Let’s talk about prints!
Before I became a professional photographer we had just started to enter the digital era, and I too, was uneducated about the difference in portraits printed through my professional photographer versus prints through my local drug store. What I didn’t know, and what clients today do not understand, it that every professional photographer calibrates their equipment to the exact specifications of their professional lab of choice. There is actually a device that we place on our screens called a monitor calibrator. I personally use the X-Rite i1Display Pro Monitor Calibrator, which you can view by clicking on this link so you have a better understanding of what I’m talking about and know I’m not just trying to coax you into purchasing professional prints; http://www.adorama.com/GHEODP.html
As a professional photographer I calibrate my monitor and equipment every week to ensure accurate color in my professional prints and edits. See, every screen is calibrated differently. That’s why you can look at something on your iPad then your computer monitor and the colors appear brighter, darker, or just off in general.
So in order to better educate my clients I think it’s easier to see the difference in prints than to just simply describe the different shades and tones every lab produces when you take the digital collection to be printed. I sent three different images to six different labs; my professional lab, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Costco, and Shutterfly. I knew the results would be “off” from my original file, but I honestly had no idea it would be so drastic!
This first set of images that I had printed and then scanned into my computer are taken in my studio on a white background. You can see my original file and the image printed from my professional lab that I’ve been using for nine years. They are practically identical! This is because I calibrate to my professional lab’s technically advanced printers. I make sure I match the exact calibration numbers as far as levels, brightness, shades, and tones.
This second set of images are from a maternity session taken on a black background with a pink rose. Once again, you can see the extreme color variations from each lab, other than my professional lab compared to the original file.
The third set of images are from a boudoir session taken in my studio’s natural-light boudoir room. There is absolutely no comparison in the accuracy of color I get when printing through my professional lab with calibrated equipment. The other labs do not even come close to printing the tones, levels, or shades of color represented in my original file.
My point in this article is to educate my clients, not bash your local labs. Obviously these labs are great for printing snapshots where you don’t really care about quality…but if you are going to spend money on a professional photographer you need to understand that if you only purchase the digital collection you will never achieve professional looking prints from your local lab or online printers. The colors and tones of other labs will NEVER match my professional prints that are calibrated to my professional lab and printed according to my professional specifications. I do think the digital collection serves a certain purpose, but please don’t be disappointed when your prints aren’t as beautiful as the professional portraits hanging in my studio or as your images appeared in your gallery during the ordering process because you only purchased the digital collection not understanding what it means when you’re in the studio and I talk to you about calibrating my equipment to my professional lab’s specifications. I want my clients to LOVE their portraits and I can only guarantee you’ll be pleased with the professional prints through my professional lab!