Professional Printing for Digital Images

Reprinted from the Houston Underwater Photographic Society newsletter.
Do not reproduce without author's written consent.

Last month’s column discussed some technical aspects of how to prepare your digital images for printing. It also offered two options for making high quality prints, home inkjet printing, and professional printing at a photo lab. After some experimentation with large format printing of "gift prints" for the holidays, I have prepared a short "how-to" column about preparing and printing your images on the high-end Fuji Frontier.

For the past year or two, it has been possible to bring a CD of your photos to a lab for a technician to crop, color correct, and print. Unfortunately, this is costly, and depends on the judgment of the photo technician to crop correctly and render a "correct looking" underwater photograph. As many of us know, prints made this way often need to go back to the printer to correct the color to more natural tones as only us divers know what we saw under the waves. This trial and error repetition can quickly drive up costs and can take a long time. Fortunately, a new leap forward in technology now allows photographers to take control of their professional prints. A computer interface called a "photo-kiosk" can now be found in many of the larger photo labs. This device - made by either Kodak or Fuji depending on location - is directly tied-in to the Fuji Frontier photo lab behind the counter.

The photo-kiosk resembles a large computer with a touch screen and various disk-drives. The machine I used recently could read photos from: CD-ROM, Compact Flash, Smart Media, Memory Stick, SD Cards, and even the old PCMCIA flash media. The machine reads the photos from the media, and allows the photographer to select images to print, crop them for 8x10, color correct them, if necessary, and then send them to the photo lab behind the counter. The machine takes your name, and then prints out a receipt for you to take to the cashier for payment. Depending on the size of the job, you can wait around to pick up the prints, or come back the next day to pick them up. Perhaps the best part of this process is that you only pay for the prints when you pick them up, and the cost is incredibly reasonable. A 4x6 costs the same or less than a 35mm film print and an 8 x 10 is considerably less. The results are stunning and literally cannot be told apart from film prints. They are also printed on Fuji Chrystal-Archive paper to last a lifetime.

The Fuji Aladdin and the Kodak photo kiosk offer digital
photo printing opportunities at many locations.

The Fuji Aladdin can read from literally any digital media.

The Kodak kiosk is older and does not support as many types of digital media.
The author recommends using CD-ROM with this unit.

I’d like to present a few of my recent "lessons learned" from printing 8 x 12’s on the Fuji Frontier.

As Seaspace approaches and our club prepares our show, I’d like to encourage our digital shooters to experiment with printing at the photo-kiosk. Not only can we put on a great slideshow, but we can prepare large format prints to show right alongside our Velvia shooters. It will only take a moment to see the potential of these wonderful new machines – both the digital camera as a photo tool, and the digital printer as a means to show off our work.

To discuss underwater housings, digital cameras, and strobes with other wetpixel readers, check out our message forums.