Snap happy

Share the moment, in a moment

Say you’re hosting a huge bash for your best friend, who’s just turned 40, and everyone’s begging for a copy of the picture you snapped when they yelled “surprise!” Or visiting relatives refuse to go home without a stack of photos of your day-old baby. It’s times like these that a home photo printer will come in handy, because it lets you print your own pictures in mere minutes. Simply download digital images from your camera to your home computer, edit with the basic software that comes in the printer package, and print. Some printers can even connect directly to your camera, letting you bypass your PC altogether.

Photo printers come in two flavors: ink-jet (such as Lexmark’s P707 Photo Jet, $149; or the Epson Stylus Photo 925, $199) and dye-sublimation (Olympus P-10, $299.95). There are plusses and minuses to each. “Dye-sub printers provide a more continuous tone, but the materials [such as printer ribbon] are more expensive. It’s also easier to troubleshoot an ink-jet,” says Caralee McLellan, media arts lecturer at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Whichever type you choose, spend a few extra bucks for high-quality photo paper to get the best results. “Glossy paper will give you more detail and a more photographic appearance,” McLellan says.

The downside: Digital prints you make at home are notorious for fading and often depict colours inaccurately.

Cost per 4×6 print: Dye-sublimation, $0.69; ink-jet, $0.25.

Lasting memories

If you want keeper photos, an old-fashioned photo lab is still your best option, according to Marc Koegel, a professional photographer and teaching assistant at the Vancouver-based photography school Focal Point. “The lab knows how to take care of color calibration and they always print on the most suitable paper for the job,” he says.

For digital photos, you can email your images to a developer such as Black’s or Japan Camera and order your prints online. Or bring your camera’s memory card to a bricks-and-mortar lab in your area. Developers now provide the same flexibility you’d enjoy at home: you choose precisely which images and how many of each you’d like them to print. You can also choose from a variety of print sizes: the standard 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10; Japan Camera also offers a 4.5×6 size called “full-frame digital.”

The downside: You’ll have to wait three to five days for your finished prints, plus pay extra for shipping if you want them delivered to you. To save on shipping fees, indicate on your order that you want to pick up your prints at the lab nearest you.

Cost per 4×6 print: Black’s, $0.79; $0.45 if you pre-pay for 25, 50 or 100 (you don’t have to order them all at once). Japan Camera, $0.65.

Your own private wire service

Your aunt in England has just heard all about little Jimmy’s Halloween costume and wants to see some photos — today. Emailing them seems like a grand idea, but it’s not. “Most email accounts have quotas, so photos with large file sizes may get bounced back,” says McLellan. And even if your aunt does receive the photos via email, she might not have the software on her computer to view the file format you saved them in.

A better alternative is to post the pics on a photo-sharing Web site, such as Shutterfly or PictureTrail, where Auntie can log on and view Jimmy’s adorable costume and any other shots you choose to include.

Creating your personal online photo album is easy, and takes only about 15 minutes. Log on to either site and register for free. Choose photos from your computer’s hard drive and use the Web-based uploading tool to copy them to the site. (It’s similar to attaching a photo to email). Then follow the directions to build your online album; some sites, including PictureTrail, let you add music, borders and captions. Then let your friends know where to view your masterpiece by emailing them a link to the album (with Shutterfly), or tell them the site’s address and the name of your album (with PictureTrail).

The downside: Endless Web ads induce you to buy prints or other photo-related products and services online.

Cost: Shutterfly, free; PictureTrail, no charge for 30 days, then it’s $19.95 (U.S.) per year.

From the November 2003 issue.

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