1. It’ll seem like a lot of money at first but spend the money to get a good printer. Six color at least. Ink jets are wonderful for printing snapshots. You won’t need more than that. Also look around at the computer brands that sell computer packages for digital printing, the printer that they recommend is perfect for printing photos at home.
2. Buy some photo editing software. There are lots of brands out there many of them for pros but you can easily find software under one hundred dollars that will have lots more options than you will ever use. Look for software that has automatic settings so that the computer can automatically color correct, auto focus, brighten, or darken, etc. At least until you learn number 3.
3. Learn your equipment. Take the time play with the settings. Don’t try to print perfect photos right away. Most people with a little time and practice can learn to do basic photo special effects. Give yourself the time to learn.
4. There is one place that you are going to have to spend some money and it’s on paper. You can have a great image but unfortunately you cannot skimp on paper. Get the nice thick glossy paper, it’s worth it. I’ve tried the cheaper paper, which is good for test prints, but you need the high quality stuff for good prints.
5. DPI, dots per inch. Depending on your printer and your software you may be able to print up to 1200 dpi which is probably unnecessary for what you’re doing. For up to a 4 by 6 inch print you only need about 300 dpi. Most people cannot see the difference between a 300 dpi an a 600 dpi at 4 by 6 inches. For 5 by 7 or 8 by 10 you can go up to 600 dpi.