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Do you use a professional print house?

iStock_000009784425XSmallAre you printing your treasured, timeless images by a print house who cares about each and every image with time and care or are you printing them through a consumer company who spits out images by the thousands daily? Are you printing them in a place where someone actually looks at each image? Or are you printing your clients’ treasured wedding images along with folks who are also printing their mobile phone ‘pix’?

When I first began getting paid to take photographs, I didn’t know that I should be printing them with a company who cares about colour profiles. Colour whats?! Your images have imbedded profiles which dictate the colours to be printed and mainstream high-production companies don’t generally use machinery which considers those colours carefully when printing.

Here are some pros according to Elizabeth:

  • Professional labs use better quality papers to produce really lovely, heavy and thick photographic prints to stand the test of time.
  • They accept embedded colour profiles
  • There is a wider range of sizes and products available
  • In addition to the usual matte and gloss, most print houses also offer metallic papers
  • The customer service can’t be compared

At first, the costs may seem outrageous but the old adage rings true that you get what you pay for and until you try a professional lab, you won’t know the difference it can actually make. The cost of a print should be passed on to the customer anyhow. If you have your products priced decently, the cost of production should be an afterthought.

Do an experiment and test one photo with a few different labs. Some professional labs require you to set up an account with them and you order through a Java program called ROES (many labs have this option) using your account number. At first, I thought that was too much work and continued using the run-of-the-mill photo mill but then finally buckled down and did the deed and now I use One Vision Imaging. They have been absolutely brilliant. The only thing I’ve found a pain is that it can take a lot more time to get the images to me (sometimes even 10 days) and I’m used to getting them practically the next day, but that is only because those other companies spit them out and throw them in the mail without a human being ever laying an eye on them.

In America, a highly regarded company is White House Custom Colour (WHCC). I so SO wish I had access to them here in the UK because they are a completely lush company who offer so much more than I’ve ever seen a professional print house offer in the past. And they even do some free test prints and send you a great samples packet to get a feel for their different papers.

Because photography and photographic printing has really boomed recently, with a huge rise in ‘prosumer’ markets, these run-of-the-mill printing companies (am I allowed to say their names while I’m dogging them? Hmm…) have devised aspects meant to serve the professional photographer by allowing you to create web galleries from which your customers may order their photos and have their orders drop shipped to them by the company, leaving you only to take your money and run. I used one for a while and I see so so many problems with this.

Firstly, are you really comfortable with your clients seeing their finished products before you? I say ‘boo!’ to that idea. Secondly, the photos are printed in the various ways in which I laid out before (not considering your colour profiles, etc., etc.). Lastly, as a professional, I feel that it is part of my business that I make my clients feel that they are getting (and paying for) something they cannot simply do themselves. They don’t have the equipment, they don’t have the experience and neither should they have their own account with your printer. I don’t feel that it’s particularly good for business for my clients to actually know the raw cost of the prints. As photographers, we already have to fight the battle of helping our clients understand that they are not buying ‘pix’, prints or paper-and-ink. They are buying photographic images, art featuring themselves, which you photographed, edited and had printed especially for them – treating every step of the process with tender loving care. We don’t help ourselves out in this aspect when they see us printing their images with the same printer from whom they just got a thousand free prints upon joining.

Do you use a professional print house? Tell us what you think!

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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