Last year, I wrote a post called Photo Processing: Self, Walmart, Costco comparing the benefits of printing photos at home, at Walmart and at Costco. I was using a Canon photo printer at home for smaller print jobs (1 or 2 prints, greeting cards), but when I compared online pricing, I realized Costco offered a better deal than Walmart.
Now, nearly half a year later, I understand that choosing a print lab to work with is more about print quality than the price per print.
One of the perks of being a photographer is turning our home into a showcase for our work. When I used a point and shoot, I didn’t put a lot of thought into which lab printed my images; they looked great. I continued to use the same photo lab after I transitioned to a digital SLR. After the time I spent composing my shots and editing them to perfection, I was stunned by the poor print quality – the images were dull and the colors were too bright or just a little off.
Photography is a serious hobby and I want better quality, consistent prints from a professional print lab. SmugMug partners with two labs and I placed my first order in the Fall and was happy with the results; the images were fantastic. If you’re a professional amateur, before you upload your next batch of images to a 24 hour photo lab, consider what I’ve learned since making the switch:
- Professional photo labs are affordable. I was under the impression that it would cost a fortune, but many give you a free set of prints when you sign up and offer print specials regularly.
- Professional photo labs offer more options when selecting the finish. The choices don’t stop at glossy and matte; there are two more. Lustre lacks the glare of glossy and the textured finish makes it finger print resistant. Metallic is similar to glossy, but it looks like it’s printed on metal and the colors are amazing.
- Professional labs are as easy to use as Flickr and SmugMug. Some partner with photo sharing sites and submitting an order is a few clicks away.
- Professional labs may color correct your images and use calibrated printers! This isn’t to suggest that we can stop calibrating our monitors; the colors we see on our monitor won’t always match what we seen in print.
- Professional labs offer gallery wraps and a variety of framing options to help you turn your home into a professional photo gallery.
- Professional labs are where the professionals go; and if you want to treat your walls like a gallery, then it’s important to hang gallery quality images.
I’ve bid a fond farewell to the ladies at my neighborhood 1 hour photo lab, my photo printer is gathering dust, and my walls are covered with gorgeous prints.
About the author: Kimberly Gauthier, is a self trained, professional amateur photographer who enjoys photography challenges and loves learning from every click. She shares her views and thoughts on digital photography on her blog, Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier