The Print Test: Where you buy your prints does matter!

October 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

So you've just had your session and have your digital files.  What now?  Most of my clients decide to have prints made.  I can't tell you how many times people have chosen inexpensive options for printing, only to come back and have me make professional quality prints to replace them.  Are consumer labs really that bad?  In short, yes.  They use inferior quality papers and inks to drive down their cost.  Oftentimes, their machines are not properly maintained or calibrated to reproduce the colors you see on your screen correctly.  I've taken a look at some of the more common options for printing, and the results are pretty remarkable!  Check this out:

Print lab comparisons

I know these are small, but no doubt you can see right off the bat that there's a difference in color.  Here's my review of each lab:

 

Pro Lab - The colors from my professional lab are totally accurate.  You can see the same level of detail as in the original, digital file.  The focus is sharp, and it is by far the most accurate representation of the image I created.

CVS - The contrast on the print from CVS is higher than the original.  The highlights (light spots) are too bright and the shadows are too dark.  This results in some detail being lost.  This is a photo of my son, and it makes him look pale and ghostly.  That's certainly not how he looks, and not what I captured in my original photo.

Shutterfly - Shutterfly has amazing deals and it's a great option for getting lots of snapshots printed.  For professional quality photos, however, it's not ideal.  My photo actually arrived blurry.  The original file is very sharp, but if you zoom in on the eyes of the Shutterfly print, it's slightly out of focus.  The highlights are a bit too bright, and it has a slight warm cast to the print.  

Target - The print from Target is just awful.  It has a cyan/blue cast to it, which makes my son look slightly ill.  The contrast is too high, resulting in washed out highlights and blackened shadows.  It almost looks like someone put a bad Instagram filter over the photo.  That's not how I want my own photo of my son to look, and it's certainly not how I want my work to be represented on someone's walls.

Walmart - Walmart has similar problems to Target, but instead of the colors being too cool, they're too warm.  The photo has a red tone to it that was not in the original.  I work hard to get skin tones just right when I process images, and when a printer uses slightly too much of one color it throws the whole thing off.  The contrast was also off in this image, leading to some loss of detail.  

 

In short, a professional lab is the only way to go if you want your photos to look as amazing as when you view them on your screen.  I work one-on-one with my lab to guarantee that the colors and details I see on my screen are what they deliver in their printing.  Their prints are guaranteed to last for generations.  Large prints (bigger than 11x14) come mounted so they won't sag in their frames when hanging on a wall.  I make sure things are done right for you.  Professional photography is an investment, and the quality of your prints should reflect that you've purchased something that will last more than a lifetime.  I want your photos to not only look spectacular, but to be heirloom items that your children can show their own grandchildren.  This matters to me, and it should to you as well.    


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