There are a lot of things that go neglected during the pandemic. But while a little undone personal grooming won't harm anyone, leaving your printer unloved for some time can cause some headaches.
The coronavirus pandemic has essentially all but shuttered my freelance photography business. I haven't had to make prints from my Canon PIXMA PRO-10 in months, and it's been gathering dust for all that time. I finally decided to fire it up the other day, and the results were, well, ugly.
If you take a look at the image above, you can see the results of the first print after a long break on the left. There is vertical banding all over the image, and things that are definitely supposed to be blue aren’t. In fact, they almost look purple. Most likely, this is a combination of clogged nozzles and ink that has been sitting for a while. Replacing a few of the offending cartridges and running a nozzle check and then a deep clean brought back all the colors to their correct hue and eliminated the banding. The downside of having to do that cleaning is that it took a bit of ink that could have been used for making prints instead of cleaning nozzles. If I had just been printing, I would have more prints and less wasted ink. With pro printers such as mine, a full set of ink goes for more than $100.
In normal times, making a print every few days, whether it's a 4x6 or something bigger, helped keep the nozzles from clogging and causing issues. Leaving the printer on would help as well, since it goes through regular maintenance routines (mixing the ink) to keep things in good shape. That means less time spent on print head cleanings and more time printing. The printer has an internal timer to keep track of these things.
And, if nothing else, making a print every few days keeps me printing and saving memories with my kids.
Is all of this worth the hassle? Absolutely. I’ve often made comparison prints with prints from various photo services and local pharmacy photo labs, and there is no comparison. A high-end printer can easily hang with the higher-end photo labs, such as Bay Photo, which is what I often use when I need larger than 13x19, or something weird, such as a canvas.
If you’re a hobbyist who doesn’t need the larger sizes but just want something that comes close in terms of quality, there are a lot of options in the portable photo printer space that take the hassle out of printing (and pretty much all of what I’ve described above). For years, I’ve sworn by the Canon Selphy, which uses dye sublimation to produce 4x6 prints. Quality is a cut above pharmacy photo labs, at least to my eye, and I can fire it up after months of not using it, and it doesn’t skip a beat.
So, while you’re thinking about gifts for all your friends and family, don’t forget to show your photo printer a little love.