Comparison of 1 hour Lab to Professional Print Lab

Soooo..... now that I've convinced you all to print your photos (see previous post), I better tell you where I get my prints!

In my experience, both in Canada and in Spain, consumer "1-hour" print labs just don't measure up to their professional counterparts.

As you probably noticed, you can purchase prints through my website. When you do so, they are printed by carefully selected professional labs with excellent color reproduction and solid reputations, chosen by a team of experts and LOTS of tests. (There are two in the USA and one in the UK. I will link your client gallery to the lab which is closer to you.)

I personally tested them out too and see if there was actually a difference compared to my local 1-hour lab. Here are some examples of the prints I got back.

I sent the exact same image to various 1-hour labs in my town. (Including London Drugs and one-off mom and pop shops.) The results of all the labs varied greatly in both color, quality and consistency. That is to say, that I did the same thing twice, and got a differently colored image the second time around from the same store! But not from the pro labs connected to my website... phew.

A few more examples:

Regarding 4 above: the two on the right are cropped! Look how close their heads are to the edge of the print. That's not how I sent it to them. Also notice the color is different between the top and bottom (right side). It's most noticeable in the color of the trees. Not only is the color off and the cropping too much, it was inconsistent. The prints are different, printed from the same file at the same lab! The left two are correct, which were sent to the pro lab on two occasions, and came back the same both times. (And that's how it should be!)

And another example:

Above, the center image was from my partnered lab and the two outside images were from local 1-hour places. These are just a few examples I photographed to put online. I actually did several more test prints and the color differences were quite surprising!


  • Professional labs are consistently better in terms of color accuracy, sharpness and paper quality.
  • One-hour consumer labs can provide good results sometimes, but not reliably.
  • If you are printing something important, like a large image to hang above your fireplace and enjoy for years to come, it's worth printing through a professional lab so as not to be disappointed in an image that looks slightly "off" or muddy (IMO)

Lastly, your screen (computer, cell phone etc) may also render the colors differently! So, the images above may not look the same to you as they are intended!!

Thanks for reading!

Peace out! ;P