26 Jan 2010

Costco revealed

Business, Other 1 Comment

Let’s have this discussion.  By no means am I discounting the work that Costco does.  They have fabulous prices, quick turn times and its local.  If inexpensive, quick and location are the most important to you than I’m not sure that anything beats Costco!  I do want to address some of the differences and things to consider.  This is strictly informational…  If you are the type that wants your images on disk for the purpose of ordering your own prints than this information will be helpful! 

First, let’s discuss color/quality.  Most photographer’s workspace (i.e. monitor) is calibrated and set up to produce the widest spectrum of colors, according to the professional lab they use.  If we are not sending our work to Costco, we probably aren’t loaded with the proper profiles for Costco.  So, here’s what happens… you get an image on a disk, upload the picture to Costco and pick them up and something looks weird! Your colors may be off and cause some funny looking clothing or other funny looking important features, like skin!   Professionals want their photos to look their very best, wouldn’t you?  Sometimes, you may not know the difference if you haven’t seen prints from a lab next to prints (ordered incorrectly) from Costco.  “If I can’t see the difference, then who cares.”  You are right to think this but let me help you understand the other side of the story with an analogy.  Purses… there are name brand purses and knock off purses.  If you are the maker or purchaser of the name brand purse, you certainly know the difference between them.  OR, how about handmade gifts compared to the same item purchased?  You can see the difference, especially if you did the work.  Photographers work hours on images-HOURS- and if it doesn’t look the same in print, we notice.  Prints are the photographer’s reputation!  It is the final product, the masterpiece per se. If you are going to use Costco for printing services, let your photographer know so the color space and any particular profiles can be set properly.  Photographers simply want the image (in its final destination) looking its best.  If the colors are too harsh, too dark, or catawampus in any way, it is a disservice to the photographer.  So, please make sure your photographer knows of your intentions so proper steps can be taken to get as close as possible to the way the images is supposed to look.

Second, let’s talk about products-Costco is definitely making progress in this arena, but nowhere close to a reputable print lab.  But Costco’s main focus is not prints.  What they DON’T OFFER is mounting services (standout, gallery wrap, and float wraps) different printed press papers (pearl, metallic, fine art velvet, fine art watercolor, art recycled, art linen, bonded canvas, etc.) and textures.  Different papers and textures make a HUGE difference in your wall art!  If you want large wall prints from Costco, they only do 16×20 or 20×30 AND they will be printed as a poster.  It isn’t technically a photo, hmmm… 

In the pictures below, you will see the first photo is a gallery wrap (Costco is now doing a version of this), the second photo shows the edges of a float wrap and a standout, the third photo is the same in a different angle, and the fourth is a better picture of a float wrap and standout.  (All of these mounted products are of wonderful quality and the best part is that they come ready to hang!)    


So, if you are the type that wants your images on disk and then loads the pictures to Costco, only to pick up prints and never do anything with them (or worse, never doing anything with the disk) because you forgot about framing and all the costs and time involved then something arriving ready to hang might be the best option for you.  Many photographers even work with frames so you may be able to chose your print and frame and then simply wait for its arrival… then hang it!

Third, I’ll address time.  Sometimes the ordering process, expense/cost research, image set-up and ordering takes time, lots of it.  If you are not seasoned with these things, consider how much your time is worth!   It could take in excess of three hours to research options and costs, decide where you want it printed, load and set-up the image and then make your way through their ordering system.  Personally, I have worked through ordering systems and spend many a nights figuring the ins and outs.  I’m just sayin’… 

OH, and the assumption that a professional print lab takes FOREVER is incorrect!  (Now granted, Costco’s small print service takes just a few hours but you have to go pick it up.)  Personally, the lab I use has orders to me oh so quickly-I love it.  The orders come right to me (or I can ship them to you).  Convenience is a beautiful thing.

Fourth, but not least COST.  Professional labs have quality papers and machines that are always tested and calibrated, they cater to pros and only know prints-that is all they do!  I would say that color and quality is unmatched when using a reputable professional lab.  BUT, excellent quality comes with a price.  In order to determine if the higher cost adds more value for you, think of these things: How long will you have the photos on display? Where will they be displayed?  Who will be viewing them?  Who is in the photos?  Who took the photos? What kind of paper do you want? What finished look/mounting do you want? How much extra time do you have?

I hope this has helped in some sort of way.  I want to restate that I am not discounting what Costco provides!  There are too many people wondering why they would pay the cost for print products from a professional lab, or pay a photographer’s print prices and this is a brief and personal explanation.  Professional labs may not make sense for you, your needs, and/or your budget.  In any case, please consider the quality and color specifications, the products, the time and the cost in your print decisions! 

Next post will be about my pre-session consultation.  I’m excited about this additional to my process!  It will help us sort through things like what is mentioned above…  Stay tuned.  : )

One Response to “Costco revealed”

  1. lisa says:

    Alex, thanks for the note! I noticed they were doing some gallery wraps a while ago but the quality isn’t up to par with the lab that I use. Also, when using Costco, you run the risk of wacky colors! You have to be careful to match their color profiles or select the right boxes when uploading so you don’t end up with skin tones that look too orange or yellow. I am happy with Costco and their products and speed but I am not wow’d by them. I don’t ooohhh and ahhhh over their products (yet). Maybe someday…? I feel that their skill set is not focused on quality, rather quantity. They are a warehouse, afterall. : ) It is great for many things, including low prices.

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