You’re awesome, you’ve taken the time and spent the money to get professional headshots. You made an investment in yourself and your career. Well done! However, getting your headshots printed is the final step in the process and it is one that you can’t shortcut.
It’s easy to find and use a fast print “lab” like drug stores or office printing centers. They’re easy to find, offer lots of locations and they can have your photos ready fast – what’s not to like? The problem is, most of these fast print locations aren’t properly set up to print quality photos – they’re there for convenience. Fun fact: office printing centers are set up to print text and brochures, not photographs.
The “fast labs” may be using old technology or the store clerks may not be trained to calibrate the equipment.
Being a curious guy who wants to be able to compare apples to apples, I did a little experiment. I sent a selection of headshots to my local drug store’s photo lab – I uploaded the same images Reproductions NYC, to a photo lab that specializes in printing headshots.
At the local drugstore, my images were ready in less than 5 minutes, which, although convenient, was actually not a good sign. In all likelihood, the store was set up to auto-fill my order and there was a good chance that no one even looked at the images once they came off the printer.
When I went to pick them up, I asked about the process they used to print photos and was told, “It’s is old technology really. Somehow it does a heat overlay then some sort of protective film.”
I opened the images and they looked…REALLY bad. All of the images had a green hue to them. The contrast had been cranked up. The highlights were blown out and the saturation was pushed far past anything that occurs in the natural world.
A couple of days later, the prints I ordered from Reproductions arrived in the mail. They were perfect. Everything on the printed image was exactly as I had seen it on my screen. For reference, my screen is carefully color calibrated. I have to know that when my images are printed that they will look exactly like they do on my screen. The color, contrast, exposure, and saturation need to be perfect. The images I was holding in my hands was the very same image that was on my screen – a faithful representation of the work and the clients.
(If you are curious I use an x-rite i1 Display Pro for my monitor calibration)
So on one hand, we’ve got a local place that can have your images ready in an hour or two, for not much money. On the other, a lab that has trained technicians who specialize in printing photos, for not much more money. Yes, you’ll have to wait a few days for your prints to arrive – but if you’re planning ahead, that won’t be a problem, because you’ll have allowed time for printing and shipment.
The takeaway here is that you need to do your homework and plan ahead. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get your headshot session scheduled, your edited images delivered, AND time to have the images printed and shipped to you. (See my recent article WHEN SHOULD YOUR HEADSHOTS BE READY) Every step of the process is important, don’t let all of your careful planning go down the drain because you didn’t have enough time to get your photos printed right.
Disclaimer – I’m not affiliated with Reproductions and receive no compensation from them – I just know and trust their work and think it’s really important my clients know where to go to get the best results.
If you’re curious about how the two sets of prints stack up, stop by and see them for yourself!