Whether you’re a professional photographer who is obsessed with the finer points of images or just someone who wants high-quality prints of your favorite moments to hang in your home, you’ve probably wondered if professional prints are worth it or if consumer prints are the way to go.
Consumer print labs are affordable and convenient, that’s for certain. It’s fast and easy to get your photos developed for a few cents apiece and have them mailed to you or available for pickup on your next visit to Walmart or Costco.
So, if consumer photo labs are so simple to use, why use a professional photo lab?
Well, because the benefits of a consumer print lab don’t go much further than low prices and fast service.
A professional photo lab, on the other hand, offers a range of incredible benefits that goes far beyond what a consumer photo lab can offer.
Here are just a few of them.
Professional Prints Are Printed on Professional Paper
If you’ve ever compared professional prints versus consumer prints by holding one of each in your hands, you know that the difference in paper quality is obvious, even to the touch. Professional photo lab paper is thicker than consumer paper, and that’s only the beginning of what sets it apart.
Thanks to advanced color dispersion technology, professional quality paper is also capable of a dazzling array of color, reproducing skin tones more accurately and producing strong, bright colors, especially vibrant greens, blues, yellows, and cyan. The blacks are bolder and richer, creating superior contrast and depth, for photos that are visually striking and equally worthy of displaying in an art gallery or your home.
At Nations Photo Lab, we use Kodak Premier Endura Paper in our professional photo prints. This award-winning paper is considered the gold standard for professional print quality. It produces a truly impressive spectrum of bright, eye-catching colors, pristine whites, and deep blacks for the ultimate in professional photo prints.
Professional Photo Labs Use Superior Ink and Chemicals
The quality of your printed photos will also vary considerably depending on the inks, chemicals, and processes used to develop them on paper. To cut costs, consumer prints typically use lower quality materials.
A professional photo lab, however, will use higher grade inks and chemicals and the latest processes since producing superior images is the core of their business. Plus, their clientele include professional photographers who can spot the details and differences in quality that the average consumer might miss.
Our inks of choice at Nations Photo Lab are Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) inks, which are designed by the manufacturer to be superior to those printed by off-brand manufacturers, such as STS inks.
Professional Photo Labs Offer Consumers More Options
Matte or glossy? Those are typically the main two choices of photo finishing offered by consumer photo print labs.
But there is a world of other photo finishing options out there that can enhance and elevate your photo prints.
Nations Photo Lab offers lustre, metallic, and glossy paper, with the option to add on a linen texture. This gives you the flexibility to create professional photo prints in a range of finishes for maximum creativity and visual appeal.
They Offer More Sizes, Too
We all love standard 4×6” postcard-sized photo prints, but sometimes you need a non-standard size for your most treasured photos.
Maybe you’re a professional photographer who needs prints in custom sizes for your upcoming show. Or perhaps you’re just looking to get an extra large photo print of your favorite image from your wedding photo shoot. A consumer lab is unlikely to have what you’re looking for.
A professional photo lab, on the other hand, has more options to meet your artistic vision. Here at Nations Photo Lab, we offer over 60 print sizes, from 3.5×5” to 30×45”, so that you can print your photos in the exact specifications you want them, for framing, hanging, scrapbooking, and more.
Real Humans Are Available to Color Correct Your Photos
Oftentimes, photos require Color Correction to adjust the hues, get rid of color casts, and generally make the colors as accurate and true to life as possible.
If a consumer photo lab even offers Color Correction, it’s usually performed by automated software.
Professional photo labs will usually have a team of professionally trained Color Correctors available to edit your photos. They have a level of experience and discernment that no computer program can match, and they have the ability to take the photography subject and style into account when making considered decisions about how to Color Correct your photos.
At Nations Photo Lab, we have a full staff of trained Color Correctors who live and breathe color. Seriously, they’re obsessed.
Professional Photo Labs Monitor Calibration/ICC Profiles
This benefit will be of particular interest to the color geeks out there. If you’re the type of photographer or keen-eyed person who cares about getting the colors of your images just right, then a professional photo lab is really the only way to go. Consumer photo labs simply don’t have the expertise or the specialized calibration equipment to offer that level of color precision.
At Nations Photo Lab, we generate all of our color profiles in-house and provide them to clients with top-of-the-line calibration equipment. These profiles are customized to each paper and printer they are profiled for and because of this exacting attention to detail, these color profiles are much more accurate than those generated by a third party.
Professional Photo Labs Use Professional Grade Printers
Professional labs use premium, high-end printers that create photo prints that are markedly different from consumer lab photo prints.
For example, at Nations Photo Lab, we don’t use standard inkjet printers, but instead use cutting-edge silver halide printers. We produce Chromogenic Prints, also known as Silver Halide Prints, that are made using a digital image and developed using a chemical process that involves infusing the image right into the paper.
The resulting prints have more depth, more vibrant colors, and more details in highlights and shadows. They are also sharper and less susceptible to fading or damage, which is commonly seen with inkjet photographic prints that are made by just applying ink to the surface of the paper.
The Craftsmanship and Quality Control Is Off the Charts
Photo printing is what professional print labs do. It’s their focus and their forte. Because of this, they train their employees far more extensively than consumer labs do, resulting in a higher quality product with fewer mistakes made along the way. What’s more, professional labs typically have more quality control measures in place than consumer labs, for whom photo printing is a tiny slice of their overall business.
Nations Photo Lab provides all of our associates with thorough training in color quality, print quality, and manufacturing that is tailored to each employee’s location in the photo printing process. We also have a team of quality auditors who spot check orders every day as part of our regular workflow, so our customers can enjoy the highest level of print quality every time they order from us. If you have an issue with your order, we record and act on the feedback our customers provide to ensure we are always providing the best quality product.