About a year ago I first did this exercise so I could show my customers the results. I took it upon myself to do this again a couple of weeks ago in the off-chance things had improved when it came to retail prints - but I must admit I was just as shocked as last time! Not only shocked, but so disappointed to see my photographs looking so dreadful. It's actually heartbreaking to think that my customers may actually have these lesser versions of their photographs hanging on their walls at home!
I must admit that most enquiries I receive are from customers who are after digital files. However, upon chatting to them further they don't really know what they want - which is fair enough - because how can you know what you want when you don't know what's on offer?!
I guess most people book a photographer based on the fact that they like their style of work plus they also fit within their budget. But I admit that I am surprised by the amount of customers who I meet who don't realise there is a difference between professional prints and those printed by retail stores such as Kmart.
I am very passionate about providing my customers with professional prints. Not only will they look stunning in their home but they also represent my work in the best way possible! I often use this analogy:
Having a professional photo shoot and just printing your photos at a retail store is like making the effort to fly to Europe but just staying in a standard hotel the whole time... Why go to so much effort yet not enjoy the result?!
In my studio I have a folder of sample prints that shows four photographs as professional prints compared to retail prints. I make sure every customer sees this so they are aware of what they are buying, and almost every customer is shocked to see the results! I have in no way tampered with the photographs to make them look worse, and anyone who is skeptical is welcome to go try this for themselves!
Although it's much clearer to see the differences in-person, I have attached below some images of a photograph printed by different places to try to show you the difference:
Kmart: The paper feels very cheap and on closer inspection you can see printer lines through the photo. There is a noticeable colour shift towards green and skin tones look more ruddy rather than soft and peachy! There is also some type of sharpening that has been applied to the photo making the images look slightly pixelated. Furthermore, there is banding in the whites - banding is where you get almost like a pixelation and on these prints it's showing up as pink. It is hard to see in the examples above but can easily be seen in person.
Teds: The paper again feels cheap. Images are overexposed with loss of detail in the highlights and the blacks looking muddy. A noticeable colour shift towards green which is mostly noticeable in the black and white photograph.
Harvey Norman: The paper actually seems of good quality and is proper photographic paper (hooray!). However, there is a horrible colour shift towards yellow and the images also look desaturated. The Black & White photo now looks yellow and white! There is also a loss of detail with the photos looking slightly blurry.
Why is there such a big difference?
Professional photographers spend a lot of time calibrating their computer screen so that what they see on their screen represents the photograph in print. We also purchase software that calibrates our screen correctly and we work closely with our professional printers to achieve the best result possible.
You may have realised that when using the computer at work the colour and contrast looks much different to your computer at home, which also looks different to your TV screen, which then looks different to your phone! This is because every screen is made differently and comes with default settings (which can be tweaked to look better). The quality of the screen also becomes a factor... so you can imagine how many variances there can be!
The other difference is that a professional laboratory will regularly maintain their equipment and check that their photographic printers are calibrated correctly. Retail stores can differ from one outlet to the next and you can never be 100% sure of what the result will be.
Prints only cost 10 cents for a reason!
Like most things in life, you almost always pay for what you get. Prints only cost 10 cents for a reason! Quality always comes with a higher price tag so this is definitely something to consider when booking your photography session. I am still more than happy to sell digital files as I think they are great as a keepsake, plus they are still convenient for many reasons: there are a lot of creative Mums out there who like to do scrapbooking or things alike and print quality isn't such a big issue for this. Also, it's not always possible to afford professional prints for extended family as well, plus a lot of my customers have relatives overseas so transferring a digital file they can print themselves is ideal. However, if you're planning to hang something on your own wall I definitely recommend a professional product.
I am more than happy for people to book a time with me for an in-person consultation if they would like the opportunity to see my sample book and see the quality of professionally printed photographs before booking a session.