Since I have started making cards from photos I have been looking for a reliable supplier of prints who will fulfill my photographic dream, or maybe I should call it my “ideal print procurement process.” Photographers may not be surprised to learn that this has been a difficult process, and I still haven’t arrived at an optimal solution. The dream is:
– Edit and enhance photos at home on my computer
– Upload selected photos to an online ordering system that allows me to save them in sensibly named folders or albums
– Select from the album the photo I want to print, the number and other requirements such as size, paper etc.
– Order and pay online.
– Pick up the photos at a handy local supplier, or have them delivered to me in excellent condition.
– Open the packet to find beautiful images that are exactly what I expected, and the same as last time.
You are laughing now aren’t you. “How naive”, you are saying to yourself. Because you know that is not what happens, and may never happen. What happens is:
– The place that produces the best prints so far posts them in filmy envelopes and they arrive damaged. Packaging does not improve despite my complaints.
– The place that is the closest to home where I can order online and pick up up easily produces photos which are blurred and a strange and unappealing colour compared to the prints I like.
-Another place thats a bit further from home, but allows online ordering and quick turnaround at a good price, produces images that are dark and flat, and their gloss paper isn’t very glossy.
– A fourth option that is a bit further from home produce sharp images, although they are very light compared to all the other places. They don’t have online ordering so I would have to take images on a USB stick and do all the ordering from the kiosk in the shop, and wait around while the are developed.
Things I have learned to far:
– The image on the screen of my computer varies from the colour of the final print, so that needs to be adjusted for in some way.
– Different professional printing machines have different characteristics and its futile to persist with a provider that has equipment that doesn’t meet basic needs eg sharpness and overall colour cast.
– Enhancements that look fine on the screen can have funny effects in a print.
– Sometimes when you convert colour photos to black and white, if they are not fully “desaturated” a little bit of the colour remains which can seep into the print. (Actually I quite like the effect).
– El cheapo online companies don’t put enough effort into customer service.
– Being able to talk to people who understand digital prints is important, but it costs more.
Well I feel better now that I have shared my tribulations with you. I think I need to get a better photo editing package for the iMac as the standard iPhoto is too limited. I need to be able to improve targeted areas of the image without compromising other areas. This should reduce the washed out sky effect I get from trying to reduce shadows by lightening the whole image. I think there is software available that helps to convert the image on the computer to what it would look like in a print, and maybe I can try that. I am looking into the affordable Pixelmator at the moment. Not sure if I need to go to the full extent of buying Photoshop, but maybe I will regret being a cheapskate down the line.Then I need to find one place capable or producing sharp images with a nice tone that has helpful humans who can help me get prints right and repeatable.
I am working on the assumption that I need to get the photos produced at a shop, rather than print them myself at home in order to achieve the sharpness and overall quality that I am looking for. I don’t have a photo quality printer, and I am assuming I could not get something compact for the home for less that $1000 that would be good enough to produce prints for sale on high quality greeting cards. If I am wrong about that – please feel free to let me know. In fact any tips or commiserations from generous and kindhearted souls would be welcome in the comments!
This is one of the images I have been having trouble with. On my screen, the shadows in the bottom right have been lightened sufficiently to be able to see the details of the paving stones. Some prints do replicate this effect, but most turn it back into a big brown smudge. Some prints make the green of the boat very vivid, but they also makesthe river very yellow, and I am not sure if the Seine ran like a river of gold.
Wishing us all saturated blue skies, and pleasing detail in the shadows!