We meet again in this third installment in a non-intended series on photos labs. I started two weeks ago by re-posting an entry on the differences between printing at home and at mini labs. The great response I received pushed me to write again, only this time about where and how to locate mini labs in your area. Finally, I’ll take a quick look at online and mail order options. I still stand by my statement that you should always use a mini or if possible, a professional photo lab for printing. The quality is untouchable by any other format.
I contacted three companies who offer printing via digital image uploads to their websites. See for yourselves what they had to say.
Finding information on their website with regard to how they print came up short. I wrote to customer service and asked, How are photos printed? This is the response I received.
“Shutterfly uses state-of-the-art digital printers designed for professional photo finishers. These printers use a silver halide chemical process, such as is found in traditional photo labs. These printers, combined with Shutterfly’s proprietary imaging technology result in the best possible prints from your digital camera.
Additionally, Shutterfly uses Fuji Crystal Archive paper, which has been rated to have not only superior color, but to be the most durable photographic paper available. For more information on Fuji paper, type Fuji into the enter keyword search field on Shutterfly. Shutterfly also uses digital off-set presses to print on archival-quality paper which is acid-free to ensure your pictures will look great for years to come.”
I wrote back and asked, When or for what specifically do you use the digital off-set presses for?
They said, “We would like to inform that Shutterfly uses the digital off-set presses for all paper printing products. For example, prints, photo books and cards. ”
As you can see, there’s a contradiction. First they say they use a silver halide chemical process (exactly what we want) followed by saying they use a digital off-set press (what we do not want) for prints. How do you know which machine they’re going to use to print 4×6″ or larger? Photo books come out of an off-set printer and have for years. What we’re interested in are prints.
Yes, the mail-order photo lab is still kickin’. They will process your 35mm color rolls of film and they have a website for online digital image orders. Their website says, “Our prints and posters are printed on high-quality, long-lasting paper that resists fading for generations. We know silver halide prints provide the best quality image and our prints deliver vivid color reproduction, more natural skin tones, exceptional sharpness and unsurpassed color stability.”
I wrote to them and asked, Could you please tell me what process your company uses to print digital images ordered from your website, specifically 4×6’s? Is it a wet lab or dry lab?
They responded, “Thank you for contacting Clark Color.
We do use chemicals for processing along with silver halide light sensitive paper.
If we can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.”
First of all, my jaw hit the floor when I saw they still have a very small number of brick and mortar stores. Long story short, I was laid off from Ritz Camera in 2009 after they filed Chapter 11. These stores and the website are no longer owned by David Ritz or any company he was a part of however the company who bought him out is still able to keep the various company and store names.
As with the previous online order labs, I wrote to RitzPix. I asked, Could you please tell me if 4×6 digital images ordered through the website are always printed through a wet lab? I know the stores used to use Fuji Frontier machines. Do you still use those?
“The 4×6 prints that we do thru our main processing lab is done thru a “wet” system. Our lab currently uses Fuji Frontier equipment for printing (for) our standard size prints up to 8×12 size.
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