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How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?
  
 
Archibald
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p.3 #1 · p.3 #1 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


lara_ckl wrote:
The original cropped RAW image was, as reported by Lightroom, 4333x3095px.
From the same cropped RAW image, Lightroom exported a JPG (quality = 100) at 360dpi.
Opening the JPG in a JPG viewer (Apple's Preview), showed a file that was 1800x2520px.
That same JPG file was sent to the 2 commercial printers and printed on 5x7 paper.

What I posted were scans of a very small area of the resulting 5x7 prints.

Again, I am not complaining about the absolute detail/resolution. I am questioning how a home-made print can be so much better than the commercial lab prints.


OK, thanks. My point would be that it is the pixel dimensions that matter, not the dpi. It depends on how you export from LR... but it is OK, the pixel dimensions you gave are good and agree with the dpi.

I agree with a suggestion in another reply that you should print the same file to your own printer, just to eliminate any possibility of error.



Mar 15, 2017 at 09:12 PM
chez
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p.3 #2 · p.3 #2 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


lukejc1 wrote:
Paper type could be playing a role here too. Luster paper is generally sharper than matte paper as far as I've seen. Try printing the image on matte paper for a better apples to apples comparison and see what you get.


With my home printer I print on lustre and matte and even canvas and I've never seen the stair step affect in the image posted. There is definitely something wrong here...not the paper of choice.



Mar 15, 2017 at 09:15 PM
JohnBrose
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p.3 #3 · p.3 #3 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


sending a jpeg vs tiff is going to have very little difference if any at all. I send jpegs to my labs all the time and all my prints are wonderful. The advantage a tiff has over jpeg is that it doesn't compress the file so if you are opening and changing and resaving a file the jpeg will begin to degrade while the tiff will not. This doesn't come into play if you are just sending a file in and the lab is just printing from that file. Also a tiff can be 16 bit, but that doesn't apply either because printers are not 16 bit-only 8 bit, but would be an advantage while editing the files.


Mar 15, 2017 at 09:24 PM
lara_ckl
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p.3 #4 · p.3 #4 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


lukejc1 wrote:
Paper type could be playing a role here too. Luster paper is generally sharper than matte paper as far as I've seen. Try printing the image on matte paper for a better apples to apples comparison and see what you get.


Yes, I suspect paper type is a factor. (That was the reason I posted the paper type along with the scanned images.) I selected papers that were as similar as possible. I have no control over the paper that these commercial labs offer.



Mar 15, 2017 at 09:55 PM
fcarucci
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p.3 #5 · p.3 #5 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


JohnBrose wrote:
sending a jpeg vs tiff is going to have very little difference if any at all. I send jpegs to my labs all the time and all my prints are wonderful. The advantage a tiff has over jpeg is that it doesn't compress the file so if you are opening and changing and resaving a file the jpeg will begin to degrade while the tiff will not. This doesn't come into play if you are just sending a file in and the lab is just printing from that file. Also a tiff can be 16 bit, but that doesn't apply
...Show more

I have images with very subtle gradients that show a lot of banding if printed from a jpg instead of a tiff.



Apr 05, 2017 at 10:57 AM
TAM63
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p.3 #6 · p.3 #6 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


Pro guy local to me does printing. On a real photo printer, not inkjet, at least the smaller sizes I have had him do.

Very helpful guy, I'm sure he would disucss the problem with you and perhaps could make you a good print - Jim at Downtown Photo Crystal Lake (815) 788-9100





Apr 05, 2017 at 11:12 AM
chez
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p.3 #7 · p.3 #7 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


TAM63 wrote:
Pro guy local to me does printing. On a real photo printer, not inkjet, at least the smaller sizes I have had him do.

Very helpful guy, I'm sure he would disucss the problem with you and perhaps could make you a good print - Jim at Downtown Photo Crystal Lake (815) 788-9100



What does "real photo printer" mean? One of those in goes the negatives and out comes the 4x6 snaps?



