Printing Your Photos:
Differences Between A Pro Lab and The High Street
Whether is an album or a box of prints, nothing beats the charm of a tangible, physical photograph. In the digital era, printing our photos has become more important than ever.
As a photographer, I always offer and indeed encourage my clients to purchase prints and other products from a professional lab directly from their online gallery. They will, of course, cost slightly more than your usual high street products, such as Boots or other similar online services.
Therefore, it’s not rare for clients and friends to ask me what the difference is. This post will attempt to answer this question as exhaustively as possible.
So what is the difference?
I thought I would ask someone more qualified than myself to answer this question. So I had a chat with Pawel Mrowiec, world managing director of QT Albums, a company specialised in manufacturing gorgeous albums and prints based in Poland.
Using his knowledge in the field, I asked Pawel to explain in simple terms all the differences between high street print services or cheap online services and professional labs such as QT Albums.
Here are some of the things he mentioned. Following, you’ll find his words in italics in the text.
”First of all, the main difference lies in the technology used. Most of the high street labs are based exclusively on a photographic wet print– a photographic lab which is not calibrated. The chemicals used throughout the process are not really controlled and there is no valid information from what source the paper for the lab was purchased.”
The important part here is that there’s no control, therefore no clear understanding of how the chemicals will react to the particular paper used.
“In a professional lab, such as QT Albums, we use a variety of major technologies to print your photos, such as:
Photography Lab Print ( wet print / dry print )
Press print ( laser toner / HP Indigo etc. )
12 InkJet we use for fine art.”
It might seem somewhat unimportant, but truth is that the type of paper you print your photos on will strongly affect the result. High street photo labs only offer very basic options and usually no more than a couple.
In a pro lab like QT Albums, they even offer a selection of dedicated papers that are only available through them. For example, this article has been illustrated with photos of QT Albums’ beautiful new deckled edge prints (email me for more info).
Quality Check and Longer Warranty
Handmade albums and prints require an enormous attention to details.
”Yes, we check almost every print before we ship it to the client. High street photo labs don’t have enough resources to offer a similar level of quality control. For them, a fast turnaround is what matters the most as they focus on express jobs and walk-in orders.”
That, of course, affects the quality.
”For example, unlike these labs, we promise that your print behind the UV glass will not get a yellow stain for 75 years (!) and we mean it.”
Attention Toward the Environment
This is a very good point Pawel raised and, admittedly, I had never thought of.
”Many high street shops don’t work in a controlled eco-friendly environment. In our lab, we have a precise waste management strategy. The used chemicals from a lab print are picked up by a special company which processes and recycles them. The fine art paper is stored in a controlled temperature and humidity environment.”
The Human Touch
When dealing with a professional lab, the human touch is visible on many levels. Not last, the way employees are treated.
”Our employees work in a safe and friendly environment with no long hour shifts (unless they want to do over time).”
Human touch also means a dedicated customer service and a direct understanding towards clients needs. If you ever experience an issue with your prints/album, as your photographer I can always get in touch with the lab – even with Pawel directly – and explain them your specific needs
Let me put this straight: I do not condemn using quick and cheap services such as Boots for your prints.
We all need some quick prints sometimes and those services might be great for shots taken with your mobile or tablet. I’m all for printing photos, so if using a high street printer means you’ll print your photos, please do!
But if you are the kind of person who has invested in a photo session or in good wedding photography, why not invest in printing your photos professionally?
Are you looking for some wedding planning tips? Feel free to browse my posts with useful tips and join my Facebook group for ‘Unconventional Brides & Grooms’. Or maybe you’re looking for a photographer, ’cause I happen to know one!