Sometimes overlooked as just a minor detail, having the right printing lab is vital for any professional photographer. In fact, this is why choosing the right printing lab is the difference between success and obscurity.
It’s All About the Delivery
It's not only about locating a large group of people, but also reaching them. For that it's all about that perfect delievery.
Over the past decade or so it’s been impossible to escape the proliferation and utter invasion of “talent” shows – which basically all amount to nothing more than another version of American Idol. I don’t even own a TV (fact) and still see about five minutes worth of such footage a week in passing, via the internet, or even sometimes on the news. Say what you will, but our capitalist society all but confirms; we the people love it.
The kicker is it all amounts to a group of people, very talented no-doubt, singing near perfect vocal renditions of old greats or new-age hits. So what’s unique, what’s enticing about it? It’s that near perfect delivery. I mean, who doesn’t love a round of karaoke with the friends every now and then? But there’s a reason it’s not nationally televised and enjoyed by tens of millions.
Presentation is Priceless
Instead, we are captivated and in awe at a flawless singer indulging in an old classic despite the song being heard many times before and being a great song in and of itself because, again, we love to hear that perfect delivery. That perfect presentation, that next dimension, that the original artist – while great in their own right – often lacked.
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Take, Adele for example, I’m a fan of hers for all the reasons you can think of, but what drew me to her at first was her incredible voice. It was all I heard, all I knew, but it had me wanting more. From there it was bit-by-bit that I began to discover and appreciate all the other respectable aspects of her and her work.
Fundamental Photography Truths
Now, we’re not singers, but photographers; yet the principle applies all the same. The general message is it’s all about the presentation; the masses appreciate and crave that near-flawlessness, that unimpaired beauty, that perfect delivery.
As a photographer your creative eye is equivalent to a musician's lyrics, while your camera and editing equipment is equivalent to a musician's audio equipment – microphone, recording software, etc; but your printing lab is like a singer's voice.
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The printing lab is literally where the rubber meets the road, or the image hits the page. It’s where your images come to life. You could spend all that time finding the perfect angle, getting the perfect light, using your best glass and best body, only to have a printing lab fall short in expressing your beauty.
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A little fuzz, a small smudge, an ever-so slight layering issue; these are all things that can dramatically take away from what otherwise may be a near award-winning photo. Similarly to the way a great musical group today with moving, profound lyrics could be reserved to “alternative” - known only by major enthusiasts and aficionados because the voice is sometimes off-key and hoarse; compared to that angelic-sounding voice in a song that is unavoidable and endeared by the masses.
What Makes the Greats Great
These are things that also separate a printing lab from a great printing lab. Great printing labs will not even produce these errors in the first place. Great labs will not only know the field and be able to talk with you and inform and advise you, but also know their own machines and how to work them to YOUR desired benefit. Great labs will have constant, friendly, open and honest dialogue with you every step of the way. And, perhaps most importantly, great labs will admit to and cover their own mistakes so you can also feel secure in their service.
Some might overlook the printing lab they use and think in the end it’s just a small detail that doesn’t make that big of difference in the end; but it does. Moreover, attention to detail is what separates the 'goods' from the pros (read greats). Essentially, it’s the difference between that borderline embarrassing night out with friends at a karaoke club, and an encore, flawless rendition of 'Hello' in front of millions at Madison Square Garden.
For professional photographers a printing lab is your voice so be sure you choose it wisely. It’s your voice, but not your lyrics – not the message or story you’re trying to convey that is, obviously, your captured image itself. But instead your voice – the “sound” in which your story emits; the way in which it’s heard; received. Don’t settle for scratchy, grainy, off-key. After all, wouldn’t you prefer it to sound like Adele? I know tens-of-millions of people who would.