Some photos will print better than others. Many photos will only print well after editing. Here are some basic rules for picking and editing a digital photo for printing.
As a rule, digital photos look darker when they are printed. We recommend printing bright photos, photos that you took outside, and that have a lot of light in them. Here is an example of a photo that will print well.
A photo that you took at night or in a dark room like a bar or restaurant will not print well. The dark parts will appear darker, the orange and brown tones will be more intense, and it may appear fuzzy. Here is an example of a photo that will not print well:
You can use photo editing software to brighten up a dark photo for printing. For best effect, adjust the brightness and contrast in the photo until the white parts in your photo appear pure white.
You can adjust the brightness and contrast with most photo editing software.
In Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast.
In Preview, go to Tools > Adjust Color and play with the Exposure and Contrast.
In Google Photos, go to Edit, then tap the dials icon to adjust the light and color.
Online you can use a tool like Be Funky.
On your iPhone, tap Edit on the photo, hit the dial button, and then tap Light and drag the bar up a bit.
Very small photos look bad when printed large.
Instead, find the largest version of the photo to print. If you posted the photo on your Instagram or social media, find the original image on your phone or digital camera. If you emailed the photo to yourself, find the original image. Frequently emailing compresses the image.
You can find more information about photo size on our How Big Can I Print It page.
For most of our print sizes, you will need to crop your photo to fit the dimensions. We offer a native cropper for this purpose:
You may be unsure where to make the cuts. Say, you gotta crop this photo:
...you might be tempted to do this:
...when really, you should do this:
This is because as a general rule if the subject of a photo is looking at something, a large portion of the photo should be taken up by what the subject is looking at. This relates to the larger rule of...
Good photos follow the "Rule of Thirds". This decrees that "an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and the important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections". Source Wikipedia.
If you spend enough time looking at photos and paintings, you'll start to see it yourself.
Feeling nervous? Ask us how good you think your photo will print, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be frank.