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Why professional photography prints matter

Anyone can take a picture, but not everyone can create a beautiful photograph. The act of snapping an image via a mobile phone is much different than the technique and talent required in the art of photography. As a professional portrait photographer in Worcester, I reflect my passion for my craft in every photo I produce. When you view my professionally printed images, you are witnessing the creativity, originality and emotion come alive in vivid colour and detail that only a physical print can capture.

luxury folio box with matted prints by Worcester portrait photographer Renata Clarke Glamour and Boudoir Photography

I just want the digitals

Many people hire a professional photographer to do their portrait photoshoot or capture their wedding day. The photographers hand them a USB full of images so “they can print all they want” from those digital files. Clients go and grab a deal in a local supermarket or online and print them all much cheaper. Sounds like a great solution, right?

When you take those images down to your instant photo lab, what you get back is not what you imagined or even saw on your screen. They look dull, lifeless, and even perhaps so dark you can’t imagine what could be wrong.

So you spent some money for “professional results” and ended up with something anyone could take with their point and shoot camera. Far too often this is exactly what is happening to countless people. They wasted their money for quality you can never have in printed form from cheap “Shoot & Burn” photographers. However often photos printed from professionally taken and retouched images may look very different from what you see on the screen.

framed wall art offered by Renata Clarke Portraits in Worcester

What difference does the printing by photographer make?

A professional portrait photographer does more than send your photos out for printing.  To take a great image and make it into a great print, a photographer:

  • Retouches the image, not only for people in the picture but the surroundings as well.  
  • Uses calibrated monitor to ensure the correct colours, brightness, contrast and vibrancy are true to life.
  • Properly crops the picture, if needed.  Have you ever ordered a 5×7 from a local store and it comes back missing half a face?  The reason is because professional cameras take a picture at a 2:3 ratio.  So when you see your image, nothing will be cropped out if you print it at a size of 4×6, 8×12, 12×18, etc.  Unfortunately, frame manufacturers tend to sell frames at sizes such as 5×7, 8×10, 11×14, or 16×20.  This means that some of the image has to be cropped.  A photographer will see if the image can be cropped without losing the qualities that make it a good composition.
  • Sizes the image based upon the dimensions chosen.  The quality of a print depends on the number of pixels per inch (ppi) going to the printer. For a larger print you need at least 300 ppi.  
  • Sharpens the image for the printer depending on the surface on which the image will be printed.  An image sharpened for printing on photographic paper may look too “crunchy” if printed on metal.  Likewise, an image printed on wood may need more sharpening.
  • Works with professional colour labs.  If you are ordering a large wall portrait valued in excess of £500, this job needs to be handled by a company known for its quality product and attention to detail.  In addition, a professional portrait photographer will work with a lab to ensure the colour reproduction is true. For instance this means calibrating monitor or working with correct colour spaces or ICC profiles provided by the lab.
  • chooses the right high quality paper for the image ensuring its durability and overall effect required. Some papers perform better with darker tones, others add more contrast. The best papers are certified to last 100 years or more.

The photographers do more than pressing a shutter. Behind every image are hours of practice, expensive gear and software, training, long conversations with our colleagues, membership in professional guilds, etc.  I put a lot of myself in the pictures I take. Why wouldn’t I want them to look their best for the people that will see them?

Printing your own photos from a “digital file” is likely to leave you more than disappointed, so get your printed images from your photographer. If they don’t offer them, or only offer “online ordering”, then consider hiring someone who does. Most “online ordering” isn’t from true professional labs and the photographer isn’t going to spend the time needed to properly prepare your images for print as well. You can’t make a 4×6 and 16×20 output the same identical thing and not lose quality. Take it from someone who once tried that route.

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