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Cheap Enlargements for Good Quality? (aka, the Walgreens paradox)

Critic Xtraordinaire , Dec 19, 2005; 09:45 a.m.

Hey guys, I'm just starting to sell my work and I have to make a few key decisions when it comes to enlargements. First, I only use 35mm film and I do not scan, so printing them myself or going digital is not an option. I have to go straight from the negative.

Second, I am looking for good quality but not exactly museum. I will be selling at coffeeshops, and while it is important for my prints to be respectible, I also want to cut costs as much as possible.

A woman whom I've gotten to know well told me one of her secrets. She exhibits at art fairs and doesn't print her own work. She told me she gets all her enlargement work done at Walgreens. I was surprised. Her work looks very good and apparently sells well.

What are your recommendations/experiences? Has Wal Mart/Target/Walgreens done well for you if you give them a guide print? I realize that there is more risk involved with commercial labs, but do you ultimately save money in the end and suffer only minimal quality issues? (hint, I'm hoping for a yes to that last question)


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Professor K. , Dec 19, 2005; 01:28 p.m.

In my experience, the key is to print from a digital file. I know you wrote that you don't scan, but I recommending biting the bullet and buying a scanner if you want prints that are both good and cheap. Calibrate your monitor and then find a place where they are able and willing to turn of the automatic color correction. I go to Costco and tell them "print as is." Works great!

Erik Hammarlund , Dec 19, 2005; 01:42 p.m.

There's cheap and cheap.... I believe Adorama used to release a utility that would allow you to edit your pictures on your acreen and then mail them for printing; the utility included collor correction etc to reflect the machine. Might be worth a look.

Matt Needham , Dec 19, 2005; 03:33 p.m.

The price difference between the econo-labs and my local pro labs are minimal considering the personal service, quality of work, and peace of mind I get from the pro labs. The issue isn't just how does the print look today, but what about 10 years from now? What if a customer asks you where you get your photos printed? Do you feel comfortable saying Walmart, Walgreens, etc...? I just can't see taking any chances to save a few bucks. If an enlargement from the pro service lab costs $4 or $5 more then add it into the price.

Christopher B , Dec 19, 2005; 07:22 p.m.

I always felt Adoramapix.com did great work with my scanned negatives. You can mail them negatives through their order form you download but I have never done this.

I've yet to see a minilab do great quality (passable, sure but not great)

John Shriver , Dec 19, 2005; 07:48 p.m.

Go to digital, have them printed straight online by http://www.mpix.com. They are associated with a very good pro lab, use Kodak Endura paper, and do great work. Prices are great too.

Scott Eaton , Dec 20, 2005; 11:55 a.m.

Mpix has no quality advantage over Walmart given they both use the same gear. Mpix has a wider variety of paper options - that's it.

I'll also take Fuji Crytal Archive (Walmart)over Kodak's colorless Endura anyday. At least the Fuji paper can reproduce the color red.

Bill Tuthill , Dec 20, 2005; 12:31 p.m.

Shooterslab.com makes 20x30" enlargements for under $10. I've heard the quality is good, but I never tried them. In my area Walgreens and Target send out to Qualex for enlargements; quality seems poor.

Glen Peterson , Dec 20, 2005; 01:07 p.m.

All my prints come from digital files, whether shot on film or digital. With my local Walgreens, and my calibrated monitor, I no longer bother printing 4x6 prints. Walgreens and the frontier machine to Crystal Archive paper. The combo is working great for me. I have not tried larger prints yet, I'm still printing those myself.

Jesse Alonzo , Dec 20, 2005; 11:40 p.m.

wtf, your walgreens is still using fuji paper?????

i thought we all switched to kodak. kodak edge generations = toilet paper

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