Lets Talk About Prints! | Boise Family Photographer

***Before reading, please understand that this blog post was created as a visual for my clients. I’ve received an enormous response from other professional photographers, which is truly outstanding and I thank each and every one of you for passing this along. However, any comments that are unkind, negative, or unnecessary in any way, shape or form, will not be approved. This is my professional website and my dear clients are on this very blog, reading and seeing everything.  Thank you for understanding!***

So, you want professional pictures done eh? You also want a disc so you can print your own pictures too, right? Or at the very least, put them online so all of your friends and family can see.  I think thats great- especially because I offer digital packages for my clients for that very reason. I mean, lets face it…this is the digital era and people want access to the digitals from their portrait session. Grandma May wants a print of the grandkids for her birthday? Sure, head to Walmart, be done in 10 minutes.  Aunt Deena wants to see how big and sparkly your engagement ring is, so you print some 4X6’s at Target. Easy peasy right? Sure. Easy. But not so pretty….especially when you remember how much you invested in your custom photography session.

Let me enlighten you. I’ve heard through other photographer’s in the industry just how bad some low quality print labs are, so I decided to test it out for myself. Over the past three years, I have ordered every single print through my professional print lab, so that is the quality I’ve been used to. Let me just say, my findings had me shocked. Are these really what people, even my own clients, are hanging on their walls? It actually saddens me to know that. The picture I chose probably wasn’t the best one for this project, as it is low contrast, light shadows, and softer over all. However, I already had a print from my lab of this particular image, and with a four year old running around, this was the most convenient option.

So without further ado, allow me to educate you on the importance of professional prints:

Print Example BLOG

*To best see the color difference between images, try viewing on a professionally calibrated monitor*

-On the top, you can see the original digital file and then the scanned in print from my professional lab.

-In the middle you can see the print from Walmart and Target. I’ve heard Walmart’s prints were the worst, but I honestly wasn’t prepared for how truly horrific they were in person. Dull, grey, green and washed out. Yuck! Oh, and they so kindly chopped of my subject’s fingers. Target’s prints were orange, overly saturated, and very contrasty. This time they chopped of my subject’s head.

-On the bottom is Costco and Shutterfly. Costco’s prints were a little contrasty and very red. Last is Shutterfly, with yellow and green skin. Scanning the pictures into my computer actually dulled them a little bit, so you can imagine how terrible they are in person.

Hopefully this helps to give you a visual as to why ordering your prints through your professional photographer is so important. What you’re hanging on your walls will be passed down to your kids, and then to their kids, and so on and will become a lifelong memory for you and your family.

Note: Not every lab in every location is going to be the same, or have the same consistant results. I put this together based on my location for my clients. So while your Target lab, for example, might be awesome where you live (lucky you!), another location might not have the same luck. In fact, I have printed quick, personal photos through Costco before and they actually weren’t that bad, but it is hit or miss every time. Also, if where you are ordering prints through has the ‘Do Not Color Correct’ option, CHOOSE IT. This means your images will be printed as your photographer prepared them (or least they will try).  Hope this helps!

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  • You named all the other print labs but failed to mention the professional lab is used. I have been trying different professional labs am I’m interested who you used for this comparison. Thank you! And thank you for this info, I try to explain to my clients all the time!ReplyCancel

  • Thanks for this information. I am new with photography. I have been wondering if I needed to find a professional lab to do my prints. I received a christmas card from one of my clients this year and I was just horrified at the way the picture looked. I will for sure be looking into a professional lab now. Any suggestions on finding one I would greatly appreciate. Thanks and have an amazing night.

    MelissaReplyCancel

    • Hey! Artsy Couture, Nations Photo Lab, and Millers are my favorite labs to use. I think Artsy is my top choice though!ReplyCancel

      • shawn

        THANK YOU SO MUCH for answering this question! whenever i ask any photographer where they print, i get this “super secretive vibe” where it feels like no one wants to answer the question! truly truly appreciate itReplyCancel

  • Thank you for this! Great for visual learners 🙂ReplyCancel

  • I have used a few different pro labs in my photography career, and I would suggest WHCC, Millers, Artsy Couture, Collages.net, or Color Inc. Test them out and see which one best matches your computer’s calibration. Everyone is different too. For example, the lab I use compliments and matches my calibration, while a few of my other fellow photographer’s use a completely different lab. It really is what is best for YOU and your business.ReplyCancel

    • I agree with the suggestion of WHCC or Millers! I use them all the time! Love the blog post and the comparison!ReplyCancel

  • renee

    I believe she didn’t name a pro lab because this would be geared towards clients. In other words, YOU as the photographer should be the go-to person to get prints made.ReplyCancel

