All photo books might seem the same to you if you’re just getting started with them. There are actually a few fundamental differences, though. Layflat pages is one. “Press printing” is another. Most people never even hear the term, but it’s a significant factor in the quality of the albums you end up with. Here are the main differences:
- Press printing is a CMYK process – the inkjet printers use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks on regular paper, just like they do for brochures and magazines (“press” – geddit?).
- Photo printed books use RGB (Red, Green, and Blue) colors, just like your computer screen uses, and they are printed on real photographic paper using a chemical process.
What does this really mean? The colors in a photo printed book are going to better match the colors on your screen. More importantly, they are also going to appear sharper and smoother, while press-printed books can sometimes appear grainy. Why?
Press printing is a halftone process – it uses lots of tiny dots of ink close together to give the appearance of smooth transitions (a full-on Monet, if you will). This is very difficult to do well, however, hence the grain you sometimes see, especially in areas with a large swath of the same color, like a blue sky. True photo printing uses a chemical process of exposure, which allows it to more accurately represent all the various tones and gradations in your photos.
For me, I don’t mind grainy skies and walls as much as I do grainy skin tone. My baby’s skin is smooth and beautiful, and I want my albums to reflect that. Look at these two examples, both photos of albums I had printed in the last year:
There is, of course, one area in which press printing is often a better option than photo printing, and that is price. It is almost always a cheaper process, and that makes it a better one for some consumers. Popular sources for press printed books include Shutterfly, Blurb, and Snapfish. The best source for photo printed books is, of course, me 🙂