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A Printing Guide: Where to get prints? A side by side comparison

Do you have to get your photo prints professionally printed through me? Of course not. Frankly the most important part is that you get the pictures printed, and I have photos hanging in my walls that are from a variety of printing locations. That being said there can be a big difference in quality, especially to a photographers eye. Recently I took the same photo and had it printed at a few different popular locations to see just what those differences may be.

It is VERY difficult to take an accurate photograph of a photograph. Very. I attempted the above photo in no less than 4 different lighting conditions before settling on the above picture as being as close to accurate to real life. Here are my findings when I've got all of the printing options side by side:

Shutterfly: I have often printed at Shutterfly and have almost always found that their printing increases yellow tones in images. Because I know that they have this tendency, I've decided for this test print to order a matte finish on the 8x10 print. I did make a difference! I found the matte gave a nice finish that made the inaccuracy of the colors a little less noticeable, but I still can't get past how the yellow tones add a washed out tone to the image.

Costco: Considering how many things I do get at Costco it's amazing I have never thought to take advantage of their printing deals. I have heard a number of people online say they like to get their prints while picking up some jumbo sized meat platters and I wanted to take a peek for myself. Costco shipped right to my house which took about 5-7 days. I was pretty surprised to see how glossy these prints were! There is a better video you can see on my instagram where I tilt the photo side to side. I would worry that when this high gloss image is put behind the glare of the frame you would only be able to see the picture fully if you were staring at it from the exact right angle. Besides the intense glare the print came back low in contrast which gives that even washed out tone that just breaks my photographer heart.

Walgreens: While I would have given the 1 hour printing a try I know that the quality of the prints can drop if the machines are not properly cared for. I wanted to really give Walgreens a fair try and I didn't want a rushed job, so a 4 day turn around it was. It seems the machines they use in house will be the same no matter the time requested, and my local Walgreens clearly has not cleaned their printing machines in quite a bit. My prints came back with lines running right through all of their faces. While not as obvious in the above image in person, and in my video on instagram it's very obvious. It appears similar to when a television or computer has a string of dead pixels, a row of red lines. This is most likely dust or dirt that has accumulated on the machine and can be simply fixed. That also means that your Walgreens may take better care of their machines than mine has. What is not specific to the machines though is the amount of red tones that has been added to the prints. Unfortunately no amount of machine cleaning could explain why they would have modified the red color tones in printing.

For this second example I got an image with no sun-flare printed all on size 5x7 and found the same results. Shutterfly added yellow tones, Costco washed out all of the colors and Walgreens increased reds.

Offering prints isn't just a part of having a photography business. I've selected a professional print house to work with after testing samples, and calibrating my monitor to ensure the prints that arrive are accurate to the images that appear in your gallery. All prints ordered come right to my house first so I can give them my own check for quality assurance before they are sealed, and sent with love right to you. You can find all of the printing size details and prices at the link here.

I can't wait to see all of your gorgeous photos in print and soon!!


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