So you just spent some hard earned money having your portraits taken with a professional photographer, and you made a point to find one who offers the digitals…what now? Well, most people can't wait to share them online and then print a few to frame or display at home. You want to save money, and it’s super easy to place a quick order at Costco, Target, Walmart - you name it - online, and then pick them up when you make your weekly run at the store. Sound right so far? We’ve all done it - including me!
Well, that way is not always the best choice. Want to see a photographer cringe? Mention having prints made from your session at any chain store lab.
I have seen so many photographers do this experiment, and was blown away each time. I had to try it out for myself. I've had a few "OMG" moments when I've ordered a quick print here or there for a school project, or a last minute gift and used a chain store lab. Now that I have side-by-side comparisons, I have to admit, it's glaring. I can promise you that these are the prints in their true form. I have not done ANY editing whatsoever, other than just scanning the photo onto my computer and adding the lab name.
I have started this experiment a few times, and though I've seen the results, I've never posted them - who has time to scan all of these pictures one by one? Well, then I visited a clients home and saw a previous shoot displayed large, on canvas in their home. I was so excited, because I love to see the way families choose to display my work! And then I almost cried. The colors were so off. I knew my image hadn't looked like that when it was delivered, and I was pretty they hadn't applied some awful filter (gasp!) to the image before printing it. So I asked where they had it printed. Sure enough, they found a groupon and couldn't resist the deal. So anyway, I made the time to scan all of those images so you could see what I'm talking about.
How many different shades of blue do we see? While this might not be your biggest concern, the different shades of the baby's skin tone should. Plus, if you look closely, you can see that the shadows are significant in some images and not in others. From the original image, you should be able to see all of the detail around his eyes. The images that have been over-saturated and overly-shadowed have all but lost those details. That may not be as obvious in a small print, but it's definitely not something you would want to display in a large scale (i.e. anything on your walls)!
Here's another example of over-use of shadows and saturation. The Target image is bright and your eyes might be drawn right to it. But wait - all that detail around her little face is gone! That, and now she looks a little orange. And we won't even touch on what Walgreens and Walmart did to the coloring.
It personally makes me sad that this is how my work might be displayed. I want you to love your experience and your portraits more than anything else. I spend hours working on your session, and I hope that it is displayed the way it was intended to look, so that you'll continue to love it for years to come. It’s hard for me to swallow because as you can see…these examples are not what my end product looks like.
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 great photo session that you can pass on to future generations, why waste it? Just some food for thought.
Alright Target. We know you like the bright colors now, but I'm pretty sure the sky isn't neon. And neither is her face. Walgreens brightened it so much that we lost detail. Walmart over-saturated so much that there appears to be more flowers than in the original.
*NOTE: Lab results will vary based on location, and whether or not you use instant printing or have them mailed to you through their online service. If you do decide to still print through these labs, be sure to click on “do not color correct” so your print gets as close to the photographer’s work as possible. This post is not intended to “bash” these chain labs. It’s meant to keep you as informed as possible! Professional photographers use specific labs that have personally matched monitor colors with their lab. Meaning that the way I see your images, is the way that they will print them.