Which Photo Printing Process is Best?

It’s incredible to think that only 10 years ago we were constantly photo printing. Now with most of our photos being shot digitally either with our camera phones or our DSLRs things are very different. Images are instant and extremely easy to share via social channels. Because of this, a good majority of us are not photo printing and risk losing our work to hard-dive failure or file corruption. 

At Photo Innovation Lab, we believe that the one of the best ways to archive our photography is to print it. But that isn’t its only benefit. A photo print can be interacted with, and if printed large enough it could be life-size and deliver an immersive experience you could never achieve on a screen.

Inkjet Photo Print

On this post we will go over several photo printing processes and why ones are better than the others always keeping permanence and reproduction quality as our guiding principals. 

Our photo printing process of choice:

For the most part, as far as photo printing goes, it's entirely about inkjet prints. Some like to use more fancy terms like giclée prints but that does not change the process at all: archival grade pigment ink on photo paper. Inkjet printing is a process by which tiny dots of different color inks are delivered by a printing nozzle in order to recreate an image on to paper or other aqueous receptive substrates.

Photo Printing - Clearly Clement Photography

Photos by Clearly Clement Photography

You may be asking yourselves why inkjet is better than other printing processes. In essence it’s because it uses a wider variety of pigment ink colors and therefore produce a wider tonality. In the case of EPSON® printers, we have Black (Matte and Photo), Light Black, Light Light Black, Magenta, Light Magenta, Cyan, Light Cyan and Yellow, with some newer models adding Orange and Green to the mix.

Inks are specially formulated to preserve color over time and because the process is aqueous and not light-sensitive inkjet prints have the longest display life when compared to other photo printing processes.

Other photo printing processes:

Dye sublimation, or dye sub, is also great for photo printing as it delivers prints with a truly continuous-tone. Similar to the one you get in the darkroom. This is simply because it does not use dots of ink in order to reproduce the image. Instead it uses CMYO (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow Overcoating) colored ribbons, not a bunch of ink dots. 

The drawback to dye sub is that you have to print on special paper, so you wont have a lot of paper options compared to inkjet printing. It's expensive because each application yields a lot of waste and images won’t be as sharp as the ones produced by an inkjet printer.

Laser prints on the other hand are cheap. Printers are not very expensive and are very cost efficient when it comes to making actual photo prints, but they are not continuous tone. Laser photo prints feel more like a newspaper, where if you look up close you’ll be able see the bigger dot patterns, much larger than that of an inkjet print. Another drawback is the limited color gamut; they just don’t enjoy the versatility in color reproduction available to inkjet printing or dye sub applications. Detail isn't the best either and similar to dye sub you’ll be constrained on the paper selection.

In conclusion:

If you want the widest range of colors displayed on your photo pints and want those photographs to last then your best bet is to print with a high-end inkjet printer. At Photo Innovation Lab we offer not just that, we also prepare your files for printing ensuring that your vision is fully captured on the final photo print.

Inkjet Printing benefits:

  • Widest range of fine-art and archival grade photo papers
  • Highest gamut output, means more colors available
  • Prints last over 70yrs and longer if in gallery environments

Inkjet Printing - Wedding Photography