10 Reasons to Print at Home Instead of Using a Lab

For many people, the posting of their photographs to social media is the final step in the image creation process.  When people do want a print they will often send it to a lab and have a professional take care of it.  So is printing at home a dying art?  I would say no and in this article, I give you 10 reasons why you should print at home.

1 – Instant Print

You’ve just go home from an epic shoot and you are excited to process your images.  You have at least one standout image and you know you want a print of it.  Sure you could wait a few days for a lab to print it but there is nothing better than hitting that print button and getting an instant print.  Holding a print of a photography that you only took that day can be hugely satisfying.

From capture to print in only a few hours.

2 – You’ll Print More Often

Having the ability to print at home will mean you will print more often.  You’ll likely be much more selective with what images you print when using a lab, but when you have the option to print right now you’ll be hitting the print button more often.  Seeing more of your images in print form will help you develop and appreciate your art.

3 – You’ll learn a Craft

Printing is a craft in itself.  Consider it an extension to your photography workflow.  As you develop your printing skills you’ll be learning all about inks, papers, and colour management.  That sense of satisfaction you got from learning the craft of taking a good photography can now be extended to learning the craft of creating a good print.

4 – It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated

So many papers, so many inks, and colour management!  If the thought of all that extra “work” has you opening your web browser and searching for a good printing lab, know that printing at home doesn’t have to be that complicated.

If all you want to do is create some good looking prints to hang on your wall it’s remarkably easy to do with modern printers.  For example. If you use a Canon printer with Canon paper you’ll find all the paper profiles already loaded in the printer software.  Like many aspects of photography, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.

Modern software like Canon Print Studio make getting accurate, high quality prints relatively easy.

5 – You Have Control

Unlike printing with a lab, you have full control of the printing process.  For those photographers who like to manage every aspect of the photographic process, sending your latest photography masterpiece to a lab can feel like asking someone else to edit your photo.  Printing your own work will ensure the final product will be the exactly the way you want it.

6 – Papers, papers and even more papers!

With so many photographic paper manufacturers out there now there has never been a more exciting time to be printing at home.  Standard options such as glossy and matt papers are just the tip of the iceberg.  Open up your photography to a treasure trove of papers and see how an image can be transformed by printing it using a different paper.

7 – Easy Sharing

So you’ve got a friend or relative over for a visit and you are showing them some of your latest work.  An image catches their eye and they say they would like a print.  You could order one for them from a lab or send them a digital copy of the image where it may sit in their inbox it, or worse, take it to a supermarket to be printed.  Imagine how excited and happy they will be as you print something there and then that they can take home with them.

8 – Use it as a Selling Point

If you sell your prints use the fact that you do your own printing as a selling point.  Let buyers of your art know that you handcraft each image all the way from conception, execution to final physical output.  Make that final step of image output an art from and control everything from the print itself to all the packaging.  Think how much more of experience it will be for your buyer unwrapping an image that you have uniquely packaged for them.

If selling prints is part of your business then be sure to read this Improve Photography article:  12 Ways To Increase Your Print Sales.

9 – You Can Create a Home Gallery

All this printing at home is all very well, but isn’t it expensive to hang, frame and display all these photos?  Making a home gallery is a great way to display all those prints but it doesn’t have to be expensive.  You simply pin the prints to the wall, a board or buy a photo shelf like this one from Ikea.  This simple shelf provides a groove which you can sit prints on without the need for frames.

So create a home gallery and spend a few minutes each day looking at and appreciating your work.

My home gallery setup consisting of two inexpensive Ikea shelves.

10 – Your Photography Will Improve

By printing more at home you will have more of images on display which means you likely look at them more often than if they just sit on your hard drive.  Every now and again a print will catch your eye and you’ll give it another look.  By continually looking at your images you’ll spot things that you never saw while editing or you’ll look at the composition in a different way.  Having more of your prints in view will allow you to compare images more easily providing insight into what has worked or not worked.

You Don’t Need an Expensive Printer

You may be looking at the reason I have listed above and thinking that you need a super expensive home printer to make it worthwhile.  Yes, maybe if you are selling your prints you will need a printer that is capable of producing professional results, but even a relatively inexpensive photo printer these days can produce high-quality results.  Most of the reasons I have given for why you should print at home apply to virtually any printer capable of printing photographs.

When You Still Need a Lab

There are many advantages to printing at home such as speed and learning a craft but there will still be a need to use a lab.

  • Non-standard surfaces – while you can print on most paper surfaces at home if you want something like a metal print you will most likely need to send that to a lab.
  • High volume – If you want to print a large volume of images it may be quicker and cheaper to send this job out.
  • Really BIG prints – most home printers will print up to A3, and even A2 printers are coming down in price, but any bigger than that you might be going down the lab route.

 

As with many choices in life though, just because you print at home doesn’t mean that you won’t ever print with a lab.  However, even though a lab can offer some unique services that can be difficult or cost prohibitive to replicate at home, hopefully, this article has shown you why you should be printing at home.

Do you print at home?  What are your reasons for printing at home?  Do you prefer to print with a lab?  Let me know in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Print at Home Instead of Using a Lab”

  1. I’m guilty of owning a decent printer and still using a local print source to do my work, but I’d love to print at home more — especially on different papers. Is there a source you recommend for purchasing papers, or even a way of getting samples to consider and test print before biting the bullet and making a costly paper purchase???

    1. Hey Yolanda, most decent paper suppliers will allow you to purchase sample packs. In the US you could try Red River Paper or in the UK, Fotospeed. The sample packs will allow you to try out a variety of a paper types before buying larger quantities.

  2. I’ve taken a real liking to home-printing, and I will definitely need to look into a picture ledge, as most of my prints are currently sitting in a portfolio or a stack of paper. I really love getting a chance to see my work in physical format, and it gives me a third chance to evaluate my work (first time being in camera, and the second time on the computer). Several times I have edited a photo in Lightroom, called it good, printed it and almost immediately discovered a flaw or problem I didn’t notice on the screen. I use Red River Paper for most of my printing, I like the balance they strike between quality and affordability. I also use third party inks to dramatically cut down the ink expense; with the cheap ink, I save a significant amount of money per print compared to what I would have to pay to have it done online.

    1. Hi Jeremy, thanks for sharing your printing experiences. I also have discovered flaws in my images after I have printed them! It’s amazing what you spot when you have a really good look at an image on paper.

  3. I haven’t printed much at home because of fading ink. Has that improved over the years? I guess I just assumed that this was still a problem.

    1. Hi Sheri, it’s not as much of a problem as it used to be, but it still depends on the quality of the ink, paper, and how the print is kept. With a decent printer like a Canon Pixma Pro-10S (or above) and using archival quality paper you should be looking at the print to last decades.

    2. Totally agree with Julian’s response. Quality photo paper will have a protective layer (the ink goes through this layer) to protect it from water. light, and scratching. Quality inks (aka original inks from the printer manufacturer) are absolutely key in achieving color accuracy and fade resistance. The printer color maps are designed for the amount of colorant in each ink. Re-manufactured ink cartridges do not use the same ink as the original manufacturer. You may not see it immediately, but it will become evident over time. If you are printing and selling those prints, and you choose to save a few buck with re-manufactured cartridges, you may have some upset customers a year or so after they purchase.

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