When I first got started in photography I had so much to learn. I got my first DSLR and I was on my way… except that little did I know that there was SO much more to photography than an outdated version of Photoshop and a stack of free business cards from Vista Print. But the truth is, it’s how most of the photographers in business right now got their start.
For some of us it started out as a hobby and slowly evolved into bribing our kids, (or in some cases training them from birth, lol) to pose for us for a piece of gum or a fruit snack. Then to test our skills at directing “not so trained” subjects we start offering free sessions to our family and friends. After we hone our skills and stack up some great images for our portfolios we get enough confidence to start charging a little bit for the nice photos we’ve been taking and then we start burning them to disc for the clients so they can print them anywhere they’d like… and then comes the crushing blow.
They end up looking like some of these:
And truth be told, I really do like Millers Pro Lab too, but the photographers edited images are only going to print exactly the way they were edited if they are printed at your photographers professional lab of choice. It’s necessary to calibrate to the color profile of the lab you will be using for print and consumers simply do not have the ability to do that on their own… so most of the time your prints will end up looking at worst, like any of the top four images in each set of photos… and, at best, like the quality shown in the photos shown where the editing was not specifically calibrated for print in the MPIX and Millers Pro Lab examples.
In order to compare the print quality of these 8 print options I took 8 successive photos with my camera on the same exact settings. These images are actually photos of photos. (kind like the Stone Temple Pilots song ;o) The images were not adjusted or edited at all to maintain consistency. What these images can’t show you, is that in person, the loss of clarity and detail can’t be laughed off as poor calibration. In the Simply Vivid prints, you can see individual eyelashes and color variation in the color of my son’s eyes… in the worst of the images captured at CVS, you can tell that has… well, eyes.
One of the most upsetting aspects of this experiment is that NOT A SINGLE photo tech from any of the chain labs asked for a photographers release. The fines for copyright infringement is a felony and the law specifies damages can be claimed at $150,000 per infringement. That’s a pretty expensive mistake to overlook.
I know clients like to have the images from their photo sessions on disc, and I get that because I would too… which is why I still offer the option and include a hybrid of options with my packages, but if you are going to hang your portraits up in your house, please trust us as photographers to present your images as the art they were intended to be.
I have struggled with the “shoot and burn” business model for a long time, but I think my current print and additional digital image packages along with my session fee, are all a really amazing value for the time I invest into each session.