Photography & Print

Professional Photo Printing 101

A Giclee fine art print on Photo Rag

The most rewarding part of any photographic adventure is when it all comes together in the printing stages. If you’ve taken the time and care to find the optimal lens for your objective, take or break the rules of composition and experiment tirelessly on the hunt for that perfect shot – your beautiful images need the post-processing treatment they deserve. And that means going professional.

But what exactly should you be looking for in truly professional photo printing?

1. Professional Choice

With professional printing, the options are practically endless – as long as you choose the right provider. Rather than being limited to the basics of running your images through a standard inkjet printer on to consumer level paper, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best A4 printout possible, full-service professional photo labs offer a near-infinite variety of printing options.

Being able to choose from professionally framed or mounted prints, stunning canvas wraps and acrylic blocks gives you the freedom to display your quality images with quality results. And when you’re ready to kick-start your photography career, you can even opt for a professional photo album to show off your first ever portfolio. The wide range of printing options, only available with a professional lab, means that every one of your images can find the presentation quality it deserves.

2. Professional Care

Professional printing services come with some perks – not least the guarantee that every image that goes through the lab will be given exclusive attention. You won’t get this exclusive treatment with just any professional printing service, but premier printers are dedicated to offering the highest level of quality, meaning that they won’t let you do your photos the injustice of turning them into substandard prints.

Here are a few common issues that you can avoid with the right printing service:

  • Aspect ratio issues – you need a professional printer that will check each image that goes through the lab, making sure that every photo is being printed in the right size and orientation for the image format
  • Poor print quality – these guys are the professionals, meaning a core element of their service is to promise exceptional quality every time. So as long as your image is high resolution, your prints should follow suit
  • Substandard treatment – the professional printing elite guarantee that every one of your images will be treated respectfully and printed with love and care

3. Professional Quality

Most importantly of all, a truly professional photo printing service guarantees your expertly-crafted images the stunning photographic quality you’re entitled to. If you’ve taken the time to capture images bursting with sharpness, vivid colour and dramatic contrasts, you want to be sure that your prints reflect the quality of the shot.

The limited capabilities of standard photo labs don’t award you the control over the final outcome, meaning you’re all but guaranteed to lose quality during the printing process. Chain printers don’t have that personal love of photography that the professionals do, and that’s always evident in the end product.

The important thing to remember is that all images are created equal, meaning professionals and amateurs alike deserve the same superior quality in the finished product. Professional photographers swear by professional printing, and here’s why:

“For me personally, as a photographer, there is nothing on earth that can compare to the power of a well-printed photograph – and in an age where there are endless options open to us, it’s easy to sometimes look for the cheapest or easiest. I started out as a printer years ago, and in many ways, this has an impact on how I shoot today so I know the value of a ‘good quality print’.

I first met with Jeff Heads, the print manager at Digitalab, over 7 years ago – and ever since then, all the important work that I have printed has been through there. Not only because it’s important for me personally to know and trust who prints my work, but also because I need consistency and the best quality possible – and that is what I get from Digitalab. There is no point in a client investing thousands in a shoot, and the photographer investing countless time into creating the perfect image, for it to be thrown to the wind in this final and incredibly important stage.

My best advice for people starting out would simply be that they should choose carefully how and where to have their work printed, and look at it as an investment rather than a cost. This is your hard work, so treat it with respect and others will reap the benefits of that. Also make sure that you understand the process, colour profiling, working on a correctly calibrated monitor. Quality prints are a pure joy and far exceed the view of our work on even the most expensive monitors – so embrace your work and invest in the best prints that you can.”

Tim Wallace,


Image by Tim Wallace

After that, it’s time to reap the rewards of your experimentation and hard work.

Then do it all over again.