As the old adage of supply and demand forecasts, a saturated market will force lower prices. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the photo industry. Advancements in photo technology, the easy accessibility of digital media, and the slimming down of photo equipment prices are allowing today’s average consumers to take advantage of a saturated photo market and become independent “photographers.”
Consumers have at their disposal affordable photo equipment, software and supplies that are comparable to what can be found in professional photo studios and labs. Or so they would seem. Certain websites geared toward consumers allow for easy uploading, designing, editing, and printing of photo products such as memory books, calendars, greeting cards, and even digital prints. Some companies have taken customized photo products to a new level by offering blankets, mugs, shirts, and more. But when taking cherished memories and making them last, the quality and durability of a pro photo lab cannot be beat. And most pro labs even offer the same customized photo products that consumers can access elsewhere. To test the market, I recently took my digital files to a local convenience store and was far from impressed with the end product. Consumers need to be aware of the dangers of using corner convenience stores or discount shopping centers for their photo services, as images duplicated here may fade, appear fuzzy, or even rip due to low-quality photo paper. While the prices at pro labs may be slightly more expensive, the investment is definitely worth it for creating and sharing photos that will last, appear higher in quality and make excellent additions to albums or empty walls. Here are just some of the advantages of using a pro photo lab:
- The photo papers used at professional photo labs are durable and make better impressions. Papers such as Kodak’s Professional ENDURA Metallic Paper create a unique effect by combining film laminate layers to create a three-dimensional image on an ultra-bright background. Lustre e-surface and glossy f-surface papers are other popular choices among pro labs for their accurate, vivid color duplication.
- Photo labs use high-end equipment that only pro photographers would trust their images to. In order for discount and convenience stores to offer digital prints at such low prices, they have to rely on cheaper, low-grade equipment.
- Pro labs also offer scanning, so old negatives and film can be turned into digital files for greater flexibility. Turning a cherished image into a digital file opens up a flood of options for image enhancement. Once a negative is turned into a digital image, pro labs can improve the quality of the photo with basic and extensive facial retouching, removal of facial shine or glare from eyeglasses, eye enhancement, spot coloration, background substitution and extension, addition or removal of a person, and more.
- Labs exist for one purpose: to produce the best images on the market. Other competitors such as drugstores simply offer photo services as a one-stop convenience to their customers. Pro labs provide personalized customer service and pay attention to even the slightest detail so customers go away happy. If pro lab customers need assistance with color correction, trained representatives are available to handle such requests.
- Most labs stand by their products, so satisfaction is guaranteed. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked to look over your print or product before leaving the lab.
- Some labs even offer marketing products and services, such as business cards, fliers, catalogs, brochures, and other press-printed products. This makes it easy for professional photographers to find all their needs, from photo to marketing, at one location. Many labs have presses that handle their products printed on non-photographic paper (called press-printed products); the press-print capabilities mean other materials such as letterhead can also be serviced at labs.
- Speaking of press-printed materials, pro labs will likely have capabilities to print customized, press-printed photo products such as memory books, playing cards, day planners, journals, or greeting cards. Again, more paper, color, size, and finishing options are available at labs, and customers can choose to work with lab officials to create a truly unique and remarkable piece.
- Custom mounting and special effects are other areas of specialty at pro photo labs. Ask about lamination, box mounting, brush-texture and water-based coating, or embossed textures.
- Labs are able to take ordinary photos and create specialty photo items such as dry-erase boards, wall posters, magnets, bookmarks, notebooks, or canvas wraps, all printed on photographic paper.
Be sure to trust your photos to a professional. Perform a search for local photo labs. If you cannot locate one, ask your nearest lab if they offer online uploading and editing software or free shipping. Again, you will be happy you made the extra investment. And if you’re just starting as a professional photographer, don’t forget to market these add-on products and services to your clients. Then, work to develop a partnership with a preferred photo lab, as most labs offer rewards for the money you spend and the other clients you refer.