Today I wanted to bring the subject of a print quality. Yes, I am a Shoot and Share photographer. Yes, I include digital files in my packages. But each time I deliver the files to my clients I highly recommend to place order through me rather than going to Walmart and having the prints done there. Why? Yes it will cost a bit more to order prints from your photographer but it will also guarantee the print quality as I send their order to a professional lab to be fulfilled.
Why does it matter you ask? Well, it matters, because the quality of a print largely depends on the quality of equipment, paper and colors used to create that print, not to mention the experience of the technicians. Annie Manning, one of photographers I admire, has a well written a detailed article (with lots of pictures) on this topic which I decided to share instead of writing a similar article myself. The whole article is here:
"I don’t know about you, but after all that work bringing your photography and vision to fruition, the final product is a step that is of the utmost importance. I have been wanting to do a little demonstration for a while now, sending the same image to different labs and comparing the differences. I initially sent the image to a half dozen different chain/big box type print labs all over our town, but after viewing them I decided to not use most of them for this demonstration because they were all the same. And by the same, I mean both mediocre and wildly different. What?! Bear with me here. Sending your prints to non-pro labs is going to leave you with not only sub-par quality prints, but inconsistent results. The technician running the machine, the calibration of the printer, etc. are all going to influence your final prints. So, what may have come back from Wal-Mart with too strong contrast and a yellow cast one week will look drastically different the next. It’s a coin toss … washed out and blue?? Cyan and blown highlights?? But whatever the results, as inconsistent as they may be, you can count on the quality being inferior to that of a pro lab (or for non pros, MPIX).
I’ve decided to a fairly non-scientific study to compare print quality among several chain labs and my preferred pro lab. This is just to give you a general sense of the drastically different prints non-pro labs will produce, and to compare the quality difference between them and a pro lab. Even in this uncontrolled setting (I laid the images out in natural light, kept the settings the same from image to image and applied no processing after uploading beyond resizing for web in order to keep the playing field as level as possible), the quality difference is apparent.
And a second sample …
When clients hire a professional photographer the expectation is they’ll be getting professional images and this goes beyond what we capture. As a professional we should be expected to not only know how to capture a fantastic image, but we are also responsible to make that image is the best it can be. If we’ve done our job, the images we capture will be hung proudly on walls and will be displayed for the world to see. I know when I put my name and reputation on my work I want it to be the best it can be? Whether a small print or a giant canvas, simply put, they help me deliver the best possible product to my clients."