February 29, 2024

Let's Talk About Printing Your Pictures | Pensacola Family Photographer

Babies, Families, Maternity, Newborn, Seniors

Where you choose to print your pictures matters...

let me show you why.

I'm what is sometimes referred to as a "shoot and burn" or "turn and burn" photographer.
What does that mean? The simple answer is that I provide my clients with high-resolution digital images as part of the session fee. The "burn" part refers to the days when we used to have to burn the pictures on a CD to send to clients. Nowadays, I appreciate being able to provide Pensacola and Gulf Shores families with a link to a private online gallery where they can download their images.

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Digital images are what my clients want, so that's what I provide. I also make it a point to let my clients know about the professional print products I offer! I do this for 2 reasons:

  1. I really do want you to have photos from your Pensacola Beach family photography session hanging on the walls in your home and office (NOT just sitting in a hard drive somewhere) and
  2. I want you to understand that there's a difference between photographic prints that come from a professional lab versus prints that come from a commercial lab (Walmart, Target, CVS, Shutterfly, Walgreens, etc).

to show that I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is, I chose one of my favorite portraits from an Orange Beach, alabama Family beach Session and had 5x7 prints made by my Professional Lab of choice (Millers), as well as 4 common consumer print labs - Walmart, Target, CVS, and Shutterfly.







Pro Lab


I have to admit that even though seeing the differences was the purpose of this test, I was taken aback at the extreme difference in these pictures. Let's break it down -

  • Professional Lab - I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that the print from Millers had been darkened a tad. But I will say that at least they lost NO detail in the image itself and the paper was thick and glossy.
  • Walmart - On first glance, it looks close-ish to the original file. But, with the print in hand you feel that awful "dry photo paper" that they used. The picture is also very washed out and has banding (lines) through it from their printer.
  • CVS - They added SO much cyan and green! They also upped the contrast giving this sweet little girl shark eyes.
  • Target - I swear it's not the same print as the CVS one, but the issues are pretty much identical.
  • Shutterfly - Overall, the Shutterfly print isn't that bad. They darkened the image a tad and upped the contrast, but I guess it's "ok." The paper quality isn't there though.

Here's another example

Yes, ordering prints from me costs more. But, my lab prints on professional-grade, archival paper that is made to stand the test of time. Not only that, before placing your order, I go back over your photo one last time to make sure it’s perfect, then they are individually sized by me to ensure proper cropping. Left to Right you have: original, professional, Walmart, CVS, Target, and Shutterfly.

The differences in the family prints is most noticeable in the skin tone and sky color.

  • Professional Lab - Still disappointed that the print from Millers had been darkened a tad. But I will say that at least they lost NO detail in the image itself and the glossy paper was gorgeous.
  • Walmart - Again, the picture is horribly washed out (their skin looks kinda scary honestly). Lastly, once again, there are lines going through the print from their printer.
  • CVS - Again, they added a lot of cyan! The contrast was also bumped way up and the shadows were darkened.
  • Target - Cyans and greens are added as well as the contrast raised and shadows darkened.
  • Shutterfly - On this print, Shutterfly did NOT pass. The entire image is washed out (and the husband and daughter's skin looks pasty) plus they darkened the shadows also.

Commercial labs are fine if you want snapshots or need 1-hour pictures printed for a school project or something where the quality isn't that important to you. I've been known to use them myself to print pictures for school projects or something I was in a hurry to finish. I'm not saying they don't have their place in the market. But, if you've paid a professional photographer to take portraits of your family, consider investing in professional prints. The professional photography print labs I use print on beautiful, thick, archival quality paper that is made to stand the test of time.

**Disclaimer** Obviously, lab results will vary based on location. This post was not made to discredit any commercial labs, but to educate clients and other professionals. Lastly, if you still choose to order from a commercial printer, please do not select the "color correct" box - that's what you hired a photographer for!