A recent article in Digital Photography extols the virtues of using a high end printer to make display quality prints from equally high quality digital cameras. Actually, it just describes several top of the line printers. It doesn’t give a good reason for owning one. The reason is that there isn’t any good reason. Printers are the weak link in the computer armamentarium. They have moving parts and thus break easily.
But that’s not the only reason not to have one. Since we’re talking about photographs for display, they must be virtually perfect. And no matter how good the printer obtaining such a print is very difficult. The main problem is that what you see on your screen is apt not to be what your very expensive printer delivers. For your printer to deliver the desired content it must be calibrated to your screen and your computer. In addition, the computer and screen need to be be calibrated. And if this wasn’t difficult enough you must do it for each type of printing paper you use and for each manufacturer’s version of each paper.
A determined amateur can do all of this, but why bother? A far easier solution is to use a quality lab that will do all that’s needed for the best print possible and do it for less cost than if you do it yourself. Printing ink is very expensive and printing several large exhibition grade prints will devour it like mutton thrown to a wolf pack.
The Digital Photography article claims that print-head clogging “is rarely a problem with the newest printers.” Such has not been my experience. Pigment ink clogs printer heads. These inks are very expensive and it’s very difficult to get good results using them. Using a good lab couldn’t be simpler. Upload your photo file, chose the size and number of prints you want, and it will be at your door in two days. You can have the lab mount the prints as well if you wish.
There are a number of fine labs that produce high quality prints. The one I’ve used is Meridian Professional Imaging. I do have a printer. It’s the cheapest one I can find – an HP Deskjet 3000. I got it for $42. It’s wireless and does a fine job with text and snap shots. I use generic ink for it. When it breaks, I’ll throw it away and buy another. Any photo good enough to display goes to the lab.