Sonja, I am not familiar with Nations Photo Lab. In the past, I tried using a local business here in Austin, Texas but was not happy with the print quality. I ended up using BayPhoto. I believe they also may do some cropping to fit the printing selection I made. The color quality is superb, and they also do some adjustments in that area, if needed. I have done over half a dozen metal prints with BayPhoto.
Hi Sonja, I’ll be the second vote for BayPhoto. I’ve had several prints done by them.
As for cropping, if you’re looking for a standard print size (8x10) then there will likely need to be some cropping done. I usually set my images at 300px and see what the dimensions wind up being. Then I’ll ask for a custom size. They should be able to accommodate that.
Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.
They used to be my go-to for metals but they have zero quality control and I’ve had lots of problems with their shipping department. Now, granted, I sell a lot of prints and I need a dependable lab for drop shipping. BayPhoto completely ruined 20+ prints of a friend of mine by somehow putting his watermark in the center of the photo and subsequently shipped them to his gallery show… it was a complete disaster… easily avoidable with SIMPLE quality control in place.
I partner with smaller labs to get the job done now, and right now my go to is NMFA.IO but they are super small and Niche.
I would research what’s close to home if I were you.
Working directly with the lab you will understand the cropping, etc. Most labs can do custom sizes so you really shouldn’t have to worry about cropping these days!
Wow, @Matt_Payne , you did have some terrible luck with BayPhoto. I am sorry to hear about those major issues. I don’t print nearly as many photos as you seem to do. The dozen or so photos I’ve done with them were impeccable in quality and color. Also, I never had any problems with delivery.
Thank you to those who responded to my question. It is always good to hear the good and bad as not everyone has the same experience. It was good to hear, though, that slight cropping may be normal. I will have to keep that in mind when taking the shot.
This site is always a wealth of information. Thank you again.
Hi Sonja @sonja , a little late to the party but here are my shinny two pennies if you want them. I agree that you should try to find a local print shop if you live close enough, it’s invaluable to stand in front of and speak with the person printing your art. A good shop will be more than happy to answer your questions. The big labs have numbers you can call to sometimes speak with a person but nowadays the process is mostly done via email unfortunately.
As far as cropping goes, my assumption (forgive me if I’m wrong) is that you’re “free” cropping when editing, ie. not using a specific aspect ratio when cropping. When you free crop you will need to check the dimensions of the final image and tell the lab what custom size you want printed. Most labs have set sizes they print based on the common aspect ratios of 2:3 and 4:5: 8x12, 16x24, 18x24, etc… My assumption is that you are choosing say a 8x12 print but the image you send them isn’t 8x12 but slightly different due to your cropping when editing.
If I’m wrong and you are using a set aspect ratio to crop when editing and the lab still wants to crop I would ask them why as that usually isn’t the case. I print and sell a few hundred images a year and have never had to crop any of them unless it was for a custom job that wasn’t a 4:5 aspect ratio, which all I use.
Hope this helps.
Cropping: You will need to specify an aspect ratio when ordering. Either crop you image to match that or add white canvas to match it. (Some labs might auto-crop to the image and not “see” the white so you may need to add a black stroke on the edges.
Bay Photo: I used to think they were great. Not so anymore. Printing is very good, damage due to extremely poor packaging is way too common. They will replace the print but it’s a hassle. I don’t use them anymore for anything I’m having shipped directly to someone.
Thank you Andrew for the explanation. You hit it right on the head. I did not know about aspect ratios until I started reading this site. I was just taking my picture and free cropping thinking it would print just like that. My pictures are fine on the computer but then I am so disappointed when I get them printed. You can see noise and the colors look too saturated! As you can tell, I am learning and so appreciate any tidbits I can get. Thank you again and I will start looking at ratios.
