Monday, December 1, 2014

Photo Developing - What you need to know b4 you place your next order.

This is an article I just wrote for Chicagoland Scrapbooker Magazine.  This is the original -  Not sure how it will actually be edited...  Tell me what you think...

Photo Developing -  What you need to know b4 you place your next order...

There are many things to consider when looking at how to get your pictures in your hands.  Let me open your eyes and explain a little about what happens when you order your photos and what options you have.

First, the difference between “developing” and “printing”. 
·         Photo Developing is done using a "wet lab".  This is how pictures have been developed and "proven" since the 1800's.  They obviously last a very long time as we still have beautiful photos from long ago.  In the last 40 years, the process has been compressed and made more efficient into what is called a "mini lab".  It takes a qualified person, that knows what they are doing, to use and maintain one of these.  Lots of chemicals and physical labor are both needed.  Your digital images go through a computer, adjusted if needed, and then past a laser that exposes the paper.  It is then put through a chemical bath, a developer, bleach and stabilizer before it goes to the drying area.   With all of these steps, it takes a little longer to print a photo but oddly enough, it is the most economical.  The advantage to us is that there is proven longevity,  great quality with rich, vibrant colors as well as many surface choices like glossy, matte, metallic and luster. You can print as small as locket size up to a 10x15 in a mini lab or 24" in a regular lab.  Wet labs also handle slides and negatives.  Not many places offer this great option anymore as they take up about 45sf of floor space and stores put priority on retail space they free up with other options. If you are looking for places that do this you need to ask if they have a "wet lab". 

·         Photo Printing is the other option and can be done by inkjet or by dye-sublimation "dye-sub" - these are called "dry labs" or to some extent, even at home.
  • Inkjets are found at local stores or online and can print on canvas, as glossy, satin, or metallic.  They can be a little more expensive as the cost of the ink and papers is higher but they can be done while you wait.  They can be scratched fairly easy so be cautious when stacking.  Sizes generally go up to 24" but specialty places can print up to 60".  If you do inkjet printing at home just be sure to use the suggested ink and paper that are meant for your machine as they are all formulated to work best together.   There is NO industry standard for using the word "archival" so don't be mis-led.  They started using the word “archival” many years ago when photos only lasted 7 years.  Manufacturers say inkjet could last as long as 70 years but my source doubts the "archival" quotes associated with this type of printing. 
    •  Inkjets" can use 2 different products to give the color
      • "dye" which offers lots of colors and vivid pictures. 
      •  and“pigment", which is more resistant to fading but not as vibrant.  It does not absorb into the paper as well as dyes.

  •  Dye sublimation is what most places offer as takes up little space in stores yet it's a more costly option for us. These machines are generally a kiosk or as a table top option and are done while you wait.  These papers contain plastics and are covered in a clear coat of plastic after 3 different colors are deposited on the paper.  The downsides for us scrappers is cutting these is very different and tearing them for technique is an impossibility. There are not many surface choices or sizes.  They have just medium image quality and medium fade tolerance. 

There seems to be a lot of marketing hype when it comes to HOW pictures are "developed" or "printed" and WHAT is used.  Some on-line and local places I contacted were great at avoiding my questions that were geared towards wanting my pictures "developed".  I got all kinds of fancy talk like “we use the highest quality inks” and “we use the best rated papers” etc. but what it came down to was that it seemed they did not want to say they do not use a "wet lab."  This is my personal preference just because it's time-tested and proven.  You need to decide what is best for you however, and ask direct questions. “ Wet lab” or “dry lab”.  If a dry lab, you need to get more specific using the information above.   Before you find a place and stick with them I would suggest you order a single print but with different options at different places.  Try different papers, finishes, enhanced, not enhanced etc. so you can compare and see if what you are paying is worth it.

A little more wisdom:
  • ·         You NEED to be able to develop/print your photos - My philosophy is that if you can't hold them in your hands - they don't exist.  Too many times I have seen my clients precious photos lost forever because of technology.
  • ·         Many places will "white box" orders that come to them.  This means that they will send your order to a regional lab that works for them, This means your pictures can be done at a different place each time and may be inconsistent. 
  • ·         Some labs offer to "enhance" your photos.  This sounds great but if your pics were taken in different lighting situations you could end up with the first few (that they set the rest of them from) looking great and the rest being a little "off".  Having your photos done in a lab that is a little more personal may mean that you have someone taking a little closer look at your pictures to adjust them properly for you.  A personal test of mine showed no visible difference when I compared my enhanced and non-enhanced pictures. 
  • ·         When framing larger photos, you need to think about how gravity will affect it over time.  After a while they will probably sag or warp in the frame.  Professional places generally adhere your photo to foam core to keep it secure and "safe", 
  • ·         Sun is the worst fader of photos as are spotlights on your pictures.  Glass with a UV coating slows it down but does not prevent fading.
  • ·         Pictures that have gotten wet and stuck together will be a challenge but my professional recommends using a toaster oven set very low to dry them out 4-5 minutes at a time.  Carefully remove the outside ones first that are dryer and re-heat to remove them in layers.  Be cautious you do not burn them and know this is not foolproof but has worked.     

Danita Bergrud has been the owner and operator of Weekends Away Retreats since 1995 and believes her retreats, that gather women together, are using her spiritual gifts and is one of her missions in life.  Her prices are set so that any woman can afford an escape for a while to enjoy the fellowship and support of other women.  Danita feels blessed to be writing  articles for this magazine  to share with others.  Most all of the information contained in this article is courtesy of Kevin Beasley, the owner/operator of Fotohouze in Downers Grove Il.  He has been in the industry since 1985 and offers personal assistance to his clients whether on line or in person.

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