  • carol roskos

    Thanks! Love this!ReplyCancel

  • Thank you so much for creating this. I think all photographer would like to have something like this.ReplyCancel

  • Thank you for giving me a visual blog entry I can send clients to. They still might not understand, but they spend money on pro images, might as well pay the little extra and get high quality prints, too.ReplyCancel

  • Some may disagree with me, but Costco in Cambridge, ON has done an excellent job for me for over 20 years. Their Noritsu 4×6-12×18 print system is calibrated regularly (and to pro standards that match all other Costco locations across North America, profiles available at http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/), and their Epson Inkjet produces outstanding quality large format prints. The folks there are friendly and well trained. The canvas products, framing and Plak-It are very good quality as well. And you can’t beat the prices.ReplyCancel

  • Lealani

    This is great and I really do see the difference however us ” Non- Photographers= Clients” have to pick and choose our battles. we are charged SOOO much for the sessions we can’t afford to go through you all for copies. Alot of photographers now are not doing it for the love of pictures, but for the love of money. honestly, $700,$600, $500, $400, for some of us that’s half or more then half of our checks. where I work the minimum wage is $7.25 and I make only about $3.25 more then that while trying to finish school. So as much we would LOVE to order through you all, it’s just too darn expensive for a memory. Our parents used Kodak disposable cameras to capture our memories and as terrible as those pictures were, I love EVERY single picture!! So we do thank you for capturing the memory, however, as much as we love the quality, in this case quanity does win. thought I’d give you the perspective from your ” Regular old clients “ReplyCancel

    • Lealani, I 100% understand. I’m certainly not made of money, and professional prints can be pricey. However, I do try and stress that the prints your wall prints should still be professional quality prints. Now, the ones you order for small table frames, photo albums, etc….I would never expect any client of mine to be dropping $2000 on that. In fact, I actually order my personal prints for my photo albums through a cheap lab, as even I cannot afford to purchase them from my lab for prints in such large quantities. I just want to be able to have prints to look at with my daughter. So yes, it is absolutely justified in that sense 🙂 I would always suggest that if you’re going to save money for a professional pictures, set aside just a bit more so you have some beautiful prints to last you a life time.ReplyCancel

  • paul

    A quick thought. The selected image is one where there’s a nice balance of tones naturally seen throughout the image. There aren’t really strong, overshadowing/overpowering tonalities with deep and rich color. Because of that the printers each handled the image much better than they would have in an image that had strong differentiation between overpowering tones. Because of that the cheaper printers have an appearance to do a fairly well done print, when in reality it was the image that worked well for them.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren

    Lelani, I have to disagree with you. After considering costs of equipment (thousands on cameras, lighting, space, props, computers, backups), hundreds if not thousands on education (we are ALL ALWAYS learning), spending 40-50+ hours on the computer each week, hundreds of dollars on marketing, hundreds – thousands on other related business expenses, legal fees, a $700 session ($210 of which goes right back to the government), most of us make BELOW minimum wage. Please do not shame anyone for asking what they think they are worth – what their time away from family is worth. That is not your place. We are doing this to pay for our daughter’s ballet lessons or son’s football gear, put food on the table, get a new tire put on our 13 year old vans – NOT for the love of money!!ReplyCancel

  • I love articles like this and have been meaning to make sample prints like this myself. Clients may not realize that running a photography business (or any small business) is SOOOOO expensive. I’d be so lucky to make even a teacher’s salary doing this. You can thank the government for taking away so much from small businesses. I offer digital files too and there are several very high quality consumer labs that I recommend. The big box stores are more convenient, but there are high quality options if you are willing to wait for shipping.ReplyCancel

  • This is why we include a print credit with all of our Wedding Collections. I want my client to see what a great print from a professional lab looks like. Great post!!!ReplyCancel

  • Neil

    This seems to be an apples and oranges comparison. It would be interesting to understand what machines these labs are running: dry vs. wet, Noritsu, Fuji. Kodak, and whether they are following prescribed maintenance schedules. It also depends on their paper sources and whether or not they are running regular emulsion tests to verify proper colors.