Apr 05, 2017 at 11:49 AM
Bohemien
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p.3 #8 · p.3 #8 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


lara_ckl wrote:
The original cropped RAW image was, as reported by Lightroom, 4333x3095px.
From the same cropped RAW image, Lightroom exported a JPG (quality = 100) at 360dpi.
Opening the JPG in a JPG viewer (Apple's Preview), showed a file that was 1800x2520px.
That same JPG file was sent to the 2 commercial printers and printed on 5x7 paper.

What I posted were scans of a very small area of the resulting 5x7 prints.

Again, I am not complaining about the absolute detail/resolution. I am questioning how a home-made print can be so much better than the commercial lab prints.


For printing, I'd recommend always sending the highest possible resolution to the printer. Don't let LR downsize the JPG, use the original 4Kx3K pixels. That could've caused some of the "steps" visible in your samples.

My first guess also was that you should've sent them TIFFs, but this has been discussed here already. (If you use TIFFs for printing, always use CMYK instead of RGB and embed the ICC profile you got from your printing company.)

I get really good results from a printer in Germany (www.myphotobook.de) who uses large EPSON inkjet plotters, even from JPG files. They are a company that started with photo book printing services but offer posters or canvases, too. Similar to Blurb in the US, maybe you have Blurb in Canada, too? I'd give them a try.

Markus



Apr 05, 2017 at 12:04 PM
Peter Figen
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p.3 #9 · p.3 #9 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


"My first guess also was that you should've sent them TIFFs, but this has been discussed here already. (If you use TIFFs for printing, always use CMYK instead of RGB and embed the ICC profile you got from your printing company.)"

No need to further confuse the issue here. This discussion is about RGB photo printers, not about CMYK offset printers. Unless you're running your own printer with a known CMYK RIP, you always send RGB files, never CMYK. This is just adding one more variable that most photographers know very little about anyway and is irrelevant.



Apr 06, 2017 at 02:30 PM
Homo_erectus
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p.3 #10 · p.3 #10 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


I have had very good results with Bay Photo.

My education and professional experience is in the print industry. I long ago concluded that the quality increase from printing at home falls into the marginal-to-imaginary range, while the costs are stacked against home printing too. For me the choice was clear.

I've seen many print shops where color management means having the same guy eyeball an iterated stream of reprints until he decides one is "right".



Apr 06, 2017 at 07:31 PM
 

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nugeny
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p.3 #11 · p.3 #11 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


if you like your prints better, you can print it at home, as big as you want.
Here is how. divide you 32x36 by 3 and print 32x12 three times and frame like a French window. You would love it. I have a 36x60" printed that way.



Apr 06, 2017 at 08:27 PM
robgo2
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p.3 #12 · p.3 #12 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


There are commercial printers that do high quality work. Try West Coast Imaging. Send them your sample, and see what you get back.




Apr 08, 2017 at 07:33 PM
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p.3 #13 · p.3 #13 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


lara_ckl wrote:
The original cropped RAW image was, as reported by Lightroom, 4333x3095px.
From the same cropped RAW image, Lightroom exported a JPG (quality = 100) at 360dpi.
Opening the JPG in a JPG viewer (Apple's Preview), showed a file that was 1800x2520px.


So, that's part of the issue. You printed a 13.4Mp image directly from lightroom. At 5x7, that's 619 pixels per inch.

As for the commercial prints: regardless of the 'dpi' on export, you apparently ended up with an 4.5Mp jpg. Printed at 5x7, that's 360 PPI. Slightly more than half of the DPI you were working with on the home print.

Not a fair comparison. 360 PPI is still plenty to work with, so there must have been some other missteps on the commercial printer side, particularly with com1. Even com2, though, looks badly posterized and somewhat stair-stepped too.

As someone else suggested--don't ever resize the jpgs on export. Leave them at full resolution, and submit them to the printer that way.

I agree with others that jpg vs tiff is not the issue here. Jpg compression, especially at 8+ or whatever, is very very good.





Apr 08, 2017 at 08:14 PM
TAM63
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p.3 #14 · p.3 #14 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


chez wrote:
What does "real photo printer" mean? One of those in goes the negatives and out comes the 4x6 snaps?


I apologize, I missed this.

Not an inkjet print, and original style (whatever process that is, I'm not that technical) that people printed photos on before they went to inkjets. I don't know if he can print from negatives also, it wouldn't surprise me.





