Photo Printing Made Easier with DPOF

There are many ways to print photos. For example you could download the photos to your computer choose the ones you like burn them on a CD and take them to a printing service. DPOF makes such photo printing easier – here is how.

DPOF is a standard that was introduced by a consortium of camera and printer manufacturers. The goal of DPOF was the make photo printing easier and faster.

DPOF stands for Digital Print Order Format. The goal behind DPOF was to make the process of choosing which photos to print and printing them much easier and faster. If your camera supports DPOF then you can choose the photos you would like to print and the number of copies directly on your digital camera. This data is also known as the print order and is saved in the cameras memory card (the same memory card where photos are saved) in special files. Later on you can take the memory card with the photos and the DPOF data to any printing service that supports DPOF and it would automatically print the photos based on the DPOF print order data. Alternatively you could plug the memory card to a photo printer that supports DPOF and print all the photos that you chose with a single push of a button.

DPOF can do much more than just specify which photos to print and in how many copies. You can also specify additional information such as a photo title text, photo orientation, print paper size and more. Other useful information can be added: your contact information and your camera settings when taking the photo. All that information can make printing easier – for example you can drop off a memory card with any printing service and they can know exactly which photos to print, in how many copies on what paper sizes and in what orientation. They also have your contact information where they can reach you when the prints are ready or if there is any problem.

Not all cameras support DPOF and the ones that do support DPOF vary in their level of support. For example the simplest support would be for choosing which photos to print and in how many copies while more advanced support would be for enabling other data such as title photo title text, paper size, contact information and more.

DPOF was extended to support more than photo printing. Examples of new features enabled by DPOF: you can choose photos to be emailed as file attachment. The usage is very similar to choosing which photos to print but instead of printing the photos when you plug your memory card to your computer special software reads the DPOF data and emails the photos you have selected to the designated email addresses. Another feature is slide show or photo projection: the photos you choose can be replayed as a slide show on a computer or be projected using a photo projector. For example you could plug the memory card to a projector that supports DPOF and with one click play the slide show of your choice.

And lastly – some PC software allows you to define any custom action to be executed on the DPOF data. For example the software can be told to “copy all chosen photos to the hard disk and discard the others” or to “print all chosen photos, copy them to the hard disk and then create a backup of them on a CD” – this is a great way to automate some photo processes and can save time.

DPOF is not a must have feature but a good option if you want to save some time and make photo printing easier. Many cameras support DPOF but most users are not aware of it and are not using it. Check if your camera supports DPOF and learn how to use it to your benefit.

Should You Print Your Digital Photos at Home or Use a Photo Printing Service?

There are lots of options available for getting your digital photos printed, but which method is the best and most economical choice for you? Let’s look at some of the options and the pros and cons of each.

PRINTING YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS AT HOME

Convenience and instant gratification are two popular reasons for printing your digital photos at home. Depending on your printer, you can print directly from your camera or from your memory card in most cases. Or if you want to touch up your photos first you can copy them to your computer, use your photo editing software (I like Photoshop Elements 3.0) to enhance your images, and then print right from your graphics program. You don’t have to make an extra stop to drop off your photo memory card at the photofinisher or drugstore and then return to pick up your prints, and you save the shipping fees the online photo services charge.

However, printing your photos on your home printer may be more expensive than you realized. The per-print price can approach $1 per picture when you factor in the cost of buying a photo printer, high quality photo paper and lots of color ink cartridges. If you print a lot of photos you’ll go through ink cartridges and paper rather quickly, which gets expensive, especially if you make mistakes and have to reprint. If you use inexpensive or off-brand paper, you will likely find that your photos may start to fade or discolor within a few months. According to industry experts, if you print at home, use the same brand name paper as your printer manufacturer (i.e. if you have a Canon printer, use Canon photo paper). Your prints will be better quality and last longer.

USING AN ONLINE DIGITAL PHOTOFINISHER

Online digital photofinishers like Ofoto and the new PhotoWorks make the process of printing your photos very easy. You can edit your photos either using your own photo editing software or download free software from the online line printing service to crop, fix red-eye, and add special effects or borders to your images. Then simply select the images you want to print, click to upload to the photo site, and you will receive your order, printed on high quality photo paper, in your mailbox in approx. 2-5 days. In addition to prints you can order customized photo calendars, photo cards, photo books, mugs, and other photo items. With some online services, like Shutterfly, you can even try out and order frames for your photos.

