When you’re looking to get a great new photo printer, and it seems like there is an endless list of options. Above all else, you want to know if your new printer will print everything else you need it to. You want to be confident that your printer can handle all of the jobs you may throw at it.

A dedicated photo printer is not designed to print text-based documents and will not print every job you may need. There are different processes, resolution quality, paper, and ink that are simply not meant to accomplish the same results for photos and documents.

However, many companies produce very popular “all-in-one” or even multi-function home printers that strive to achieve high-quality photo prints and document printing in one machine. These may require a bit more work with the settings to get things just right but could be the best fit for you depending on your situation.

Can a Photo Printer be Used as a Regular Printer?

Many companies will advertise the photo capabilities of their latest models as a selling point. This marketing may make it seem that the printer is exclusively dedicated to photos, but it’s important to look out for the details. Most of these printers are all-in-one home printers, with photo printing capabilities that require some special settings, ink, and paper.

That being said, big name companies, like HP and Canon, sell 100% dedicated photo printers that are not meant for multi-purpose printing. These printers have been designed with photos in mind and are intended for the enthusiastic photography hobbyist or small business owners.

Most dedicated photo printers are smaller than standard printers and will not accept the average paper size of 8.5”x11”. Top of the line photo printers also use a different process called dye-sublimation instead of inkjet printing. While this produces great photos, it is not recommended for printing text.

Several companies have pivoted towards even smaller, mobile photo printers like the Sprocket line from HP (Buy Sprocket on Amazon). These portable photo printers may only be slightly larger than your phone and are great for social events or gatherings with friends and family, but definitely can’t handle anything other than photos.

What to Look For When Purchasing a Photo Printer

There are several key things to lookout for when purchasing a dedicated photo printer.

  • High resolution or dots per inch (DPI) capability: Nobody wants a grainy looking photo. You want it to look as professional as possible and simply put, the higher the DPI, the more professional your photos will turn out.
  • Borderless printing and popular photo sizes: Standard document printing involves printing a margin, or blank space around the edge of the paper to ensure that nothing is left off. But you want your photos to print perfectly right up to the edge of the paper, or to be borderless. Also look out for standard size options like 4”x6” and 5”x7”.
  • Mobile Apps Connectivity/Social Media Functions: Online photo sharing is a staple of social media. Many companies have embraced this and directly integrated social media sites into the software of their photo printers. If you’re looking to print and share, then definitely keep an eye out for these options.
  • Wireless capabilities: Gone are the days of searching for that very specific cable to connect to your printer. Wireless print services should be high on anyone’s priority list for ease of use. Some printers achieve this by connecting to your Wi-Fi network, while others have Bluetooth built-in and can connect directly to your device.

The choices go on and on for printers that match the abilities above. A key factor is obviously how much money you are willing to spend on the investment. If it is for personal use and projects, then maybe look for something from the Canon Pixma series (Buy on Amazon). They offer a variety of models for affordable prices that should step up your home prints for the family.

If you are looking for a more serious option then you should be prepared to spend $800 or more. Top of the line photo printers won’t come cheap, and the replacement ink cartridges will continue to drive up the cost of your investment. Something like the Epson Surecolor series (Buy on Amazon) is great for the serious photographer printing in a home studio and is a worthy investment in your small business.

Just remember that the printer itself is only the beginning. Continued use requires purchasing costly ink cartridge replacements and specialty paper. Some printers will only work with their brand exclusive ink and paper, so be sure to consider these factors as you research your purchase.

What if You Want One Printer to Do it All?

All-in-one printers are exceptionally popular for their versatility. They boast a long list of functions beyond document and photo printing including scanning, copying, and even faxing. A solid all-in-one printer may be the most economical choice depending on your intended usage.

Anyone operating a home office will likely find the best bang for the buck in an all-in-one printer. These printers typically use an inkjet printing process that can manage standard text documents, charts and graphs, and decent photos with a little effort.

These inkjet printers usually have a standard setting that is best for documents. Some of them will have a photo setting preset that you should be able to select and it will automatically set the printer to create the best photos it can. Others may require manually adjusting settings to create the borderless, high resolution photos you are hoping for.

An all-in-one printer offers several advantages to a dedicated photo printer like:

  • Faster printing: Inkjet printing processes are significantly quicker than dye-sublimation. The page-per-minute speed for a photo printer could be as much as five minutes, whereas typical inkjet printers will usually finish in two minutes or less.
  • Size and Type of Paper: All-in-one printers generally accept a broader assortment of paper types including standard copy paper for documents and glossy paper for photos.
  • Scanning and Copying: Never underestimate the ability to scan and make copies of documents at ease, especially important legal or financial docs. There is any number of mobile apps that will create a scan from a photo, but they are always lower quality than a true scan will create.
  • Type of Ink: Ink is expensive. It can cost as much as $70 per ounce. Many reports argue that printer ink is the most expensive liquor per ounce, outpacing vintage wine and gasoline. Generic brand ink cartridges offer savings, but some photo printers are designed to only accept high-priced, specialty, name-brand ink cartridges.

All of the reasons above illustrate that if you are just looking to print a nice photo every once in a while, then a solid all-in-one office printer is the right choice for you. It can check off the box for everyone in the family and still develop a nice Christmas photo each year.

Will My Photo Printer Print Everything I Need?

In an increasingly digital age, the need for printed documents has diminished. However, with more folks working from home, the need for versatile home office supplies has increased. A strict photo printer is the right choice for a professional photographer or serious hobbyists, but for the vast majority of people that need a printer, an all-in-one will serve their purpose best.

All-in-ones are OK at everything and terrible at a single thing. So if you want to go in hyper mode, get a nice photo printer AND a nice text inkjet or laser printer to get the best of both worlds. I would definitely recommend this after you get into the groove of whatever you are trying to do. The extra printer on your network and the additional cost will well be worth it, especially if you need to do both at the same time.

Assess your goals for the primer, and keep an eye out for the details we mentioned above, and you should luck into a great product that is perfect for your needs.