I’ve been working on this project for a few weeks and I’m excited to share it with you!
The one thing that is ALWAYS on my mind is how I can offer my clients the very best quality, service, and experience. One of the things that I strongly believe in is ordering your favorite images in print through your professional photographer. We have access to exclusive printing labs with the very best equipment, paper, and handling. As time goes on, however, it is becoming more and more popular to want the digital copies of your images so you can print at your leisure. I understand the desire to have digital copies of your images for safe keeping (and that is why I now offer archival USBs), but I highly encourage all of my clients to purchase their physical prints, albums, and cards through me. Why? The quality of the paper, binding, etc. is outstanding. The color is personally managed by me, not a machine; the colors are perfect and match up with the digital copy as close as humanly possible. These products are guaranteed to stand against the test of time and if you ever have a problem, I will happily replace any item you order from me!
So that’s how this print comparison project was born! I wanted to experiment for myself and my clients to see how my professional prints compared with consumer printers. I asked friends and clients which places they print from and I printed 5x7s from every one- Costco, Walgreens, Shutterfly and CVS. Then, I scanned them in individually using the same scanner. I added the text, grouped them together for comparison, and loaded them here. There was absolutely NO alteration to these pictures, not even sharpening.
I decided that a well-rounded comparison is best, as there is more to an image than just quality and it would be remiss of me to ignore that! I chose to compare all of the prints on these 4 categories:
Color: Walgreens is definitely the worst. You can see in both pictures that they are darker with lots of contrast. CVS adds a touch of orange, especially in shadows such has below the chin or in the hair on the baby. Shutterfly brightens the picture quite a bit as you can see by the way the color of grass changes. Costco is probably the best out of the consumer labs. It isn’t sharp and lacks some color, but otherwise didn’t distort the image very much. With the professional print, you can see that the skin tones look creamy and natural and the colors are vibrant but true to the original file.
Paper: Costco and CVS tied for the thinnest, flimsiest paper. Walgreens and Shutterfly seemed normal, nothing special. My professional prints come with lustre coating (to protect the surface of the paper from scratches, dust, etc) and mounted on matboard (to make the prints strong and sturdy).
Price: Out of the consumer labs, Costco was the cheapest at 21 cents per 5×7 print and Walgreens was the most expensive at $2.49 per 5×7 print. The price for a professionally printed 5×7 from me is $40.
Turn Around Time: Walgreens, CVS, and Costco all offer same-day prints so they are definitely the quickest option. The prints that took the longest to get here were from Shutterfly; they took a total of 6 business days to get here. When you order professional prints from me I tell you that it can take up to 2 weeks, but it usually takes 3 to 5 business days for me to deliver them to you. Note: If you order products that have to be designed or take longer to manufacture, your wait time is going to be longer from ALL of these places. These turn around times are just for prints!
I encourage all of you that invest in professional photography to also invest in professional products that will display beautifully in your home for many years to come!