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Author Topic: Best consumer print lab?  (Read 1400 times)

kpz

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Best consumer print lab?
« on: October 17, 2018, 12:45:26 pm »

I'd like to get some photos printed, but I don't have enough capital or time to invest in my own printing setup. It seems then that I need to use an online photo lab.

In choosing among the options, my primary goal is achieving the highest possible image quality. Unfortunately, since I am not a professional, the pro labs are not available to me.

The following recent comparison of several major consumer labs recommends Nations Photo Lab:
https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-online-photo-printing/

Does anyone here have experience using Nations (positive or negative)? Are there better options available if image quality is what is important to me?

(I am using a color calibrated monitor and soft-proofing in Lightroom, so I don't intend to purchase additional color correction services, if that makes a difference.)
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digitaldog

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2018, 01:37:22 pm »

The question is, are you looking for a fully color managed lab that supplies ICC profile for soft proofing and conversions?
If so, I'd start here:
https://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/
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Andrew Rodney
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kpz

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2018, 02:23:00 pm »

I would love that, however all the non-pro labs I've looked at offer ICC profiles only for esoteric printing substrates. They just say they require files in sRGB, which is easy enough to soft proof, I suppose, but perhaps not as accurate as a specific printer profile.

White House Custom Color seemed to be better than the others and offers free test prints to check color, but they also don't accept .jpegs compressed with quality set to the maximal value. (They say it doesn't make a difference in prints, but given I can detect a difference on my screen, I am not so sure.)

I fully realize no consumer printer is going to be perfect. I am simply looking for the best compromise. Ideally I would own a personal printer ("The best quality control is your own quality control"), but that is a while off.

I looked at your link but everything in my state is a Costco...
« Last Edit: October 17, 2018, 02:29:59 pm by kpz »
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digitaldog

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2018, 02:35:36 pm »

I would love that, however all the non-pro labs I've looked at offer ICC profiles only for esoteric printing substrates. They just say they require files in sRGB, which is easy enough to soft proof, I suppose, but perhaps not as accurate as a specific printer profile.
Right that's a silly workflow (**forcing sRGB on you).


**The benefits of wide gamut working spaces on printed output:
This three part, 32 minute video covers why a wide gamut RGB working space like ProPhoto RGB can produce superior quality output to print.
Part 1 discusses how the supplied Gamut Test File was created and shows two prints output to an Epson 3880 using ProPhoto RGB and sRGB, how the deficiencies of sRGB gamut affects final output quality. Part 1 discusses what to look for on your own prints in terms of better color output. It also covers Photoshop’s Assign Profile command and how wide gamut spaces mishandled produce dull or over saturated colors due to user error.
Part 2 goes into detail about how to print two versions of the properly converted Gamut Test File  file in Photoshop using Photoshop’s Print command to correctly setup the test files for output. It covers the Convert to Profile command for preparing test files for output to a lab.
Part 3 goes into color theory and illustrates why a wide gamut space produces not only move vibrant and saturated color but detail and color separation compared to a small gamut working space like sRGB.


High Resolution Video: http://digitaldog.net/files/WideGamutPrintVideo.mov
Low Resolution (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLlr7wpAZKs&feature=youtu.be
Quote
I looked at your link but everything in my state is a Costco...
But many are using high end Epson ink jets AND supply output profiles you can fully use.
You might also check out Nancy Scans in NY.
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Andrew Rodney
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kpz

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2018, 02:56:31 pm »

I fully agree that forcing sRGB is silly. However, there doesn't seem to be an economical way to get pro level printing with a wider color gamut if all I want to do is print a few dozen 4x6s and a 11x17 or two to hang on my wall. Nancy's appears to do gallery printing, not this kind of consumer printing.

Nations also uses high-end Epson printers. The lack of output profile is unfortunate, but again, I lack the money and artistic ability to merit pro or personal printing, so here I am looking for the best compromise.

