CONSUMER PHOTO LAB COMPARISON
I did my own professional photo lab comparison whenever I decided to begin offering prints and was surprised at the variation between them. The quality of paper was all great but the difference in colors really surprised me. White House Custom Colour (WHCC) was my favorite and you are sure to get a great print when you order through me!
As a professional photographer I sometimes cringe when handing over digital files. Why? One reason is that I don’t want the images to sit on a flash drive or computer and not get printed for my client to enjoy. The other reason is I worry about where they will be printed. One of the main reasons customers order digital files is because they want to save money on prints. ALL PHOTO LABS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL! I know how much variation there is between professional printers and I suspected the same or worse between consumer labs. Now, I realize my eyes are much more sensitive to photographic imperfections and variations but some of the consumer photo labs are REALLY bad but professional photographers want our ART represented accurately like what we see on our computer monitors. I wouldn’t go into an art museum and brush a layer of paint over a painting and sometimes that is what I feel when clients order low quality prints. If you are going to invest in custom photography I highly encourage you to invest in high quality prints! Your prints and products should look amazing to cherish for a lifetime.
THE CONSUMER PHOTO LAB COMPARISON
For the comparison, the same high resolution files were sent to the following printers and compared to my professional lab, White House Custom Colour: CVS, Costco, Mpix, Shutterfly, Snapfish & Wal-Mart. In all cases an 8×10 matte print was ordered.
Where do I start? I opened up the envelop and really couldn’t believe they actually charged me for such poor quality. The print wasn’t lined up creating a white line across the top and it is out of focus (blurry)
Paper Quality- HORRIBLE! Cheap photo paper with no texture at all
Color- HORRIBLE! The print is very overexposed (too bright) and the overall color has a weird color cast over it
Bang for the Buck- CVS was tied for the most expensive 8×10 print price. I would have expected much more for the price. Very disappointing!!
Overall Grade- F
I was not impressed with my print from Snapfish
Paper Quality-Good quality lustre paper
Color- The print was too warm and overexposed
Bang for the Buck- Ran on the higher end from the labs compared
Overall Grade- C-
I thought Wal-Mart compared well to other print labs I tested.
Paper Quality- They use a good quality matte lustre paper.
Color Quality- Overexposed quite a bit on the face.
Bang for the Buck- Good bang for the buck and you can avoid shipping by picking up in the store
Overall Grade- C
I really wanted to like shutterfly because of all the charity work they do. It was a ‘good’ print but was slightly out of focus (blurry)
Paper Quality- They use a good quality matte lustre paper
Color Quality- Slightly overexposed (too bright) especially on the face and color was slightly off with too much pink
Bang for the Buck- Tied for the most expensive 8×10 print and with shipping was the most expensive of labs compared
I’ve heard over the years about how great Costco prints are but never ordered myself. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a good print.
Paper Quality- I was surprised at the quality of the matte/lustre paper. It was very comparable to my professional print.
Color Quality- The colors were very good but it was slightly overexposed (too bright)
Bang for the Buck- You can’t beat it! $1.49 for an 8×10 and you can pick them up the next day for free. There is a very low cost shipping option too.
Overall Grade- B+
Before I became a professional photographer I ordered all my prints from Mpix. Mpix is a division of Millers which is one of the most respected professional printers around so I wasn’t surprised that they scored high on my comparison. It has been the lab I’ve recommended for years to my clients who order digital images and want a quality consumer lab.
Paper Quality- They use a true lustre paper and was a beautiful print
Color Quality- Colors were very close to my test print
Bang for the Buck- MPix is extremely competitive with their print prices. Shipping is a little on the high side but if you save up for a larger order it is more cost effective. MPix has sales frequently which is also another great time to stock up!
Overall Grade- A
I can see how easy it is to ‘think’ you are getting a good print from many of these labs. Unless you are trained on what to look for, it isn’t until you compare it to the control from WHCC that you can really see the difference. Mpix remains the only consumer lab that I would recommend and they aren’t expensive!! They are easy to order from and have crazy fast shipping from their facility in Pittsburg, KS.
I continue to recommend ordering any enlargements through me even if you buy digital prints. Most professional photographers will ‘prepare’ your image for printing. To prepare them, I go back to the image and apply final touches such as sharpening and cropping the image to the particular size you ordered. All prints size 11×14 and above come mounted on styrene for durability. This allows you more flexibility to display your print on an easel, lean it on the mantle or have it framed.
It was challenging taking a ‘picture of a picture’ but I hope the commentary helps you select your next printer!
If you found this article helpful, please leave a comment and/or sign up HERE to be included on my e-mail list and be the first to find out about special promotions, educational articles and other exciting news from Kaye Ness Photography.
[…] To see comparisons of the photo labs that are readily available to consumers, please visit this link. […]
[…] blog posts out there comparing different professional and consumer labs such as this one and this one, and it is easy to see the difference in quality and color from consumer and professional labs. […]
[…] a professional lab. Trust me, there are lots of lab comparisons on the web these days. This one (http://www.kayenessphotography.com/consumer-photo-lab-comparison/) is […]