Updated 08/30/21, & still relevant today …
05/09/08 – So you need a print bigger than your inkjet printer can handle, or you need a print on a specialty surface like FujiFlex Super Gloss – that means you’re going to have to outsource your printing. How do you know what Print Lab to use?
Recently one of my clients, Duane Chevalier (www.duanesphotogaphy.net), was having problems with the prints he was receiving from 2 different Photo Labs. They were way too dark and not even close to what the images looked like on his monitor.
To say that he was frustrated would be an understatement. Duane’s got a great “eye”, and his images are really good – – no problem with the “input” portion of the equation. But the print “output” from these labs? Not good – – He was under the impression that is was something that he was doing wrong. On top of that, he was getting conflicting information from the labs on how best to achieve the results he desired.
Truth is, other than a few procedural challenges (See this post for more on Color Management), there really wasn’t anything Duane was doing wrong – – This was mainly the fault of the Labs that he was dealing with.
So, what should you be looking for in a good Print Lab? Here are some questions to consider:
- Do they use and implement Custom Printer Profiles in their workflow? – If not, then you cannot properly implement sound Color Management procedures in YOUR workflow.
- If you need them, are their profiles readily available for download? – Are they on their webpage, or will they gladly send them to you?
- Do they include “preflight” instructions? – In other words, what color space do they want to recieve your file, at what ppi, with or without compression, as a TIF or PSD, etc.?
- Is there someone that you can talk to on the phone if you have a challenge? – – Customer Service could very well be one of the biggest oxymorons on the planet, particularly in the digital imaging realm. If they will not talk to you, or worse, talk down to you, how can you expect them to make a print of YOUR image?
- What is the Redo-Return policy? – – If the lab is prepping and enhancing the file for you, would they be willing to send you a couple of JPG “proofs” via email before printing? What about “redo’s”? How will they accommodate you if you do not like your print, even though you’ve followed sound Color Management policies? Are they willing to work with you?
- Do they offer FTP services, or have an FTP server? – which stands for “File Transfer Protocol”. It is a way for you to get your files to the lab over the internet.
- Will they offer you a discounted rate if you do all of the prep/enhancement work yourself? – This saves labs lots of time, and they should pass that savings on to you.
Please understand that you are going to pay more for good print services – A Mercedes, after all, costs more than a Yugo for a reason. But the results will be worth it!
Full disclosure: Yes, one of the services I offer is custom printing services – – see my website for details – – but that’s not the point of this post. The point is that there are a lot of choices for your print business: If you have not been getting the results you desire, you owe it to yourself AND your images to start looking for a lab that will print them right!
How about you? What experiences have you had with labs? What labs do you recommend?
• Here’s more on Color Management for photographers:
• Want to see Photoshop in action? Check out my “Photoshop 101” series of FREE online & live Photoshop Meetups – available nationwide:
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• By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”, available exclusively on Amazon:
Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!
Thx again, and cheers,
John Watts 🙂