I will be sure to watch those videos at some point. They look extremely informative.
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digitaldog

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2018, 03:03:23 pm »

My point is, you don't have to compromise IF you wish a fully color managed print path, as you would if you were printing the images yourself.
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Andrew Rodney
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kpz

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2018, 03:17:43 pm »

I can't find an online service that prints for consumers that is fully colored managed in the sense that they provide .icc output profiles for softproofing (with perhaps the exception of WHCC, but see my note above). Reviews of Costco uniformly describe the printing quality as poor, perhaps due to operator error, and in any case the nearest one is 1.5 hours away by public transit and I do not have a membership, so I cannot consider it an option.

I am open to suggestions, hence this thread.

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digitaldog

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2018, 03:20:37 pm »

I am open to suggestions, hence this thread.
One was made in post #4.
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Andrew Rodney
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kpz

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2018, 04:45:17 pm »

Thank you. I will keep them in mind, but the smallest size they offer is 8x10, they don't seem to print in the standard 2:3 aspect ratio, and they are a little pricey. Certainly if I get more serious and want to print larger, it seems like a good option. I had in mind printing a large volume of 4x6 photos with some excursions into the 8x12 range (or perhaps a little larger).
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Dave Rosser

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2018, 05:34:58 pm »

Where in the world are you? Here in the UK if I just wanted small prints I would go to my local Tesco's of Boots and use their service, the quality is surprisingly good.

Dave

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kpz

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2018, 05:39:02 pm »

I am on the east coast of the United States. Thanks for pointing out that omission!
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Aram Hăvărneanu

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2018, 05:40:48 pm »

I tried some CVS prints, just for fun. It appears they have some kind of automated (?) system that "improves" you image. Mostly +100 saturation and contrast.
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elliot_n

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2018, 07:32:57 pm »

On the rare occasions that I want cheap minilab prints (4"x6" digital c-types), I'm not too bothered if the lab requires sRGB. I also don't mind if doesn't provide a paper profile. All I care about is that the lab prints my files without any adjustments. I can't recommend anywhere in your neck of the woods, but here in the UK such a lab charges the equivalent of a dollar for 15 4x6 prints.

(You might get more specific recommendations on a wedding photography forum.)
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BAB

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2018, 01:03:30 am »

If I were in a similar situation I would give three files one each to three different labs and see which one you can work with easily. Your project seems fairly basic as you describe I’m sure even your local Costco could handle the project.
As far as a recommendation for a great non professional lab.
You don’t have to be a professional to use a high quality lab.
If you want the highest quality 4x6 prints you should turn your original files over to someone with a whole lot of experience and let them show you how it’s done. If your are not making several test prints and you have little experience looking at actual prints to obtain high quality production you never get there the way your going about it!


FWIW
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Joe Towner

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #14 on: November 04, 2018, 11:22:45 pm »

I looked at your link but everything in my state is a Costco...

Don't discount Costco - if their print center folks are spot on, the output is just like owning your own printer.  There isn't a better option to learn a few things than taking some images on a laptop, and hanging out while they're printed.  The larger prints can't be beat - Epson 24" photo printer on semi-gloss Epson paper.
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digitaldog

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2018, 08:24:34 am »

Don't discount Costco - if their print center folks are spot on, the output is just like owning your own printer.  There isn't a better option to learn a few things than taking some images on a laptop, and hanging out while they're printed.  The larger prints can't be beat - Epson 24" photo printer on semi-gloss Epson paper.
Absolutly correct.
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Andrew Rodney
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josh.reichmann

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2019, 11:14:41 pm »

This may be of help, though it’s rather late reply, could be useful for others. My two cents (but I’m biased)

Best online printing lab: https://luminous-landscape.com/pikto-tour-of-an-online-printing-lab/
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elliot_n

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Re: Best consumer print lab?
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2019, 10:07:33 am »

Nice film. Very impressive faciltiy.
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