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celebrating OU seniors and Bartlesville and Tulsa families through photography.

Hey, y’all! 

I’m Melanie, the girl behind the lens at Melanie Foster Photography. Whether you’re getting ready for your upcoming OU senior or your Bartlesville or Tulsa family photography experience, I hope you’ll stay a while, pick up a few tips, and be inspired for your own MFP photo session! 

The Difference in Photo Print Quality | Where to Print Your Photos


The Difference in Photo Print Quality | Where to Print Your Photos

I’ve had this blog post idea in my head for several years, and I am somehow just now getting around to bringing it to life! My lack of promptness does not take away from it’s necessity, though! Today, we’re talking about photo quality and printing. I can’t wait for you to see this difference.

Photographers often recommend, or even require, print orders and minimums. While I’ve never been one to stiff-arm MFP clients into products and purchases (it’s just not my style, not my purpose, and not my passion), I do feel a responsibility to educate clients on their options when it comes to who and where they order their photos from. Let’s take a look at a few options you have when it comes to ordering your photos from your family, senior, or lifestyle photo session:

  • Walgreens, CVS, Target, Costco, etc. ($.37 for a 4×6 from Walgreens on glossy or matte paper, free pickup or shipping around $2-5)
  • Online consumer labs, like mpix.com ($.33 for a 4×6, e-surface paper with no special finish, $5 shipping, pricing will vary based on consumer lab)
  • Professional labs directly from the photographer’s gallery (varies, general range between $2.00 – $10.00 for a 4×6 on premium Lustre paper, shipping will vary)

There is obviously a cost difference here, and one that can add up depending on the size of the prints you’re ordering and the quantity. Something else to take into consideration?…

The purpose of the photo prints.

Are you printing a 16×20 to frame and display in the entry of your home? Or are you printing a series of 4×6 photos to frame for a wedding shower you’re hosting? Are you printing a gallery wall of 5×7 or 8×10 photos for your baby’s nursery, or just want a few for safe keeping in their baby book?

What about photo print quality and coloring?

Here’s the fun part –

What do you notice from the above?

To an untrained eye, it may not seem like much, but let’s break it down.

LEFT photos – the print itself looks significantly darker and more underexposed overall than the original photo delivered.

MIDDLE photos – these are the truest to the original image delivered. The skin tones, colors, shadows, and highlights are all true to life.

RIGHT photos – severe sharpening added, contrast and saturation increased, more variation between shadows and highlights, appears more pixelated than the other two.

For reference – here are the original digital files courtesy of our engagement and wedding photographer, Katelyn James!

Let’s take a look at a few more examples of the prints –

This is the MIDDLE and RIGHT photos of the series. Notice the sharpening and contrast on the RIGHT photo, especially in Jonathan’s shirt, jeans and boots. What stands out to me the most about these two (MIDDLE and RIGHT photos shown) are the differences in Jonathan’s skin tone and the blues in his shirt. The pattern is so much more subtle in the MIDDLE photo (on the left), and there are a lot more pinks and reds in his skin on the RIGHT.

You get the point!

Now for the reveal! Which photos are from which labs?

LEFT – Consumer lab, Mpix.com

MIDDLE – Professional lab, ordered from photographer’s gallery

RIGHT – CVS/Walgreens/Target

Did you guess correctly?

Now maybe you look at these, and you’re wondering what the big deal is. If that’s the case, that’s perfectly fine. Everyone will have varying levels of interest and value when it comes to their photo prints!

Where to Print Your Photos:

If you’re investing in the professional images of your celebrations (which you should be!), then I want you to protect that investment. My general philosophy is to order your absolute favorites, and the largest prints directly from your photographer’s gallery first, and then weigh your options and needs based on your budget for a follow-up order of additional photos (which may also end up being from the photographer!). I am doing you a disservice if I do not show and tell you the differences, and present you with options!

Here me out on this, though – if you are planning to order photos to display in your home, large-scale prints, or canvases, ordering from a professional lab with your photographer is absolutely the way to go. You will see the imperfections if you choose to skimp out here. Anything beyond that, I leave it up to your judgment!

What are your thoughts?

*It is important to note that you should always read the contract you signed with your photographer regarding printing rights. Do not order prints or provide digital images to a third party outside of the photographer and their gallery if their contract inhibits you from doing so*

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