Practical advice on mobile devices


How to print photos from a camera phone


24 August 2005

Once in a while, every camera phone owner happens to snap a picture that simply has to be viewed on glossy paper. But printing from a phone is not quite as easy as losing network coverage: camera phones have been designed for voice communications, snapping photos and sending pictures to other camera phones printing in many cases is an afterthought. Still, it is possible to print pictures from the phone by applying the following techniques.


The printing method you can use depends on the features available on your phone. Once you have determined which connectivity options you have on the phone, you can verify if your printer has equivalent capabilities. For example, if there's a removable memory card on your phone and you want to use it for printing, there has to be a memory card slot of the right type on the printer as well.

Memory card slots in a printer.

Using a memory card to print photos


SD and MMC are the most common memory card types in camera phones and smartphones. Practically all printers that come with a memory card slot, for instance, Canon Pixma IP6000D, Epson Stylus R320 and HP Photosmart 8150, can read photos from these two cards. Smaller variations: Mini-SD, TransFlash and RS-MMC fit into a full-size card slot when you use an adapter that's usually supplied with the card.

Here's how you use a memory card to print photos from your phone:


- On the phone, move your photos to the memory card, if they are not there already. You can do it in the phone's image viewer, or file manager application.


- Remove the memory card from the phone.


- Insert the card into the correct slot in the printer. If there is a Photo or Memory card button on the printer's control panel, you have to hit that button. If the printer doesn't recognize the card, flip the card and retry.


- Depending on your printer model, the printer may ask you to choose which photos to print. If you are sure you want to print all photos, go ahead, but remember that home printing is not always the cheapest option because of ink, toner and paper costs. A better practice for those who have a printer-scanner model is to print out an index sheet with thumbnails of the photos. Mark the photos you want on the index sheet and feed the paper into the scanner. The scanner will read the marks and the printer will know which photos to print. A printer model with its own screen that can show thumbnails is the easiest to use, because you can view and choose what to print.

Index sheet of photos a printer has read from a memory card.

f you don't have access to a printer that can read memory cards, you can use a computer: hook a memory card reader into your computer, insert your card into the reader, save the photos on the hard disk and print the pictures from there.


Printing with Bluetooth


Bluetooth is the easiest technique to print photos from a camera phone, because you don't have to connect any cables, or fiddle with the printer, and you can control the whole process on your phone. Bluetooth is suitable for printing small photos, because its low data transfer speed makes printing large images painful for the photographer and consumes large amounts of battery power on the phone.

Here's how it works:


- Launch the image viewer, photo album, or photo printing software on your phone.


- Choose the pictures you want to print.


- When you hit print, the phone starts looking for all Bluetooth devices in a 10-meters/30 feet range.


- Select the printer (you should recognize it by its Bluetooth name) and wait for the printing to start.

Sounds good, right? In reality, there are only a few printers with Bluetooth connectivity. Epson PictureMate and HP Photosmart 375 are examples of the few models available at the moment. You can also equip your existing printer with Bluetooth by getting a Bluetooth printer adapter that you connect to the parallel port (and remove the parallel cable), or to the USB port on your printer.

Once you get access to a Bluetooth printer, or adapter, you must also have a driver software program on your phone for the printer. In addition, the Bluetooth on the phone and the Bluetooth on the printer must be compatible (meaning their Bluetooth profiles must match). It's very convenient once it works, but don't buy anything without a guarantee that the Bluetooth phone-and-printer combination you want, will work.

Printing via a USB cable to a PictBridge printer


As phones (especially smartphones) are gaining more computer-like functionality, you might expect that it is possible to hook up a phone to a printer simply by using a cable. In fact, it's possible, but only in high-end phones. For example, the Nokia 6680 and Samsung SPH-A800 come with a USB cable that can be connected to the USB port in your computer, or directly to a printer.


To print photos from your phone using the USB cable, you have to:

- Connect the supplied USB cable to the phone and to the printer.


- Open the image viewer, photo album, or printing application on the phone.


- Choose the pictures you want and select print.


There are not many phone models that come with USB, but it is gradually getting more common in smartphones. Having the cable is not enough; there must be a piece of software on the phone that can communicate with the printer. Fortunately, digital camera and printer manufacturers have already thought of this and they have developed a solution called PictBridge. It is a standard way to print directly from a digital camera to any printer that supports PictBridge. As far as the printer is concerned, it can't tell the difference between a camera phone and a digital camera when the phone is running the PictBridge software, which makes it possible for you to print to a number of different PictBridge printers.

Using photo services for printing


The popularity of digital cameras and camera phones have created several new services that make it easier to print photos. In some countries, you can send your picture to a special email address in your post office. Add a recipient name and address to the message and the post office will print it out as a postcard and mail it to the recipient.


There are plenty of online photo album services on the Internet you can use with a camera phone as well. Many services also can print your pictures on glossy paper, t-shirts, or even coffee mugs. When you want to send your pictures to an online photo album, or moblog, you have to create an account and save the email address of your album in your phone's contacts. For example, the following photo album services can receive photos sent by email or by picture messaging (MMS), store the pictures, print out selected photos and send them home to you: PhotoBox, Kodak Mobile and Webshots.


Other choices for printing include taking your phone or memory card to a photo lab, or finding a photo kiosk. You may have already seen a photo kiosk at a shopping mall or at a supermarket. Typically, it looks like an ATM, only you don't stick your ATM card in, but your memory card, or photo CD and use it like an ATM to print out your photos. Alternatively, some kiosks can receive photos over Bluetooth connection.


When you want a solution that works for many purposes, the best way is to use a memory card. The memory card is a universal media you can use on your phone, computer, digital camera, printer and it allows you to exchange information between devices quickly and reliably without generating extra costs.

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