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Digital photography has changed the way everyone thinks about photography.  Photography used to be a big mystery to most people.  You would take your film to the photo lab, something magical would happen and you would get images back.  Now there are several ways you can enjoy images.  You can look at them on your computer, television, Internet, digital frames as well as prints.  Unfortunately most of these methods are not archival.  If you store your images on your flash drive, CD or hard drive eventually they will not exist any more.  The only storage method that can be truly archival is a print.

You have several options for even printing images.  First of all you still have the photo labs.  Inkjet printers, laser printers and dye sublimation printers are also available.  With all these options which method is the best?  Let me outline the pros and cons of each.

Inkjet Printers

Many people find it very convenient to print the photographs with their home inkjet printer.  First of all, most of these printers are fairly inexpensive and there are all kinds of cool papers available now.  There are two kinds of inks you will find in inkjet printers.  The first and most common is dye based inks.  The problem with these inks is they will fade quickly.  Even if you use the expensive photo paper you will have a problem with these images fading.  Pigment based inks are the best if you are printing from an inkjet printer.  Your printer must be a printer that uses pigment based inks.  Not all printers can use them.  These printers are a lot more rare and the inks are more expensive.  Dye based inks can begin fading after only a few months.  Pigment based inks, however, should last for several years, some up to 85 years.

Laser Printers

Laser printers are not a good choice for photographs.  Laser printers use melted plastic and are not an archival method of printing.  Laser printers are great for short term documents but should not be used for quality photography.

Dye Sublimation Printers

These printers use ribbons to create the image.  I believe they are fairly archival but the quality is not as good as inkjets or photo labs.  I personally would not use dye sublimation printers.

Photo Lab Printers

Photo Lab printers still use the chemical based imaging they always have.  Photo Lab printers will give the best all around print for most people.  Most of the photo labs have software that try to fix problems you may have had while taking the picture.  Because the process is chemical the images will last for many many years.  

Conclusion

If someone has a pigment based inkjet printer and has a good knowledge of digital color (i.e. color profiles), inkjet printers have some great artistic options.  Color profiles are a fairly complicated subject, however, and not many people understand them.  If you do not understand them and/or do not have a pigment based printer, I would definitely suggest a photo lab print.  

Getting a great print can be tricky.  It takes a lot more knowledge than most people think.  If you have tried to get good prints but aren’t getting what you expect or if you have questions about archiving your digital photography feel free to contact me at mpimages@mpiphotovideo.com.  I would love to help in any way I can.

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