What’s the best place to print my photos? It’s a question I’m asked at least once a month as a photographer, and I’m about to break it all down for you!
First off — I love this question as a photographer.
When you ask me where you should print your photos, you’re letting me know you care about the quality of your prints … because that’s really what printing photos comes down to for me — quality.
When someone receives their digital photo gallery from me, it’s linked to a professional photo lab for printing everything from that wallet-sized photo for Grandpa to carry around to that giant canvas wrap for the living room wall. I don’t just use any lab — like many photographers, I choose a lab that I’ve calibrated my computer and editing software to in order to ensure that a photo printed on photo paper, on a piece of metal wall art, or even one of those mugs for Mom’s birthday will have the same quality.
That’s one of the many things that sets professional prints apart from consumer prints — professional printers use higher quality materials and higher quality inks to ensure the colors are rich and true. Ever gotten a photo back from Wal-Mart and noticed everyone looked like a Smurf or there was a green tint on everyone’s skin? That’s pretty common. Consumer lab photos are quick, convenient, and usually pretty inexpensive.
But unlike generic medicines or even generic ice cream (hey, don’t knock it until you try it), generic photo printing isn’t “just as good” as the real thing, and those “buy 100 prints for a few cents apiece deals really are too good to be true.
Ever wondered “what’s a professional lab and what’s a consumer lab?” Looking at this article right now with a raised eyebrow and thinking “She’s making this up just to make a few extra bucks … Can’t I just upload all your photos in a Snapfish gallery so people can print off 40 photos for the price of a cup of coffee?”
I can promise you, buying photos from a professional photo lab after you’ve been buying from a cheap consumer lab all these years is like scoring some high thread-count sheets after years of sleeping on scratchy bed linens from the dollar store. You wonder why you waited so long to make the jump!
So, let’s break this one down, and you can decide for yourself where the best place to print your photos really is!
These are the places that, well, consumers can print their photos. Your Wal-Mart photo lab, your Walgreen’s photo lab, and even your Shutterfly are all consumer photo labs.
Professional photo labs are not available to just anyone, and you’re not going to find them at your local superstore. There’s a lack of convenience for sure, so why should you use a professional photo printing lab?
Of course, I can’t tell you what to do with your own photos! But I can tell you why I only work with pro labs … and what I do with my own prints. The photos of my daughter, my husband, and even my dogs (yes, I take photos of them too!) are all printed at a pro lab … so that some day 20 or 30 years down the line, they’ll still look as beautiful as the day they showed up in my mailbox.