Hi Sonja - you don’t say what software you use for processing, but an important step to take before any printing, at home or to an outsourced lab, is soft proofing. Lightroom has functionality dedicated to it. Other apps might as well, but I use Lr so it’s the only one I’m familiar with. Basically what you need to do is to ready a photo for printing which is a different media entirely than viewing on a screen. Screens have light behind the photo and paper doesn’t so the qualities of the photo need to be adjusted for that. I find Anthony Morganti’s tutorials valuable, so here’s a link to one that explains this process -
There are more tutorials out there and of course any reputable lab will work with you to proof your images before printing.
Oh and Sean Bagshaw has a whole course dedicated to printing. It’s very technical, but that’s the nature of printing.
Thank you Kristen for this wealth of information! I will look at this closely. I just use Corel Paintshop Pro X9 only because I know someone who uses that and he can guide me through any questions I might have. I see that a lot of photographers do use Lightroom so I will look into trying that. I don’t know why I was under the impression that Lightroom was pretty technical and difficult to use. I am not a techie so like it simple but if I want to see improvement I just may have to stretch myself. Again, thank you so very much!
No problem, glad to help. And kudos to you for printing your work. I don’t do enough of it and should. Need more wall space though!
It’s funny about software. When I first wanted to digitize my film photos, I went with Photoshop Elements and hated it. I found it so non-intuitive and difficult to use that I bailed and went with something else. Can’t remember what it was since it was probably 2002-ish. Eventually though someone told me about Lightroom and how it was intuitive and quite powerful. This was 2009 and version 3 was in beta so that’s what I started with. I’ve never looked back.
Since then the functionality has improved and there are so many more things you can do with your images than before. The layout and design hasn’t changed though and that’s a relief. Until 2020 I didn’t use Photoshop at all, but have added it to my workflow since Adobe’s subscription model includes it and why not? It has a learning curve that was much higher than Lr was for me, but I figured that stupider people than me have done it so I should be able to master it as well. I’m not there yet, but that’s part of the fun, right?
Yeah I don’t print much but when I do I like them to look nice. In our hometown there is a non-profit called the “Craighead House” that does nature-related education. You can look it up as it is interesting (maybe only to me since it is a community thing). At any rate, Frank and John Craighead were twins who were biologists, conservationists and naturalists who were one of the first to work with grizzly bears in Yellowstone. They also had and worked with falcons. A relative of the twins said she would like to eventually place some of my photos on the walls (after done with renovation). The house’s upstairs is rented to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and so this, too, is nature-related. Anyway, long story short, this is the reason I would like to have some of my prints look good. Sorry for the long-winded story.
Congratulations on that great opportunity! It will be worthwhile to learn some basics on Lightroom. First, let me say about 10 times – your pictures WILL NOT be IN Lightroom. They will be catalogued by Lr just like the books are not IN the card catalog in a library.
After I had preached this about dozen times at a local photo club, a very talented photographer decided she was getting low on hard drive space and (rather than getting a bigger drive) DELETED all her original files, because she thought they were IN Lr. Of course, after she deleted them, Lr couldn’t find them. She didn’t have a backup and lost all of them! And several other members had lost everything from not having backups when assorted disasters hit. And I had also been preaching backups for several years.
So learn to keep at least one updated backup – two are better, one kept offsite and rotated.
Then learn the basics of how Lr works – which is not the same as what you can do with it. There are a couple of tutorials on my web site. They are old but the principles still hold.
Do you have a backup copy of that drive? Do you know that a virus that gets into your computer will get into an external drive in a millisecond when it is turned on?
An EXTREMELY talented photography friend lost everything because she thought an external drive was safe from viruses. And every drive is guaranteed to fail. Have a backup – they probably won’t fail at the same time.
Sonja, when it comes to backups, redundancy is not a bad idea. In addition to my external drive here at home, I also have an external drive offsite that I back up to and update from time to time. Also, since I am an Amazon Prime member, I take advantage of the free and unlimited storage Amazon offers for photos (it’s not unlimited for videos). I also use a main cloud backup service. With all of that, I always sleep peacefully when it comes to my photos being safe.
How do you ensure the color turns out the way you want it to when you send off to a lab? I’ve had some night sky photos turn out horribly discolored when printed on metal. My monitor is calibrated so I’m not sure where things are going wrong.