Rick Le Page shot this stunning landscape photo in Mykonos.

How to Print Your Photos

By Rick LePage

It’s easy to get your photos off your devices and uploaded to online print services. Materials go way beyond glossy paper to canvas, glass, metal, and more; and with the higher resolutions of today’s smartphones and digital cameras, you're not limited to the traditional 4"x6". The three-step process is simple: Edit the picture, upload the exported JPEG to the service, and choose print material and size.

EDIT TO PREPARE FOR PRINTING

When preparing your photos for online printing, the most important thing is to choose a well-exposed photo that has your subject in focus. If your photo is dark (taken at sunset or dusk) or light (in the snow, at the beach during the day), you can still make good prints, but no amount of sharpening inside Adobe Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, or Photoshop CC will bring back a missed focus, and the larger the print, the more apparent the lack of sharpness will be.

Although it's important to add a little bit of sharpening to most photos, beware of overdoing it. Zoom into your photo—does it have a “crunchy” look, with bright white lines along borders of objects and a mottled look in areas of single colors (like skies or foreground)? That's oversharpening.

I oversharpened the first screenshot above, as you can see from the bright, unnatural line along the ridge of the mountain and the mottled, crunchy look along the mountain’s front. I lightly sharpened the second screenshot; it will still look sharp when printed, but the details won’t distract from the overall print.

TIP: Most online print services let you crop photos after uploading to fit a specific print size, but cropping in Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, or Photoshop can give you more control over the composition. For example, if you want to print a square, crop it using the 1x1 ratio; if you want an 8x10, use the 4x5/8x10 ratio.

Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Photoshop all have quick ways to crop a photo to a predetermined aspect ratio, like 1x1 (square), 4x6, and 5x7. This example is a crop inside Lightroom CC that fits an 8"x 10" print size.

EXPORT FOR PRINTING

Most online print services want a full-size JPEG file. Depending on the app you’re using to edit your photos, there are a few differences in how to export to JPEG.

Exporting from Lightroom CC: Select the photo and choose Save To... from the File menu. In the dialog box that pops up, select JPEG from the File Type pop-up, set a folder on your computer to save the photos to (Lightroom CC defaults to a folder called Lightroom CC Saved Photos in your Pictures or My Pictures folder), and select Full-Size from the Size pop-up. Then click the Save button.

Exporting from Lightroom Classic: Lightroom Classic’s Export window may look a bit intimidating, but there aren’t a lot of options you need to worry about when exporting for a print service.

Select the photo and choose Export... from the File menu, which will open the Export window. The most important sections of the Lightroom Classic Export window are Export Location and File Settings; you don't have to rename the exported file or apply any of the other settings.

The Export Location section lets you choose a place to put your files. The Export To: pop-up lists common locations on your hard drive, and you can choose a subfolder inside those preset locations or select another folder. I recommend making a folder dedicated to print-ready JPEGs.

In the File Settings section, set Image Format to JPEG, with a Quality setting of 90 or 100. The Color Space setting should be sRGB or Adobe RGB; this helps the service match your onscreen color more closely. (Talking about color spaces is beyond the scope of this article, but you should be safe with either option.)

If you didn’t do much sharpening of the photo in Lightroom Classic’s Develop module, you can choose to let Lightroom apply some sharpening for a specific print type during the export process. In the Output Sharpening section, select the paper type you wish to print to, and then an amount. Choosing Standard from the Amount pop-up menu is probably all you’ll need to do.

Exporting from Photoshop: When you’re ready to export a photo from Photoshop CC, choose Export > Export As... from the File menu. Set your options in the right side of the Export As window. In the File Settings section, choose JPEG and a Quality setting of 90 or 100. Don’t touch the Image Size, Canvas Size, or Metadata sections, but in the Color Space section, check both the Convert to sRGB and Embed Color Profile boxes. Click the Export All button at the bottom of the window. Finally, Photoshop will prompt you for a location to save your photo.

UPLOAD AND CHOOSE PRINTING OPTIONS

There are dozens of print services, ranging from established services like Shutterfly, Mpix, and Bay Photo, to upstarts like Fracture (which specializes in printing on glass). You can even get a broad selection of print options from places like Costco. The great thing is that it doesn’t matter much which service you choose: they all offer easy uploading and ordering, with plenty of tips to help you get the best prints at the right sizes.

After you upload your JPEG file or files, check for alerts of potential problems. Some services, like Shutterfly, alert you if you try to print a photo at a size where it will look blurry or blown up. Others, like Mpix, won’t let you order a print that's larger than the optimal resolution of your uploaded file.

Most of today’s online services have safeguards to prevent you from printing larger than your photo’s optimal print size. Shutterfly warned me (left) when I tried to print a photo at a size that would result in a print that looked blown up. However, Mpix (right) won’t let you order any prints larger than your photo’s optimal print size; that's why the 11x14 and 16x20 boxes are grayed out.

If your photo’s aspect ratio (length to width) doesn’t match the print size you’ve chosen, you'll need to crop it using the service's provided cropping tools. It's usually as simple as dragging a thumbnail of the photo up or down or left or right until you're happy with the crop.

Most online services let you choose the crop of your photo when you’re using a different aspect ratio for the print. In this Mpix window for choosing an 8x10 print from my uploaded photo, I can drag the photo inside the box to get the right composition for the final print.

You're now prepped with the basic steps necessary to get high-quality prints from online services. What's next? Landscapes for your walls? Portraits for friends and family? Let us know in the Comments section below.