Trying to figure out how to print photos from iPhone and iPad this holiday season? Read on as we show you how to print your holiday memories, your Instagram feeds, and how to send them as gifts, straight from your phone.
The iPhone has become the world’s most popular camera, and as we head into the holidays, it seems obvious we’ll fill our phones with cherished memories of loved ones, Christmas presents, and holiday meals. Despite the rise in sharing on social media, it’s still nice to have a physical print – it keeps our walls from feeling barren, and they can be a wonderful gift to people we may not have connections with on Facebook and Instagram.
When the first iPhone shipped, getting your pictures from phone to printed page was a trying process. The best processes involved emailing them to yourself, downloaded the emailed image to your computer, and printing it out from there (or taking it further by copying to a memory card and trudging over to one of the now-omnipresent photo kiosks).
Things have gotten better in the last eight years, but the process is store more complicated than it really needs to be. These days, Apple supports a systemwide standard known Airprint – whether you’re editing a photo or document, if you have an Airprint-enabled printer, you can print straight from your phone.
If you’re the type who lives to take photos on your phone (or edit them on your phone or iPad) and loves to print them out, you probably want to print them out locally, on a printer that you own. Hopefully, your printer supports Apple’s Airprint protocol, but even if it doesn’t, you might not be out of luck.
How to print photos to your Airprint-enabled printer
Find the app you’re trying to print from. The easiest way to make sure this works for pictures is to just use the iOS Photos app, which is built in to your iPhone or iPad. If you want to print a photo that you’ve edited or saved in another app, the directions should be the same – if you run into any trouble, just save or export the photo to your Photos app and try it again.
Open your Photos app and tap on the picture that you wish to print. Once it’s on your screen, tap the Share button in the lower left-hand corner – it looks like a little box with an arrow pointing up out of it. There will be a little row of icons along the bottom; somewhere among the first few will be one that’s labelled ‘Print’. Tap on it.
This takes you to the Printer Options screen for iOS. You’ll see your picture centered below, and some options up above. If you haven’t printed from your printer before, or if you have multiple printers, you can tap on the ‘Printer’ line and select your printer from a list. If you’re at home, chances are very good you’ll only have the one option. Select the number of copies you want, and tap Print in the upper right-hand corner. Hurray!
What if my printer doesn’t appear in the list of printers on the iOS screen?
There are a couple of reasons that this might happen. If you’re sure you have an Airprint-compatible printer, try resetting your printer and your router (physically power them down, then power them back up). Sometimes there can be hiccoughs in your network and two devices connected to the same wi-fi might not see each other. If that doesn’t work, you could try rebooting your iPhone, too – press the power button until the power down screen appears and slide the button to power down your phone. Once it’s off, hold the power button to start it back up.
If all of that doesn’t work, you might not actually have an Airprint-enabled printer. Look for the model number of your printer and type it + Airprint into Google – the first few results should let you know whether your printer is compatible with the standard. A good warning sign is whether your printer is directly plugged into a computer – if that’s the only way to print to it, it might not work with Airprint. If it is connected over your network – over wi-fi or plugged into your router – you may have better luck.
Should your printer be on the network, but it doesn’t work with Airprint, you might be able to find an app in the iOS App Store that will work. Go to the App Store on your iPhone or iPad, and search for the manufacturer name of the company that made your printer. There may be one or two options, depending on the model; here are links to some of the bigger companies: Canon iPhone app, Epson iPhone app, HP iPhone app, Brother iPhone app.
If none of those options work, and you still want to print on your home printer, you’ll need to get your computer involved.
How to print iPhone and iPad photos from your computer
First, like above, you’ll want to make sure the photo you want to print is saved to your Photos app. This won’t work with pictures saved in other apps, like social media or photo editing apps. From here, you have a couple of options for getting your photos from your phone onto the computer. The simplest and easiest option is to take advantage of iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage service – think of it as a giant hard drive out on the internet that stores all the important files from your iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices.
If you haven’t used it before, chances are pretty good that it was turned on when you set up your new iPhone. But just to be sure, you might want to read through our ultimate guide on How to Use iCloud. With your photos saved in the Photos app, open your computer’s web browser and go to Apple’s iCloud website: http://www.icloud.com.
