Pixels to Paper: Printing your Print Portfolio

In Features by Dustin Olsen

by Dustin Olsen


Printing? Does anyone do that anymore in this digital age?

More of our photos are finding their way online with our ever growing digital presence. We tweet it, we pin it, we share it. But, some of us have lost the “Print It” button.

Offering high quality prints is a GREAT way in supplementing your income, as a portrait photographer! But. You are going to need an AMAZING print portfolio to further sell your work and you have to know how to do it right before your client is willing to hand you more money for a set of prints of their own.


Screen Calibration

Often times, we forget that computer monitors are color calibrated differently. We already see things differently, now we have this to worry about. We don't realize that the screen is already effecting the saturation and tone of the photos.

Doing a manual calibration of your monitor every six months to a year is recommended to help ensure that, what you see is what you get when your photos come out of the printer. Many times people will ask, “What about those Spyder screen calibrators you place on your screen?”

If your screen has glass on it, the calibrator will have a difficult time reading the colors as they tend to be distorted due to reflections in the glass. Mac users will notice this more because of the glossy glass placed on nearly all their screens. For some people, this works great… For others, they wonder why they have a purple tint on their screen.


To manually calibrate your screen:

Mac Users – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51gbxDwz0NM&feature=youtube_gdata_player

I recommend to change your white point to 5500. This will make the display warmer and more accurate.

PC Users – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHKdivqPKrI&feature=youtube_gdata_player


Photo Prep

Now that you have gone through and calibrated your screen, it's time prepare your photos for going to the printer. Most printers will often times dull down the saturation and sharpness of the photo. Before saving your photo, add a bit more sharpness and saturation (more than you would prefer) to compensate for the printer.

“Oh, Crop!” – Don't forget to crop your photos to the size you will printing them. Sizes such as: 5×7, 8×10, 18×24, and others are not full frame (the size that comes out of your camera). They will require a portion of the edges to be cropped off. Be sure you are the one to decide where it's cropped before the printer does.


At the printer!

Professional printers such as MPixPro, WHCC, etc require you to maintain a high resolution in order to print through them. 240-300 ppi. This is another very good reason to shoot in RAW because your photos already have this high quality ppi.

Places such as Walmart or Walgreens cannot handle resolutions over 172 ppi. While the prints turn out fine, you will notice a certain lack of professional quality.


Before running a big print job at the printer, be sure you do a test print of something to determine quality. This also gives you an idea of how much saturation you need to add or even take away in your photos. Having a properly calibrated monitor will make this process easier, but you don't want to run the risk of colors being printed wrong.


Your Dazzling Portfolio

Getting your own portfolio ready can be even more of a headache than printing for a client. I recommend that you find a portfolio that is about 12″x12” with removable black inserts. This is large enough to print your photos and have them displayed portrait or landscape. This eliminates the need to rotate the book to see the photos.

Print your photos at an 8×12. This is a full-frame size and is just right when showing your work off. Highly recommended!

Placement of your photos is equally important. Make sure you create some type of theme between photos that are placed next to each other. Matching colors, lead room, etc… They need to, in some way, relate to one another because they will be seen at the same time.


Going from pixels to print is the challenge. Create a nice portfolio for yourself, but give your clients something they will want to hold onto for a lifetime.   

About the Author

Dustin Olsen

Dustin Olsen is a professional photographer living in Boise, Idaho.