Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Which Photofinisher Is Best?

It's a pretty silly question - the obvious answer is "It depends."  But that didn't keep the New York Times from taking it on in the Travel Section last September.

Stephanie Rosenbloom wrote the article and led off with this comparison photo:

Her winner was the photo on the right, described as "sharper and truer to life."  Note my arrows on the left.  They point to the detail in the shadows which the finisher on the right threw away!  You will have to go the original article to see that the photo on the right also discards considerable highlight detail - look at the divided light windows, for instance.

So, we know the article is written by someone without photographic expertise - shadow detail is the first place a photographer would look.

But let's consider where the real variation in photo printing takes place.  It's at the printer where the ink meets the paper.  Proper calibration of the printer is essential to good printing.

I have two Walgreen's close to my house.  How my photos will look varies greatly between the two and sometimes, even from day to day.

Here is an example I recently printed at both stores.

If you didn't see the shadow on the tee box, you would think the first picture was taken on a cloudy day.

Good luck getting your prints to come out "correct."  Only a professional operation with a standard color chart and personal control of the printer is going to have consistent reproducible results.  Consider each printing exercise to be an experiment.  For a large group of prints, I will send one or two to my favorite printer and go get them to see how the printer is running at the moment.  Then I send the whole batch.

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