You book the session. You spend hours on Pinterest finding the perfect wardrobe for your family. You order the outfits online, exchange what doesn't fit, find the right accessories and everything is perfect. The day of your session is precisely the gorgeous day you prayed for. The kids are all in a good mood AT THE SAME TIME. The dog is actually sitting and even looks like he's smiling. The sun is really shining on you today! The session goes off like magic, your image gallery looks like you're the family from the Land's End catalog and you just couldn't be happier. And then off you go to WalMart with your digital images and print release to have some prints made. Or maybe it's CVS or Target or some other big store with photo printers that make cheap prints on glossy paper while you wait. When you see your prints, suddenly you're not as excited about the images you see as when you saw them on your screen and you're wondering just where that photographer went wrong. Well, he or she didn't go wrong. This one is on you, and I'll tell you why.
Back in the day, when you used a professional photographer you had to order your prints from them directly. This allowed them to maintain control of the final prints. Since the advent of digital photography, it has become commonplace for clients to receive digital image files with a print release that gives clients ownership of a number of their images so they can use them as they wish, but here's where things get sticky. A professional's equipment technology and post processing expertise produce a range of color, exposure, and detail that cannot be accurately reproduced by a One Size Fits all in-store photo printer or even by the completely automated lab they send their special orders out to. Colors will be "off". Sharpness is compromised. The darkest and lightest parts of the image lose their detail. And then, as if that wasn't enough, the thin glossy paper they print on makes it so much worse. But it's not your fault if you didn't know, and that's the purpose of this post.
You paid good money for your photo session, and you spent a lot of time prepping. Don't make it less than perfect in the end by making prints of a lesser quality. I love it when clients order directly from their gallery using my lab so I can maintain quality control but if they decide to print elsewhere I don't take it personally. I just want them to end up with prints that validate everything that went into their session because I know they deserve nothing less. There are a few online printers that do a professional level job. The cost barely more than the big stores and their turnaround time is usually just a few days. I won't mention then here but an online search will turn up their names along with reviews. In life as in sports, you have to play your best game through to the very end. Don't drop the ball. Print well!