You've had beautiful photos taken by a professional (hopefully by the best family and newborn photographer in Medicine Hat - HuckleBee Photography :). You have received your gallery of edited digital images. You've chosen your favourites and can't wait to fill the frames in your home. But, there's a really big decision to be made that isn't always thought through and that's where to print your images.
There are so many easy and low-priced options for printing, some even taking an hour or less. Yet, the difference in how your prints will look from one print shop to another is huge! Like, really huge!! It's not often you'd bother to print the same photo at different locations to see the difference so I've taken the liberty of doing that for you so you can see what I'm talking about.
I selected six images and printed each photo three times. First, I printed through the professional photo lab I use. The second set came from my local Costco Photo Centre. The last set I printed through my local London Drugs Photo Centre. All prints were submitted with the setting to make automatic adjustments turned off, so the printer is using my editing as its guide.
In each example below the larger photo on the left is from the print shop I use, which is based out of Edmonton. The top right photo is from Costco and the bottom right photo is from London Drugs.
In the example above, I want to you look at the shadows on baby's face and hair. In the Costco print, the shadows and skin tone are very grey and washed out. In the London Drugs print, the shadows are dark, harsh and very red making the detail of her fine hair hard to see. In the professional print, the shadows are creamy and warm and baby's overall complexion looks much better. You can also see a huge difference in the white of the background fur in the images. The Costco print looks very cool, the London Drugs print, very blue. The professional print looks true to life, soft and creamy white.
I chose this newborn print to show you the drastic difference in skin tone in these photos. In the Costco print, baby's skin is very grey and washed out. The London Drugs print makes baby's skin really red; even the rug looks pink because of all the extra red. In the professional print, baby's skin looks just the way I edited it, rosy and healthy.
Here's another example of skin tone using my own face. The same things occur in this series, with the Costco print looking very muddy and the London Drugs print making my skin, and even my hair, super red.
This family photo was edited to bring out the golden tones of the beautiful sunset. In the Costco print, the yellows and greens in the grass are totally faded and everyone's skin looks grey. The London Drugs print again adds way too much red to everything.
Really notice the shadows in the prints above. In the professional print, you can see all the details in the shadows behind baby and the subtle colour of the grasses and moss comes through beautifully. In the Costco print the shadows look very flat and muddy and much of the detail is lost. In the London Drugs print, almost all the shadow detail is gone since the shadows print so dark and colour-saturated.
Finally, this beautiful images changes dramatically, with the Costco print looking cold and lifeless and the London Drugs print looking over-saturated. The profession print looks golden and warm and the skin tones glow.
Your professional photos that have been painstakingly edited to look exactly as your photographer envisioned. The colours are made to pop, your skin is made to look healthy and natural, the depth and dimension have been fussed over and adjusted to be just so. Printing these kinds of images on the cheap diminishes the artistic integrity of the photograph, because what you'll be looking at on your walls doesn't represent the artist's true vision or effort.
The reason the photos I print through my professional printer look so much better is because my computer monitor is calibrated to match their printer output. I've tested my images with their photo technicians to ensure that what I see on my screen is properly translated on the printed page. Even though the exact same digital file and the exact same specifications were sent to each printer, those big box printers aren't calibrated the same so each print is going to look different.
Drug store and big box photo processing centres have a place. If you're printing photos from your phone or camera that haven't been edited, most of the time your prints will look pretty good. These printers are designed to "correct" what may be lacking from your files.
As for the images you've invested in, just don't. Think of the digital files you receive as an archive, a safe storage space to keep your memories secure. Invest in high-quality printing. Your memories and your photographer will thank you.