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Author Topic: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing  (Read 2373 times)

Kit-V

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Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« on: February 12, 2021, 04:18:35 pm »

For several years I have casually thought about investing in a quality photo printer rather than sending my images out to a photo lab. My interest of doing my own printing is simply to regain complete control over my entire photographic work. Certainly there is the initial cost of the printer which is something I am willing to incur. Forgetting about this fixed cost, I am curious whether there is a substantial difference in cost between that of ink & paper compared to outsourcing to a photo lab. I would appreciate your comments. Thank you.
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digitaldog

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2021, 04:26:40 pm »

Depends on the Lab.
Depends on the home printer.
Depends on the skills of those prep'ing the files for either.
As Master printer Mac Holbert (formally Nash Editions) said: The printer is a default device. Meaning, it's all in the preparation of the data being sent to a printer.
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Rhossydd

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2021, 04:31:55 am »

It would be easier to offer advice if you tell us what sort of prints you're hoping to make.
Just small enprints to hand around ?
Larger prints up to A3 to frame and put on the wall ?
Big display prints many feet wide ?

Costs will also be difficult to compare without knowing what service you're using now.
Just a cheap online or supermarket style lab ? or a professional printing service using top quality materials ?
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kers

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2021, 06:05:36 am »

One of the nicest things is you can print- refine the photo and print again...till it is at your personal best.
On your printer you can choose the paper as well.
If it is a calibrated printer you can send it to the lab and get about the same.
I noticed that the standard/consumerlabs change the photo a bit in the sense it comes out more vivid and with more local contrast. A professional fotolab printer would not change the data.
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budjames

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2021, 08:54:04 am »

I have been printing my own images for over a decade. I use Epson printers since the ill fated P2000. I upgraded my printer numerous times as new models with improved IQ and technology became available. Upgrading to 17" wide printers, I have printed up to 16" x 20" prints on the Epson 3800, 3880, P800 and now the P900. The P900 is the best so far and I'm very happy with the new features that this printer brings to the table.

I've tried a variety of papers over the years, but have standardized on Epson because their ICC profiles built into the printer software are excellent. I also use Red River papers for greeting card sized prints.

I used to work for a commercial photography processor manufacture, Hope Industries, for 17 years before changing careers in 1993. Desktop inkjet printers are amazing these days and obviously don't require the use of the very nasty chemicals that wet processing systems still use.

As a serious photo hobbyist, controlling my images from capture to printing is a rewarding experience. After mastering the learning curve, resulting image quality is excellent and I enjoy the process. Additionally, I use my fine art photography to create gifts for my clients and for charity auction items. People are genuinely impressed when they learn that took the photo and created the final print. I also find that I print more than if I had to send the image out to a lab.

For casual printing, it is definitely more expensive to do you own printing than send to a lab. However, the entire photographic experience is enjoyable to me so I will always maintain the ability to print my own work.

Regards,
Bud James

Please check out my fine art and travel photography at www.budjames.photography or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/budjamesphoto
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Kit-V

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2021, 09:05:33 am »

It would be easier to offer advice if you tell us what sort of prints you're hoping to make.
Just small enprints to hand around ?
Larger prints up to A3 to frame and put on the wall ?
Big display prints many feet wide ?

Costs will also be difficult to compare without knowing what service you're using now.
Just a cheap online or supermarket style lab ? or a professional printing service using top quality materials ?

My thoughts at this time would be prints possibly up to 16" X 24". I suspect, however, that the cost of a quality printer (as well as that of ink & paper) will at some point will rise disproportionately fast based on print size.  So I may have to scale back on my ambitions.

Currently I am using ProDPI to make my prints. They are a full-service photo lab that print on a variety of media. Compared to cheap online or supermarket labs, I consider them to be a professional lab.
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Kit-V

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2021, 09:11:48 am »

I have been printing my own images for over a decade. I use Epson printers since the ill fated P2000. I upgraded my printer numerous times as new models with improved IQ and technology became available. Upgrading to 17" wide printers, I have printed up to 16" x 20" prints on the Epson 3800, 3880, P800 and now the P900. The P900 is the best so far and I'm very happy with the new features that this printer brings to the table.

I've tried a variety of papers over the years, but have standardized on Epson because their ICC profiles built into the printer software are excellent. I also use Red River papers for greeting card sized prints.

