Have you ever printed photographs off at a print lab or online store and the prints just don't look like they did on your screen? I once had a client gasp when she first saw her wedding album & some prints I had done for her. She told me that quickly after the wedding she had gone and got a few photos printed on Snapfish (insert cringe face) and that they looked nothing like what I was holding in front of her in the studio.
It's actually terrifying as a photographer when clients use cheap print labs to print our work, because you just never know how the photograph is going to turn out - and regardless of whether we printed it or not, our name is attached to the image. Sure I've seen decent prints done with cheap labs, but there is such an inconsistency in quality & accuracy. The thing is if you invest in a photographer why skimp on the final, tangible product which is what you're going to look at on your wall everyday - you want to enjoy your photographs at their full potential right?!
For a number of years now I have been printing on beautiful, archival papers and ensuring each and every print is true-to-colour (i.e. what I see on my screen comes out in the resulting print, as I intended it to be, with no colour variations). I now have my own printer in-studio and can directly quality control my prints.
A while ago I decided to do a print comparison test as I was curious just how much difference there is between consumer prints and professional prints. So I printed 5 photographs here in the studio, plus the same 5 images printed at a local store and via two different online labs. The contrast in print quality was huge! Some prints had an incredible loss of sharpness due to the poor quality and there were so many colour variations between the prints. One online lab didn't even send me the print size I ordered and cropped each image as a result!
My prints are the ones with the white border. While I realise that I'm a photographer & to me the differences between prints is obvious because I'm analysing them and I know what the photograph should look like, I think anyone can see how different the prints are when you put them side-by-side. The skin tones, the dark areas and the bright areas of all the consumer prints are different from the original photograph.
Check out the black & white print below. The local lab had magenta tones throughout their print and both online labs had blue/green casts. This image is a true black & white - there shouldn't be any colour in there!
Some of the prints left the people in the portraits with grey skin tones which is never a good look! And other prints made the darks and lights so contrasty (is that a word??) that there was no detail left in some parts of the photograph.
When you're not comparing them side-by-side, I guess it can seem like there's nothing wrong with a kiosk print. But when you line them up the differences show up immediately & this comparison is even more striking when you see these prints in person - a couple of the kiosk papers are unbelievably thin!
In the comparison below notice how different the skin tones & the grass colour is between prints. That top right print - my goodness!!! If my clients had that photo enlarged & framed on their wall, to walk past everyday in their home - oh it stresses me out just thinking about it!
As a creative I unapologetically want my photography to be printed the way in which I intended.
I understand the convenience and cheap cost of kiosk and online print labs. They certainly have their place, which is why I provide a quick reference guide to printing your own photos on my blog (here). But when you're creating heirloom treasures such as wall prints and albums, I want you to have the best quality product that will stand the test of time and presents your photographs the way they were intended to be enjoyed.
Printing your photographs is an investment that you will never regret.x