I came across this poor quality print last evening at home and thought about the difference between it and the print that is currently hanging in my office. As a professional photographer, I understand why some clients may think it makes sense for them to just get digital images rather than paying the cost to have the professional photographer handle the printing for them.
See the two pictures below from the same original digital file - the first one was printed through a company I found online (image was taken approximately 3 years ago - this is not faded from age). I thought it was a great price and I was really proud that I was getting such a good bargain. The second one was printed by my professional lab. The professionally printed one has vivid colors that are true to life with crisp lines (and it has been hanging in my office and exposed to fluorescent and indirect light every day without fading). The mail order image looks faded and just sits in the corner in my studio and rarely gets any light exposure. The difference is really quite remarkable! So where is the bargain if the finished product is of such poor quality that you don’t even want to have it displayed for your enjoyment?
Yes, there is more cost associated with having images printed professionally. But the end result is well worth it. Besides looking better, it will be printed on an archival medium that will last for many, many years. The colors will be calibrated and true to life. And don’t think that if you have the digitals you will always have them - how many computers have you upgraded and still have programs and files from 10 years ago? We can’t be sure we won’t lose thumb drives or that the technology to read these won’t change over the years. Don’t take chances with your precious memories!
So unless you are just wanting to post some fun images on Facebook, go with the investment of professional printing!