If you are like me, you love to order family photos, snap shots, etc. I enjoy having tangible memories and photos of our kids and family. However as a Des Moines Photographer, it is also important for me that when we spend hundreds, or for weddings, thousands of dollars on our photographer, I want to make sure our prints look just as good as the digital image. Why spend all that money on an amazing photographer if your print is going to give you dark shadows on your skin, etc.
As a Des Moines Photographer, I recently ordered some test prints from various labs, my professional lab, Mpix, wallgreens, and shutterfly. Now the main difference in labs is the quality of the lab tech and the machines that they use. A professional lab’s technician is trained to see color and knows when a photo is printing off. They also calibrate their machines and printing equipment so that density, color, is just like it will be on the screen of your computer. Their papers and quality are also going to be more archival, meaning they will last a lifetime with no difference in the photo, as long as it is taken care of. (not left in direct sunlight, water damage, etc.)
Now, Mpix is one of my favorite labs. They are the sister lab to my professional one. The main difference is that their papers, machines are at a lower quality than the professional lab’s. That being said, they for me are still affordable and they calibrate their equipment! Big thing right there!
The other labs I chose because they are the ones most people said that they used. My Wallgreens order came in but I am still waiting on my order from Shutterfly. I will update this post when it comes in to compare them as well but in the mean time their spot for this experiment will remain empty. So, I listed the labs I used below, as well as their cost per image, cost of shipping, and shipping times or how long it took them to get to me. With each order I picked the cheapest shipping option available. All of them I believe were supposed to be within 5 business days or less. (For my lab it was 1 – 2 business days.)
Labs: Cost for 1 4×6 image: Shipping Times:
Wallgreens $0.12 per print Shipping cost $0.99 took 9 days -from order for me to receive it
Shutterfly $0.15 per print Shipping cost $1.92 I still have yet to receive prints after 9 days from ordering
Mpix $0.29 per print Shipping cost $3.95 Photos arrived 2 days after I ordered them.
Professional Lab $10.00 per print Shipping is built in to pricing. Photos arrived the next day after ordering.
Now the original photo is meant to be a moodier edit. Bellow are photos I took of the prints side by side. I have not touched or edited these at all.
You can tell that the wallgreens print is way brighter than the Mpix or the professional lab’s. The professional lab’s print is actually the closest in comparison to what shows on my computer screen from the original photo.
This photo of the comparison’s is kinda blurry, Sorry iphone snap! However, you can still see the variations in brightness and a touch on the color.
I think this last example is a lot easier to see the skin tones change in the prints. Wallgreen’s print has a huge color cast on the bride’s face. There is a lot more green in the print of Wallgreen’s vs. Mpix or the Professional photo lab’s. The shadow’s also are a lot more pronounced.
Anyways, I hope this sheds some light on print comparisons and why as a Des Moines Photographer, I truly a professional lab for our family photos that we have done and Mpix for our snap shots! I like having tangible memories and printing my Instagram photos. I think for Instagram and phone snaps, Mpix is the best hands down when it comes to color and affordability, and professional lab’s when you want a photo to stand the test of time and still look like it came right off your computer screen.
Thank you for reading! I will be updating this to include my order from Shutterfly as soon as I get it in the mail.