Last year I received an email from a client who purchased digital files of her Tiny Dancer and had them printed at her regular online printer for Fathers’ Day.
In her email, she described how disappointed she was with the quality of the image, and that for the amount she had spent, she’d really hoped for something more professional.
I was mortified.
If there is one thing that I pride myself on, it is the quality of my work. I have spent tens of thousands of hours practicing, and learning about, and honing my craft. I allow my work to be judged by my peers so that I can continue to grow. And I would never provide my clients with a product that was less than technically perfect.
So how did this happen?
Well, colour management between computers and print labs is one of the things that separates professional photographers from amateurs.
It is a process that ensures that the printed photograph is EXACTLY the same as the image I am looking at on my computer screen. The brightness, the contrast, the warmth, the sharpness, EVERYTHING about the image must match exactly with how I have edited it to look.
I conducted a small test of some popular local Brisbane printers, and even though I expected there would be some differences, I was still surprised by the results.
Here is an original file straight from my computer.
And here is the print from my Pro Lab. It pleases me – the skin tones are as I intended, no detail is lost, the lashes are lovely and sharp, the background is nice and dark. It’s just how I processed it. (Please accept that it looks slightly different here because I have photographed a photograph….).
Now here’s where things get interesting.
I’ve printed the same image at Officeworks and Snapfish/KMart (Snapfish use KMart labs). I knew there would be some differences, but even I was shocked by the results….
Here is the Officeworks print.
And here it is side-by-side with my Pro Lab print.
Here is what I want you to notice about the Officeworks print.
So the next print I ordered through Snapfish. This one was even worse and really upset me in terms of the implications it could have on my work.
Here is the Snapfish print.
And here it is side-by-side with my Pro Lab print.
Here is what I want you to notice about the Snapfish print.
Add to this that the paper is flimsy and is not cut neatly (note the pulls on the edges I have circled above), and this makes me very sad! So many of my images use high contrast, and the effect would be completely lost in these prints. And my black and white portraits that are set against the black backdrop could go horribly wrong.
I conducted my experiment on some other photos, just to make sure the results were not a one-off.
Here is a beautiful print of a sleeping baby on an off-white background from my Pro Lab.
Here it is side-by-side with the Officeworks print.
The magenta has increased again, making baby appear very red, and turning the off white blankets a light pink.
And here it is with the Snapfish print.
The contrast here has been increased, which has made our baby’s face darker, and completely blown the highlights on the blanket to the top of the image – there are large parts of paper that are just shiny white, no blanket detail there at all.
Here is another sleeping baby converted to a warm black and white, my Pro Lab print compared firstly with Officeworks.
The extra magenta is really having an effect here!! The contrast is also increased, making the darks too dark, and the brights too bright.
And then with Snapfish.
The colour has shifted again, and this poor bub’s head is so bright that you can’t see his beautiful soft fuzz. If that was the print I received, I would also question why my hard earned money was spent with me….
So why is this happening? Well, there are many variables at play that can mean a print of your digital file ends up looking different from the image I create on my computer.
The kind of paper used, the sophistication and maintenance schedule of the printing equipment, and especially the balance of the different ink colours (calibration), all combine to produce a finished print. And if one or more of these is incompatible with the file I have produced, the finished print can end up looking very differently from how it should.
This is particularly the case with my portraits that are set against a black background. The ‘brains’ of the printers at consumer labs tend to see all the darkness, and assume that the file is underexposed. So it automatically prints the file brighter. This means that creases and fluff and dust on my backdrop are made visible, and the skin on the faces of my gorgeous little subjects is overexposed and featureless.
So how do you make sure that your prints are not exposed wrongly and tinted different colours?
SIMPLE! – You print your photos at my Pro Lab!!
Yes! I have teamed up with my lab to bring my professional printing service to you!
All you need to do is order your prints online, and then your photos will be printed by the same professional lab that I use, and delivered straight to your door.
Your photos will be printed on professional grade paper using the traditional silver halide process, which results in amazing print quality and longevity. AND, if print quality is important to you, you can use this service forever! The photos you print do not necessarily need to be only ones that I’ve taken….!
So this is what you need to do….
- Go to www.myprophoto.com.au
- Click on ‘Order Now’ or ‘Order Online’
- Use the account number 31260 when logging in
- Order to your heart’s content!
Prints cost a little more than those at consumer labs, but when you’re investing your time and energy and money in having professional photos taken, it just makes sense to have them printed well. What’s more, my Pro Lab is a Brisbane-based, family owned business – not an offshore multinational.
Your print, and with it your memories, will live on long after the digital file has disappeared! Please do it justice by printing with a Pro Lab!
🙂 Melissa xo