Professional Prints vs. Drugstore Photo Services: Is There a Difference?

by | Jan 19, 2020 | Planning Ahead, Products | 8 comments

“Do you offer digital files?”

That’s a completely valid question. The simple answer: Be assured that you will receive a digital gallery with files specifically optimized for sharing on social media with every session.

I get it – believe me. We all need another square on our Instagram, another post on our Facebook wall for Aunt Sue to be able to share to all her friends of her sweet niece who is “all grown up.”

That being said – this post isn’t about digital files. I’m not here to remind you how digital images can be accidentally deleted, that a computer can crash, or you can forget where you stuck that USB drive. (*V steps off soapbox*)

The question is WHY you should choose to order your prints through your photographer instead of heading down to the drugstore and picking up your prints an hour or two later.

Professional vs. Drugstore Photo Prints: Quality Control

You should ALWAYS have your images professionally printed. Why would you pay a professional photographer to take your images just to print them on sub-standard kiosk printers?! The difference in the end product is significant and I am happy to show you examples to prove it.

The biggest reason to order prints through a professional photographer is quality. First off – if your photographer isn’t working with a color-calibrated screen – RUN!

But rest easy – you’re in good hands here. I regularly use a professional calibrating device on my monitor. This means that a photo, when printed, will look exactly like it does on the monitor. This means no surprise color shifts, and prints that look just like you expect!

Comparison of professional versus one hour drugstore photo printing

I have provided an example of the difference printers make above. The print on the left was provided by a local one hour drugstore photo printer in Houghton, Michigan. The print on the right was provided by the professional lab I have worked with for over six years!

On the left, you see Desiree’s beautiful skin has a purplish tone, her black pants look faded, and the background of fall colors is too bright, resulting in loss of detail in the foliage. On the right, all colors are balanced correctly along and no parts of the image are blown out.

Online and drugstore photo labs cannot guarantee consistent quality images. Depending on which employee is working that day (and paying attention to their job) can result in a totally different picture. This includes incorrect contrast settings and auto “enhancements” resulting in discoloration (too orange or green or purple), pixelation, dark, or flat prints.

Comparison of professional versus one hour drugstore photo printing

Want to see more examples of drugstore photo prints compared to a pro lab?
Amanda Jackson Photo has an extensive guide for you here!

Drugstore Photo Prints: Limitations in Variety

In addition to quality concerns, printing through a drugstore photo service or similar vendor will severely limit the options available to you. Hope you are only looking for some basic 5×7 prints or a thin, flexible canvas print – because that’s about all you will be able to do.

Are you looking to gift family members framed fine art prints? What about an album that will last longer than a year? You will only to find those products through your professional photographer.

Professional vs. Drugstore Photo Prints: Satisfaction

One of the most important reasons to have your photographer print your photos is satisfaction.

I personally review each picture before I send it out to print and again before I pass them on to you, ensuring they are of the highest quality to protect your investment.

Ordering through a professional service ensures pictures that stand the test of time and will not fade or yellow over the years. Prints have a protective coating to keep them beautiful for a lifetime without fading.

On top of that, I double check each print before it’s delivered to you. If there’s an issue I reorder unbeknownst to you – and yes, I do this occasionally! Your local drugstores often will not honor this if your image isn’t submitted correctly. Professional photographers are able to do this because we use the best print labs in the nation, and we know that our client is going to be 100% happy with the photos we present to them.

Finally: Convenience

Finally, let’s be frank – you already have far too much on your plate! Why add one more thing to your to do list?

When you’re busy it all adds up: taking the time to sit down and log in or actually GO to the drugstore, making sure you download the correct size for printing, hoping you remember to crop every image correctly so no one is missing a foot or the top of their head. Then, you actually gave yourself another errand by remembering to pick them up later. After that, you still need to get those prints in a frame and up on the wall!

I’m here to make life easier for you. As a full-service photographer, I assist with every step of the process so you can get back to what really matters – your family.

newborn session with big brother

Are you ready to let me help check off that to do list?

Log into your gallery and click on the cart button on the top right to select your images. Then let me do the rest, no drugstore run required 😉

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  1. Judith

    Oh my gosh, so totally agree with this – pro prints all the way!!!

  2. Reed

    Wow this is such good info!!! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Jenn

    This is such good info!!!

  4. Ashley

    I couldn’t love this post more, it is so hard to explain the importance of prints being purchased from a pro lab, I love that you gave visual comparisons and such wonderful explanations!

  5. Sierra

    Even as a photographer this is so eye opening! It is so important for our clients to understand how to print their photos at the best quality! Thank you for sharing this ☺️

  6. Brittany

    This is such a good blog post to write!! It’s amazing the difference in quality!!

  7. Kate Gansneder

    Great comparison of consumer vs professional printers.

  8. Sandy

    I love this post!! This happens all the time to my couples. Nice job!! So informative for your clients!


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Enjoy the VU Photography

Hello there! We’re Veronica & Rob, Upper Peninsula wedding and portrait photographers.


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