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The Importance of Quality Print Labs

     Back in the days of portfolio building, my clients received online galleries with their digital images. Nowadays, I encourage them to print their art products through me. In fact, that's what my entire business is based around! I love helping my clients from the time they meet me to delivering a finished product to hang in their homes! 


 I've explained to each of my clients that there is no guarantee the color and quality will be accurate if the images are printed at a consumer lab, but last week, being the adventurous rebel I am, I didn't take my own advice and ordered a portfolio book of my floral photography from a printer other than my usual lab.


Why did I do this? Well, to be honest I don't really have a proper reason for why I caved, but I'll be happy to blame it on the tempting $5 price tag mixed with a healthy dose of human curiosity. Granted this lab claimed that it was of professional quality and I have heard of a few others who had been happy with their sample books, so I thought why not?  What could go wrong??


I think I jinxed myself. 


But, you probably already guessed that that's where I was going with this.


I've heard all the horror stories from other professionals of ruined print orders from consumer labs,  but I have never-and was hoping that I would never have to- witness something firsthand that was quite like this. 


When it first arrived in the mail, I was so excited. The cover was beautiful and I remember sighing with relief thinking to myself that there was nothing to worry about, It was good enough to show my portfolio. 


And then I opened it. 


And that is when my hopes and dreams were smashed and torn apart and thrown in a blender and blended until they were mush and then baked like a pie in the oven and then thrown in the trash and taken out to the dumpster where they were consumed by a mangy wolf and left to die in its full belly.... *coughs*  Sorry, got a little carried away... but you get the idea.  


BEHOLD! Something is terribly wrong with the blue ink....And the red ink.....and the yellow ink....and the bokeh. The whole thing was basically a train wreck. I'll include the original photo so you can see a comparison.







Here's what it was supposed to look like: 






The Original:





so much blotchy ink x.x 













NOW, don't think that I'm showing you this to hate on the lab it came from, there are definately professional labs I've tried that have printed me some lovely photos with my client's skin the color of a nice ripe orange. What I'm trying to get across here is that it's extremely important to choose a photographer that offers full-service photography and will take care of the printing for you so you can make sure you're getting your printed art from a reputable lab.. Why? A couple of reasons...


1. Your photographer likes you. If you chose me as your photographer, I like you. I've spent hours designing your session, getting to know you, and helping you choose what's best for your home. I want the quality of your finished product to reflect that. When you look at it, I want it to remind you of the wonderful process we went through together, not Willy Wonka's Oompa Loompas. I want you to feel proud and excited about your new portrait. I want to feel proud and excited about your new portrait. Heck, I just want both of us to feel mutual pride and excitement about your amazeballs portrait. 


2. You've invested a lot of money into this service, the last thing I want to do is send you off with a low quality print that doesn't look like what you saw on the screen as your finished product. Enough said. 


3. Here's more of a selfish reason for you. As an artist, I want my work to look like how it was meant to look. Here's an example. If the flowers are printed orange instead of red, It becomes something different from what I've created. If friends see those flowers and come banging on my door insisting on prints of orange flowers when my garden was only full of the red ones that were accidentally printed orange, they're going to be surprised when I can't offer that (okay, to the smartie pants in the back thinking "why not just change it in photoshop?", just pretend I can't in this situation xp) Worse yet, if they see the orange flowers and totally hate on them and vow never to buy prints from "that photographer", they're never going to know what those flowers were supposed to look like, What if they would've loved the print had it been printed correctly? I would prefer my work to be hated on or loved for what it truly is. 


4. Okay, I'm determined to end this on a non selfish reason so...... it saves you so much time and headache to let your photographer take care of all of that frustrating behind the scenes printing stuff. I don't know about you, but when I first started my journey of printed photography I didn't know I was supposed to resize the pixels for a large print, or sharpen things, or all of that fancy stuff. That's why I'm here now. I learned all of that so I could help you and give you peace of mind so you're not left in the dark. 


Are you convinced yet? Now that we've covered how you can prevent this issue on your end, I have a few tricks up my sleeve from my end to make sure you're getting quality images. 


How I make sure that all of my products are printed for color accuracy and quality:


1. A lot of the issue comes from a little thing called Calibration. When a photographer calibrates their monitor, it can adjust the colors of the screen so that what they see while editing an image is what their client will see once it's actually printed out. My computer is calibrated specifically for my print lab using the software they've recommended, and because of this, I've never had an issue with incorrect coloring. Just for you, I'll insert a photo here of my lovely little system that's working hard for you. It goes through all the different color shades and compensates for environmental lighting and any glare on the screen. 








2. I work with my labs directly. We can contact each other at any time. That means if there's any issue with the color format we can catch it before it goes through printing. And if they print an image that turns out like the above photo with blotchy ink, they have people that are checking for things like ink malfunction, and they can reprint before it ships. 


3. All of my products go through quality control before they reach you, which is a fancy way of saying once they arrive I check them all to make sure they meet my standards. If there's a problem with a product, I contact the lab and we make arrangements together to fix it. 


4. I spent 6 months researching a kazillion different products, and I chose the ones I offer based on quality. These products are not accessible by the public, they are sold to professional photographers only. (So you have the added bonus of having a unique piece of art too! But I digress..) Trust me when I say these art pieces are built to last. It's pretty impressive when you can say that your art piece will outlive your pet tortoise. 


So, I hope my horror story has helped at least one person become more aware of where they're printing their images from. I know I'll never print anywhere other than my trusty lab from now on! If you are going to invest in a family memory/heirloom, my advice would be to invest in quality prints and services, because as I learned the hard way, you truly do get what you pay for. 



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