Sign in with the Apple ID that you use on your iPhone – if this is the first time you’ve done it, or the first time in a while, Apple will probably send you an email to let you know that someone signed into your iCloud account with your Apple ID – don’t worry, this was you! You’ll see a grid of icons appear that look like your iPhone or iPad home screen. One of them will be labelled Photos, just like on your mobile device.
Click on it, and you’ll see a similar timeline of photos unroll, with everything grouped by dates and/or locations. Find the image you want to print and click on it; it’ll fill your web browser. You’ll see a row of icons at the top. One of them looks like a cloud with a downward-pointing arrow in it. Click on that, and it’ll download the original picture. From there, you can print it straight from your computer like with any other photo.
Best photo printing apps for iPhone and iPad
Easily the best part of the iPhone and iPad are the App Stores, and this holds true when it comes to printing photos straight from your mobile device. Companies have sprung up that offer really useful and easy-to-use services – upload your photos in the app, and they’ll send a package straight to your house with all the pictures you wanted. It’s a great way of getting pictures off of your devices without worrying about buying and maintaining your own printer.
Where these apps really come in useful is when it comes to sending gifts to loved ones. You can put your friend’s address into one of these apps, pay the couple of bucks, and they can get anything from a photo printed on glass or wood to a picture book of your adventures together.
Here are some of the more popular photo printing apps for your iPhone and iPad:
Walgreens (iTunes link)
Wait a second…Walgreens!? That’s right. The hybrid pharmacy / convenience store has really stepped up their digital game. Their latest iPhone app lets users check on prescriptions and clip coupons for use in person at their stores, as well as check on what’s on sale in the latest ads. For our interests, though, it also taps into the network of photo printing services that the company has offered since, well, forever.
You can upload pictures straight from your phone, or import them from Google Photos, Dropbox, or Flickr. Choose the form factor you want – traditional prints on photo paper in sizes like 4×6 or 8×10, large-format poster prints or even pictures printed on pressed wood panels, then upload your images. If you let the app know where you are, it’ll suggest stores, or you can enter a zip code or city and state. A list of stores will pop up, and your photos are sent to that store, ready for pick up – even the wood panels – in as little as an hour. It’s a phenomenal experience and a great way for one-hour photo and Walgreens photo printing, more generally, to stay relevant. Prices are competitive with other apps.
Snapfish (iTunes Link) and Snapfish Cards (iTunes Link)
Snapfish was one of the earliest internet photo printing services, founded all the way back in 1999. It was later bought and sold by HP, and has managed to weather the dot com booms and busts – for good reason. It’s always managed to offer a convenient, competitive service that allows you to order prints from your PJs, coming straight to your house a few days later.
The service has of course evolved since then, offering your photos printed on such various things as mugs, iPhone cases, canvas, pillows, blankets, ornaments, tote bags, magnets, and even jewelry. Oh, and on photo paper, of course. Even when you order a complicated project, like a magnet or 50×60-inch (127x152cm) fleece blanket, you can expect to get your order in just about a week or two.
Their new Snapfish Cards app lets you order holiday – or any – kinds of cards in larger batches. Unlike the regular app, which you can send to any address, the Cards app only lets you send your picture cards to your house, which you can then sign and mail out to your friends and family.
Shutterfly (iTunes Link)
Shutterfly is another internet success story, founded around the same time as Snapfish and continuing on through today. They partnered with Kodak early on and were successful enough a few years later to buy the division of Kodak with whom they’d originally partnered. Shutterfly offers many of the same services and printed objects as competing services, but offer some fun additions, like iPad cases, laptop sleeves, wallets, keepsake boxes, coasters, and even decks of playing cards.
They also offer some pretty competitive pricing on their printed photo products, and a website that lets you store photos for printing either online or through the app itself. Shutterfly is one of the few photo printing apps to offer a reasonably priced panorama option; 8×32 inches at just $12.99 – but you’ll need to have a pre-existing panorama to use, as you can’t take multiple images and print them out on the format. Fortunately, the iPhone’s panorama option is one of its shining strengths.
