Print or Perish

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Editing is making choices about what to keep and what to throw out. You put out the garbage every week, don’t you? Well, that is a sound choice. Especially if you are my neighbor.

Once, not keeping up with your editing just meant you had shoeboxes filled with old pictures collecting dust in the attic. Or, like my parents, you may have taken the one-roll approach: they relied on a lone roll of film to capture everything from my first birthday party to my wedding.

Times have changed, though. Digital photographers take hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures and it’s not feasible to store your photo-filled computer, CDs, or memory cards in a shoebox. So, choose the images from your digital media that you want to keep and PRINT THEM NOW. Or watch your digital images become the eight-track tapes of our time. What’s an eight-track? Exactly!

Printing services are cheap; memories are not.

Some say there are rewards for making things from scratch, but I highly recommend home delivery for both pizza and photo prints. Here are a few places that will print your photos so you don’t have to.

Kodak Gallery
I grew up with Kodak and actually cry when they discontinue any of their film product lines. As with similar services, Kodak Gallery lets you upload your photos online and delivers the finished prints right to your doorstep.

However, you’re not limited to the mail; Kodak Gallery will let you pick up your prints from more than 12,000 retail locations. This is a good deal if you have a big order (because shipping costs are reduced) or if you’re just too impatient to wait for the mail (they claim one-hour service at Target and CVS). Kodak also makes it easy for you to upload photos to your favorite social networking sites.

Snapfish has competitive prices—a 4" x 6" print costs less than ten cents—and is a particularly good choice if you’re still using a film camera along with your favorite new digital camera. (They’ll send you mailers for your film rolls; the pricing differs slightly from digital.) Also impressive: in-store pick up at Walgreens that can be as fast as the next day and mail delivery within two to three days.

If scads of commenters on various photo forums are to be trusted, Snapfish is especially easy to use. Like a printing therapist, it takes you step-by-step through the process and holds your hand the whole time.

Need quality prints to frame or present as special gifts? Consider SmugMug, the Tiffany’s of printing. Prices are higher than at Kodak or Snapfish, but the prints are fabulous and come in various finishes, including a new metallic option that will give your prints a striking three-dimensional look.

In addition to high-end printing services, SmugMug—which requires an annual membership fee—offers unlimited online photo storage (with lots of safety and privacy controls) and a place to keep better-than-YouTube quality video clips. The photos and videos appear on pages that are free of ads. You don’t have ads in your photo albums at home, do you?

Printing at Home
If you’re the type who likes to make your own pizza dough or hang drywall, then you have found your niche. Technological advances have made home-based printing (and other assorted DIY tasks) easier than ever, but you still need a lot of time. Don’t confuse ease of use with convenience. 

If you’re still up to the challenge, buy a printer that will do exactly what you need in terms of size and quality. Don’t get any more bells and whistles than you need. And keep in mind that printers capable of high-resolution “fine art” printing will have expensive ink sets. The printers are essentially give-aways because you will be spending and spending and spending on inks. Truly.

Below are some suggestions for basic printers that will suit most everyday digital photographer’s needs:

Canon Pixma MP470
The Canon Pixma MP470 is a multipurpose, all-in-one unit that scans, copies, and … prints. Fast (prints a borderless 4-by-6-inch photo in approximately 46 seconds) and relatively easy to operate (simply press the power button and you can begin inputting commands immediately), the MP470 is a great value at under $100.

You can print directly from memory cards, digital cameras, and camera phones, and even enhance your images before you print by using the 1.8-inch color LCD display. The MP470 has excellent text output, very decent photo output, and that useful scanner/copier. Perfect as a home-office workhorse printer with photo capabilities.

HP Photosmart D7460
The versatile HP Photosmart D7460 packs a lot of great features at a decent price point. For under $150, you get a network-ready and wireless printer that connects to and prints directly from most storage devices. Its nifty touch screen makes navigating menus painless and the six-color printing combined with the (optional) HP Inkjet automatic two-sided printing accessory can save users money by reducing wasted ink and paper. The Photosmart D7460 is perfect for the everyday home user who wants to print both acceptable snapshots and speedy text.

Epson Stylus Photo 1400
The Epson Stylus Photo 1400 is a top choice in its price range for those who seek lab-quality photos. The color prints are sensational and you’ll notice a high level of detail and fantastic, vibrant, accurate colors.

Now that you’re hooked, here is the bad news: each of the six ink cartridges will set you back about $20 and the volume you get from each ink varies widely. Expect to invest heavily in ink if you print a lot. While you should not mistake this printer for an office printer (it can be frustratingly slow for most text-only documents), it is hard to pass up the opportunity to print exhibition-quality prints (up to 13 × 19 inches!) that are sure to impress.

Photo courtesy of My Favorite Camera 


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