As a professional photographer, the decision you make when it comes to the photo lab that you trust with your prints is a tough one. With your most important goals in mind, evaluate potential photo labs using the following criteria:
This, of course, is the most important characteristic of a reliable photo lab. Your photo lab should be able to print your pictures to match the way you have chosen to adjust them with your photo editing software. If you don’t want to edit your own digital pictures, then you should look for a lab that offers photo correcting services.
Print Sizes Available
Before choosing your lab, find out which sizes are available for printing purposes from smallest to largest. Also, find out if they are capable of printing both squares and panoramas. This will afford you more creative freedom when you are cropping your images.
Paper/Other Media Options
As you know, pictures can be reproduced on a wide range of materials. Many labs offer press-printed products, which include greeting cards, posters, business cards and other related paper products. Consider what you’ll want to be printing on. For example, if you know you’ll be providing canvas wraps, ensure that your photo lab can provide an outstanding version.
Find out how long it takes for the lab to finish prints before they are ready for shipment. Basic prints can often be produced in 24 hours and should be ready to send the next business day. Items like canvas gallery wraps, large metal prints or books might take longer to print and deliver. If quick response time from your lab is important to you (which it should be!) then make sure to find out about standard processing time.
Submission & Delivery Options
Most photo labs allow you to place your order online. You create an account, upload your pictures, designate the sizes and number of prints for each and pay with a credit card or PayPal. Many labs will ask that you download ROES, which is customized for that lab and its products. Be sure to take into account the delivery options that you’d like to have available so that you can confirm that your lab provides what you’re looking for.
There are some advantages of doing business with a local photo lab. You can easily visit and see samples of their work, and you can always talk to someone in person if you have questions about how to prepare or submit pictures. If you order from a local lab, you normally cut down on the turn-around time because no special delivery arrangements need to be made.
While you might be willing to pay a higher price for quality prints available in a variety of sizes on different media, you should still compare prices among labs. It’s completely reasonable to pay a bit extra for reliable service, good quality results and outstanding customer service.