Okay, I am totally cracking up about this comparison of a pro photo lab and several consumer photo labs. If you think you know what you’re going to see here, please believe me that you will be shocked! Shocked, I tell you! I mean, I literally laughed out loud and am still giggling about the results even several days later! So read the ENTIRE post… you won’t regret it. Promise!
Lots of photographers have done these comparisons in the past, but I’ve always wondered if they really sent a different photo to the consumer lab or something to skew the results. The only way to know for sure was to do it myself. This is totally unscientific, but I swear to you that I sent the same photo to all four labs, with the exception only of printing the consumer lab names onto the front of the photo (otherwise, I would totally have mixed them up later). So you’ll just have to trust me, or try it yourself, like I did!
I set out by picking a super cute photo of Little Miss L here and sending it off to my favorite pro lab, Miller’s, for printing. Here’s a photo of the print I received back. Cute!!
It’s sharply in focus, and it makes me happy! 🙂 I had the print mounted on art board just as I do for my clients. See, here’s me in an awkward photo holding it with my one (giant-like) hand, and it’s not bending. Mounted photos are awesome!
The first consumer lab I chose was Target because I am in Target about every other day and figured it would be super easy to order it and pick it up. And it was! Well, there wasn’t anyone actually in the photo lab when I got there, but hanging out with two kids by a photo counter while they are yelling, “Hello?! Where are you photo person?!” is really fun and not at all embarrassing.
I opened the photo envelope when I got home. At first I was kind of disappointed because it didn’t look that bad, and I was hoping for crazy dramatic results like I’ve seen other photographers post, but then I put the professional print up next to it and was actually quite amazed by the difference.
Here’s a photo of the Target print:
Here it is side-by-side with the pro-lab photo:
Here’s what I want you to notice about the Target photo…
Additionally, the whole photo has lost some of the contrast and looks a little more flat (lack of depth).
Okay, so the next one I ordered was through Shutterfly. I have to say this was the worst one of the bunch (though not the most shocking one… hang in there, I’m getting to it!)
Here’s a photo of the Shutterfly print:
Here it is side-by-side with the pro-lab photo:
Here’s what you should notice about the Shutterfly print:
And here’s a better image of the bent corner. Again, something you’ll just need to take my word for, but it came out of the envelope like this:
I was about to go to press with this blog post, but my husband and I joined Costco a couple of weekends ago, so I decided to try out their photo lab as well.
Again I was with my two kids when I was picking up the prints. Shopping simultaneously with my two young children is akin to ripping out my fingernails, so I try to get in and out as quickly as possible. I came home, started making the kids dinner, and opened this envelope (yes, I need to show you proof that my name was on the envelope… you’ll see why).
I did a double-take. I checked the envelope label again… yes, that’s my name on it. But what was inside was not a print of my lovely Miss L.
Instead, I received four copies of this:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those are our lovely Redskins cheerleaders!!!
I want to make it clear that I did not take the photo above, nor have I had the pleasure of meeting any of the Redskins Cheerleaders in my life!!!! (If you know who did take this photo, please let me know, as I would love to give them credit for their work.) But I’m totally cracking up thinking about the poor soul who opened their envelope, hoping to admire a full sweep of beautiful hotties and instead got a print of a baby holding a carrot!! CRACK ME UP!! Oh my goodness, I’m totally crying while writing this.
Here’s the side-by-side with the pro print:
HA HA HA! I thought of photoshopping Miss L’s face in with the other ladies, but well, I think we’re already laughing enough. 😀
Okay, okay… so I still wanted one more photo for my experiment, so I reordered the print from Costco, this time noticing during checkout that I could direct Costco not to make any adjustments to the print, which either guaranteed that I would not get a photo of Redskins cheerleaders, or instead made sure that I would get a slightly under-exposed and bluish print of Miss L:
Here’s the side-by-side comparison of the pro lab vs Costco:
Here they all are lined up (Top to bottom – Millers Lab (pro lab), Shutterfly, Target and Costco):
And here they are from the side, so that you can see the various color-casts as well as the difference in thickness…
So moral of the blog is… if you invest a lot of money getting gorgeous professional photos taken of your baby, you can either follow through on that investment and get some lovely prints to go along with them…or you could end up with a photo of Redskins Cheerleaders (which might not be a bad thing, depending on who you are!), or prints that do not do justice to what your photographer captured for you!
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UPDATE: Due to several quality issues this year particularly related to their press products, I no longer use or endorse Miller’s Lab and their products. I’m currently using Simply Color Lab, ProDPI and UniAlbums as my go-to vendors.