Tagged: Photos

Portable Inkjet vs. Dye-Sublimation Printers

I photograph a lot of party events and dances, and wanted something specifically for the purpose of printing out 4″x6″ prints on-location, so it had to be as small as possible while producing images of acceptable quality for sale to party guests.

The two models I tried out for this purpose were the Epson PictureMate Charm (PM225) inkjet printer and the Canon Selphy CP900 dye-sublimation printer. I wanted to see what significant real-world differences I could find between the two models, which both specialize in printing 4″x6″ prints. I brought them to actual dance events and printed guest photos on them throughout the evening using Adobe Lightroom 4 (which was also tethered to my camera).

The Epson PictureMate Charm inkjet printer immediately impressed me with its sharp contrast and colors using images straight out of camera. I have generally been very pleased with the quality of Epson photo printers, and this was no exception. The availability of a matte / lustre paper option was very appealing, as it has a very professional quality to it, and also reduces fingerprints from marring the photo surface. The print drivers also easily supported borderless and white-bordered options without any difficulty. All in all, I found the Epson PictureMate Charm to be a pleasure to use. However, my concerns with it revolve around the cost per print, and long term usability of the unit. As an initial cost, the printer itself is at least $50 more than the Canon Selphy CP900. The ink and paper are generally purchased together as a package, but a basic search for reviews online show that many people seem to run out of ink in the cartridge long before the paper is used up. It seems to me Epson should’ve erred on the side of the paper running out before the ink to avoid customer complaints. Long-term, there are also the typical reports that the ink cartridge and print head can dry up if you go too long without using it, which is a problem if I want to store the printer in between party events. It would be a nightmare if the photos started coming out streaky or missing bands of color due to clogged print heads. One final concern is that Epson appears to have discontinued this printer (and possibly the PictureMate series), so you may be stuck if you grow to rely on this printer and then can’t get replacement units or parts.

The Canon Selphy CP900 dye-sub printer had its own share of strengths and weaknesses revealed during my testing. Right out the door, the printer itself cost $50 less than the Epson PictureMate Charm and was even more portable. The paper and ink cartridge packages were also quite a bit less expensive per print. One interesting property of dye-sub cartridges to note it that it will print exactly as many prints as it is rated for. A 50-print cartridge will generate exactly that many prints, no more and no less, regardless of the image content. I actually found myself appreciating this trait; even though it means you won’t be able to squeeze out a few more prints from a cartridge, it also allows you to very accurately predict how many more prints you have, which cannot be said for the inkjet printers. So what about the print quality? I’d have to say that even though the dye-sub printing process is known to produce continuous tones like that of film prints, I found the overall image quality to be a bit softer than I preferred, especially when held side-by-side against a high-quality inkjet print. Further, the dye-sub printing process is extremely sensitive to dust particles, which can easily get into the paper path and get baked into the photo, resulting in colored blobs in the final product. Dye-sub printing is a 4-color process, and the way the Canon Selphy CP900 works requires it to allow the paper to exit the printer 4 times to allow each plate of ink and glossy coating to be applied. Not only does this design allow for dust to slip into the print, but it is possible for over-enthusiastic guests to accidentally disturb the printing by pulling out the print prematurely during one of the passes. The Selphy series does not appear to offer a matte option, and the paper itself bears slightly unattractive tear-off edges that need to be manually removed after printing. Also note that the resulting sheets are every so slightly smaller than an actual 4″x6″ print. Finally, the Canon print drivers don’t seem to make it easy to print perfectly borderless nor bordered prints. I found the printing offsets to be a bit unpredictable, requiring some tweaking to actually get the images to be perfectly centered on the sheet. I suspect that most people would have been willing to guess and check with test sheets until they got the measurements just right. Being a dedicated 4×6 printer, I feel that this should have been built-in functionality in the print drivers.

