Bringing the Photo Lab to Your Home

Save yourself a trip to the photo booth–get a personal scanner or printer (or both) that knows how to handle your pictures.

Why print your photos at home when so many places will do it for you, and most of them at a lower cost per print than you could manage on your own? Well, you might not want to take a chance at the photo counter in your pharmacy or department store. Its a hassle to trek there and deal with putting your CD or memory card into a temperamental machine, and the results are often far from impressive. Or maybe you want your prints right now, and cant wait the week or so for an online service like Yahoo! Photos to get them back to you (check out our comparison of photo-printing services).

Then there are the people whod just rather not have a stranger handling their photos. Im not saying anything for certain, but some of us might be taking automated action shots of ourselves web-swinging through New York in a red-and-blue costume, and we wouldnt want such pictures to fall into the wrong hands.

Whatever the reasons for your reluctance to send your images out to be printed, Id suggest that you consider setting up a home photo lab of your own, tailored to your needs. With an assortment of printers and scanners out there specifically designed for the task, you dont need a professional-grade darkroom to do it.

The first step is getting a photo printer that can print these pictures from your PC or straight from your digital camera. The Canon Pixma iP4300 Photo Inkjet Printer or the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 both produce essentially flawless pictures with great color and image quality. The Epson 1400 isnt quite as speedy as the very affordable Canon iP4300, but it can print panoramas up to 13 by 44 inches.

If your shots are on slides, prints, or negatives rather than a memory card or hard drive, you can scan them into your computer with the HP Scanjet G4050 Photo Scanner. It uses six-color scanning instead of the usual three, integrating two light sources to provide better color results. Professionals or serious amateurs might want to consider the Epson Perfection V750-M Pro, which offers much more advanced control of your scanner settings.

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