Pixels to Paper: Printing your Print Portfolio

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 – https://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 – https://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.   

11 thoughts on “Pixels to Paper: Printing your Print Portfolio”

  1. Thank you Dustin!

    I have been having problems recently with what I need to do to my images before printing, and you covered it all!


  2. Do the big professional printers (mPix, etc) only offer printing of jpegs, or is it possible to have them print tiff or psd? Everytime I try to send mPix a picture for printing, they only accept jpeg.

    1. I use MPIXPRO (www.mpixpro.com) and I use the ROES software they let you install on your computer. This is how I send them my TIFF files. As long as you have a decent internet connection, it should work perfectly!

  3. Marc- every printer is different with the different files types they accept. JPG is by the most widely accepted. PSDs and TIFFs are very large files and take a while over the internet.

  4. I think your recommendation for not getting a calibration device is not the best advice. Many professional print labs recommend using one. They can make a significant difference. Most people have LCD monitors or laptops. A shiny glass will not effect it, if that even makes a difference.
    Most professional labs (such as ProDPI and Nations, and Miller’s) recommend that your screen temperature be 6500.
    Just sharing things I have researched and learned, too. I know you researched for this article as well, but since this site is about learning and sharing, I thought I would share. 🙂

  5. @Kim – Thanks for sharing!! There is a lot of information out there on this sort of thing. Too bad the human perceives colors differently from one eye to the next. — I wish I could just download the printer profile for these professional labs so I could see what they are seeing. Otherwise, it’s too subjective with where it needs to be. :-/
    Have a great day, unless you have other plans! 🙂

  6. DerstructoTex

    Great article. It prompted me to calibrate my screen(s) for the first time in over a year. I did it by sight, but I’m planning to recalibrate today using my HueyPro.

    Keep up the great work.

  7. Thank you Dustin for posting this article. I am currently looking for graphic design work. I know that prospective employers want links to your work. I was curious as to whether anyone wants to see paper anymore. I have been planning to digital and print versions of my work anyway. You have just confirmed my suspicion that having a print versions of my work is a good idea.

  8. What type of paper do you suggest printing on? Excluding matte or glossy Wal mart paper please…

  9. I have tried the “manual method”on my iMac PowerPC 21”, but with varying results. I own a Monaco OPTIX xr calibrator and software, but don’t know how to change the iMac RGB settings to try to get the measures for each in range as measured by the OPTIX device. Any ideas?

  10. Dustin, I made the white point 5500 on my mac and the color is very strange. I went up to 6200 but is that 5500 number you use better even though everything looks more yellow-ish?

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