Of the millions of photographs taken only a few get printed, that’s too bad. To me a photograph becomes a photograph when it is printed. Until then, it is a promise. I normally print my photographs on my Epson 4880 which produces excellent prints. However, for some special printing needs I use a local lab instead of a mail order house. Yes, the prices are marginally higher, note marginally, but there is no substitute for being able to walk in to the lab and discuss your needs.
I have been working on photographs I took last May in Panagia Isodion Church in Istanbul. I will soon present them in a gallery and a printed publication will follow. Since I want to see them in print and I want the extra glow of the metallic paper Kodak has I need to use a color lab. In the past I used to use a lab somewhere outside my reach but I have discovered a local lab offering excellent quality and great service, Printmakers, Inc. Using their services I have mounted three exhibits and sold many prints. The importance of using a local lab became very evident recently when I ordered a set of 8 x 10inch prints as proofs before ordering larger size prints. I use a very controlled workflow, a calibrated and profiled monitor, and I have gotten prints from Printmakers what I see on my monitor. This time when I went to pick up the proofs I noticed that they were about one f-stop or so darker. We briefly looked at the images on their process monitor with Marc, sure enough they looked darker there then on my monitor.
I prepared a set of stepped-proofs and ordered them again to see what kind of print adjustment that might be necessary if I had to make the changes at my end. When I went to pick them up on Monday I mentioned the situation to Tony and suggested that there may be something that was off at their end. I picked up their profile and sample image and its print and came home. Upon loading their soft-proof profile and the test image I was very relieved to see the test image on the screen matching the print spot on. So, the problem was not originating at my end. I sent an e-mail to Tony with some screen captures showing the very good match between my display and the soft-proof I was seeing.
Today I took the old prints that were a bit too dark and visited Printmakers again. (Can you do that on the Internet?!) Tony indicated that he had looked at some recent changes they had made and noticed that some adjustments were slightly off. Then we looked at my files in Photoshop on his monitor and compared them to the view he saw in his printing software, and the difference was visible. Photoshop displayed the images as I saw on my monitor. Tony quickly made some adjustments and the printing software images started looking the same. He promised to make me a new set of prints with the new settings, thanked me for my considered feedback, and I came home. Later on, around 6:30 PM or so Lisa, who works at Printmakers and lives very close, brought the new set.
Let me see you do that with your online lab!. In the end we both benefited from the experience. They ended up with a better real-world calibrated system and can comfortably send print jobs knowing I will get what I see on the display. I will now choose some photographs and have them enlarged to 16 x 20 inches, maybe a bit larger. This is how photographer-lab relations should work. Thanks Tony, for your help and willingness to address customer problems.
Below are some before-after pairs you can view. I scanned them with the same settings on the scanner with no further edits. You should look at them in a relative sense, the actual images are slightly different. The scans are third generation images; image, print, scan, and have lost some information in every step of the way. You will view the originals soon, stay tuned.