Don’t discuss Costco, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or any of the rest with me. I’m done, I’m out

Richard Charpentier Arizona Photographer, Photography, Printers, Prints, RLC Design Leave a Comment

I just received an urgent correspondence from a new client regarding prints.  They’d done a shoot for friends, did their post production, and sent off a CD.

The friends got back in touch.  They’d had the images printed at Costco.  The images were total crap.  Super dark, colors way off, etc.

Now the new client calibrates their own setup with one of the many great calibration tools out there.  Super cool!  But the client admits that they too print with Costco, and they’re always way disappointed.  Too dark.  Colors way off.  Costco suggests setting up with their print settings.  Fine tune your computer to them.  Yeah, that’s an option.  But if you present your images online, in e-mail, etc, they’re gonna look like crap.  But your Costco prints will be cool.


Alright folks, it’s a Wal-Mart world.  You wanna go cheap right?  Go ahead, keep printing with these guys.  Pour your heart and soul into the images you create.  And then go sub-par on the prints.

Didn’t Ansel Adams say something about the print being the thing that counted?  Something like that.  Yeah, I think so.  I wonder, if he was here today, would he be running his prints at Wal-Mart?  Ponder that one.

You don’t have to print with me gang.  But seriously there are a ton of amazing labs out there.  And if you’re really into this, tons of amazing printers out there that you can calibrate to your level of perfection.  A few suggestions?  Pro Lab Express, they’ve been at it a long time and my friend John Randall stands behind his lab’s work.  MPix.  Without a doubt, a great lab.  Before I was running my own print business I used them.  The drawback?  They’re not Costco, I’m ever so sorry.

As heard in my studio the other week

Recently I had a new potential customer walk through the door.  They’d heard that I’m the printer to know.  So they showed up, interrupted me with a client, and insisted that I talk to them NOW.  Rude to the front end staff?  Yup.  Rude to me and the client that was in studio?  Yup.  My desire to work with them went quickly.

Well, a CD was dropped off.  Walgreens.  They’re image was offloaded from their SD card at Walgreens.  They don’t do their own post processing at all, don’t load images to their own computer, nada.  Okay.  I’ll bite.  JPEG on B&W mode right out of the camera on a Walgreens CD.

An 8×10 was requested.  Just one.  I opened the file.  8×12.  So I called the client.  It’s an 8×12.  “Well, you pick the crop.”  Nope, I don’t do that.  I want clients to check it out with me, otherwise I know I’m doomed.  I’m not making your artistic selections.  You’ll complain, I can guarantee it.

So, they finally came in.  We looked at the image.  And it was discovered that there was a very bad artifact across the entire image.  We looked at crops.  Possibilities.  We hemmed and we hawwwed.  We settled on a crop after about 30 minutes.  We proofed it.  And then we printed on Vibrance Rag.  The image was perfect, and loved by the client…….

And then the next day I received a call.  “The black and white you printed for me yesterday is unacceptable.  I’m going to get it reprinted elsewhere.  It’s not as deep as the others I have at home.  There are grays in it.  Do you know how to print black and whites?”

Hmmmmm……  Between the original interruption with a painter who I was working with, the many many phone calls, the final in shop visit with a file that was not print ready, and then the follow up call I spent 2 hours with this client.  We printed on Vibrance Rag, and an 8×10 costs my clients $9.60.  Not bad for an archival print on an amazing paper.  Not bad for getting one on one attention with your printer.  But pretty bad from my stand point for 2 hours of work.

The client’s original printer?  Costco.  Guess black and white is literally black and white with them.  You know, I’ve looked at the charts and between White and Black are shades of gray.

There are camera operators, and then there are photographers.  Can you find them on a “Where’s Waldo” map?  I can.  The dead giveaway is a CD stamped with a Big Box Store’s insignia.

Grizzled Rich in Black & White. Which version is "Right"?

The second Lightroom B&W preset chosen. Is this the right B&W?

One of OnOne's Perfect Presets for Lightroom Black & White

Awww, now I'm just cheating, this isn't black and white. Another OnOne preset for Lightroom Black & White

So, I wonder what these would look like if I didn’t print them……

Leave a Reply