Sunday, August 18

Why Is It Important To Use A Professional Print Lab?

I often get asked if I offer my photo sessions on CD discs to my clients. The short answer is "yes," however the long answer is a bit more complicated.

Many professional photographers are reluctant to do what is called a "shoot and burn" session with their clients, because they have no control over the final finished product. We know that most people are going to take that CD, and either attempt to print the photos themselves at home, or take them to their nearest Walmart or Walgreens for budget printing, to save money.

However, they are often disappointed with the finished product, when they attempt to "go cheap" on the printing portion of their photography session. What they end up with is usually not the same spectacular photo they saw in their online gallery on their photographer's website.

Our computers are color calibrated to our print lab's computers and printers, so what I see on my screen, is what my professional photo processing lab prints. This offers me control over the work that I do, and the ability to have a client that is happy with their finished product.

When prints come out looking muddy, and less than vibrant, from a drugstore lab, it can be frustrating for a photographer who has done a spectacular job color correcting and editing the images so they are their absolute best. Plus, photographers worry that their professional reputation can be hurt with poorly printed photos that others might wrongly equate to the quality of their hard work.

If you look at the samples above you can see that the Walmart print is far inferior to the print done at my professional photo lab. Walmart's image is darker, the skin color is off, detail is missing, and the subject has a "hot spot" on her face that shouldn't be there. It is far from the vibrant, color corrected and perfectly toned image on the right. This one came from my lab looking exactly the way I intended for it to look.

I know it seems enticing to get a budget print done at the low prices offered by Walmart or Walgreens, or one of any other drugstore photo labs, but if you go this route be aware that you WILL get what you pay for. Your photos are handled by a counter worker who, more often than not, has absolutely no photographic background. He or she just hits a few buttons on a computer and lets the printer churn out the photographs. No one checks to make sure the colors are correct, toned, or that the photo is even cropped correctly and printing straight. They don't color calibrate their  machines, or offer professional photographers color profiles to load into their computers so ensure that the colors are correct in the final print.

Many of these labs even use an inkjet printer, which just sprays the color on the paper, leaving the colors flat, muddy and without detail. Generally they only offer you a choice of a matte or glossy finish paper, not the multiple finishes that can be done by a pro lab. Many don't even offer prints over an 8" x 10" size.

Compare this to a professional lab, such as the one we use. A trained photo technician, with lots of experience, checks each computer file before it is printed, for color correction, cropping and positioning. They analyze the color and density in the photographs, and check each one as it is developed. Most professional labs use a silver halide printer which embeds the color on the photographic paper.

Pro processing labs use professional quality paper, which is usually much more durable and higher quality than what you get from budget labs. They also offer many different types of finishes, including metallic, linen, pearl and lustre. Kodak Lustre "E" ENDURA paper is our normal surface paper. It is durable and offers a beautiful fine grain pebble texture to your print. However, we can also produce photos with a glossy finish, a pearl finish and a metallic finish, as well as offer our clients other value added services at the time of printing.

Professional photo labs maintain the chemicals in their printers on a regular basis to ensure top quality in their finished products, as well as consistency in all their prints. Their computers are professionally calibrated to their printers, so what they see on screen is what they see in the actual print. And, they reprint any photographs that they determine are just not quite right, before turning the finished job back over to the photographer that they work for.

Our lab is the same lab used by celebrity photographers such as Sandy Puc, Doug Gordon, The Boudoir Divas and Joe Photo. I know these names probably don't mean much to you, as a non-photographer, but look them up. They are some of the top photographers in the nation.

Because we use a professional lab, we are able to offer a huge variety of sizes in prints, as well as gallery wraps, canvas prints, albums, custom wall decor and more. Try getting that at your supermarket.

Sure, if you are printing a bunch of vacation photos for scrapbooking you can't beat the price and convenience of budget photo labs, but when you have gone to the expense of hiring a photographer to create precious family memories that will be hung on your wall as art, or given as gifts to grandparents, aunts and uncles, why go cheap on the final finished product? It just makes sense to keep in mind that the print is as important as the shot! When prints are purchased through us, we can guarantee the quality of the final print.

That being said, I do offer CD's to my clients of their sessions, as an option or add-on. Pricing on the CD is in addition to the session fee, however I do include it for free after a certain dollar amount of prints have been ordered through our lab from the session.

Keep in mind that I do NOT guarantee the quality of the final print when you take the CD and have your photos printed elsewhere, or if you attempt to print them at home. My responsibility ends when I hand the CD over to my client. I can't control what other people do with the finished file or the color calibrations of the equipment (monitor and printer) being used by anyone other than us and our lab.

On the flip side, some people don't want to print their pictures from the CD, but simply want a CD so they can share their photographs online with family in friends. Keep in mind, all of my sessions include a 90 day password protected gallery for this purpose, as well as watermarked images suitable for sharing online, so there really is no need for a CD of hi-resolution photographs (which really are too large for online sharing anyway) for this purpose.

Nora Kramer is a Central Florida based model photographer, senior picture and family portrait photographer who services Orlando and it's surrounding areas, including Deland, Deltona, Debary, Orange City, Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood, Altamonte Springs, Maitland, Winter Park and Winter Springs.


  1. 100% true......Get a lab if ur selling ur work or print them urself. Doing it urself is not cheap......Get a quality lab. Take ur photos and let the lab work for you, while you sleep.

  2. It's a nice information about Importance to use a professional print lab. We have always wanted to get into printing on canvas. For custom photo artwork I have used Canvas Design and have been very satisfied.



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