Here is a breakdown of how you can print your photos straight from your iPad. We'll take a look at both the standard method (AirPrint) and a third-party app that offers additional functionality.
Off the iPad
The iPad does not work like a full computer because it runs iOS. This is the same operating system that works on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but much of the software that people use on computers is now available on this mobile operating system.
Now that iOS is coming close to its fifth version, there are a lot of apps on the iPad that will actually allow users to create documents rather than just read them. Along with this is the ability to print photos from the iPad, which is easier than you think. This has become more important now with the iPad 2 as it has embedded cameras in it that let users take their own photos.
Printing the Images
To start off you will want to enter the built-in Photos app on your iPad. Here you can select different Photos or Albums and identify the individual photos that you want to print. Once you've done that you should select a photo to bring it up into the main display, and then choose the button in the upper right hand corner that looks like a curved arrow leaving a rectangle.
This gives you some basic options for sharing Photos on the iPad, including Email Photos, Use as Wallpaper, Print, and Copy Photo. Go ahead and select Print, and you will be given a menu with two basic options.
First, you need to select a printer that is available via Wi-Fi. This is likely the printer that you will already be using for your computer, but this cannot be one that operates only via a wired connection. There is not a regular option to just connect the iPad to the device with a hard connection. If you do not have a printer that will support wireless then you will need to sync your Photos back to your computer from your iPad using iTunes and then print them manually from your computer.
Next you will need to select how many copies of the photo you want to print. The default is set at one. Once these two choices have been made you just hit the Print button to start the printing process.
The feature that allows you to print photos from the iPad is AirPrint, which is a simple wireless tool that allows for instant printing from all iOS devices including the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. This feature was introduced with iOS 4, which means that you should be updated already to ensure that you have access to this feature.
The features that are available with AirPrint are limited. For example, when printing photos you do not have document-based options like the ability to print on two sides. This is also limited for most iPad users because the number of printers that support AirPrint is still limited to a few dozen. These are mainly HP printers, especially Photosmart and LaserJet Pro lines, and this is going to leave a large segment of the consumer population out entirely.
If you want to continue to print photos from the iPad without utilizing an AirPrint enabled printer then you have to use an app. There are many available on the iTunes App Store. These will often give you different, and more specific, printing options and will usually just allow you to print with any Wi-Fi enabled printer.
Print Magic, by Wellala, is a cheap app that can fulfill the printing needs of most users. You can print photos, text, emails, and PDF files, which ends up being the bulk of everything that you would need to print from your iPad. This is going to solve the printing problems for those that are using a different printing system and will allow you to print almost anywhere instead to AirPrint printers only, which really enhances the mobility of the iPad.
Right now printing on the iPad is incredibly limited because Apple hopes to keep the tools that will allow it, the printers that can recieve the signal for AirPrint, under their control.
This is a technique Apple has used successfully with their technology such as the App Store, which is used to exclusively distribute iOS apps, but the restrictive nature of AirPrint does minimize its usefulness. This may end up reflecting poorly on the iPad's accessibility and therefore limit its ability to be seen as more than a mobile device. It is likely that on later versions of the iOS we will eventually feature a version of AirPlay that will connect automatically to all Wi-Fi enabled printers.