Why Use a Professional Print Lab? | Twin Cities Photography

It starts with a gorgeous digital negative.  One that I've spent hours hand-editing.  I send it off to the local drugstore for a quick sneak peek while I wait for the pro lab to ship.  It's just a couple of bucks, what could it hurt?  

My god.  The horror.  "I don't remember using a blue filter..."

It’s completely normal (and understandable at times) to gasp at the cost of prints by a custom photographer.  “Walgreens (CVS, Walmart) charges $2 for an 8×10!  How the heck are you charging $15?” The long answer touches on the amount of time that goes into creating your images, far beyond the hour or so you see the photographer shooting.  

The short answer is the easiest AND the most important:  Quality.   

why use a professional print lab
Note that the Pro and Drugstore Lab copies are hard copies scanned into my computer at the same time

Professional results come from professional print labs.   And not just the online labs that offer state o’the art “color correction” at slightly more than you pay at the drugstore.  Shutterfly is a good consumer printer to use for your everyday photos, but it is not a professional print lab.  Professional labs deal exclusively with higher quality photo paper, higher quality inks, and special coatings on your final images that protect against dust, finger prints, and fading.  Why go through the expense of hiring a professional photographer to document the important moments in your life just to watch those images slowly degrade over time?

Now I'd like to go on record stating that I've gotten some pretty darn good prints from consumer labs.    There are two issues I have however.  One is obviously that there is no protection against the elements.  What you get is what you get so make sure you don't lose the digital negatives.  The second is consistency.  In one order I have a beautiful set of images,  the next I have a set that gathers fingerprints like a forensics expert, and the next has colors that are completely off of what I sent them.  Or, as usually happens, a sticky finish with incorrect color.

pro vs consumer print lab

Now I've used all of my local drugstore labs.  In my town we have Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens.  I've found that while standard 4X6 prints are pretty hit or miss with quality the 8X10 has never done me right.  You can see in the image above that my youngest son is suddenly burdened with a horrible skin rash or sunburn in the drugstore copy.  

And look what happens when I put it in a glass frame:
walgreens prints

Yep.  Those dark spots on his cheek are from the image touching the glass.  That tells me that not only is this not printed on quality paper but that there is absolutely no coating to protect the finish.  

why use a professional print lab
Pretty sad, huh?
Again I'd like to state that it IS possible to get nice results from consumer labs.  But not professional quality that will not only show consistent true colors but also quality materials that are built to last.

As you can plainly see above I've learned my lesson with bargain printers.  When you have your session images printed through me you are guaranteed professional results that you will be proud to display in your home.

And just for kicks...here's a super zoomed in shot of an 11X14 I had printed for a competition.  Can you guess which is the drugstore copy?

No comments