So, We talked about why we need to print our images but what about where? I did some research for you so you don't have to worry about it any longer.
For those images that were taken by your photographer. You should most definitely get them printed through them. Yes, they are most likely more expensive than just stopping in at Walgreens but your getting so much more as well.
Your photographer has put many hours of research into what print lab fits their style. The things that they have taken into consideration are price, accessibility, turn around, quality of print, selection of paper and the qualities, what type of finishing options, and if they offer other print items - like books and canvas. for me to fins the print lab that I chose, I tried 5 other labs. I chose them because I liked their customer service, selection, and their paper, .... they have this Deep Matte that is to die for.
The images you pick for print will be sized correctly. The format that your digital image comes in may not be the same as your prints. A 5x7 print has a different ratio than an 8x10 print. Your photographer will make sure that it gets cropped at the right spot without compromising the image.
The images that you pick for print will also get a bit more attention. The settings will be slightly different when exporting your file to print than to make a digital image. Both are still high quality but the print lab may read them differently. Printing directly with your photographer eliminates any color changes or compressing of the image before print. The photographer may also retouch the images a bit more as print shows generally larger than a digital image.
Most importantly - Quality Control. One of the reasons that I love my print lab so much is that if something doesn't come back to me right, they will fix it for me with a quick turn around. Often, they will catch it before they ship and get ahold of me. Thankfully, I have only had this problem once.
So talk with your photographer after you had your shoot, see what print options they have, chances are they will love to talk to you about them. In the end you will have not just a photo to hang on your wall but a piece of art.
So, what about those images that you took at Christmas time or those that you have on a hard drive? Lets look at that.
Here is what I did. I printed two images at 3 online print labs that are accessible to everyone (Nations Lab, Mpix, and Zno) and 3 walk in places that are common (Walmart, Sam's Club, and Walgreens) as well as my own print lab. My Screen is Calibrated so I know what they should look like, the same exact files were used all uploaded from my desktop to each of their webpages so the only thing that changed was the place in which they were printed.
Here are the results for you.
I Printed on Lustre paper a 5x7 of both images. I spent $.95 on each (great price) and shipping was around $5.00. They arrived to me in about a week in a cardboard photo sleeve that protected them very well. What I noticed about the prints was that they were slightly warmer in the whites then they should be but the rest of the image was almost the same. The paper was the exact same as the Print Lab that I use there fore it held up very well. (doesn't droop a lot when holding it up). When uploading the files to the webpage it was super simple and took no time at all.
I like Mpix, they are owned by a Pro Lab that I looked at named Millers, fabulous company I used them as my back up. I printed on their E-Surface Paper (Lustre) in 5x7 with both images again. I spent $1.09 per image shipping was similar but very fast. I ordered late on a Thursday night and received them on a Monday morning. The colors were ever so slightly more warm than the images printed at my lab and sharpened a bit. Both are very slight difference from my images, some may not be able to tell. They arrived in the same type of cardboard photo sleeve as Nations had. The paper was the same quality as my print lab and upload was quick as easy.
I printed on their Matte paper (which turned out to be similar finish to the Lustre everywhere else). I spent $.50ea on them but I can not give you an accurate number on shipping as I ordered it with other things. I can tell you that it too 10 days to get them as I found out that they came from Asia. That alone turns me off from using them again because everyone is in the US. (Nations is is Maryland and MPix is in Pittsburg). In any case, they arrived taped between two piece of cardboard inserted with the other things that I ordered. They were kept safe. You can see that the color is much lighter and lacking in contract compared to the rest of the prints. It appears as if they tried to color correct when it was not needed. The paper quality was also not as nice as the other two, not bad quality, just seemed to be a step down.
I printed on their only in-store photo paper - Which is basically a Lustre (not glossy - not matte), I uploaded the images via their web-page late on a Thursday night and they were ready first thing in the morning. I Spent $.54 on each image, the upload was easy and I had no problems. Upon pick up there was a dedicated person working in the photo center and he was laid back and knew what he was talking about (I overheard his conversation with the person in front of me). As for the prints, they were much warmer in color...much much warmer and they were over sharpened. Paper quality was on par with the prints that I got from Zno, not great but not bad.
So, I have to admit something here. I printed on 4x6 ... because I knew what I was getting and they wanted to charge $2.49 for the 5x7 prints. Knowing what I would get I wasn't paying that. Trust me - you would be overpaying.
I printed on their only in-store pick-up option for paper, Glossy. I paid $.29ea for image. I uploaded via their web-page the night before and they were ready first thing in the morning. I did have trouble uploading, their software claimed that my images were not good enough for the size.....according to the pixel ratio I can cover a wall in them. To my surprise, there was someone in the photo department , which is not the case usually. At first she could not find my order and she was either annoyed with the kiosk customer or just not pleasant. The prints themselves were cooler in color, compressed, and have a few aberrations in them. It looks like splatter through out them, there are also a few spots that look like little folds, and in the white background you can see a gradation in color.
I Printed the images on their Matte paper, that was similar to Lustre. I uploaded the images on their webpage and picked them up in person the next morning. I paid $1.47ea although the webpage advertises $.58ea. The upload software was slow but otherwise easy to use. At pick up no one was working in the Photo Department....or anywhere near it. I had to look for someone and they found someone else. Not super convenient in my opinion. I opened the envelope in the store to find the 5x7 images each with an additional inch or so of photo paper. I point this out to see how they would handle it and there was as scrambling around to find a paper cutter. She cut it - the blade was dull so they have this horrible edge. At closer look the images themselves are too warm, too sharp, have these print lines through them as if they were printed too fast, and a decent amount of digital noise.
Over all, if your not printing with your photographer or have a pile of digital images ready to deck your walls I would tell you to use either Nations Photo Lab or Mpix. They have good prices for what you are getting and the options that they have will fit everyones needs.
If there are any questions, just ask me! Until later, happy printing!!! - Victoria