The short answer is, “Yes, but…”
When you purchase the digital proofs or the enhanced fine art digital images, the studio grants you the rights to make prints for personal use. You can take the files to your favorite local shop or online services. However, the quality could vary widely depending on many factors.
Here is an enhanced fine art digital image we meticulously edited and touched up to create a dramatic mood (without losing details in the staircase or the architecture) while highlighting the couple dancing under the archway. When we make fine art prints and canvases for our clients, we work with national photography labs which cater only to photographers. We trust the lab’s ability to faithfully reproduce the image accurately in color and tonal range.
I printed the same image through the local Costco and Walgreen. Then I submitted the photo to Shutterfly. Finally, to round off the comparisons, I bought an HP Tango home smart photo printer, a popular consumer-grade home printer. Below is what I got. The Costco printer was clearly out to lunch – the resulting print was dark and muddy, and most of the details were lost. Walgreen’s print had an expected green color cast, while the Shutterfly’s print was blotchy with a tint of red. The HP Tango couldn’t reproduce true black leaving the overall image looking washed out.
Below is another example – as you can see, none could accurately reproduce the color tone of the skin nor the contrast of the overall image (just look at her hair).
If the goal of any photo center is to faithfully reproduce the digital image, why do these prints vary so much? There could be many reasons – the color and tonal calibration might be out of range and needs to be recalibrated, or the print shops deliberately changed the color/contrast in order to make a more vivid photograph.
I know some of you will say, “I printed my photos at xyz, and they turned out just fine.” It’s absolutely possible the likes of Costco, Walgreen or any popular photo center could reproduce beautiful images on their printers. The reality is the quality varies drastically depending on the technician, the day (recently calibrated?) or location (a newly installed printer vs. an ancient relic?).
Whatever your decision is regarding reproduction, we truly believe these portraits, the heirlooms of your family, belong on the wall and tables around your home, not on a disk drive!