All in all, here are my recommendations. If you want the best quality 4×6″ prints that exceed what I’d expect from your typical drugstore prints, and you don’t mind the added cost and possibility that you won’t be able to get replacement units/parts/media, go for the Epson PictureMate Charm. If you want an economical choice that makes some compromises on quality (that most people honestly might not even notice, except for those pesky dust blobs), and you like the idea that the ink will basically never go dry, then go with the Canon Selphy CP900. Either way, both printers make an impressive showing and highlight the promising options for portable photo printers.

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Recommended Export Settings for Lightroom

One of the things that Lightroom is great at is saving you steps in your workflow. This is true in the export process as well, where you can define some basic presets to serve as a starting point for your export needs. Let’s look at three common scenarios:

Export for Emailing: Let’s say you have a batch of photos you want to send to your friends to enjoy on their computers, and you want to email them after exporting. You don’t want to export full-resolution versions of the files, because it will take forever to send, but you do want them to be large enough to be enjoyed full screen on at least a laptop screen. I recommend exporting the files with a 1280-pixel constraint on the Long Edge of the photo. That means the exported photos in this batch will never exceed 1280 pixels on any edge. I’ve also set the Quality to 80, though you might be able to get away with even less, like 60, for casual viewing. Finally, I set the Sharpening mode to Screen since that’s how it will be viewed. If you are happy with these settings and want to use them again, remember to click the Add button at the bottom of the Presets list before clicking Export and leaving this dialog box. (Note: In this scenario, I’m not talking about inserting photos into your email message — for that function, you’ll probably want to have photos that are much shorter than 1280 pixels on the Long Edge. Probably 400 to 640 pixels is enough.)

Export for Casual Printing: If you want to create photos that will be ready to print at a decent quality, you’ll want to export higher resolution images. Set the Long Edge to be no more than 3600 pixels. This should easily allow prints up to 8″x10″ or even more. You can also set the Resolution here to be 150 or 300 pixels per inch, though many printing programs will handle this conversion on their own.

Export Full Resolution: Finally, let’s say you want to create an archive version of the images at the best quality possible. There’s actually already a Lightroom export preset for this called “Burn Full-Sized JPEGs.” As you might expect, the Quality setting is 100 and the Resize to Fit option has been turned off. One final thing to note is that this preset defaults to Export To CD/DVD. So as soon as you click Export, Lightroom will ask you for a blank disc. If that’s not what you meant, change the Export To setting back to Hard Drive.

That’s it for now. There are of course many other export configurations that might benefit you. These were just a few samples to help you understand the process for defining your own presets!

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!

Apply Metadata Presets During Import in Lightroom

One of Lightroom’s main strengths is helping photographers apply the same settings across a batch of photos. One of the things I like to do in my workflow is rate everything as 3 Stars from the beginning, and then during my editing process I move them away from this “neutral” rating (with 1-Star indicating it’s not worth keeping, and 5-Stars meaning it’s a winner). I was never quite comfortable with leaving photos at Zero Stars because then they get left out when I am filtering by Rating. While I’m at it, another setting that would be useful to apply to all photos right from the start is my copyright metadata. So rather than performing this operation for each photo, let’s set it up in Lightroom to do the heavy lifting for us.

First, you need to create the Metadata Preset which defines what settings you want to apply. For example, I need a preset that will always set the Rating to 3 and also add my copyright info. You can edit or create a new Preset in the Library mode under the Metadata section on the right side and selecting Edit Presets.

A dialog box pops up and now you need to define and save your preset. For example, I added my default Rating and Copyright info. When you’re ready, click Done and you’ll be asked whether you want to save this new preset. Give it a descriptive name.

Now you can select this Preset to easily add the setting you need a large batches of photos at once in the Library mode. You can also add this preset during File > Import Photos and Video. Just select the preset under the Apply During Import section of the Import dialog box. In fact, the next time you come back to Import, that Preset will probably be preloaded for you, saving yet another step (but be careful if that’s not what you want)!

That’s all there is to it! If your preset is not quite the way you want it, remember that you can always go back to edit the preset. But if you need the updates on your older photos, you’ll have to reapply the modified preset to them again for it to have an effect.

Hope that helps speed up your Lightroom workflow as it has for me. Happy editing!

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!