A client asks:
How do I know if I am getting great print quality from my lab? I know we discussed print quality when we met, but now that I am ready to order – I am not sure where to go or what to ask for.
So first things first, you need to know that any professional photographer worth their grain of salt uses a calibrated display (monitor) to edit your wedding images. What does that mean? It means that we use both hardware & software to ensure that we are looking at accurate colours on our monitor. SO if you are standing under a yellow light, we can correct (remove)the yellow colour cast in the photo and restore your gorgeous dress to the authentic shade of (your dress colour here …white, cream, champagne…)
When you view your edited wedding images at home on your (uncalibrated) monitor – you may be looking at your images under less than ideal settings. So don’t be disappointed if the images all look too dark (too light, too red…). Simply adjust the settings on your monitor. It’s not hard to do, google search for your particular brand of monitor.
Labs operate under similar conditions. Labs that do not use calibration systems, or do not calibrate on a regular basis can produce results that are all over the map. So your perfect, colour & exposure corrected, gorgeous wedding photo can come out of the lab machines with any number of quality issues. And don’t kid yourself, in order to produce lab prints at unbelievable prices – labs cut corners all they can just to stay in business. (think of what the physical piece of paper costs alone, and then add expensive machines, retail space, consumables like ink & chemistry, with labour costs on top. A big box retailer lists 4×6 prints at 13 cents today. Quality – yikes!)
So… here is what to look for when you receive your prints from the lab.
- Is the image too light or too dark?
- Are the colours accurate? Compare the shade of the bridesmaid dresses in the photos with the actual dress. Are they similar or 2 totally different colours? Look at skin tones. Do you look healthy and tanned, or do you look jaundiced& nauseas?
- Is the image sharp, with fine details visible in the full range of tones from the shadows to the highlights?
Tip – budget the $.13 & take a test print to your preferred lab & see what you get. Place your entire order once you confirm the test print looks great.
In reality there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to making these fine quality judgements. And for the average consumer, close is often good enough. But when the images do not satisfy, please speak with your lab and explain your concerns. A reputable lab should accept responsibility when glitches in quality control happen. And at 13 cents per print, it is not the end of the world if you have to walk away and try another lab.