As a professional photographer who sells the CD of images it is important to me that my customers are printing their pictures at a high quality print lab … the best you can get next to being professional. Let me tell you, not all print labs are created equal!! So despite this having been done before by other photographers I decided to do my OWN non-professional print lab competition. I picked a recent picture with a blanket of a tricky color (blue-ish), and to shake it up a bit I also picked a non-professional picture I took with my regular old point and shoot over 3 years ago. I figured that MOST of the time you guys aren’t printing professional pictures but just every day ones … and you still want the best quality right? So here are the results of this entertaining test.
After doing a survey of my customers I chose 6 print labs: my own professional lab, Shutterfly, Mpix, Target, Costco, and Walmart.
Here are the original images.
And here are the prints:
Obviously you can’t really tell from these pictures so I will sum it up for you.
Much to my surprise, NONE of the labs matched what I saw on my screen exactly. The closest was definitely my professional lab but even that was a little more yellow. Overall here is what I see compared to my professional print.
Target vs. Pro Print: the Target print is a little more yellow than even my professional print (which means its a lot more yellow than what I see on my monitor). It’s also a bit brighter.
Walmart vs. Pro Print: the Walmart print is AWFUL. It is RED and seriously underexposed. Please do not ever print pictures there. Not the ones I took. And not your own. SO bad.
Shutterfly vs. Pro Print: the Shutterfly print is both more yellow and more contrasty. Contrast can really make or break a picture … and in this case it breaks it.
Mpix vs. Pro Print: the Mpix print is slightly more yellow but otherwise a pretty good match.
Costco vs. Pro Print: the Costco print is slightly more yellow and slightly more contrasty but not enough to ruin the picture like Shutterfly did.
Overall I would (continue to) recommend mpix. It really was the closest match. It is an online lab but they have VERY quick and reasonable shipping ($5 and often overnight). Sometimes they run free shipping deals which is when I got mine printed. You can find them here. If you MUST have your prints IMMEDIATELY I would recommend Costco. And if you don’t have a Costco membership, then Target. But you paid the money to get professional pictures, please take the time to have them printed nicely too!
Just whatever you do … don’t go to Walmart.
I hope you feel enlightened. 🙂