Print those Images!

Print those Images

I can’t think of anything more satisfying then seeing one of my Images  printed large and hung on my wall. Well, maybe hung on someone else’s wall I like better. But either way, seeing that large print just completes things for me. 

So I would encourage YOU to print your images and I’ll give you some tips to get great prints because many people don’t print anymore or haven’t printed since they got their digital cameras so they aren’t always familiar with the process. 

This will be about printing at a commercial lab not home printing. Home printing on Large format Inkjet printers is and art and science all to itself and most people can’t afford to spend what it takes to do it right, so for their large format prints (larger than 8 x 10) most people turn to commercial labs. 

Print Labs 

Now if you want, you can off course go to the local drug store or big box stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. Most are now offering larger size prints and even things like stretched Canvas Gallery wraps but I would encourage you to use some of the consumer arms of professional labs or, well, if you are a professional, those professional labs.

The prints are of a much higher quality on quality papers and done by technicians that know what they are doing to assure the best possible prints. 

I use Bay Photo labs but I have a professional account with them. However anyone  can get their services if you use SmugMug   Besides access to great  Bay Prints, SmugMug is a fantastic  photo sharing site and community serving both amateur or professional photographers

One of the other labs you may want to try is, they are the consumer arm of Miller’s professional labs. and offer a wide variety of Print products.

All online labs allow you to upload your images, choose your sizes of prints, pay for and then have your prints shipped directly to your door. Some even offer it the next day so while it may not be as quick as your 1-Hour lab (why do they always ask when I want my prints back? Ummm…in an …hour?) It is plenty quick and convenient. 

There are generally two types of prints from Digital Files

  • True Photographic prints also known as Digital – C Prints, Light jet or Lambda Prints. These prints are made on true light sensitive Photo papers that are excited by a laser and finished in a traditional photographic process
  • Giclėe (pronounced zhee- clay) are Fine art Ink Jet Prints printed on a variety of papers from Photographic style; Glossy, semi, Gloss, matte. To fine art type papers

 Either style can give you a very high quality print but they just have different looks and qualities. Digital-C prints tend to have a higher dynamic range and deeper blacks, but it can depend highly on what your images look like and how you want them to appear. The best thing to do is to get some sample prints made in different styles to determine what you like best. 

Preparing your Image Files – Resolution

Probably the most confusing thing that people fid about printing and photo files themselves is; resolution. PPI, DPI, 8 x 10, 4800 x 3600, 250ppi, 300ppi, 360ppi etc etc etc…Yikes. 

OK, so let’s make some sense of this all. 

Your digital photo files have a pixel x pixel resolution. In the case of My Canon 5D, my images come off the camera at 2880 x 4320. This is the most important number you need to know. Forget just about everything else you may have heard or known. These are the numbers that matter when it comes to Resolution and printing. 

The other number you will hear a lot about is PPI, or Pixels Per Inch. This number ends up being the source of more confusion than any other. But I will try to show you how to best use this number 

From these numbers we can determine how big of a print we can make. All Print labs have a Recommended PPI Resolution and also a Minimum PPI Resolution.  In most cases, labs recommend 250PPI for Digital- C prints and 300PPI for Giclėe prints. Most labs have a minimum resolution requirement of 100PPI 

How do I determine my PPI for the print I want to have made?

Forget about what your image may say: “I have a 3000 x 2000 @ 300 PPI image or I have a 3000 x 2000 @ 72 ppi” PPI in that context does not matter one bit. Both of those digital files are identical in size. 

So, the first thing you need to know is; Your Pixel by Pixel resolution and then the size print you want to have made. We’ll use my 5D image for example 

File size 2880 x 4320 and I want to have a 12” x 18”, I simple divide the file size by the print size 

2880 / 12” = 240ppi
4320 / 18” = 240ppi 

So I know from the PPI number I got, that is close to the ideal ppi my print lab (250ppi) needs to make an excellent quality print. Don’t try to be perfect, close is good. 

What if I want to make a larger print, say 20” x 30” I simply do the math again. 

2880/ 20 = 144ppi
4320 /30 = 144ppi 

My ppi is now 144. It’s less than the perfect number but still well within the minimum requirements my lab needs to print me a great print.