I used to work for a commercial photography processor manufacture, Hope Industries, for 17 years before changing careers in 1993. Desktop inkjet printers are amazing these days and obviously don't require the use of the very nasty chemicals that wet processing systems still use.

As a serious photo hobbyist, controlling my images from capture to printing is a rewarding experience. After mastering the learning curve, resulting image quality is excellent and I enjoy the process. Additionally, I use my fine art photography to create gifts for my clients and for charity auction items. People are genuinely impressed when they learn that took the photo and created the final print. I also find that I print more than if I had to send the image out to a lab.

For casual printing, it is definitely more expensive to do you own printing than send to a lab. However, the entire photographic experience is enjoyable to me so I will always maintain the ability to print my own work.

Regards,
Bud James

Please check out my fine art and travel photography at www.budjames.photography or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/budjamesphoto

Thank you, Bud, for sharing your experience. You echo my thinking. I guess that being able to control the experience from image capture to final print would be another layer of personal satisfaction. But, I do not want to be so cavalier to give the impression that "money is no object".
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Rhossydd

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2021, 10:34:23 am »

My thoughts at this time would be prints possibly up to 16" X 24". I suspect, however, that the cost of a quality printer (as well as that of ink & paper) will at some point will rise disproportionately fast based on print size.
I'd suggest looking at one of the A2 capable printers, that should cover that size requirement. They're also just fine for all smaller papers too.
For serious amateur use this is pretty much the printing sweet spot. The printers are compact enough to be domestically acceptable, just, ink cart sizes are big enough to be cheaper to run than smaller printers with little carts.
Once you get to this capability either the Canon Pro 100 or Epson SC P900 are built to a high pro spec, so life span and support is likely to be good too.

The only problem today is supply issues.
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Kit-V

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2021, 12:04:49 pm »

Thank you. My research has also pointed in the same direction.
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MichaelKoerner

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2021, 02:45:29 pm »

I'd suggest looking at one of the A2 capable printers ...

+1

Just another, little point to consider: As soon as you print yourself, you might not only enjoy full control over your creative workflow, but also full frustration if something goes wrong :-)

For me (YMMV) the total cost of printing inhouse was much higher than working with an external lab. All in all, it took me years to get (and understand) all necessary info on proper file preparation, monitor and printer calibration/profiling, and viewing conditions (not to forget all those nasty software bugs and hardware issues I didn't recognise as such, being a trustful greenhorn.

(BTW: Big cudos to all of you great guys, sharing your knowledge here at LuLa. Couldn't have made it without you!)

But in the end, it pays off, of course.

Today I can offer high end printing services to me and my clients, based on a proper foundation of knowledge and experience. Thus we get images that are not only a coloured sheet of crappy plastic (sorry, RC papers ;)) but a carefully crafted expression of the photographer's emotions on precious materials you'd love to touch.

In my experience, you can't buy that in a lab. And if you can, it's expensive. So, better learn to do it yourself!

Kit-V

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2021, 04:43:23 pm »

MichaelK:  Accomplishment & personal satisfaction can often easily justify higher monetary costs.
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budjames

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2021, 05:50:50 pm »

Thank you, Bud, for sharing your experience. You echo my thinking. I guess that being able to control the experience from image capture to final print would be another layer of personal satisfaction. But, I do not want to be so cavalier to give the impression that "money is no object".
After working my way through Canon Pro SLRs and DSLRs, then Fuji X various XPro and XT bodies to finally arrive at Leica M and SL2 with Leica lenses, the cost over the years has been tremendous for a hobby. As stated in my previous post, my upgrade journey through various Epson printers wasn’t inexpensive either.

When I think back, it was worth the investment in money and time to get to where I am today. Now that I shoot exclusively with Leica, a bucket list desire since graduating high school 45 years ago, my GAS is cured and my future expenditures should be minimal. I got 5 years of service from my Epson P800 before upgrading to the new P900. I expect to get at least 5 years from the P900 because of my low volume printing needs.

I print more now than ever because it is so easy and the resulting image quality motivates me to revisit and print older images as well as newer ones. I certainly don’t miss the days of printing B&W and Cibachrome in a darkroom.

