Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Horse sense and printing photos

Yet another post to highlight my amateur ignorance. Detect a theme?

This time I learned a bit about printing photos.

I used black and white on this photo because it somehow managed to showcase some of the subtle details of the horses. I just tried to print this up the cheap way, and I found it harder to do than I had expected. I experimented with several one-hour photo stores. OK, I'll admit that this isn't the top-of-the-line way to get a print, but I needed it right away.

  • Walmart ($2.84/print): I usually use these guys to print photos. It's generally the cheapest, and the quality is usually good enough for me. On the downside, going to the photo counter is always an adventure. Most of the time they can't find my prints right away. Seriously, just about every time I go, the counter help has to look in several drawers and tabletop piles to find my shots. Anyway, for this photo, their processing automatically adjusted it to balance the dark and light areas, and this ruined the photo. The horses came out like dark silhouettes. I adjusted the brightness on the animals and re-sent it, but I had the same result.
  • Snapfish/Walgreens ($2.50/print). I then went to my old reliable. When I have to order lots of prints for family photos, I use Snapfish. They're quick and fairly reliable. And I discovered that they struck a deal with Walgreens for 1 hour printing. So I uploaded the original and the lightened version and sent them on to processing. They also had a hard time finding my photos. They weren't in the bin with the other 8x10s or several other likely places. They found them in a pile on top of one of the processing machines in back. Here, the processing seemed to have an auto-sharpening feature with a bit of overcontrast. The visible parts of the pony's hide came out looking like a gravelly road. Yuk.
  • CVS ($2.84/print): I've never used these guys, but they're nearby and offer 1 hour photo processing. No problems with them finding my photo. I think this store has a lot fewer customers, because the counter-dude knew exactly where my photo was as it was the only 8x10 printed that day. They processing did not seem to have any of the auto adjusting as the subtle details came out as they look in the screen. The only problem with the print is that my 8x10 sized image was cropped so that the poor horse's footsies were chopped off.
I didn't discuss my negotiations for refunds. That was the least pleasurable part of this experience.

So the whole thing took a lot more time than I had expected, but I finally have a print of this wonderfully subtle photo.

By the way, this photo was used on the cover of a PACIFE Music CD. A good marriage of a soft image with soft music.


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