On all the photo booth forums you’ll  see desperate pleas that read something like “I’m at an event and my printer won’t print. HELP”

The best time to address these problems is before they crop up. Here are a baker’s dozen “rules” that can help:

USB cords from the printer should always go into the same port of the computer

A label to make sure the USB cord always goes into the same port

Rule #1 – Always plug the USB cord for the printer into the same USB port on your computer.

Why?   Because often, if you plug it into a different port the computer will install it as a new printer, probably make it the new default, and your booth software may not want to send files to the new location. I always plug my printer into a USB port on the left of any computer, and put a label on the computers so my attendants will use the correct port.

Rule #2 – Turn on the printer before you turn on the computer. This reduces the chance that your computer will try to install the printer a second time.

Make sure the 2" cut is enabled and that you've chosen the correct print size to match your photo booth printer's paper size.

Set printing preferences in Windows as well as in your photo booth software

Rule #3 – Make sure your printer’s default settings are set correctly in the computer’s device and printer setting. Set them in Windows, not your booth software. That means making sure that your printer is set to:

  • The right paper size (4”x6”, for example)
  • The right orientation portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal). This isn’t intuitive.
  • Advanced settings: if you want 2”x6” prints, you’ll need to make sure that the 2” cut is enabled.

Rule #4 – Most photo booth software also has a place to set the printer defaults. You want to make sure that the booth software and the Windows setting are the same. When you save a profile in Breeze, for example, be sure to save the printer settings along with each profile.

Rule #5 – Take the ribbon and the paper out of the printer before you transport it. You may have a streak of 50 loaded transports where nothing went wrong, do you want to take a chance? Every printer manufacturer and every paper vendor strongly advises this simple procedure.

Rule #6 – Empty out the printer’s scrap tray. Dye sub printers leave a short strip from cutting prints apart. They can jam if not removed from the catch tray before moving the printer.

Rule #7 – Extreme temperature changes can cause media to “sweat” and possible stick. Be sure to let your paper and ribbon warm to room temperature before use if they’ve been stored or transported in the cold.

Carry your media outside the printer

Carrying paper and ribbon in the printer during transport can lead to tears and jams.

Rule #8 – You’re going to have left-over paper when the ribbon runs out. That’s normal and the left-over paper has no real value. The ribbons will make exactly the number of prints you paid for.

Rule #9 – When you put your ribbon back into the printer after transport, it will usually automatically find the next usable portion. Print at least one test print after switching media.

Rule #10 – A few printers have a backwind feature so that you can make 4x6 and 6x8 prints on the same media. If you have one of these and don’t activate the backwind feature in the advanced settings, you’ll waste half of your expensive ribbon.

Rule #11 – Carry some extra cables. USB cables for the printer have a tendency to get lost or defective at the worst possible time.

Rule #12 – A good dye sublimation printer is possibly the most expensive and important component of your photo booth. Modern printers are made to precise specifications and are extremely reliable. But they will go “whacko” at the worst possible time, so carry an extra printer. That’s what distinguishes the professional from the amateurs.

Rule #13 – Use layouts that match your printer. Most current printers print 300 dots per inch (DPI) but for a 4″ x 6″ print they expect a file that’s about 1240 x 1840 pixels. That’s because they need a little waste area around the edges so that color goes all the way to the trimmed sides. The older Sony UP-DR200 worked at 334 DPI and expects a image file 1382 x 2048 pixels. One reason why strip designs have to be made with the specific printer in mind. If your backup printer uses a different size layout than your primary, practice before you’re put under pressure.

Blog contributor Chris Lydle is the author of The Photo Booth Book.

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