Updated: Sep 2, 2022
So, you paid to have professional photos taken. Yay!
You were given digital files and now you want to know what to do with them. Digital files are great for sharing on social media and digital media like your smart TV or cell phone but Grandma wants a physical photo to hang on the wall. Heck, I want a physical photo to hang on the wall!
If you've already invested in having professional photos taken, why not get them printed by a professional as well? Well, I'm very excited to be offering prints from a professional photo lab with all gallery deliveries. You will be able to choose what you'd like to order, place your order, and have the items shipped right to your door through your online gallery! So cool, right?!
You might be asking "Why would I order prints through you when I can go to my local store and print them in 1 hour?". Well, I'm glad you asked. Printing at your local consumer lab is super easy and fast but the quality is severely lacking! Don't believe me? Keep scrolling down.
Please allow me to educate you on the importance of professional prints. I took 5 photos and had them printed at 4 popular consumer print labs. I ordered them online and had them shipped to my home.
Here's what I found:
On the top you can see the original digital file beside a scanned print from the professional lab I chose (Millers).
In the middle, you can see scanned prints from Walmart and CVS.
On the bottom, you can see scanned prints from Costco and Shutterfly.
Pay extra attention to the skin tones.
You can see more photo comparisons at the end of this post.
IN DEPTH REVIEWS OF EACH PRINTER
Here's some insight into the lingo.
Exposure: The brightness/darkness of the overall image.
Color: Matching the colors as are true to my original image. This includes color casts (more of one color vs. another) as well as saturation (how bright a color is).
Cropping: Are the images cut how they were uploaded? Is the whole image there or are parts missing?
Sharpness: How in focus the picture is vs. how it was originally.
Overall Feeling: very dark and muddy
Color: muddy whites, pulling very magenta
Cropping: perfect crop
Sharpness: kind of fuzzy edges, not sharp
I also bought some prints from the 1 hour photo at my local Walmart and there was a stark difference between the local prints and the shipped prints.
The 1 hour photos came out very green, faded blacks, and muddy whites. The images seemed to be out of focus or pixelated. Crop was perfect.
Overall Feeling: too bright and almost neon colors
Color: pulling magenta and over saturated
Cropping: zoomed in crop
Sharpness: extra (over) sharpened
Overall Feeling: of all the examples here, I think this one is the "best" but definitely not good. Also, my local Costco closed their photo center at the beginning of the year so it's online only.
Exposure: looks good
Color: a little blue with flat blacks
Cropping: crop is good
Overall Feeling: easily the worst representation of the group! And I used to order a lot of photo projects through them.
Exposure: overexposed, super brightened
Color: pulling yellow, over saturated, whites are good
Cropping: cropped from top or bottom/not centered
I've seen other examples from Target, Walgreens, and Snapfish as well and please trust me when I tell you they are just as bad, or worse than the examples shown here.
Whew! I hope this helps you to visually see why ordering your prints through a professional photographer/professional lab 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. Quality matters.
If you're local to me and want to see the physical proofs, I'm happy to share them with you.
If you're thinking you still want to go through a local consumer lab, that's your choice. Of course your photos are yours and you're welcome to do what you want with them. If you want to support another small business who is local to me, I recommend using Perfect Image in Lancaster to print your images. If you want an online option, I recommend mpix.com
Note: Not every lab in every location is going to be the same, or have the same consistent 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!
Tasha Skye Creative is a family and lifestyle photographer and graphic designer based in Lancaster County, PA. We welcome all bright, bold, and authentic people.