Hang around my facebook page, visit my home, or talk to one of my recent clients, and you’ll soon discover that I am a huge fan of printing photos. It’s the digital age, and I love the ease with which we can share, email, post to facebook, tweet and instagram photos with the click of a button. No more taking films to the chemist and coming back a week later to pick up yet another pack of 24 hit-and-miss clicks of the shutter.
However, I believe there is great value in freeing your memories from your computer, and printing your photos! I encourage all my clients to walk away from their Gerty experience with at least one tangible, professionally produced work of art.
I also offer digital files, and I encourage my clients to carefully consider which consumer lab they choose to print their photos (usually I recommend Photo Continental at Mt Gravatt).
To satisfy my own curiousity, and to demonstrate the importance of this concept in a tangible way, I chose one of my favourite images and had exactly the same file printed six times:
1. One at the professional lab that I use for my client work – my monitor is calibrated so I know when I hit the save button in Photoshop, that’s exactly what I’m going to get from my lab.
2. Four at labs readily accessible by consumers – Kmart, Big W, Harvey Norman, and Photo Continental.
3. One on my dinky little home HP Photosmart, using HP photo paper.
I took the resulting images and scanned them back into my computer. This is what I found.
Feel free to draw your own conclusions, but I can tell you that the pro-lab print most closely matched what I saw on my screen.
Prints that are high quality and colour accurate do not happen by accident. My goal for every client that I photograph is to produce a “work of art” that will be displayed and enjoyed for years and even generations!
A few notes, just for clarity:
- This exercise is intended to be a simple demonstration, not a scientifically valid experiment.
- I would expect there to be great variation between different labs within the same chain of stores – for example, prints at Harvey Norman Carindale could look quite different to prints at Harvey Norman Garden City.
- I haven’t included the original photo here, because the scanning process further alters the end result. This is just a comparison between the six prints produced using one file, that have all been through the same treatment.
- Another important consideration when talking about digital files – different screens and different software will significantly affect how your images look in terms of colour, brightness, saturation and clarity.