If you want to save a few bucks, you should look at the 11” wide Epson P700. However, the wider P900 gives you the ability to print up to 17” wide and the larger ink cartridges will reduce the cost of printing over time.

It’s great to have the choices that we now enjoy. Just as with the first print I ever made in a darkroom, the feeling that I get with printing today is equally as thrilling. The thought of cost fades when compared to the long lasting enjoyment of the hobby. Many have said that you don’t have a photograph until you make a print. I agree.

Regards,
Bud James

Please check out my fine art and travel photography at www.budjames.photography or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/budjamesphoto.
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Kit-V

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2021, 06:05:36 pm »

Well said, Bud.
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Rand47

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2021, 12:15:09 pm »

Lots of good insight in this thread. 

One thing that has not been mentioned, that I think is important / valuable re printing your own work and all that is involved in that.... is - that printing your own work will make you a better photographer.  You’ll see things in the prints that you’d be hard pressed to “notice” in a screen image.  Weaknesses in composition, distracting elements (large and small), how you’ve expressed yourself in processing the file, etc. are all more immediate, more apparent when printing “your own” than from printing from a lab - even a good one.  The exercise of soft proofing, and printing / evaluating under a good print evaluation setup is different, more revealing, than sending off a finished file and receiving a print from a lab.  There’s no “immediate feedback” and often there’s no real close examination of the differences between your finished screen image, and what the print looks like (perhaps other than, “It looks darker than what I remember on my screen!”  LOL)

Printing at home will not save you money or time.  It will consume much more of both.  That’s just the fact of the matter.  But the potential in what you’ll learn, the quality of the prints, and the satisfaction of “being the artist from start to finish” is priceless to my way of thinking.

Rand
« Last Edit: February 17, 2021, 12:21:24 pm by Rand47 »
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Ken Bennett

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2021, 10:01:48 pm »

I had years of experience printing in the analog darkroom, both b&w and color, then when I switched to digital imaging I didn't make prints myself for a number of years. Then I saw the then-new Epson 3800 at a conference. I bought one, then replaced it ten years later with a P800, which I still use. For me, it's about having complete control over the final photograph. Yes, I can go back and forth with a lab, but it's faster and just more satisfying to do it all myself.

The cost of the paper and ink is not trivial. Once you gain the necessary skills, and are able to make a decent print on the first try and a great print on the second, I suppose one can save a few dollars over the cost of a custom lab - though that ignores the initial cost of the printer itself, and all the ink and paper spent acquiring said skills :)

I do agree that the 17 inch wide printers are the sweet spot. I remember when an 8x10 was a good sized print, and an 11x14 was large -- had to mix up extra chemistry, make lots of smaller test prints, get the big trays. A 16x20 was an occasion in the analog darkroom, for me anyway. A big deal. I figured I would never print anything that large but the lower ink costs made me buy the larger printer. Now I have professionally framed 16x20s all around the house and studio, and have given numerous large prints as gifts.
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gchappel

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2021, 02:57:04 pm »

I moved to an IPF8400 44"printer 8 years ago.
I also print with the canon pro1000.
Nothing made my photography improve faster than printing myself.
Print, review, sometimes correct, reprint taught me more than years of printing with a service.
Good or bad- when I print myself I want my prints to be PERFECT.  Little flaws that I would accept with a print from a lab- little things I did not notice in an 8x10" test print show themselves at 30x40".   
To me this is just a hobby, and cost is not really an issue. 
It is MUCH more expensive for me to print at home than when I was using a lab. 
I enjoy testing papers--- my bad but it is expensive. 
Just like digital shooting helped us improve more quickly than the old analog film days- because you get immediate feedback.
Same thing with printing.  You get better fast.
Enjoy the journey
gary
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mearussi

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Re: Photo Lab vs. Home Printing
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2021, 08:44:15 am »

The two primary advantages of printing at home are rapid turn around times, i.e. I can fine tune an image in a matter of a few hours instead of the several days to weeks it would take to send it out, have it returned, send it out again, etc. until I got it just the way I want. Also the ability to choose from any paper made instead of being limited to just whatever the printing company carries in stock is really nice.

Cost only comes down if you own a pro level printer with big ink cartridges. I own a 24" Canon ipf6400 and the ability to buy 330ml cartridges means my cost/ml is much lower than someone using a small printer with a 15ml cartridge.
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