I’ve wondered for a while if it is “worth it” to print my photos at home with an ink-jet printer. After lots of debate, I have realized that “worth it” depends on your interpretation of the words. “Worth it” can relate to finances, quality, convenience, personal satisfaction, and as you’ll see, it will depend on you more than anything if you will find home printing a worth while endeavour. Before answering the question, I will explain what my setup is.
The other day I was in an electronics shop and a very cheap price on a discontinued printer caught my eye. I had been researching printers for a while, and I knew that $80 for an Epson R280 (R285 in Europe) was a good price so I took the plunge. This printer can printer borderless 8.5×11 prints and smaller, and can even print on DVD’s with the included attachment. My only regret is that it cannot take roll paper so I am not able to print some big xpan prints. While a larger wide format printer would have been nice, the price was too high, and I simply don’t have the room on my new desk. A new set of inks for this printer is $80 (same as the cost of the printer), and I’m not sure how many photos I will get from the included ink, however I have read that the supplied cartridges are only half full.
Next, I went to my local photo shop and bought some Inkpress Glossy paper for $25 (50 sheets). Then of course, you don’t always want to print an 8.5×11 photo, so I bought a Kaiser Hobby Cut 2 paper cutter for $100. Unfortunately, the inexpensive paper cutters can easily cut up to 10 sheets of computer paper, but are not able to get through a single page of glossy photo paper. I had a USB cable lying around, so I didn’t need to purchase this. I do wonder about the $2000 wide format printers and whether they come with a cable or not….
Let me just say that I was truly impressed by the quality of this printer. Once I figured out the settings for printing, I found the results to be stunning. Only a few years ago, a printer of this quality would have cost well over $500. I was also amazed at how quickly it prints, and while printer companies always tout their printer’s speeds, it isn’t really a feature I worry about. In fact I even worried after printing the first page, thinking that if it prints that fast, it can’t be very good output… Glad I was wrong.
Worth it – Finances
Compared to having prints done at the local photo-lab or drugstore, hands down this is not worth it. At $0.50/page, plus $80 ink cartridges, not to mention the cost of the printer, paper cutter, etc. it’s hardly worth it to print your own photos. In my town, 4×6 photos can be had for as low as $0.10/print, and the quality will be just as good as what I can provide.
Worth it – Quality
As said earlier, quality is stunning. For my needs it is as good as a photo-lab. People often talk about prints and how well they look under a magnifying glass, however I don’t own a magnifying glass, and if you are using one to look at a picture, you are missing the point.
Worth it – Convenience
Obviously the convenience factor is huge with this printer. While I can’t print cheaper than a photo-lab, the photo-lab is not located in my living room. With a recent baby in the family, being able to print photos for grandma to put in her purse so she can show everyone she meets on the plane ride home is priceless.
Worth it – Self Satisfaction
This is what really tipped the scales for me. My photographer Uncle had told me it wasn’t “worth it” to print at home. I think this is similar to saying it’s not “worth it” to make your own furniture as Ikea can do it cheaper. While this is true, it’s not very satisfying to go to a store and buy something. It is satisfying (at least for me) to take all the components and construct it myself based on my ideas. Seeing your vision turning into a useable piece of furniture is priceless and something you will be proud of for the life of the piece. I think this is similar to printing your own photo. For me it is a fun hobby, I love seeing the prints come out of the printer, being able to make adjustments, and trying new things. You can’t do things in life only to save money, sometimes you need to have some fun.
So overall I have been thrilled with this printer and thouroughly enjoy using and seeing what it is capable of.