Preparing a Custom Print Size for Photo Lab Printing

Recently one of my photography students wanted to have a stitched panoramic image printed at a local photo lab. This lab did not offer the print size she wanted in a panoramic proportion. When she got her print back, it was not as large as she wished.

Panorama of the Yellowstone River and Absaroka Mountains, Montana

If you ever crop a photo to a custom proportion such as a panorama, you can prepare the image so that it can be printed on a larger piece of photo paper and then you can trim it to size afterwards.


Using Photoshop Elements, here's how to place a custom cropped photo on larger paper to send to a print lab. Note that these steps also work with Photoshop CS6/CC and earlier versions.

Create the Paper Size
In the Elements Expert Editor, create a new file that matches the paper size you want your image printed on. Usually this would be a size in which the longest edge matches the longest edge of your final print size. In this example, I'm using a 16x20 paper size for a horizontal image.
  1. From the File menu, choose New, then Blank File.
  2. In the New file window, fill in the following information:
  3. A name for the new document (optional)
  4. Skip Preset and Size because we are creating a custom paper size.
  5. Make sure the units are inches.
  6. Type 20 for the width.
  7. Type 16 for the height.
  8. Set Resolution to 300 pixels/inch (standard for photo lab prints).
  9. Select RGB Color for Color Mode.
  10. Choose White for Background Contents. 
  11. Click OK.
 A new blank document appears on screen.
Creating a 20x16 paper size for a 20-inch panorama

Blank paper ready to receive an image

Add the Picture
Now add the photo that you want printed on this piece of paper.
  1. From the File menu, choose Place and navigate to the picture you want to print.
  2. Select it and click Place.
  3. Elements opens the picture and fits it on the paper.
  4. A large X appears across your image indicating that you can resize the photo to fit as needed. 
  5. If you need to enlarge the picture to fit across the paper, hold the Shift key and drag from a corner.
  6. If you need to reposition the picture on the page, click inside the photo and drag it into place.
  7. When you are satisfied with the size and placement, click the green check mark or press Enter/Return.
  8. If you want to start over, click the red circle and try again.
Photo in the process of being placed on the paper

Save the Photo
Most print labs expect JPEG format images, so save your new photo on the large paper.
  1. From the File menu, choose Save As.
  2. Navigate to where you want Elements to save this document.
    I recommend having a Prints folder on your Desktop to make it easy to find the images you want to upload to the lab.
  3. Name the document.
    This can be different from the name you used when you created the paper. 
  4. Set the Format (Type on Mac) to JPEG.
    (This is a Windows screen; Mac users will see a slightly different version.)
  5. Be sure the ICC Profile box is checked.
  6. Click Save.
  7. In the JPEG Options window, set the Quality to 10.
  8. Set the Format Options to Baseline ("Standard").
  9. Click OK.
Save As a JPEG format
(Windows version)

JPEG Options

Final panorama on large paper

Elements saves your new document. This is what you want to upload to the photo lab. Be sure to select the matching paper size from the lab when placing your order. When you receive the finished print, you can trim off the extra paper for your large panorama. Enjoy!