Corey Talks: The Wal Mart State of Mind

Corey Talks: The Wal Mart State of Mind

Oftentimes I will read on bridal forums and blogs that “I can get that printed off the disc at Wal Mart for 57 cents.  I am not paying my photographer $20 for the same thing!  That is a rip off!”  What many people do not understand is that Wal Mart and a true photo lab are two entire different animals.   You will get what you paid for when you bargain hunt with photo labs.  Today I hope to help you understand WHY your photographer charges more for prints from a lab and why Wal Mart can’t compare. 

Wal Mart, Snapfish and all those other ‘bargain’ type photo labs have their place in the world.  For the prints from your Mom’s birthday, snapshots of your kids making silly faces and the like.  Sometimes the image is just something that you don’t mind if it isn’t perfect – you just want a hard copy of a moment or a memory that is special to you.  That is all perfectly fine.  I’m not here to tell you that Wal Mart and the other photo sites are evil and you should never use them. 

One problem with the bargain photo sites is that the colors are often not true to what your photographer intended them to be seen.  I had a good friend of mine recently use Snapfish for some prints of a picture for her daughter’s 2nd birthday and they all came back orange.  Snapfish did reprint them and the same thing occured.  They told her that it was an error in her image file and refused to comp her for the costs.  I had the images reprinted with my lab and the colors were true to what was seen on the monitor.  This happens more often than I can tell you.  It can be due to various reasons, most often that the printers have not been calibrated recently and/or correctly. 

Another issue with the bargain photo sites is that the actual ink and paper used is not the same quality of ink and paper that you will find being used at the professional labs.  It may sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo geek photo talk but basically the higher quality of ink and paper you have, the longer your colors will remain true and the longer the image will last.  Pictures aren’t forever.  I have some images that I had printed off at Kodak online that are already fading and it hasn’t been much more than a year.  When it’s just a simple snapshot it’s not that big of a deal if the color fades but you want your wedding images to remain true a lot longer than a year – especially when they are going to be displayed where sunlight will hit them.  Most photography labs also can add a UV coating that will help prevent fading even more and oftentimes that cost is built into the price of your print. 

Another problem with most bargain labs is that they do not offer anything beyond the standard color print in either matte or glossy.  Professional labs will not only offer color, but true black and white prints (there is a difference!), metallic prints, pearl prints and so forth but offer just as many finishes as well including luster which is hard to find at most bargain stores.   Choosing the right type of paper for your image is almost as important as choosing the right frame for the image.  Sometimes, your image can come to life with the perfect finish and paper. 

Finally there is the attention to detail.  A bargain lab is pretty much computer run and then put into an envelope and let go to the customer.  With professional labs, there is someone checking everything every step of the way to ensure that your print is exactly how you ordered it and that it is perfect when it finally touches your hands. 

I hope that this helps clear up why photographers do charge more than Wal Mart when it comes to printing.  I promise you, you aren’t getting a Wal Mart print with the end cost jacked up – there is a higher cost involved when using professional labs but the end result is so worth it.  Most labs do not print to the public, but I do highly reccomend http://www.mpix.com which is a professional lab that does allow the public to print.  It is the only lab I reccomend to my brides whom are planning to self-print. 

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  1. M.Crosby says:

    This is helpful. I hadn’t even thought about prints! I have thought some about the album/coffee table photo books. Do you have any favorite vendors for those for DIY-ers? There are so many….

  2. Corey says:

    M.Crosby – I am glad that you found it helpful! I don’t mind where my brides go but a lot of times, not being in the photography business, people just think that the 9 cent prints are the same as any other. I just would hate to see anyone spend money on prints – whatever the cost – and then get them back and think that was the way they were supposed to look.

    As far as the albums, I really like mpix’s books and I’ve had good luck with Blurb as well (although some have not). Blurb’s software for creating the albums is the best I’ve found though – VERY easy to use. I have also tried out My Publisher but their customer service is really horrible and the books – although pretty high quality – are really high in price.

  3. […] of my past brides, Corey, is a fabulous photographer in Ohio. She wrote “The Wal-Mart State of Mind” on her blog and it was soo well put, you have to read it. She explains why professional […]

  4. […] • Why Professional Prints Cost More Than Wal Mart’s […]