LALALAB. (iTunes Link)
You’re probably getting tired of all the lists of products you can order through these photo sharing apps, so let’s stick to what everyone does best. Unlike some of the other options, LALALAB. scores really well in reviews in the App Store – the app is one of the easiest to use, which makes the entire process easier. We really liked some of the ‘funner’ options that the app provides: you can choose a collage of either 24 or 35 photos – they even offer to frame it in solid limewood for you, glass included – the collage especially presents a great gift idea that lets you share more than a few special memories with a loved one.
Another fun option that LALALAB. does is printed postcards. The outside of the postcard is your photo, while the inside of the postcard gets printed with the recipient’s name and address, and a personalized printed message from yours truly. While most of these apps let you send groups of prints or printed objects to someone else, LALALAB.’s postcard option is one of the few that really lets you send a personal message alongside – and for just $1.49, that’s not a bad deal.
Free Prints (iTunes Link)
Free Prints is one of those apps that really sounds like a scam. Free pictures, okay…what’s the catch? Well, there doesn’t seem to be one. You do pay for shipping, as well as any 4×6 you want more than a single copy of, and for any image size beyond 4×6. You’re also limited to 85 free photos a month, with a yearly cap of 1000 (for those wondering, 85*12 is 1020). Apart from that, go hog wild and print photos to your heart’s content.
This service is another app that scores astoundingly well in the App Store, leading us to believe that they do what they pretty much claim to do – but the free offer is really only good for ordering single prints for your personal use – if you’re going to be sending out images, chances are high you’ll want to send a picture to more than one person at a time. You do seem to get what you pay for, however, with a few reviews complaining about slow shipping and color differences from their original photo. Still, if you’re on a budget, it’s a great option.
Best mobile photo printers for printing photos from your iPhone on the go
So we’ve covered printing from your iPhone to printers in your house, printing photos from your iPhone on the computer, and ordering prints and printed objects through some of the best apps on the iPhone – that should cover it, right? Well, not quite – there’s one more option to discuss, and that’s the idea of the mobile photo printer.
Until very recently, mobile printers were only mobile through some creative interpretations of the word. Not so anymore, thanks to innovations like embedding the ink for your pictures in the paper itself, which means all you need is your phone, your printer, and some paper, and you’re good to go. For the most part, these printers deliver perfectly acceptable image quality, but there are a couple of downsides to go going this route. Firstly is the cost – the printers are not exactly super cheap, and while most come with a stack of paper for you to work your way through, extra paper will cost up to fifty cents a page – that’s much more expensive than some of the app printing services.
Secondly, and this may or may not detract from the option, depending on your goals, is that the printers are small. That’s great for portability and whipping them out at your friend’s party, but it also means that the pictures they print are correspondingly tiny – you’re not going to be getting 5×7 images out of these devices.
That’s right, baby, Polaroid is back! Well, the company that owns the Polaroid brand is back, anyway, and they’ve introduced the ZIP printer – one of those mobile printers that uses the special paper we discussed a couple of paragraphs above. You can connect wirelessly with your iPhone or iPad, and print out any image you’ve got saved. Available in black, white, red, and blue, the ZIP works in conjunction with the Polaroid ZIP app.
Connect the device, open up the Polaroid app, and a few seconds later, you’re printing out 2×3-inch pictures, smudge free, with sticky backs that let you put them on walls, in scrapbooks, or on the back of your laptop’s display – it’s a really fun feature. One negative point is that after charging it up for an hour and a half, you’re only going to be able to print out 25 images – that’s either way more than enough, or not nearly, depending on who you ask. You can pick up a Polaroid ZIP for $130.
Fujifilm INSTAX SHARE SP-1
Speaking of Polaroid, while the ZIP carries the original brand, the INSTAX SP-1 takes advantage of the original technology – that’s right, it uses the old instant film that made Polaroid cameras so famous. Running on 800 speed instant film – and it takes the same INSTAX mini film that Fuji’s other cameras use – the SP-1 connects wireless to your iPhone just like the other options.
You have to use Fuji’s app, but it lets you print / develop these images with details about the picture, such as time or location, if you want. While the ease of use for this printer is great, it unfortunately doesn’t offer rechargeable batteries. Instead, it uses two CR2 lithium batteries good for around 100 prints per set – which is way more at a time than the Polaroid offers. Amazon offers the INSTAX SHARE SP-1 for around $140.