When it comes to printing, there's a HUGE difference between producing something on a cheapie inkjet printer and having a professional print your photo on a sophisticated piece of equipment. Don't get me wrong, printing your own photos is fine and dandy for the family photo albums and whatnot. But when you want to hang something on the wall (especially if it's somebody else's wall), there's nothing better than working with a professional to produce exactly what you want.
photo credit: jhhymas
Some weeks ago, I needed to print a photo that was destined to be signed and shipped off. I found a local printer, went over to his place, and spent about an hour or two preparing and printing the image. I've purchased my own prints from places like ImageKind in the past, but that doesn't even come close to the experience and quality you'll get from sitting down next to the person printing your photo and working through the details.
We talked about the different papers he had to offer, looked at sample prints on each medium, popped open the image on his computer, sized it with Genuine Fractals, and put the finishing touches on the noise and sharpness. When we were ready to print, we ran a test strip just to make sure that everything looked perfect. Once I was happy with the outcome, we ran the entire image. The little white gloves went on, the photo was trimmed, dried, rolled, and packaged.
In the end, I walked away with a much higher quality image than I could have gotten from any online shop, and it didn't cost me any more than I would have otherwise paid. The actual print was a little more expensive, but it balanced out with the fact that I didn't have to pay for shipping (or wait for it). So if you're considering having some of your work printed for display and showcase, I'd suggest you find yourself a local printer who you can visit in person and work with.
I've chosen to go with Oscar Medina from San Diego Photos and Prints. Oscar is a photographer and artist who purchased his own printers because he wanted that extra level of control. Since he doesn't use the printers 100% of the time, he opens up his services to local artists in need of fine art prints and giclee reproductions. His prices are fair, and he definitely knows what he's doing with the hardware and software. If you live in the San Diego area, I'd suggest you give him a try — you won't be disappointed. If you don't, you can still give him a try — he'll ship orders too… you just won't get the one-on-one interaction with him.
What's your experience with professional printing? Can anybody else out there relate to what I'm saying?