Where to Print Your Portraits
Where to Print Your Portraits
DOES IT MATTER WHERE I PRINT MY PHOTOS?
BECAUSE QUALITY PRINTING LABS ARE SET UP TO CREATE QUALITY PRODUCTS
The truth is, who you choose to print your portraits DOES MATTER. I’ll do everything I can to make sure your newborn portraits, maternity portraits, family portraits or senior portraits look amazing. I’ll shoot in RAW, makes sure the lighting is right and my camera settings are great. I’ll use the best editing software I can and I’ll make sure my monitor is calibrated. I’ll save your files in high resolution and they will be ready to look amazing in your home.
But if you choose to go with the cheapest lab you can find, you’re not going to see the quality of the portrait I created for you. You’re going to see the quality of that printing lab.
I compare this to getting really excited about going to a fancy event- spending a good bit of money on a ball gown and deciding instead of spending money (or time) doing your hair, you can just throw on a ball cap. Or instead of buying a nice pair of shoes, you can just wear a pair of tennis shoes you have in your closet.
Quality printing labs use better materials. They calibrate their printers often (multiple times per day) and they stand behind their work.
THIS FINAL INVESTMENT IS WORTH IT.
You have spent (or will spend) a considerable amount of time, preparation and money on your portrait session. Please, Please, Please don’t drop the ball in the last decision and try to cut costs on your portraits.
If you’re printing something for your home or for grandparents, and you want it to be something that looks great and lasts well, use a high quality printing lab. I always add a shopping cart to my client’s galleries, and you are welcome (and encouraged) to buy your products there.
I periodically do test runs (like the one below) and compare print quality from the more popular local and national printing labs. I do this to ensure I can give my clients the best quality products, and try to keep costs reasonable enough that every client can afford the prints and products they would like for their homes.
IS IT EVER APPROPRIATE TO BUY BUDGET PRINTS?
Yes. Absolutely. I have been known to buy budget prints some years for Christmas cards (when it’s budget or nothing). I’ve purchased budget prints when I’ve made little photo books of their newborn portraits for my kids to carry around with them, to keep in their bedrooms, or to take to look at during church or travel. Budget prints are great to give to family members that I know are going to enjoy them for a month and then throw them in the trash. By all means, go for budget if it’s not something that needs to look perfect or last a long time.
MY RULE OF CHOOSING A PORTRAIT PRINTING LAB
Don’t (please, please don’t) purchase your prints anywhere except a DEDICATED printing lab. How do you know it’s a dedicated printing lab? Because printing portraits is all they do. If it’s found in a store where you can also buy food (or household items. Or medicine) then it’s not a lab where I recommend you purchase your prints.
Sometimes your prints in these places will turn out completely fine. But sometimes they really won’t. The labs in these locations are so handy, but they are the fast food of the photography industry. They are going to use cheaper materials and they’re not going to have good quality control. They won’t be calibrating their printers as often. Your colors will likely be a little bit off. You really do get what you pay for.
I STILL INCLUDE DIGITAL FILES
It’s been such a big internal debate. I want you to end up with beautiful products you are going to LOVE, and yet I realize by giving digital files with a print release that I’ll have clients who will still try to buy their portraits from budget printers. And maybe, even though I don’t guarantee my prints when purchased from other labs, those clients will be frustrated by how their products turn out and that will reflect on me.
BUT I also want to treat my clients as I would like to be treated, and I know I want to have all of the digital files from our personal portrait sessions. I want to have those files in case five or ten years down the line I want to print a photo for something. I want the digital files so I can use them in our digital scrapbooks. I want those digital files so I can use them in my kids’ graduation and wedding slideshows.
These are reasons why I always want to make sure digital files are a part of your portrait session package. Not so you can find the cheapest printer possible, but so that you have access to these photos for the rest of your life, and can use them for whatever you may like in the future.
THAT ONE TIME… MY STORY
My sweet grandma hires me every Christmastime to take her portrait for her Christmas cards that she sends to her friends. All THREE HUNDRED of them. Seriously no exaggeration.
She has a local lab that she LOVES which was a little bit cheaper- and like I said, THREE HUNDRED CARDS. The little bit of savings was going to add up. The first year I did her Christmas card I decided to humor her and sent the file to this Utah County portrait lab.
Then came the fateful day when I picked up her order. Of THREE HUNDRED photos. And they were SO. DISAPPOINTING. I went into panic mode. I rushed home and pulled up the file on my computer. Looked great. Looked at the print. Not great.
I was suddenly sure my screen calibrator was broken. What was I going to do? How long had my settings been off? I immediately did several things. I sent the file for a re-print at this same lab. I also sent the file to my other top 3 printing labs to compare. I spent the next week waiting for all of my prints to come back, biting my nails until the first print arrived… and guess what? PERFECT. As were the other two labs I normally use. And the reprint from the local lab? The same as the first THREE HUNDRED.
This was a HUGE relief (ish) as I had spent that week researching new computer monitors and screen calibrators. And also a disappointment as I learned that this local lab I had such high hopes for would NEVER get my business again. And I was left with three hundred (seriously) low quality cards.
YOUR PRINTING LAB MATTERS!
I definitely prefer you order through your gallery. The labs I print from are for professional photographers only, and I keep my ear to the ground in the photographer community regarding printers- trying out labs that other photographers love in order to make sure I’m offering you the best quality at the most affordable prices. If your budget is such that you REALLY can’t afford these prints, please reach out and I can recommend some of my favorite online or community printing labs.
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