guide To Getting Awesome Photo Prints

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You have just come back from vacation and have taken a beautiful photo there that you would like to have on your wall. But where and how do you have it printed? How do you choose all those providers and many versions? Photographer Wil Crooymans has already gained quite a bit of practical experience with printing photos and shares his experiences in this blog.

For me, a photo only really comes to life when it is printed at an appropriate size. Preferably big enough to hang on the wall so I can enjoy it every time I’m in the room. When I first wanted to have photos printed for an exhibition, I found it difficult to choose an embodiment and supplier. In the first instance I mainly went for cheap, but I soon found out that quality has a corresponding price tag. In this blog I would like to share my experiences with you.

Direct print or photo print

Printing centers and on-demand photo printing companies now supply all kinds of versions, which are immediately ready to hang on your wall. Materials are used such as aluminum, dibond, forex and plexy glass. What you should pay attention to is whether this material is printed directly or whether the material is used to glue a printed photo.

What is the difference? If the photo is printed directly on the material, this has the advantage that it is cheaper and often more resistant to moisture. The disadvantage of this is that the print quality is less than with a print on photo paper.

Types of photo paper

There are many types of photo paper and most printing centers work with photo paper with a plastic coating. Chemical brighteners (OBAs) are often used to whiten the paper, which has the disadvantage that the color rendering lasts less, because the brighteners pull out of the paper over the years.

If you think it is important that your photo lasts a long time, you can opt for fine-art paper. This photo paper is made of cotton and contains no brighteners. This photo paper is slightly yellower in color and always has a matte surface. The disadvantage of this “museum-quality” paper is the price tag!
You also have fiber/baryta paper that has been whitened in a natural way and has a certain degree of gloss.

Degree of gloss

Depending on your photo and the room where you want to hang it, you can choose the degree of gloss.
• High gloss (glossy) is especially suitable for photos with bright colors and high color saturation. The disadvantage is that due to the high gloss the environment reflects quickly, so that high gloss is less suitable for large dark surfaces and also less suitable for black and white.
• Luster (satin gloss) is suitable for many types of printing, including black and white. Most prints are made on this type of paper.
• Matte is very suitable for pastel-like colors and black and white prints. In combination with the somewhat yellowish Fine Art paper, you will get beautiful prints.

Materials Used for Printing Photos:

Most print stores can deliver photo works on a variety of materials . Each with its own quality and price tag. The most well-known shapes are:

• Canvas. The photo is printed directly on the canvas, after which it is stretched as a canvas. This causes the photo to continue on the sides. This is a relatively inexpensive way to get your photo printed large for your wall. This form of printing is suitable when sharpness and color intensity are less important.

• Forex is a white plastic plate on which the photo is printed directly or on which the photo paper is glued. The advantage of this material is that it is not expensive and very light. The downside is that it warps easily. This can be prevented by gluing an aluminum profile on the back, which makes the photo a lot more expensive. However, for large formats, this is a must. You will continue to see the white plate on the side.

• Dibond is nowadays the most commonly used material and consists of 3 layers, consisting of 2 thin aluminum plates with a black plastic plate in between. As with forex, dibond can be printed directly on or used to glue the photo. Because the plate does not warp quickly, an aluminum profile at the back is not necessary, even with larger formats.

• Perspex/Acrylic glass gives an exclusive look if your photo is printed or glued behind it. The photo will shine more and you create optical depth.  Perspex reflects strongly and if you don’t want that, you can often opt for an anti-reflex version. A dibond plate is often glued to the back of the photo, so that the photo is better protected. I myself have no experience with thicker perspex, but I can imagine that the depth effect will be even stronger.  Perspex photo work is quite heavy and usually an aluminum profile is chosen to hang the photo and to give it more strength. Make sure that the profiles are attached to each other, otherwise the profile part with which the photo hangs on the wall may come loose.

An important aspect is the UV protection of the photo. This can be done by applying a UV-protected coating to the photo or by applying perspex that blocks UV light. Always check whether the product you want to order has UV protection.

It is quite difficult to choose the right version if you want to order photos for the wall for the first time. Some photo print suppliers therefore provide demo packs for a small fee, which contain small examples of all embodiments.

Special versions

In addition to the above-mentioned known materials, there are also special embodiments.  For example, at many printing centers you can have the photo printed directly on a brushed aluminum plate, where the aluminum shines through in the light parts of the photo.

You get a very special effect when the photo is glued on dibond and poured in with a layer of epoxy. There are on-demand photo printing companies on the Internet that can do this, and it is one of the most expensive variants you can choose. It is claimed that the epoxy does not discolor and the photo is protected against UV, but I think time will tell if this is really the case.

Recently I had photos printed on chromaluxe. The ink is transferred to a thin aluminum plate using special photo paper. A special coating (gloss or matte) then ensures that the photo can withstand sun and rain. At the back, the aluminum plate is provided with an aluminum profile for strength and for hanging. A beautiful sight when such a thin plate with a photo seems to float a bit in front of the wall.

Which printing center or photo lab?

I can’t tell you which print center or photo lab to choose, because I haven’t tried them all and this is going to be a bit personal. For photo prints, many photographers swear by Printerpix, from which you can expect a professional print. They also supply photo products for the wall and they are also of excellent quality. Another example is Gallery Color, which provides good print quality at an attractive price and the personal contact is also very pleasant. For fine-art prints, or museum quality, you can go to photo labs such as Wilcovak and Jan R. Smit. Wilcovak is one of the few companies that can supply chromaluxe in very large formats, in addition to the patented Diasec.

What should you pay attention to when you order a photographic work?

Once you’ve figured out where you want to order your photo, check out their site to find out what file format and color profile the photo should have. A TIFF is better of course, but if they do ask for a JPG, save the photo with minimal compression (a large file).
Another important aspect is whether you want the printing center to improve your photo. For example, a photo that contains dark areas will often be printed too light. Usually when ordering you can indicate that you do not want the printing center to improve your photo or check this in your profile. If it is not clearly indicated whether your photo will be improved and you cannot find this anywhere on the site, please contact them before ordering.

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