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WalMart Bad Results - Tips? Suggestions?

Mike Nikolic , Nov 09, 2007; 12:10 a.m.

I processed 24 pictures through Lightroom the other day and uploaded them to WalMart's photo lab for 4X6 prints. I cropped and sized all the pictures to 4X6 aspect ratio, and after making all adjustments I wanted I saved them as sRGB, 300 dpi jpegs with 0% compression.
The pictures look good on my 2 monitors, and on the monitors of 2 other computers. Colour is nice, brightness is good. One of the photos can be found in my gallery: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=6613446 so you can see what they look like.
Anyhoo, the pictures came back terrible. Way way too dark. I called to ask WalMart if I had done something wrong on my end but the salesperson was lost at "sRGB" and couldn't offer any advice other than "don't edit them on the web".
I was wondering, is there something I am missing? I suspect that had I sent them pictures straight from the camera they might have printed fine, and that the PP somehow caused a problem for their printers - is this possible?
Any advice on anything I have missed in sending Lightroom/Photoshop edited pictures to WalMart (causing unsatisfactory prints) would be appreciated.
Thank you.

Responses


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Brent Reid , Nov 09, 2007; 12:23 a.m.

Mike, a question, and two suggestions:

Is your main monitor callibrated? If it isn't, it's a crapshoot whether what's on the screen will look like what comes out of your printer or anyone else's.

With all due respect to big box stores, if you want high quality printing and enlargements, establish a relationship with a professional photo lab, either bricks and mortar or online (www.exposure.manager.com, www.printroom.com, etc.). They will understand about colour spaces and profiles, and do their part to meet your expectations and get your return business.

That said, some Costco outlets have well-trained staff, print on Fuji Archive paper, and likely match WalMart's prices.

Mike Nikolic , Nov 09, 2007; 12:29 a.m.

Thank you Brent. No, my main monitor is not calibrated in any special way. My method is to view pictures on several (all uncalibrated) computers and mentally put together an 'average' picture - haha yeah, I know. Anyway the pics looked good on all these computers so I figured it would turn out OK on paper.
I'll look into other (more expensive/reputable) photolabs here in town and see what they have to say as well.
Thanks again =)

Brent Reid , Nov 09, 2007; 12:44 a.m.

Mike, browse through the section on monitor calibration in one of the books on PhotoShop by Scott Kelby (or Tim Grey) at your bookstore. You can also Google for excellent tutorials online, either free or downloadable for a small charge. Also, see the instructional videos sold by www.luminous-landscape.com.

Calibration is a crucial part of getting monitor and printer results to match predictably. Just to add to the fun, all monitors change over time, so calibration must be done monthly to ensure consistent results. If you have a friend with a calibration system, (s)he can do it for you occasionally for a bottle of wine or whatever, or you can bite the bullet and buy your own calibration system. They're pricey, but pay for themselves quickly in better prints and less frustration from wasting time, materials, and money.

Bryan Tan , Nov 09, 2007; 12:50 a.m.

Mike, your example picture is underexposed. The "highlights" end at around 216, far short of where they should be. And remember that when looking at prints, it's reflected light versus direct light on a monitor, so shadow quality will be lost. Attached is a simple adjustment that will yield a better print result.

Carl Klitzke , Nov 09, 2007; 02:55 a.m.

I used to run into this problem all the time when I worked for The Great Satan. (LOL) Calibrating may help, but if you put the same photo through the fuji kiosk vs the kodak instant kiosk, the pictures ALWAYS looked better on the instant kiosk. I wish I knew why, Wal*Mart does not care enough to train its employees to do anything besides apologize and give you a gift card. Don't get me wrong, SOME of their labs have great staffing, but that is only because they were lucky enough to snag people who are interested in learning it. Just my 2c.

CRK

Yinka Oyelese , Nov 09, 2007; 06:23 a.m.

Two issues:

Try Costco

Second, the lab should not be blamed for bad photos if the monitor is uncalibrated. I do not believe that the lab should adjust photos. If a photo is underexposed, is it because the photographer wanted it underexposed? I do not believe the lab should interfere. Rather they should give you back what you give to them.

Yinka

Kari Vierimaa , Nov 09, 2007; 07:18 a.m.

Mike, your photo is too dark. I can imagine Walmart doesn't do perfect job every time but this time it's you.

Kelly Phillips , Nov 09, 2007; 09:05 a.m.

I use Wal-mart in a pinch, mainly to print proofs for a customer to browse. Also if I just want to print personal snapshots, I go there. I do not print pro work there because they do not offer pro quality. I use MPIX.com most of the time. The prints are in my mailbox in 2 days. Also I'm getting tired of the girls at walmart not wanting to give me my pictures because they say they were taken by a pro. They give me attitude everytime until they pull my signed release.

Walt Flanagan , Nov 09, 2007; 09:47 a.m.

If you want the best quality you need to go to a pro lab and be willing to pay an experienced operator who earns more than minimum wage.

For trivial stuff I use Walgreens. They have been far more consistent than my local Walmart. The Fuji kiosk at the local Walmart has a checkbox to turn off auto corrections and my prints look good. The Walmart website lacks that and everything has been awful. The biggest factor is the experience of the operator. The best cheap place I've found is Costco. My local place is pretty good but I've had even better prints from having them print at their central office and mail me the prints.


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