In many labs these days the only people who look at your prints are the Dispatch team. Strange as it seems, that makes sense – it’s your files they’re printing, and something has to give if you want low prices. But it doesn’t make sense at Queensberry.
Print ready responsibility
We critique everything we print, including Print-Ready. The difference is we see the image files with Basic and Premium Colour Services (because it’s our job to colour correct them) whereas we don’t see Print-Ready work until it’s printed.
But why review Print-Ready work at all? Print-Ready means you edit your images yourself, and we don’t modify them. We just print what we’re given, right?
It’s not that simple.
We can’t afford to put a client’s prints into an expensive album, ship it to them and then have a debate about who’s to blame for the printing.
It’s not just about print quality either. We need to check for other things that can spoil an album, such as alignment, cropping and panorama problems. Otherwise, we risk converting a few wasted prints into a major expense, with neither party wanting to wear the cost. To help save on cash and frustration, here’s our checklist.
- Are the images ICC-profiled? Are there any obvious colour management problems?
- Are the images correctly exposed? White balance OK etc?
- Are the images soft or pixelated?
- Are the image files big enough/good enough to print?
- Are there opacity issues (we recommend no less than 60%)?
- Are there alignment problems in the page layouts?
- Are image borders too close to the page edge in the layouts?
- Are there rotational problems or scaling problems in the layouts?
- Are all the images present in the layouts?
- Are the panorama pages split in appropriate positions?
- Are there problems that require artwork?
All the issues I’ve mentioned are the photographer’s responsibility under Print-Ready, which is why we charge for any reprints necessary to fix them.
But equally important, we have our own standards to maintain. People are paying for the very best when they choose a Queensberry album. And many of our staff have spent a lifetime in this industry and deservedly hold their heads high. What should we do if they come to us and ask, “Is this OK to put in one of our albums?” It happens. In a quality-focused organisation, we can’t ask staff to compromise our own standards. And after all, their goal is the best possible outcome for your clients.
All that said, there is and can be no implicit “We’re right and you’re wrong” here. On either side. Why?
People’s tastes differ. You might not like our colour correction policy, for example. Maybe you like your prints warmer or cooler than us. Maybe you like more or less contrast. That’s OK of course. And we’re a hands-on organisation, which means we try and match your preferences if you’re a Premium service client.
But if you send your work print-ready, and your prints look a bit cold to us (for example) we really cannot know whether that’s how you like them, or something’s gone wrong. We calibrate our machinery every day to give you a reliable result, and we publish our ICC profile so you can soft proof your files before sending them, but we certainly won’t know if your monitor is out, or if you’ve forgotten to soft-proof, for example.
And yes, we do get it wrong ourselves sometimes!
2. Stuff we can’t know unless you tell us
We colour correct to optimise skin tones (and the bride’s dress!) and to achieve colour consistency across the book. But sometimes, something else is more important. A bride once complained because the stems of her lilies were the wrong colour! Who knew? We could have worked on that.
More recently a bride (not the photographer) complained because her prints were “too cold”. Our colour corrector had assumed her dress was white, when in fact it was a warm ivory, something not really apparent in the files we received. We made the wrong judgment call, but again, who knew?
The point here is, if you chose the Basic or Premium service, we make the judgment calls, and we are responsible for what comes off the printer. If you choose print-ready, the quality of what comes off the printer is, in the end, your responsibility.
In both cases, for the reasons explained above, we check (and if necessary query) the prints before we bind them. But despite our best efforts we do not and cannot promise to pick up everything that you or your client might not be happy with.