How to save money on photo printing (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Sep 11, 2008, 2:07 GMT
Washington - The words 'saving money' and 'photo printing' are not often used in the same sentence. That's because photo printers seem to exist to make us poorer.
Ink is expensive. Paper is expensive. Even the electricity to run the printers is expensive. But you don't have to print your own money to get back some of what you might normally spend on printing.
Being smarter about printing and taking some cost-cutting measures can make your photo printer an ally rather than a dreaded drain on the budget.
--- Say no to expensive consumables
There's no denying that printing photos at home is the most expensive type of printing that most consumers do. The reasons are the cost of ink and the cost of paper.
Third party inks can save you a lot of money, but they can also void the warranty on your printer if something goes wrong, and their colour characteristics are typically not as reliable as with inks from the printer manufacturer itself.
Still, many people use and swear by third-party 'compatible' replacement ink cartridges, and the money saved by using them can be substantial - often they cost less than half the price of ink from the printer maker.
If you're willing to take the risk with third-party ink, stick with brands that have garnered a good reputation from users. Buy online from sites that provide user reviews, or take the time to seek out those reviews before committing to a particular third-party ink.
Photo paper is also expensive, and here you can save money without worrying about voiding a printer manufacturer's warranty. A sheet of photo paper can easily cost 20 times more than a sheet of office paper.
But you can actually get decent photographic results on a number of papers, some of which are not specifically advertised as photo paper.
Office paper that is both extra heavy, bright, and glossy, for instance, can provide decent results for non-critical photo work - or for test printing before a final run.
In the U.S., Hammermill makes a product called Office One Business Gloss International with a weight of 32lb and a brightness rating of 92 (U.S.)/104 (Euro).
Heavy, glossy, acid-free office paper designed for colour reproduction is significantly less expensive than photo paper but still reproduces colour photographs well and resists curling and fading. It can be an economical alternative to printing photos that do not need to have archival colour fastness. It's also a perfect, low- cost medium on which to print projects such as greeting cards.
--- Use profiles
If you're printing photos, you can waste a lot of money in paper and ink just by trying to get an exact match between what comes out of your printer and what you see on your screen. That's because colour reproduction varies from one device to another: A certain shade of red, for example, will be different to your monitor than it is to your printer. To synchronise both devices - and save money in ink and paper over the long run - you should use colour profiles.
Colour profiles are files that adjust your monitor and your printer to ensure that they see exactly the same colours. There are two ways to get colour profiles: Sometimes they're delivered with your colour printer, but you can also purchase profiling equipment that will allow you to create profiles on your own.
Colour profiles are created for a specific printer-paper-ink combination, since all three variables influence how colour is reproduced. The profiles you receive from a printer manufacturer will always be designed for paper and ink that the manufacturer itself sells. If you want to branch out and use paper and ink from other manufacturers, it's best to create your own printer profiles using equipment such as XRite's Eye-One or Datacolour's Spyder3 Studio.
Colour profiles are needed for the monitor and the printer itself, but both are used by the program from which you're printing your photographs. You should find instructions for installing and using the profiles in your printer's documentation and in the instructions for your printing application.
Profiling equipment is one of those investments that will save you money over time, since you won't be wasting so much expensive ink and paper as you try to get colour out of your printer that matches what you see on screen.
--- Make ink last
Never use a dedicated photo printer for mundane printing chores, such as presentations or text-heavy work. For those kinds of job, you should have a laser or multifunction inkjet printer, for which consumables are much less expensive.
If you're using a multifunction inkjet designed to print both photographs and other materials, use the printer controls available to you to cut down on ink usage for non-critical work. Most printers today, for example, have an 'economy' mode, available in the printer driver.
In Windows, for example, when you select Print from the File menu, you'll get the Print dialog box, in which you'll find a Properties button. Click that button to open the printer driver, which will probably give you options for controlling print quality. Lower- quality settings are often indistinguishable from the highest quality for many jobs, and they'll save you a significant amount of ink- and money.
--- Electricity savings
Most people print photos on an occasional basis, so there's no reason to allow your photo printer to stay on - even in sleep mode - all the time. Hook it up to a switched power strip, and use the switch to turn it off, completely, when not in use.
Also, consider batching your print jobs - printing lots of photos at the same time - rather than printing several times during the day. Your photo printer uses both electricity and ink each time you fire it up to print, and both cost you money. The reason it uses ink when warming up is that most photo printers run a head-cleaning routine when powering up, and this routine drains ink from the cartridges. The amount of ink used can add up if you power on your machine multiple times each day.