Using a professional printing service has several advantages. Professional printers offer high quality prints and services not usually available at retail stores and on-demand printing kiosks.
Prices generally run higher but if you have an extra special photo it probably deserves extra special printing and add-ons.
A variety of printing papers
Typically there are three major paper types that you can select from: Glossy, Mat and Metallic. Each has different characteristics which would make each suitable for different situations.
Some professional labs will send you samples of different paper types once you open an account with them. The samples give you a better idea about how each looks and feels when printed. Papers offered by these companies usually have an archival value of about 100 years for display and up to 200 years in dark storage.
- Glossy – Typically offers the highest color saturation and brightness; has a sheen/reflection on the paper.
- Mat – Less color saturation and brightness compared to Glossy paper; attracts less finger prints and oil smudges when handing. Is ideal for framing purposes where reflections are best avoided.
- Metallic – Gives the photo a unique look. It has a shimmering, pearlescent finish that increases sharpness, brightness and color saturation; is resistant to tearing and curling. Many professional photographers use Metallic paper because of its increased visual appeal.
- Black and White paper – paper best suited for continuous-tone black and white prints.
- Canvas – Although not entirely a “paper” type, most printing services offer Canvas as a printing medium. Generally only larger print sizes are available on canvas. The resolution and sharpness of a canvas print is lower than a print on photographic paper, however it does give a print a very unique look and feel. Printing on canvas is especially effective for abstract photos and scenic landscapes. Often used in conjunction with a Gallery Wrap (see below).
After selecting your paper type and the number of prints you are generally given the option to select different add-ons. While the exact option may change depending on the service selected, some of the more popular options include:
- Surface Texturing – Embeds different texture patterns subtly onto the print. This makes the photo less shiny and gives a unique look to it. Best suited for albums and photo books.
- Laminating – Coats a protective lamination layer on top of the photo. This can increase durability of the photo and protect it from finger prints, dirt and dust. Ideal for large prints which you intend to mount on a standout.
- Mounting – The photo is printed on photo paper and then transferred on to a much thicker mounting board such as foam core. Increases durability and leads to a better presentation. The increased thickness created by the mounting will make the photo standout inside a frame.
- Standouts – Similar to mounting but has a plastic frame around the edges of the mounting board. Can be hung on a wall without further framing. Standouts give a very contemporary look. Usually comes in different thicknesses allowing you to further customize. Best to use lamination for better protection if you intend to use a Standout.
- Custom framing – Most printing services offer custom framing services where you can select a frame and mat and do other customizations such as choosing non-glare glass. You receive your photos framed and ready to be hung. Typically the cost of framing a printed photos is higher compared to buying frames separately but this offers the ultimate convenience.
- Gallery Wraps – Often used when the photo is printed on Canvas. The canvas is stretched on to a rigid frame and mounted on it. The edges of the photo extend over the sides of the frame. This gives a very classical look. If you use a gallery wrap and intend to have your signature on the photo, place it so the signature appears on the front and not on a side of the frame.