Looking For Quality
While almost all labs use automated equipment to produce prints, they’re still controlled and maintained by people. As a result, the same image file can deliver a different-looking print, depending on the lab used, so it pays to shop around and try labs to see which one produces the quality of print that you prefer. With 4x6 prints costing between 12 and 35 cents each, it’s a minor investment that can make a big difference in the long term.
Here’s a test to try. Take a dozen well-exposed image files, some of which you’ve enhanced on your computer, and submit the whole group to several labs. Choose images that have a range of color and tones, especially some high-contrast images. By comparing the prints you receive from the labs, you should be able to quickly determine which one provides you with the best results.
Local Or Internet
The Internet has given the means to order prints without stepping out of our front doors. Online print services such as Apple iPhoto, dotPhoto, Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly offer easy interfaces for uploading images from your computer to their sites.
Traditional photo labs that handle walk-in service also offer digital uploading, while labs such as Dale Labs, Imagexperts and Mpix offer reliable professional services.
Most of these services work best with a fast Internet connection. If you’re using dial-up, a local lab often will provide the best option.
Your local photo lab or even mass merchandisers may offer easy printmaking. Walk in with your memory card or a CD, and as soon as an hour later, you can have quality enlargements. Several stores even include kiosks that accept your memory card and allow you to make prints as large as 8x10 in minutes.
More Than Prints
Beyond the services of a simple 4x6 print, today’s labs can create T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars and even bound books with your favorite images. This is especially true for Web-based labs. Whether the images are destined for a photo album or a framed gift for family members, a photo lab can complement your joy of photography.