This is a guest post by Ingrid Spangler. Ingrid has been involved with photo sharing and social media (before it was called social media), with an account on Flickr going back to 2004, and before that was active on Fotolog and Fotola for two years. She has been with AdoramaPix for over 3 years, and is responsible for all the social media, as well as copywriting, promotions and marketing. She has been an avid photographer from the time she was a child, and studied film at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she learned to shoot on a Bolex 16mm movie camera as well as studying film theory and visual aesthetics. Some of her favorite all-time photographers are Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, and Harry Callahan. Currently, Ingrid says, “I'm just crazy over Matt Eich and Noah Kalina. I'm lucky that in my job I get to see lots of photographs and I'm constantly inspired by the work I see rolling out of our printers everyday.”
Choosing an online lab for your print fulfillment can be overwhelming. There are a lot of labs out there, how do you wade through all the choices and find the right lab for your clients' images?
Start by asking what is most important to YOU. Is it price? Is it quality? Is it a wide selection of products? Is it having access to knowledgeable customer service?
Of course I'm sure you've answered that ALL these things are important. You want the highest quality materials and print quality at the best price. You want to be sure that you have access to someone who has the power to make things right if there is ever an issue with an order. Is it possible to get everything you want in one lab?
Store and More
Let's start with the order process and the website's ease of use. I'd look for a lab with plenty of storage for your images and the ability to share links directly back to your images. This is important because you want to be able to maintain your images for as long as your clients are going to want to order copies. This could be indefinitely! Lots of clients may come back a year or more after a wedding or portrait session to reorder prints for themselves or as gifts; you won't make a sale if their images have expired and/or are no longer available.
Try Before You Buy
Does the lab offer test prints? This is important for a couple reasons. First, it allows you to experience the order process, if it's difficult or not user-friendly, now is the time to find out, not when you have sweaty palms and a deadline looming. Test prints will also allow you to gauge turnaround time and how well your potential lab keeps you informed of your order's progress. Do they let you know when your order has shipped? Do they provide tracking numbers, if applicable? Do they let you know in a timely manner if there is a problem with your order?
Your test order should also give you the chance to try out the various papers and processing options that the lab offers; compare what a glossy print versus a matte print looks like. Do they offer color corrections and how do those affect your images?
Will or can the lab print your studio name or copyright information on the back of the prints? How does this show up?
It's not just a Janet Jackson song. What kind of control does the lab give you over your images?
As you know, digital images are often in different proportion than many traditional print sizes. If the aspect ratio of the image file does not match that of the print size chosen, how does the lab deal with this discrepancy? Ideally, you should be able to control the cropping, if necessary, or at the very least see how the lab will print the images.
Does the lab offer ICC profiles? With a properly calibrated monitor, profiles allow you to soft-proof your photos and see your images the way the lab will print them. Profiles (along with a calibrated monitor) are the key component in maintaining the most control over color and what your final printed images will look like.
Can you do one stop shopping for prints, photobooks, canvases, etc?
This is probably the most important thing to look for when shopping for a lab. What good are all these other options without quality materials and quality personnel producing your prints?
Are you familiar with the reputation of whatever brand of materials are used? If not, do you like the way the prints look and feel? Is there a good choice of different kinds of papers for different types of images? Do they print in-house or outsource? Is there some kind of quality control in place?
How is your potential lab's customer service structured? Can you get to a living, breathing person on the phone (or instant messenger, live chat, etc.) if you need to? If you have a question or if there is an issue with your order, how is it handled? Are the customer service agents knowledgeable? Ideally, they should work in the lab (not be outsourced), understand the workflow and know the products offered inside and out.
The bottom line is that your reputation is only as good as your photography and people will judge your photography mostly by the prints they see.
Your clients will see your images for a short time online or in print when they see proofs, but they'll live with them for a much longer time. Make sure they have good thoughts about you whenever they look at their prints by choosing a lab that does justice to your photography!
Get $10 in print credits when you sign up with AdoramaPix – http://www.adoramapix.com