Apr 10, 2017 at 03:06 PM
anscochrome
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p.3 #15 · p.3 #15 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


Reading some of the comments here, it seems excellent professional quality labs such as mpix.com do not exist, and the outstanding results I have been getting from them is all in my imagination.


Apr 12, 2017 at 04:06 AM
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p.3 #16 · p.3 #16 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?



Do they provide profiles?

anscochrome wrote:
Reading some of the comments here, it seems excellent professional quality labs such as mpix.com do not exist, and the outstanding results I have been getting from them is all in my imagination.




Apr 12, 2017 at 06:45 AM
Hrow
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p.3 #17 · p.3 #17 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


Inclusive of the film era, there has always been a huge difference between commercial labs. A few are great, some are good and some are awful. What has also remained the same is that the consumer is price driven and and enough people don't want to pay for the extra skills to get great prints made. This part seems to have gotten worse in the digital era as many of the better commercial labs have folded, finding it impossible to remain financially viable with so much of the "pro" and "semi-pro" work going to nationally scoped bulk printers.
(Any "pro" who uses Costco should be tied to a stake with his camera strap and left in the rain until they repent.)

Printing is a science and a very skilled trade. If the photographic community isn't willing to support it then it is do it yourself, find one of the few remaining truly professional printers, or put up with second, third, or even tenth rate results.




Apr 12, 2017 at 12:48 PM
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p.3 #18 · p.3 #18 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


anscochrome wrote:
Reading some of the comments here, it seems excellent professional quality labs such as mpix.com do not exist, and the outstanding results I have been getting from them is all in my imagination.


If you believe that mpix equals real professional quality then you are right, it is in your imagination. Their prints look OK, but there is a real difference between a print that looks OK and one that knocks it out of the park. I run a gallery and can assure you that I know which photographers are using the likes of mpix and which ones are skillfully printing themselves or having their prints done by true professionals. The viewing public notices as well.







Apr 12, 2017 at 01:01 PM
plateaulight
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p.3 #19 · p.3 #19 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


Being one of the true professional printmakers I have some input that hopefully illuminates some issues and allows me to expound on some industry issues that have frustrated me.

You first need to understand that the majority of print houses employ personnel who come from the sign printing industry and have wholly different metrics for quality and process. They simply are not looking for the details and nuances that photographers are expecting. This is a huge issue to me as most consumers think that all vendors who have pro quality equipment are equal and just shop price.
If that were true than anyone with an slr would make the same quality images as someone with years of vested experience and hours of post work.
We all know that to be untrue.

With respect to the scans there are several observations that can be drawn.

Sample 1 looks to have been imaged at lower rez. This can generally happen in 2 ways.
1) Either the file was reduced in DPI by the upload software or by a lab employee.
2) The file was imaged in the rip at 150dpi. ( done to speed up ripping)
Either way this is poor quality software processing and really has nothing to do with the hardware.

Sample 2 looks to have had print sharpening applied. Photographers in general are afraid to sharpen prints and generally either undersharpen for print or use too large of a radius in sharpening. This lab looks to have applied decent sharpening practices however it is impossible to know how well being that we are looking at a greatly magnified sample and do not know what the scale is.

Sample 3 looks smooth and appears to have been prepped and printed at high quality setting but appears to have no output sharpening applied. Again it is not possible to accurately judge the final print at viewing distances to determine how the micro contrasts will appear or how the tonal qualities will render in print from blowups without more specifics.

You should know that in fine art printing it is a common practice to add small amounts of fine grain to selected areas when enlargements are made as the algo for rezzing will smooth over fine detail and if the up size is significant enough it can render areas as featureless and plastic looking.

Don't be afraid of high frequency fine grain or noise in the print at very high magnifications. Getting that dialed in is what sets fine prints apart from mass market high volume garbage.



May 29, 2017 at 06:29 PM
lara_ckl
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p.3 #20 · p.3 #20 · How can commercial prints be so bad vs home-made prints?


Thank you plateaulight for a very detailed and insightful response.




May 29, 2017 at 11:55 PM
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