Now I really want to go big. I want to make a Wall Size 40” x 60” Print. Let’s do the math one more time 

2880/ 40 = 70ppi
4320/ 60 = 70ppi 

My ppi is 70. NOW I have a problem. This print size is below the minimum ppi resolution my lab requires and it will make for a poor quality print. (I will give a possible solution at the end of this post) 

Now that you know you have a large enough file for the size print you want to have made. Let’s make sure that the file is in best shape to be uploaded and printed 

Preparing your File – Color profiles

Color profiles or ICC profiles are the bits of information in your images that tell others or other devices, this color is this color. The major ones we use are sRGB, Adobe RGB, and Pro Photo RGB. If you don’t know which one you use you are probably using sRGB but you can check your file’s EXIF data to tell you what your file is.

 Most labs either have a color profile they want the files in or at the very least, ask that you embed the profile in the image so they know what to do with that file. For instance MPIX requires that your file be sRGB. While Bay will accept either sRGB or Adobe RGB as long as you embed the profile into your image. Check with your lab 

Lightroom while it works for the most part in Pro Photo RGB, when you select an image for Export you can tell Lightroom what profile you want to use and Lightroom will convert the profile upon export (check your export settings) 

Photoshop has a working profile that you set. But even if you are say working in Adobe RGB, before you save a print copy, you can Convert the profile to any you want by going to Edit> Convert to Profile and then save your image with that profile embedded. 

Speaking of saving your file, almost every lab will accept JPEG files; some will also accept Tiff or other file types. Check first to make sure before you upload. Even though my portfolio files are all saved as either Tiff or PSD files, when I make a print copy, I save them as JPEGs for universal use at any of the labs I use. JPEGs even though they get a bad rap sometimes are fine for your print file.   Save your JPEGs at the highest quality your software provides. 


Nothing get new photographers mad than trying to understand cropping. They go to order an 11” x 14” print and can’t understand why parts of their image are cut off. 

Aspect ratios: Most DSLRs have as aspect ration of 2:3 this translates in to print sizes of 4” x 6” and multiples there off. 

But the problem is a lot of the common print sizes are based on either popular Frame size or print size of days gone by (that film stuff) So we have print sizes of  5” x 7”,  8” x 10”  11” x 14” or 16” x 20”. None of those sizes match up to our 2:3 aspect ratio of our Digital Images so part of our photos MUST be cut off to fit those sizes. So if you want to print in those sizes, you must keep this in consideration when shooting and shoot larger to allow that part will be cut off when you print. 

The good news is, the frame industry and the print labs have known the photographers frustration with this so they have begun offering both prints and frames and/or mats, to work with the standard aspect ratios of DSLR camera. 

Other sizes that require no cropping are:

6” x 9”
8” x 12”
12” x 18”
16” x 24”
20” x 30”
24” x 36” 

Soft-proofing  ( Advanced – Photoshop Full Version only)

This section is for more advanced user and those that use Photoshop (the full version) If you’re not skip over it, you’ll be fine. 

We want our prints to look like what we see on our screen but the truth is Prints are different than what our image looks like on screen. Prints are front illuminated; Our LCD screens are back-lit. Also every print machine is different, every paper is different, they have a different look to them. They respond to different colors differently. 

So how can we know ahead of time what our prints will look like? By soft-proofing. 

Soft-Proofing is a simulation of what the combination of Machines and papers will look like. A Lot of print labs have ICC Profiles that you can download that you can use with Photoshop to do that simulation. Once you download the profile from the lab and install that profile to the correct location on your computer. In Photoshop you go to View> Proof Set-up and Custom. From there you will drop down a list of profiles till you find the one you want. Then by Ctrl  +Y or  (Cmd+Y mac) , you can toggle between  your image ad the print simulation to see if you need to make any changes to the file to make it as good as you can get printed. 

For more in-depth information on soft-proofing simply Google it. There are some good explanations to be found. 


I cannot stress this enough how great it is to see your work in print. Even in my own home I have many 20 x 30 Standout Prints, 16 x 24 Matted and Framed Prints, 36 x 36 Stretched Canvas Gallery warps and even a 48” x 48” Photo Mural printed directly on Aluminum Metal (LOVE these). So give it a try. 


One last thing to consider once you get your prints on the wall is how they are illuminated. Proper lighting on a photograph can make all the difference in the world. Whether that is halogen spots or Track-lights or just Portrait Lights Hung over a Framed Print. Putting good light on that print will be the difference between blah and wow. 

OK, I know that was a lot to read on something that seems as simple as getting a print but I appreciate you making it all the way thorough. 