    It really depends on the lab used. I’ve had the same results with different professional labs doing prints for me.ReplyCancel

  • Great comparison! Thank you! I probably should do this for myself and my clients, too!ReplyCancel

  • Jenn

    Have you ever tried Persnickety Prints? They have the best prints I have ever seen! They are based out of Utah but ship worldwide. They have flat rate shipping and their prints are waterproof!!! It’s crazy. You can literally put one of their prints in a glass of water, pul it out, and the image is perfect. Every image you send to them is inspected by a member of the staff. Also if you are into Project Life scrapbooking they can print your pictures to fit in the pages. Ever since I discovered them, I haven’t printed photos elsewhere. They are a hit every. single. time.ReplyCancel

  • katy

    Good article. I will agree that hands down, WalMart is the worst! Many years ago dad was a pro photographer and swore by the now defunct Seattle Film Works and there a place in Sacto that handled the rest. Personally I love Bob’s Photo in ND and Wolf Photo in Denver.
    I’m glad you wrote this, because many people do not know there is a difference.ReplyCancel

  • nice review – thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • Ami

    Millers Professional Imaging. (Mpix.com)ReplyCancel

  • Kelly

    I’ve compared both walmart and target to pro labs before and find it uncanny that targets photos print red and walmarts blue.. The same as their company color… HmmmReplyCancel

  • Great article!! Thank you for sharing your insight on this subject.ReplyCancel

  • Marni

    While I agree that some WalMart, Target, Costco, Etc. labs may not print great prints, some do. Thank you for the disclaimer. I used to manage a Sams Club photo lab. We had several professional photographers come to us because we took the time to listen to what they needed and made sure the prints they left with were exactly what they needed/expected. They would also refer their clients to us for prints.
    We took diligent care of our machines and tested chemicals every day to make sure they balanced.
    We used the same type of Fuji machines that some professional labs use.
    Sometimes it takes people who actually care about what they are doing.ReplyCancel

  • Lynda

    I am not a pro but do take lots of photos, just print very few. Have used the local Wal-Mart. Color not good and they like to crop off important things in the photo even if re sized correctly. Walgreens did an excellent job when I used them.ReplyCancel

  • […] Want to see another example? Check out my friend Lindsey over at Feather Blue Photography’s post! […]ReplyCancel

  • Thanks for the great comparison-I shared via Facebook!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey … Thank you so much for creating this:) Great Post! its going on Color Inc’s fb page!ReplyCancel

  • I appreciate the time you took to put this article together and I am grateful for Marni’s comments. I have been so pleased with my Sam’s Club. I’ve had prints done at so many places both online and local; I have to say that Sam’s is truly the best place!! Crazy eh! Costco has been the absolute worst!!! Prints are always greenish or reddish. Some online places had washed out colours. Sam’s Club has been very good to work with me and I won’t waste anymore time with online professional labs as they have been very pricey and so disappointing.ReplyCancel

  • […] As a professional, I get asked ALL. THE. TIME. about where to print photographic products. My honest answer 90% of the time is to print through your photographer (whether that be me or someone else). Professionals have access to professional print labs and the difference in quality can be staggering. Just take a look at this comparison done by another photographer. […]ReplyCancel

  • nichole

    I love photography! Eventually I would love to do photography on the side. I have a nice camera and I have gotten some great pictures with it but then I print them out and think…this isn’t how they looked on my camera! Do you have suggestions on the best place to print pics if they arent done by a professional?ReplyCancel

  • nichole

    I love photography! Eventually I would love to do photography on the side. I have a nice camera and I have gotten some great pictures with it but then I print them out and think…this isn’t how they looked on my camera! Do you have suggestions on the best place to print pics if they arent done by a professional? Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Great article! No one knows how much of an art the actual printing of the photos is until they have worked hard (and possibly long) to get the photo perfect and then it comes back from the printer and looks terrible.

    Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Kerrie Laminack

    I got done really cute pics done at my daycare but they print on site and the prints are awful. I have digital CD coming. I did call the main office and she said it was the editing and is reprinting them. Thank you for the knowledge because I immediately knew something was wrong so I could call.ReplyCancel

  • Oscar

    When you edit your pictures on your computer and your customers take them home they may not see what you see if there computer is not calibrated or white balance.ReplyCancel

  • Luis E Torres

    Great post. I begain reading everyone’s replies and well just ran out of time. This is the 2nd or 3rd article I read regarding this topic and have yet to read about people downloading the printer profiles. For example, Costco allows you to download their printer profiles for free and gives you all updates as well. This makes a huge difference in your photos when printed normally, with or without color correction and/or with having printer profiles or not. I cannot stress out how much of a diffrence this makes.ReplyCancel

  • What a great post. So many people have know idea about print quality, color management, etc. Hopefully with a little education more people will understand a bit more and hopefully spread the word a little at a time. At least I can hope!

    Best regards,
    DarrylReplyCancel

  • […] how different the same image can look depending on where it’s printed you can click here or here or here or just Google it. There are dozens of examples out there to show you the veritable […]ReplyCancel

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