Where Should You Print Your Digitals?
Printing. It's a sore subject. I mean, seriously. Photography is digital now. It's as simple as that. We all keep our images on our computers and say, "I'll print them later." Then our hard drive crashes and our pictures are lost forever. Right? (This actually happened to me which is why I'm really adamant about people printing. It's so important.)
You get these amazing professional (or not professional) photographs and you just don't know which ones to print, so you wait and wait. You either don't buy a lot of prints from your photographer because of the price or you get the digitals and simply can't decide which ones you want to print. Or, you're not sure where to print because so many places do.
I feel your pain. I'm one of them. I've tried printing a bunch of 4x6's, multiple sizes, make albums. I'm still trying to find my groove.
Through all of this, the question of where to print is always nagging at me. I always hear of photographer's harping on using a quality printer. Crap, I'm one of them! I've seen blog posts from photographers and other sources showing all the different prints from different places with interested results (which I now think some might have been fudged a tad). So, I decided to test printers myself.
What I found? I don't give a shit where you print your shit. Just print your shit! ... Yup, that's my final verdict. A super scientific, professional analysis and conclusion, I know.
Here's the image I tested. I chose this because... well, it's my kid and he's really freakin' cute. Really though, it's simple, shows a good skin tone and neutral background color that should be able to show a difference in tone from the printer.
(*This image below is the digital image from my computer that I used to upload to the different printers. The following images are pictures of the printed images from each printer. I did no editing and used the same exposure for each. The images of the prints aren't exact replicas of what I'm seeing in person, but you'll get the point.)
First up, Shutterfly. Not terrible, not great. In short, I find it to be too red-orange with a green tone and overexposed. The delivery wasn't super speedy and it wasn't the cheapest. Overall, thumbs down.
Next up, Dan's Camera. This is a local printer in the Lehigh Valley. Honestly? Kinda bummed. It's not awesome. I think my expectations were too high. It's a little dull. Quality is nice, it's convenient to have a small business kinda feel and the delivery was fast.
Next, CVS. So bad. So, so bad. I purposely ordered online to pick it up in the store thinking the quality would be better than the instant printing. It's awful! Look how red he is! Yikes. Plus side, you can get prints in a jiffy. Let's face it, we all find a time that we need prints in a jiffy.
Walmart. Honestly, I was kinda surprised. The quality of the feel of the paper was more than I expected. The colors aren't TERRIBLE, but the print is definitely underexposed. My expectations were low, though.
WHCC is next. This is a professional lab that only photographers can use. Sorry consumers! (It's a club, obv). I use this printer because they're awesome. They send lollipops in their orders. 'Nuff said. They're really fast, easy to use, great customer service. After doing this little experiment, my suspicions were confirmed that the color is a little dull/cool for my liking. Not so much that I'll ditch them. They have great products and are super easy for professionals.
Lastly, MPIX. This is who I recommend my clients use if they don't print through me. Um.... favorite. Winner. It's sharp, colors are awesome, not crazy expensive and it was in my mailbox in two days.
(I also printed from Snapfish, but they didn't send me my print. They just told me they'd resend it. So, they miss out. I'll update my post to add their print though.)
Listen, every printer is going to look different. Some better than others, but you know what? It's better than the images sitting on your computer not printed. For the sake of your kids! Just print! Is there a place doing penny prints? Do it. Want a bunch of 4x6's like the "old days" or print albums with high quality printing? Do it. I don't care how you do it, just do it. Sure, all of these printers look different. Some better than others (some a lot better than others), but it got the job done and this adorable picture of my little boy at 7 months (who's now 15 months) is now a tangible item. It's something that he can look at when he's older instead of me saying "I remember I took this really awesome picture you when you were 7 months old. You were just sitting up with these adorable suspenders and tie. I never printed it though, so you'll never know what it looked like."
With that said, if you really want my professional opinion, print from MPIX or through your professional photographer. They're fast and have awesome quality. Also, if you're going to be printing professional pictures as enlargements for your walls, I can't stress enough, use a quality printer! You're paying money for the images, don't cheap out on the final product. You want to be proud of what's hanging on your wall. Your photographer spent a sickening amount of hours perfecting that skin tone and putting the final touches on it. Don't make us cringe by hanging a red skinned baby on your wall after all of the hours we spent sitting at our desk trying to make their skin perfect!
So, there you have it. You have the information, now go print!