Tuesday, August 22, 2006

08/22/06: Test Your Lab

Test Your Lab

During my career in corporate America, my employers would do periodic vendor performance reviews where vendors' performance in a number of areas would be evaluated to see if any changes need to be made. Yesterday I decided to do this with several print labs. I was surprised at the results.

Several years ago I had some bad experiences with one of the local labs (I won't use any names, but I didn't think they were cleaning their mini-lab equipment frequently enough and this was comprimising the quality of their prints) so I stopped using them. At 4 PM yesterday I sent four prints -- via online upload and local store pick-up -- to three different one-hour labs. I used the exact same four image files for each lab. Prices and the customer service experience varied widely even on something as simple as printing four 4x6s on two different types of paper (matte and glossy). I got them home and compared the results. Much to my surprise, the prints from my preferred lab actually looked the poorest. And much to my dismay, the lab with the highest price and the poorest service (they only gave me part of my order!) had the best looking prints! I plan to repeat this test in a few days with a new set of prints to see how they handle a variety of color / contrast prints.

So it can make a world of difference in the presentation of your prints if you test your lab from time-to-time to make sure they are performing up to your expectations. Whether you are a seasoned pro, an advanced amateur, or you just took your first picture...you deserve to have your prints printed to your satisfaction. Measuring the performance of your lab against others can reveal a LOT about which labs are doing the best work.

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