Printing misconceptions: 10 common myths debunked

Canon Ambassador Joel Santos dispels the myths surrounding printing and explains how he creates beautiful prints with the Canon PIXMA PRO-200.
Canon Ambassador Joel Santos sits on the floor surrounded by photographs he has printed on a Canon PIXMA PRO-200.

For vibrant, high-quality prints every time, Canon Ambassador Joel Santos recommends the Canon PIXMA PRO-200. Despite its fully professional-grade build quality, it has a fairly small footprint and requires little storage space. © Magali Tarouca

Canon Ambassador Joel Santos is a busy man. He's travelled the world as an award-winning photographer and filmmaker and is the creator and producer of more than 50 TV documentaries to date. He's also a journalist, the author of nine books and a teacher in his home country of Portugal.

Joel is passionate about printing. "For me, a photograph is not alive until the moment it's printed," he says. "It's as if the image only gets its soul when it becomes a print. Printing is the consummation and the realisation of the photographic image. It's beautiful how paper bounces the light, giving you a completely different experience to viewing a photograph on a screen."

And yet, Joel is frustrated that so many of the aspiring photographers that he teaches are put off creating their own prints, hampered by misconceptions about the process. We caught up with Joel between assignments to ask about his experience of making prints with a Canon PIXMA PRO-200 and hear him debunk the most common printing myths.

Photographer Joel Santos edits an image on his computer using Canon Professional Print & Layout software. Next to him are a Canon camera and A3 printer.

Canon Professional Print & Layout software includes a range of soft proofing and hard proofing options so you can guarantee you'll get exactly the look you want before creating a large-format print on expensive media. © Magali Tarouca

Myth 1: A professional-grade printer is too expensive to buy and run

"As photographers, we pay a lot of money for incredible Canon cameras and beautiful lenses that can produce fantastic results but post the images on Instagram where people will probably see them on a small screen in poor quality," says Joel. "A printer such as the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 costs a fraction of what most of us would spend on a single lens, so it's really not an expensive item. Running costs are also very reasonable because, unlike small printers that have a tri-colour cartridge, there's a separate cartridge for each colour of ink, so you only need to replace the ink that you actually use."

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Myth 2: I don't have enough room for a large-format printer

The Canon PIXMA PRO-200 can output large-format A3+ photo prints and even panoramic prints up to 990mm in length. It enables you to make imposing photo prints with incredible detail, but it doesn't take up a lot of space. "When you're not using the printer, you can fold down the input and output trays and it takes up very little room," says Joel. "Even though it's quite small, it's very well made and is beautifully finished. I like that it's quiet when it's running. All in all, it's a very easy printer to live with."

A man studies a portrait print of a photograph of Guatemala's Fuego stratovolcano. Next to him a Canon printer prints out a second image of the volcano, this time in landscape format.

Joel is particularly impressed with how the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 delivers ultra-smooth gradations between deep blacks and dark colours along with excellent retention of subtle textures. © Magali Tarouca

A man uses a tablet to check the settings on his Canon printer.

Creating prints with your favourite smart device is easy with the Canon PRINT app. © Magali Tarouca

Myth 3: It's impossible to get the colours as I want them

Because screens transmit light and paper reflects light, photographs will never look exactly the same in print as they do on screen. Joel finds that, especially for dark colours and blacks, prints give him better results than even a top-quality screen. "I took some shots in a Nigerian mosque in the early morning and late afternoon that have deep blacks blending into dark colours," he says. "On screen and even with many printers, you can see hard steps in the transition but, with the Canon PIXMA PRO-200, the transitions are completely smooth and seamless. The texture in the clay walls is also incredibly well preserved, much better than on a screen. Printing images I shot of Guatemala's Fuego stratovolcano erupting at night against a really dark blue sky produced the same results."

Myth 4: Printing photos is inconvenient and time-consuming

Printing can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore, forcing you to sit at your desk to fire up your computer. Joel takes a different approach. "I hate wires and cables," he says. "I want everything to be wireless and I really enjoy creating prints from my smartphone and tablet. I store my favourite shots in the cloud and across various servers, and even on my phone and tablet. With the Canon PRINT app, I can access my photos from an 'always on' device that I have with me wherever I go, and print them on my Canon PIXMA PRO-200 without even needing to be at my computer."

Photographer Joel Santos adjusts the settings on his Canon PIXMA PRO-200 printer.

