Photo Printing Fundamentals

Anymore, there’s hardly a need to print photos for personal reasons. With Flickr, Facebook and MySpace, all you need to do to share pictures is upload them onto your computer. But, there are still plenty of reasons to print photos in the professional realm of life. Many of those mostly pertain to marketing or the incorporation of pictures for more appealing promotional materials, for flyers, printing posters, brochures, calendars, greeting cards, etc. I usually need tons of these printed when me or my husband have an exhibit to present to. My favorite go-to place to get my postcard printing done for my exhibits is PrintPlace.

Printed photos offer a clarity and color-richness that computer screens just can’t match. Photos are also cheap to print, making them ideal for a trade show booth or posters and flyers hung in your store. The photo size and type of finish are the factors you should know if nothing else when you print your photos.

Standard Photo Sizes

Below is a list of the common photo sizes you can get printed at any photo shop.



Many professional and serious amateur photographers use a DSLR camera. Most of these cameras have an aspect ratio of 3:2. Some come with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which will allow you to print more of your picture at different sizes. Aspect ratio is the ratio of one side of the photo compared to the other.

Ever notice that when you print pics that it looks as though someone zoomed in a bit or cut off the sides of what you see in your camera’s LCD screen? Blame the aspect ratio for that cut.

When enlarging or shrinking printed photo sizes, you must take into account the fact that the edges of your picture are going to be cut off.

The way to combat this? Don’t get too close to your subject. And, when picking out your next digital camera, buy one that has a 4:3 aspect ratio. This will help with any enlargements you make for posters, flyers, etc.

Types of Finish

Photos can be printed with four different finishes: Matte, Glossy, Linen and Metallic. The first two are the most popular and are probably your only options at a grocery store print shop. Matte prints aren’t shiny, and glossy prints are (which can leave a lot of annoying thumbprints!). Linen finishes remind me of business cards because they have those crisscross raised lines to give the photos texture. Prints with metallic finish have a chemical coating added that makes white look like pearl and it also makes the colors look more saturated. In fact, Kodak calls its metallic finish “Pearlescent Finish.”

Linen finish:

Metallic finish:


1. Remember that printed photos will show more detail, meaning all the Photoshopping you did will be more likely to show up if you didn’t do a great job.

2. Color management is critical when you print photos. Make sure you use the printer’s ICC profile (a specified color space) so that you know exactly what colors you’re getting.

3. The inkjet printer on your desk will never match the quality of a professional printer. Always print photos used for marketing or other professional purposes at a professional printer.


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