One of my classes this quarter is "Exhibition printing". This is a really goofy class.
At this point, anyone who knows me, knows that I really kind of enjoy printing my own photos. I have a really sweet setup at home to print anything up to 17"x22". This class expands on that but acknowledges that most people, including me, won't be able to print anything larger than that without sending it off to a lab to be done. And really, if you look at any wall in my house I have framed stuff up at 16"x20" but you can often get away with even larger. This is not a cheap proposition though.
As part of it we get to try out various professional photo labs across the country by requesting that they print something unique on the equipment they would use for 20"x30" or larger prints.
Below is what I end up with from three different high-end labs. I submitted the exact same image to each lab, in the exact same way, using their submission software and requesting no color correction to the image when printed. The image itself is a 5"x30" panorama of Zilker Park in downtown Austin. I could have gone even larger with it. After building the panorama and fixing the problems in it the image was 17"x45", but I cropped it down for this assignment.
The top one is a lab called Miller's
. Their price is the best. Their color is spot on, and when you open a pro account with them they insist on sending you additional samples of your work printed on their materials for FREE as well as an entire sample pack showing all of the paper choices they have available. They also give free FedEx shipping. Awesome all around! They were even the fastest of the bunch. I submitted this on Saturday and had it at my door on Tuesday. I did have to turn off my antivirus software in order to submit to them though since something in it conflicts with their software.
The one in the middle came from Black River Imaging
. This is one of the main labs recommended by several pro photographer web sites. The color is off.
I can't say it any simpler than that. They also shipped via the US Postal service, which I've had problems with in the past, and something this large requires that they leave it at the door since i won't fit in any mailbox I've ever seen. I know other photographers who haven't had any issues with them, so I might give them a chance to re-print, but I do need to have this one to turn in for the assignment.
The one at the bottom comes from Bay Photo
. This one cost a little more than the other two, but came packaged the best of the three, was the only one that gave be a default option of glossy paper (which I prefer despite my instructors all pushing matte papers). I did have to pay for the FedEx shipping and it took longer to produce than the others. This was the first one submitted and the last one received. The quality is outstanding though.
The final project for this class is to produce something in 20"x30" or larger, at least mounted for hanging, if not matted and framed. Matted and framed means even more cost and a larger finished product. I haven't quite gotten that far yet. I'm not even certain what image I'm going to use...