Reviewing Print Services -Doc Miles San Francisco Photography Tours
August 17, 2014 • 1 Comment
A while back, I posted that I did not print any photos in my studio and did not own a printer. Well, I do own a printer, but it is a simple HP that doesn't do quality photos. That said, I always send files out to print services for gallery prints. Here is why.
By the time you buy a high quality printer, paper and ink, you have invested a pretty tidy sum in the printing process. Then you need back up ink cartridges that can, depending on the printer, run up to 8 different colors.
Nothing is more fun than running out of "Light Cyan" on a weekend and spending quality time visiting office supply stores for a refill, only to discover you have to order on line from the manufacturer because your printer is too high end. Add to that running test prints to see if your print profiles are working correctly on expensive paper that you have to throw away due to errors in the set up.
Long ago I ditched my high-end printer for outside print services and have never looked back. So, here is my review of the services I use and the pros and cons for each:
1. Bay Photo - http://www.bayphoto.com - When it comes to Metal Prints (all the rage now), these guys are the best. Santa Cruz. CA based, they have excellent customer service and a wide variety of sizes and combinations. Metal photos need no matting and framing and have outstanding clarity and brilliance. Well worth the price. Good delivery time and excellent packaging. Reasonable prices. The provide color correction and other custom choices. No cons.
2. West Coast Imaging - I have been using this service for years and never been disappointed. They are a professional lab that will do custom sizes and many pro services. Their staff is very reachable and friendly. While they can be a bit pricey compared to other labs, they deliver great quality prints. Based in Oakhurst CA. ( Just outside of Yosemite). Reasonable turnaround time and stand by their work if not satisfied. They often run discount specials, so if you can wait, take advantage of the offers. No Cons
3. Aspen Creek Photo - The sister company to Aspen Creek. All work is computerized and limited to stock sizes which isn't a bad thing for most framing options. Same great customer service and turnaround time. competitive pricing. They alternate discounts between WCI, so you can choose from about two every month. Pros: Great customer service Cons: Stock sizes
4. MPIX Pro - This is the professional side of MPIX, a division of Miller Professional Labs in Denver Colorado. Miller has been around since the camera was invented and is highly rated. You have to send three photos for printing to qualify to became a member and have access to MPIX Pro. I have yet to find out what benefit that offers, except they do color correction and some retouching. Pros: Fast turnaround time. Cons: They do not offer any MPIX discounts, but do not tell you until you have checked out and try to apply the offer.
5. MPIX - Honestly, if you want it tomorrow, they can do it. Upload before 11:00AM CDT (CST) and they ship tomorrow FedEx. It can't get any better than that. They offer framing, and too many print options to mention, but no custom sizes. Who cares? They have deals all the time and have an app to send them prints directly from any devise. For really great everyday prints, MPIX is the way to go. It is all computerized, so forget trying to talk to someone, but they deliver a great product at a great price. Pros: Speed and price Cons: No human interaction, but who needs it?
6. Wallgreens -I have to include them and CVS, COSTCO and (holding my breath) Walmart. Talk about deals! They have a deal a day. 75 4x6 prints for $9.99. How can you beat that? I often send my photos to Wallgreens to test the brightness and color correction. For a couple of bucks, in one hour, I can see what I need to do to send it off to the "big boys" for enlargements. I have often been so impressed that I just frame what I got from them, as is. Pros: Immediate results Cons: No custom sizes and large prints need to go elsewhere to be processed. ( probably MPIX - LOL).
Tips for printing though a service: Bay Photo & West Coast Imaging accept all formats such as JPG and TIFF. The rest are JPG only.
Before sending photos to a lab, increase the brightness by 15-20%. In Photoshop: Create a new layer and select the SCREEN blending mode and drop the opacity to 15-20%. In Lightroom: In the PRINT Module of to Brightness and select 15-20% and output to JPEG.
I hope this save you some time and money on your prints.
Thanks for all the valuable information. I don't print often, but my desktop isn't the best for photos I want to frame. Now I know where to go....and why.
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