The downside: you do pay a shipping charge, so you may want to wait and order a number of photos or photo products at one time to make it more economical. Print costs for 4×6 inch photos range from about 19 cents to 29 cents, depending on the company.

Wal-Mart.com’s prints are inexpensive and the bonus is you can upload your photos to their website and then pick them up at your local store and avoid shipping charges. Photo stores like RitzCamera.com or WolfCamera.com are also good options because you can either upload your photos to their website and pick them up at a local store in as little as an hour, or you can drop off your memory card at the store and pick up your prints later.

PRINT YOUR PHOTOS AT THE DRUGSTORE

Digital printing is now available at drugstore chains such as Walgreens and Longs. You can bring in your memory stick and use their photo kiosk to crop and edit your images and then print them. The cost is about the same as an online printing service, but you have to stand there at the kiosk and edit/upload your photos. Not something I really want to do, nor do I want to wait in line while someone else finishes their photo order. The good news is these drugstores also offer online photo services so you can upload your photos to their website and you can pick up your prints at their store usually the next day.

The other option is you can drop off your memory card or CD at the drugstore’s photo department and pick up your prints anywhere from an hour later to a day later, depending on the service selected, just like the “old days” of 35mm film. The print cost is about the same as full service online photo finishers (less the shipping fee). There are frequent sales, so the per-print cost can be relatively low if you hit a sale, but you don’t have the option of cropping or enhancing your images unless you edit your photos then burn them to a CD first.

My suggestion is to experiment with several methods and find the best one that works for you. Whatever you do, don’t just let all those digital photos pile up in your memory card or on your computer, get them printed so you can show them off. Of course you can also share them online with family and friends, but that’s another article.

Printing on Matte or Glossy Digital Photo Printing Paper

When printing digital photos you have a choice between matte and glossy photo prints. Glossy photo prints have a shiny finish while matte ones have a more subtle neutral one. So which one should you choose? There is no right answer – there are pros and cons to both.

Matte and glossy are two different finishes to the photo paper digital photos are printed on. Using different chemicals and processes photo paper can have a glossy or a matte finish. Glossy finish looks shiny, reflects light very well and looks vibrant and color rich. Matte finish on the other hand does not reflect much light and looks “darker” and duller.

There are pros and cons to choosing either matter or glossy digital photo prints. Here are some of them:

Glossy photo prints: Glossy photo prints are shiny and are more appealing to the eye. They look fancy and convey a high quality feeling. Glossy photo prints have vibrant colors. Colors also look rich and deep on glossy photo prints. On the downside glossy photo prints “shiny” attribute can be a problem when photos are viewed using intense light sources such as daylight sun or strong light bulbs. Light reflected from the photo print can blind the viewer making it hard to see the photo. Glossy paper is also more likely to attract dust and fingerprints and is thus more likely to get dirty over time. Black and white glossy photo prints do not look as good as matte ones.

Matte finish: Matte photo prints do not reflect light and are thus easier to view at almost any light condition. Matte photo prints are also less likely to attract dust and fingerprints and are less likely to get dirty over time. Black and white matte photo prints look better than black and white glossy photo prints. On the downside matte photo prints do not have the fancy high quality look that glossy photo prints have. Colors in matte photo prints are less vibrant and less rich than on glossy photo prints.

So which one to choose – matte or glossy? It really depends on your needs and what you are going to do with the photo prints. As a general rule use glossy photo prints for color prints and matte photo prints for black and white ones. If the photo prints are going to be touched by many people and used a lot matte is a better choice unless you do not mind spending time cleaning your glossy photo prints every now and then. Also if you plan to print large photos (for example to hang on the wall or frame and put on your desk) matte is a better choice since a large glossy print would act as a large glossy and shiny light reflector.

As with many other choices a matter or glossy choice is a matter of personal preference. To make an educated decision you should have experienced both. If you do not have that experience you can choose a few photos some color and some black and white and print them both on matte and on glossy paper and in different sizes. Look at the prints and see what you like and what you do not like about them. In the future you would be able make better choices by applying that experience.