Testing Photo Labs, Part 2

Test prints from two labs.

My #1 favorite photo lab was bought out and no longer exists so I am testing photo labs. I sent the same set of digital photo files to several photo labs and ordered 8×10 or 8×12 prints.  At each lab I chose the “No Color Correction” option.  I create my digital files on a color calibrated monitor and I don’t want some person or machine to change the final color rendition of the prints.

The top row of prints in the above photo is from Lab A. They have been my #2 favorite lab for years and I recommend them highly.

The bottom row of prints is from Lab B. I have not used this lab before this print test but they are highly recommended.

You can’t judge prints from a quick iPhone photo posted online. You need to see them in person. Since you can’t all come here, I will tell you what I am seeing.  You can, of course, do the same kind of test yourself. Pick a set of varied digital files, be sure to include some photos with human skin, and send the files to two or more labs. When you get the prints back, compare them and see which ones you like best.

The quality of prints from both of these labs is very good and the color rendition is very close. If you put a photo from Lab A on a wall in one room, and put the matching photo from Lab B on the wall in a different room, and walked back and forth between the two rooms, you would be hard put to see the differences.

But if you look at them side-by-side, there is a difference, be it ever so slight. Forced to choose, I would pick Lab B. Without telling my wife my choice, I asked her to pick the row of photos she preferred. She picked Lab B also.

Now for the big reveal.

Lab A is MPIX in Pittsburgh Kansas.

Lab B is Printique in Brooklyn New York. Lab B is part of Adorama Camera , one of my top three online camera stores in the country.

I have tested a lot of photo labs across the country, from major online labs to small local mom and pop labs, to drugstore labs. I have some test files on a small thumb drive that I sometimes carry with me. In my travels, every once in a while I walk into a lab or drug and make a print. There are some really great labs out there, some truly dreadful ones, and a bunch in between. There can be huge variations in color quality. It may not matter to most people if a sunset is a too red or orange compared to the original file, but it matters if human skin is too yellow, too orange, too pink, or too green, and I’ve seen all of those skin tones. And price is no predictor of quality. One lab’s $3.00 8×10 print might look great and another lab’s $5.00 8×10 print from the same file might look awful.

I have trusted MPIX for years. I am adding Printique to my highly recommended list. Either lab will do an excellent job with your prints. There is another highly recommended lab I am testing but the prints have not yet been delivered. Stay tuned.


Testing Photo Labs, Part 1

Testing Photo Labs, Part 3