I do lots of landscape photography. A friend of mine wants one of my photographs printed; I've never done this before! All of my photos are post-processed in Photoshop, and I only generate JPEG's for web use, never print.

I'll be hitting up a local print shop this week, what questions are important to ask when it comes to printing? I came up with a few...

  1. What file format produces the best print? (PSD, JPG, etc.)

  2. What type of paper should I request (matte, gloss, etc)

  3. How can I ensure the print looks just like the digital format? Do I need to supply a color profile, or do print shops handle this minor color adjustments?

  4. What type of ink should I request?

Did I miss anything? Again, I just need a print, the framing will be handled later.

  • This is kinda my question too, but just to make it clear, are you talking about large format inkjet printers?
    – Omne
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:08
  • Not sure what print shops use, but I need a 36x20 print, I guess that qualifies for large print
    – SAFX
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:11
  • 2
    Consider checking out one of the many pro labs that make actual photographic prints and not inkjet prints.
    – Blrfl
    Sep 25, 2012 at 20:34
  • @Blrfl - im not aware of a digital photographic system capable of printing that size. but for general smaller prints they can be very good value. Sep 25, 2012 at 21:31
  • @DarkcatStudios: I have my printing done at White House Custom Color. They have a Durst Theta 76 that can print any size up to 30x144". WHCC's closest non-custom size is 24x36".
    – Blrfl
    Sep 25, 2012 at 21:39

4 Answers 4


OK... I used to run a print shop so i think i qualify to answer this.

Any print shop that can print 36x20 inhouse will be using a large format inkjet printer, id say Epson, HP or Canon.

Assuming the printer is reasonably new (IE < 4 years) it will almost definitely use good inks - in Epson's case UltraChrome. IF the print shop uses a constant feed ink system (after-market) personally id steer clear as they could well be cheap crap inks off ebay which will fade in weeks. Note: you wont get a choice of ink - you will get what they use!

A GOOD printer will accept nearly any format, but for photographs we prefer TIFF, or 100% quality JPG.

If they are any good at what they do they will have a dedicated computer for their print system (s) and they will have a fully calibrated monitor. get them to show you the image on their screen - BECAUSE they will have calibrated their complete work-process in such a way that the image on screen looks very close to the printer output - so if there is a green cast because your monitor was a bit off, then that is how it will come out.

Yes most good printers will check the image for you before printing and highlight any issues, most will be happy to do minor tweaks to colours but will get you to view/sign off the changes before print.

I would go with gloss or semi-gloss / lustre paper if its available and get 250GSM+

However you will pay for a good service like this - i would probably charge ITRO £40 for a full quality print of that size on good quality media (Kodak / Epson) with archival inks (UltraChrome K3)

If you want to pay £5, then expect "a print" !

  • Good to get advice with experience. The shop I use also makes a proof print quickly before any making any large-format prints. That lets you see any color and contrast issue. You get a time to pickup the proof and then a day or two after that for the full-size print.
    – Itai
    Sep 25, 2012 at 19:44
  • 1
    Some shops do offer a choice of inks! It's called "we have two printers," ha! Sep 25, 2012 at 20:02
  • Yes I used to do a few tester prints and mini (say 6x4 ) proofs, its always good to sacrifice a bit of ink on spare paper before committing a to a full print. Sep 25, 2012 at 20:03
  • 1
    @DanWolfgang - well yes...! (i could see that coming..) but most professional printers that specialise in art reproduction and photographic printing will have A system dedicated to that use. they may have several printers but only one dedicated to the requested type of print. Sep 25, 2012 at 20:07
  • 1
    @Alberto - yes it can make a (very slight) difference in final rendition - however dont forget that most cameras only save to RAW as 12 or 14 bit, unless you get up to your hasselblad H4D etc at 16 bit. As we all know up-sampling (or whatever you want to call it) from an 8 bit to 16 bit will get you nowhere. Sep 28, 2012 at 7:41

The most important question:

Where is the cough syrup?

If they answer... leave.

If they look at you as if you are an alien, you are in the right place.

  • Speaking of cough syrup...
    – SAFX
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:12
  • 10
    (To translate: quality prints probably don't come from the drug store.)
    – mattdm
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:36
  • 1
    @mattdm's translation makes sense; I had no clue what cmason was talking about. An edited answer to make this more obvious would be helpful. Sep 25, 2012 at 20:00
  • Geez, no humor around here...lighten up
    – cmason
    Sep 26, 2012 at 0:55
  • 6
    @cmason It could be a cultural thing. There are people living in other countries too, to whom your comment doesn't make any sense because the drug stores doesn't process photos.
    – some
    Sep 26, 2012 at 3:23

Talk to the printer. If this is a good shop, they'll not only have answers for you, but will also be able to give you other pointers or advice about things you might not have considered. One that leaps to mind for me: sharpening recommendations.

  • I just called a shop, the guy said PDF for format, gloss or matte finish, no choice for ink, and that's pretty much it. I asked about color profiles, and he said he didn't know what they were; red flag?
    – SAFX
    Sep 25, 2012 at 18:23
  • 6
    Yep, red flag, IMO. Sep 25, 2012 at 18:39
  • lots of red flags!! But i will say: you wont get a "Choice" of ink - you will get what they use - the only choice is using a different print shop :-) Sep 25, 2012 at 19:20
  • 2
    My guess is that this particular flag indicates that the printer doesn't normally do photographs. Try asking about Pantone colors and see what you get back.
    – mattdm
    Sep 25, 2012 at 19:40
  • Yes. Avoid that shop. The store where I teach also has a print shop and not only do they have and accept profiles, they also run a calibration loop 3 times a day to account for changes in humidity.
    – Itai
    Sep 25, 2012 at 19:42

The Ink, Paper and Color Correction should all be on the printers calling card. They should have that process down so you dont have to think about... unless you really want to think about it and then they should involve you in the process. Just expect to pay for color revisions and proofing.

What you need to do is provide the highest resolution .TIF or .PSD file possible AND one in the adobeRGB1998 color space. that last part is crucial.

Jpg's tend to be in sRGB which is a web standard. adobeRGB is a print standard and basically includes reds and blues that don't theoretically exist in the other space. The printer will probably convert to this profile if you give them an sRGB and that will instantly change your color.

For more info on Color Spaces you should search/ask another question or refer to Google.


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