Addendum: I said earlier I would talk about what to do if you want a bigger print than your file was capable of. One of the things you can try is resizing the  image. Unfortunaly resing a image with too few pixels intoi a really large print usually is not that sucessful. If however you have a very good quality image that is sharp and low noise you can use a bit of software that has gotten me out of trouble many times. OnOne’s Perfect Resize (formally Genuine Fractals. This software uses a very powerful resizin algorythm that is much different than what we can do in our normal editing software.  The good thing is we can try it and then see for ourselves how the image looks at that size and see if it has too many resizing artifacts tpmprint well. In most cases with a good file you can get at Least the next biggest size print than what you were capable before and sometimes much more than that.

To download and Try Or Buy OnOne’s Perfect Resize Click HERE, For 10% off your purchase of any onOne Software Title, enter the Coupon Code: THEHDRIMAGE10 at check out

Hope that helps, 




  1. Deb September 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Thanks Peter! Great article, easy to follow and it has cleared up the mysteries of printing and getting the right result. I am about to get my first print done! cheers

    • Peter September 4, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Thanks Deb

      It won’t be your last. Nothing like a print of your work!

  2. Timothy August 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    Hi Peter, I just stumbled upon your excellent synopsis 4 years after the initial post! Better late than never. Question. I have a pro-SmugMug and Bay Photo account and am now venturing into the territory of large metallic prints, eg, 40″ x 60″. I also have On1 10 with Resize. I shoot with a Canon 6D, and a typical uncropped image is 5472 x 3648. Let me ask my question via an example:

    A) For a 40×60 print: 5472 / 60 = 91 PPI
    B) For a 30×40 print: 5472 / 40 = 136 PPI

    If I’m understanding you correctly, before submitting my image to Bay Photo I would:
    For A: First resize the image in On1 10;
    For B: Submit the image as is because it’s above the 100 PPI threshold.

    For A), what settings would you use in On1 to resize? Use 40×60 as the dimension and then play with the resolution setting to find the largest number that produces an acceptable image?

    Lastly, for B) is there a role to use On1 to resize the image to something larger that 136 PPI before submission to optimize resolution?

    Many thanks for your excellent explanation of resizing images!

    • Peter August 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      Hi Timothy,
      Thanks for you great question. I also shoot with a 6D and regularly sell 40 x 60 Prints so it is not problem provided you have
      A: a clean file
      B: Free of noise
      C: In focus
      D: Sharp but NOT sharpened (On One will do the sharping size dependant)

      So provided you have all that in a image I would say go right ahead and jump in

      So for your first question
      Yes to both, But say you are hosting an image on SmugMug but don’t want to have to host multiple images for different sizes (e one file for 30 x 40 prints and one for 40 x 60) you can go ahead and make a Clean Master print file and use it for all. If, for certain image, you NEVER are going to offer prints at a size that takes less than 100ppi, then don’t do anything and just post the original scale file as that is best without interpolation

      Fir your next question, In On 1 Photo 10 Resize. Use the preset “Photo Lab”, this is under the assumption that you would have Bay Lans print as a Chromgenic Print. If you are instead going with Bay’s “Fine Art Prints. then you can use the Epson Presets

      Using the Photo Lab, use the 40 x 60 Preset, but under resolution change it to 150 instead of the standard 300ppi, I just think it’s best to interpolate as little as possible although I have seenjust as good results from on 1 with 300 used. But 150 will make a good file and also offer a smaller total file size which help with uploads and also even with saving the files since sometimes resized the image can go over Photoshops 2GB PSD file limits or even Tiffs 4GB file limits. not common but can occur. And yes you will be fine with JPEGs for uploads to smugmug.

      After you resize, use my method I recommend for checking the file AT ACTUAL PRINT size, look for smearing, loss of detail, increased noise visibility. Just remember that people also view a 40 x 60 from a good distance away, Only photographers stick their nose on the print 🙂

      If you do check at 1000% or 200% remember that’s not what the print will look like and will exaggerate and problems with the file

      If you are really worried about how the quality will be on such a large print and don’t want to waste money on a large print, you can make a cross section of just part of the print at 8 x 10 and have them print that to see what the image will look like but only spend a couple bucks to find out. It may take a bit to figure out how to render that file but it can be done

      I hope that answered your questions. If you have other question, please ask again

      • Timothy August 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

        Hi Peter, this is great stuff. Thanks so much for your detailed response and your excellent blog. Cheers!