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Assuming you're a good enough photographer to want to print your photos, how can you make sure your prints do the images justice? And how do you weigh up the speed of printing them yourself against the extra cost, compared with an online bureau or a high-street chemist?

Back in the mid-90s, a head of development at a major inkjet printer maker gave a presentation to some of the management of a key film manufacturer. He suggested digital cameras might one day be big sellers in the photography market and he was roundly put down by the senior manager.

Digital photography will never be more than a minute part of the overall market, said the film man and the printer maker should realise that. The head of development still works for the printer maker, though he has a bigger department, now. The senior manager at the film maker has long since retired.

Digital camera sales have outstripped film cameras to such a degree that certain brands and types of silver halide film are no longer made. The quality of prints from digital images are now generally accepted to be as good or even to exceed those from conventional film in most of the main market areas. While film cameras are still sold to professional photographers, most of these also have digital backs for their tools of choice, so they can work with either medium.

As with traditional film photography, though, only part of the finished photograph is down to the photographer and the camera. The processing, choice of paper and in the case of inkjet printing, the printer and the ink all have a significant effect on the quality of the final print.

We're going to look at the complete process, from choosing a suitable photo printer to using the right paper and ink to get the best possible results. The first question to answer, though, is what kind of photos you're going to be printing. We wouldn't recommend the same rig for doing a couple of dozen holiday prints as we would for a large format black-and-white print of a couple on their wedding day. So what photographs do you want to print?

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