The Canon PIXMA PRO-200 uses dye-based inks, creating perfectly smooth, top-quality prints on glossy paper. Even borderless prints are pretty much touch-dry as soon as they're outputted thanks to the ink being absorbed beneath the top-layer coating. © Magali Tarouca

Photographer Joel Santos admires a portrait print of a photograph of a woman inside a Nigerian mosque.

Joel feels the way light bounces off a paper print is beautiful, enabling the viewer to experience a more emotional connection with a photograph compared with viewing it on-screen. © Magali Tarouca

Myth 5: It's too difficult to get printing right and, if I make mistakes, it will be very expensive

"People worry about failure – that if a printer isn't set up properly or you use the wrong settings, you can waste ink and paper, and the price of failure can be expensive," says Joel. "With the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 specifically, I haven't had a single failure. The interface is easy to use – it's simple to select the right type and size of paper so that the colour reproduction matches what I see on my screen. All those little things that could go wrong are no longer a problem. The printer can even tell when I switch to a different type of paper and displays a warning on its built-in screen. Ultimately, you can get consistently pro-level results without spending a lot of time and money getting there."

Fine art photographs mounted on the walls of a gallery.

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Myth 6: I don't understand all the options in the editing software

Joel tends to use Adobe® Lightroom® for editing and printing his images. "The print module in Lightroom® is no harder to understand than any other aspects of the software," he says. "Better still, I've started to use the Canon Professional Print & Layout plug-in with Lightroom® and Photoshop®, which makes things even easier. It has soft proofing options to show how the results will look on a wide range of different photo papers. There's also a hard proofing tool so you can create several different small versions of an image on the paper you're using and select the one you like best for making the final big print. You can even customise the layout, for example, making a really nice border that's like a passe-partout."

A man adjusts the print settings on his computer. On his screen is a picture of Guatemala's Fuego stratovolcano.

With eight inks (cyan, photo cyan, magenta, photo magenta, yellow, black, grey and light grey), the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 has an impressively wide colour space and also ensures superb fidelity in black and white photo printing. © Magali Tarouca

Myth 7: The ink will dry out and block the print heads

"I've known people who only create prints occasionally and find that the ink dries in the print head," says Joel. "That's a problem because you have to run multiple cleaning cycles to clear the blockage, which wastes ink, time and money. I've never had that problem with a Canon printer," he continues. "The design and manufacture is so good that, even when I haven't used it for a few weeks, the nozzles in the print heads have never become blocked. I've found the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 to be completely reliable."

Myth 8: Sharpening is a minefield and impossible to get right when using different papers

"The amount of sharpening you need to do can vary depending on whether you're using smooth or textured papers," says Joel. "The good news is that when you select the printer profile for the paper you're using on the Canon PIXMA PRO-200, everything's taken care of automatically. I find that I only need to use the amount of sharpening that suits my taste when I'm viewing and editing the image on screen and the printer profile automatically makes the right translation for the paper I'm using."

A man prepares to print the image on his computer screen using a Canon printer and Canon paper.

Printer profiles are available for a huge range of photo and fine art papers, ensuring you get consistent results of the highest quality with the Canon PIXMA PRO-200. © Magali Tarouca

Myth 9: The results won't be as good as using a lab

Some photographers think they'll get better results if they send their images to a lab, but Joel disagrees. "If you send your images somewhere else you lose something that I think is very important. The advantage of digital is that you can control the whole process, from choosing the location to capturing and selecting the images, and finally editing and printing them. If you give up the final step, you're letting go of a vital part of the creative process. You never know what you'll get back from a lab – what they'll do to your images – whereas Canon's printing profiles are so accurate you can guarantee you'll get exactly what you want when you do your own printing."

Myth 10: There's only a limited choice of paper types

"Canon makes some very good photo papers and I've found the Pro Platinum A3+ and A4 glossy papers work brilliantly with the Canon PIXMA PRO-200 to give really vibrant prints. I've also started using Hahnemühle Photo Luster (smooth, non-textured bright white lustre finish) and Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta Satin (subtly textured natural white satin gloss), which are wonderfully tactile and luxurious fine art media. There's a massive range of fine art papers available, not only from Canon, but also from companies such as Hahnemühle and Canson, all of which are directly supported by printer profiles to ensure the accuracy and fidelity of the results." If anything, your options are far wider when creating prints with a printer such as the PIXMA PRO-200. "It's really easy to save presets in the printing software for the types and sizes of paper that you often use, which will save you time and avoid the risk of making mistakes," says Joel.

Matthew Richards

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