When someone pays to have photos taken, typically, they plan on printing them to hang around their home. At least, that’s usually the final destination. But not everyone gets there the same way. Some might choose to print through a local consumer lab, such as Walmart, Target, or Walgreens – all of which are helpful for keeping things cheap and fast. But what might you be sacrificing in the long run?


I like to liken having photos taken and printing them through a non-professional lab to going to a fancy restaurant with a picture of a meal that you want to eat from a different restaurant – for example, a burger with fries – and then having that restaurant make the meal with their ingredients. Technically, yes, you’re eating a burger and fries that resembles the photo you brought in – but the quality of the meal (and your experience) will most likely suffer, because you’re not eating the meal the way it was indented to be eaten with its intended ingredients. Much is the same with printing your photos. The photos might not look that different – in fact, they might look fairly similar – the same faces, the same pose. But what’s affected is the quality.

So, what can be affected in your prints when you order from a consumer lab, such as Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, or Shutterfly?

  • Colors could look off (too saturated, or just plain different)
  • Skin color is always affected (you might look too orange, yellow, pink, or green!)
  • Highlights may be too bright (making the subject look too washed out!)
  • The print could lose contrast or have too much added (making the print look too soft or muddy and gross!)
  • The photo could appear out of focus (I’ve had this happen several times to people!)

If you’re interested in comparing different photos from a variety of labs, I highly recommend checking out THIS ARTICLE, which gives an amazing comparison of prints from a variety of different consumer labs compared to a professional lab!

Printing from a professional lab ensures that your photos will look as close as possible to what you see on your screen and in your gallery. Remember – photos are an investment, and if you’ve spent money on having gorgeous photos taken, going the extra step to make sure they’re printed correctly is an investment worth making!