Getting good prints from a lab – part 1

Having bought a Mamiya 645 medium format film camera a few months ago, I wanted to make a return to the traditional chemical processing techniques which I used for many years until switching to a digital workflow in 2004. I’m interested in the difference in print quality – in terms of sharpness and colour reproduction – between traditional printing and the scanned negative printed via digital means.

If you take your digital photos to a high street lab these days, chances are that the prints you get back will be in one of two formats: printed by the quick-access (and often self-service) machines within minutes onto inexpensive paper, or on higher quality paper intended for digital printing via the professional in the shop. A third digital option is to have “plotter” prints made, which are printed at large sizes onto semi-plasticized poster-type paper. All of these methods are tried and tested and capable of perfectly acceptable results.

I strive to create the best photographs I can and as a pedantic, experienced photographic printer, I demand a lot from third party labs. (Yes, I drive some shop staff up the wall: that’s my right as a customer!) As I spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that each photo is as good as it can be, from composition right through to post-processing, I don’t want the picture to be spoiled by sub-standard printing or inaccurate cropping. To that end, I always make sure that I pay attention to the same, important aspects of the printing process.

As I go through the end-to-end process of getting good prints, I will be posting a series of articles here on my website, with examples and links to services I have used. The aim being to share with you how you can get the best results for printed copies of your photographs.

You can follow the series by subscribing to this specific RSS feed or by viewing all of the articles in this list.