Ohhhh, printing your pictures. You all know this subject is near and dear to my heart! I can’t tell you what a huge advocate I am for actually DOING something with your images and files once you receive them!
Here’s the problem with printing. It can be done crazy cheap now a days. Which is great-kind of. Great if you need to make 200 prints of a picture. Not great when the pictures look totally different from the actual files they are printed from. Printing is a “you get what you pay for” kind of thing. If you pay $0.09 for a 4×6 print, you are going to get that quality. Now, I do personally use those printing houses (I’m looking at you, target and shutterfly) for scrapbooking purposes. I have two albums I do a year. Ones is of cell phone pictures, small little moments that maybe weren’t “big album good” but I still want to preserve the moment. Then I have my Big Annual Album. More on that later but the point is, there’s a time and place for cheap printing. For me, that time is when I’m probably cutting the picture down and it wasn’t the best quality anyway. But there’s also a time and place for GOOD printing and that’s where a pro lab comes in. Professional printing labs are only accessible to professional photographers.
When I edit a digital image, my computer screen is calibrated to my pro printing lab so the color I’m looking at is the color that is going to be printed. I recalibrate my computer screen 1-2 times a month to insure the color is accurate. If you take a digital file to another printer, their color is going to be slightly different. Sometimes its a function of calibration on their end, but many times its a function of printer/ink/paper quality. In addition to color, there is a huge difference in both the quality and finish of the paper used to print. When you print through a pro lab, you are getting the best, archival, non bleeding paper around. The same can not be said for non pro labs. Not convinced yet? Lets check out some examples:
Can we talk about the skin tone in this picture?? See how bright and washed out the color is in the second picture? That’s one from shutterfly who’s supposed to be one of the “better” printers out there. Shutterfly tends to print cool (very blue tones) and blown out highlights (brights are way too bright). Target on the other hand (bottom picture) tends to print green (green haze over entire image) and dark.
Again, pay close attention to the highlights in the brides’ hair and the color differences in the rocks behind the couple.
Ummmmm, this baby was photographed on a gray blanket, not a blue one!
This bride had beautiful, flawless skin with make up done by a professional make up artist. Notice how it looks like she’s not wearing any make up in the second picture and her skin looks flawed? Not at all the case!!
And, finally, some closer examples to see a bit more detail:
I think the reason I’m so passionate about this is because you have just invested a lot of money for a session-family session, newborn session, wedding, party-whatever it is, you’ve invested in these images and files. If I’ve photographed your newborn on a blanket from their nursery and you go to print the picture from a non-pro lab the color probably isn’t going to match. Sometimes, its a negligible difference but most of the times when compared to the original file, it’s really noticeable. As a photographer, I want best examples of my work on your walls. I want you to LOVE what we create for your house. Pro printing is the best way to get there. I typically tell my clients, if its going on your wall or in a frame, it needs to be printed professionally. I know there is a price difference in pro printing, but I keep my printing prices VERY low to help offset the cost for my clients because at the end of the day, printing is not about making money for me, it’s about making sure the most correct version of your images are on your walls and in frames. If you are going to try to use a non pro lab to print, the only one I recommend is Mpix (www.mpix.com). They are, in my opinion, the best non pro printer around, but still don’t compete to the quality and true to color matching that can be achieved by pro printing!