I've got my digitals, now what?
Too often when people get their digitals from photographers they do the following:
- look at them on their computer
- copy them to their computer somewhere
- maybe post a few to social media
- stash the flash drive in a desk somewhere never to see the light of day again
To get the most out of your investment in digital photos, print them!
Part of what you're paying for is the ability to print your photos! Getting photos printed can seem like an old school thing to do, but even in this digital age where screens are everywhere, I very much believe that printing is still the best way to enjoy a photograph to the fullest.
Are all labs created equal?
Quick exercise: When you think about getting a photo printed, what place pops into your head? If you're like most people you might say Costco, Walmart, the drug store, etc. The truth is that these are the worst places you could print at. Costco less so, but grocery store type photo labs have very low standards for the quality of prints they make.
To make a great photo print you need calibration on both ends. The photographer must invest in high-quality displays and calibrate them often. Then, once the photographer gets the image looking the way they want it to look, the printing lab must have its printers calibrated so that the integrity of the color is maintained in the print.
Sharpness is another factor. You're paying for high-resolution images so you want them to stay as sharp as possible. Grocery store lab prints are always noticeably less sharp than professional lab prints. I don't know exactly why this is since I'm not familiar with the exact printer specs that are used, but I've seen it enough to know that there's quite a difference.
Here's an example I like to show people when in person but the scans show it pretty well too. The image below was made by superimposing a scan of a print made at Walgreens over a scan of a print from ProDPI. The majority of the photo is the scanned ProDPI print with only a strip of the Walgreens print showing in the center to show the difference. The crease is from folding the Walgreens print to throw it away before I thought to use it to illustrate the difference.
The paper your photo is printed on is important! Many grocery store labs print on generic photo paper. This is fine for your disposable camera prints, but not your professional photos you paid lots of money for. When you print through higher-end labs you get thicker papers that display richer colors and cleaner tones. They also last much longer and don't get discolored by ambient light nearly as fast. Some even give you the option of putting a finish put on them that keeps them protected even longer.
Another thing regarding paper is that higher-end labs often offer fuji pearl or Kodak metallic papers that can provide an amazing, almost 3D effect that looks super good with landscape and architecture prints.
There's probably a lot more that could be said, but I think that provides three big reasons why it's worth it to spend a little more and wait a little longer for higher quality prints.
So where should I print?
Full professional labs like ProDPI, Miller's, BayPhoto, MPix Pro, and others only sell prints to professional photography businesses that have a tax ID so to print there you'd have to go through your photographer. I offer my clients affordable access to these labs.
Some people would prefer to save a few bucks and do it themselves which is fine too. You can still get access to really good consumer labs online! They're not 1-hour photo labs though. You'll have to wait a few days to get your prints but its worth it. Here are my two most recommended consumer labs:
- mpix (member of the Millers Lab family and uses fuji paper like ProDPI)
- Nations Photo Lab (a little less expensive)
Both of these labs are great and will let you order online through an easy process and without needing to download and use the complicated ROES software to order.
So make the most of your investment in digital photography! Let your photos be seen in all their glory!