What Makes A Print?

One of the most common questions I get is “Where should I get my Images printed?”  It is that reason that I ultimately decided to start offering prints to my clients.  The question of “where should I get my prints printed?” led me down a rabbit hole of learning the printing process.  Here is what I have learned.

Consumer versus Professional Labs

When I first started printing photos (13 years ago), I would go to Walgreens or Walmart.  I knew that the quality was not what I was seeking, but I wasn’t sure why.  Sometimes, the colors would look off, or a crop would look funny.  But, because I didn’t know any better (at the time), I just kept going with it.  Eventually, I learned about online print labs.  Places like Shutterfly, Snapfish, etc.  They were a little more expensive, so I thought – o.k, this is better quality.  But, it turned out that they weren’t.  By this time, I was getting into photography more and more, and I knew that there had to be a better way.  I wanted the images that I was taking to look good in a print- so I kept seeking.  Eventually,  I found out about professional print labs.  What makes a professional print lab different?  Professional print labs are by far the most accurate in color, contrast, and sharpness.  Most professional print labs care about their customers and offer continuing education, great customer service, and more.  I know that I am working with professionals who care about the process, and they make their living by providing the highest quality material available to them.  This is the difference between a consumer and a professional lab.


Now that we know that professional labs are better at creating beautiful images, let’s talk about sustainability.  Printing is a dirty and time-consuming process. The chemicals used to treat photographic printer paper aren’t great for the environment. The paper itself uses a significant amount of resources to cultivate.  Even picture frames can have a negative impact on the environment.  Only specific labs in our country are taking steps to lessen their environmental impact.  As far as I know, the most eco-friendly line is Hahnemühle.  Being in the presence of a print made with Hahnemühle paper is like being in the presence of a masterpiece.  The boast on their website about their environmentally friendly practices and documentation in the creation of their papers. They don’t compete on pricing, they compete on quality and sustainability.  This is key when you are distinguishing between a consumer and a professional print lab.


Have you ever wondered why some photos turn red or fade?  Environment, quality of paper, and quality of ink are all reasons why sometimes your prints don’t last as long as you wish.  Consumer labs will guarantee your happiness or your money back – when you get your image.  What happens if your images begin to fade in a month or two? Or, 5 years from now?  Did you know that when you use a professional printing lab- they guarantee their work for 200 years?  What in today’s world has a 200-year guarantee?  Especially when it comes to your most valuable possession- time?  Longevity is the key to producing heirloom quality prints that you can pass down from generation to generation.  Professional print labs do what they need to do, and put the time into learning every detail to create lasting art work of your most precious memories.


Journeying into learning the printing process can seem overwhelming.  That is why I have chosen to do this step for you.  I have researched and built relationships with companies that use only the highest quality paper and ink to create amazing works of art of your memories.  There is nothing better to me than seeing a client’s face when they see their images as museum quality heirlooms that they can proudly display in their homes.  There is nothing I can compare it to when referencing a consumer lab.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about the process. Please contact me at stephanie@stephshanks.com.  I look forward to hearing from you!