Pro Lab Prints vs. Drugstore Prints

I’ve heard a few sad stories from clients of mine telling me about their experience with local print labs here in Hutchinson, Minnesota. I set out to test a theory about print quality from the local labs when compared to professional print labs. I was shocked to find out how poor the quality can be at Walmart, Shopko, Walgreens, and even Target.

For the test, I used one digital file and uploaded it to Walmart and Target. I chose the option to pick up my prints later that afternoon and I was surprised at how quickly both Walmart and Target were able to turn around the order. Within an hour I had both of the prints in hand. While in the stores, I also opted to use their instant print kiosks to make a print. I also went to Shopko and used their instant print kiosk. You’ll notice that Target and Shopko instant prints look almost identical and that is because they are both using the same Kodak technology and presumably they are both calibrated to print highly saturated, blue tinted photos. Who knew?

A few days later I went to Walgreens and had them print the photo also. To be fair, I went at 9:00 a.m. on February 7, 2014, the day Walgreens opened in Hutchinson and I was their very first photo customer. Maybe they just haven’t figured out the kinks yet because they made my poor little girl look like she was purple. Not cool Walgreens, not cool. I also ordered a print from my professional online lab and their photo was spot on. I’ve ordered tens of thousands of prints from my online lab and they are consistent and accurate.

For best results you should view the image below on a calibrated monitor. The images below were in NO way altered in Photoshop or any other manipulation program (other than adding the text). I used my scanner to scan them and Photoshop to overlay the text to identify the lab. To me, it appears that the instant prints were the worst. Target lab was second in quality only to the professional print lab. The common theme to all the photos printed in town was too much contrast and overly saturated prints. If you are printing pictures of flowers these in-town labs probably would work great as the photos will likely be very vibrant and sharp, but it is a different story with photos of people. Even the slightest shift in color is noticeable for skin tones.

I offer print credits in most of my packages because I want you to have the best premium prints, premium mounted prints, canvas wraps, gallery blocks and bamboo mounted prints available. I realize many of these products you can get from a local lab, but your results and quality will vary.


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