the great photo test

As mentioned in my recent Project Life post, I was wanting to test out photo printing options and decide how I was going to do it. In one corner was the quality and ease of sending off the images to a lab for printing and posting back to me, balancing against the convenience of printing at home as I put together my spreads. I received my parcel of prints during the week, and picked a couple of the images to test a couple of different types of paper I’d collected in my travels.

The first images I chose to test was this one of my Project Life core kit (honey edition). I chose this particular shot as it had a wide range of colours and contrast, plus some nice deep shadows, and would be a good indicator of the gamut of the papers/printers.

{original image}

project life core kit

{print by consumer arm of pro lab on Kodak Endura Lustre}


{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on HP 4* glossy}


{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on Kodak 5* high gloss}


{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on Kodak 4* Matte}




The second image I chose was a bathroom-mirror-selfie of my belly I shot the morning I was to be induced with Beetle Baby. I wanted to add this image into the test as well, because of the range of reds in my top (red is a colour notorious for skewing), and also because the light in my bathroom at that time of morning meant I had used a high ISO (I think somewhere in the range of 3200 or higher), and as well as my D700 handles noise, there was a fair amount in this image, so I wanted to see how the various options faired.


{print by consumer arm of pro lab on Kodak Endura Lustre}

{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on HP 4* glossy}

{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on Kodak 5* High Gloss}

{print by HP Photosmart 8230 on Kodak 4* Matte}

The results really surprised me. I was dead set against gloss prints, I’m a lustre/matte girl all the way. In saying that, I was pleasantly surprised at the finish on both the HP and Kodak gloss papers. While glossier than the lab lustre and 4* matte prints, they don’t seem as super glossy as lab gloss prints.

As expected, the lab prints ran closer to what I was seeing on my screen than the home prints – though the home prints seemed to handle the reds better in the second image, even though the colour balance is the closest to the file (possibly my calibration has drifted, it has been a while since I recalibrated!). The home prints also tended to run cooler than the lab, and more magenta – you can notice this difference in the white tiles in the second image, where the original and the lab print are quite warm in the whites, while the three home prints are cooler. The difference in colour temperature isn’t a major deal, printing at home means I can tweak any edits and reprint if it skews too far off true.

Comparing the home prints, the finish on the two glossy papers is far preferable to the finish on the matte. It feels a bit TOO matte, and makes it feel home-done, while the papers classed as gloss are closer to the lab lustre. So early on, I ruled out the 4* matte paper. There is a negligible difference between the HP and Kodak 5* finish wise, though with the HP at 200gsm and the Kodak at a hefty 280gsm, thicker even than the lab prints, the Kodak’s substantial feel is winning me over. In saying that, I have 60-odd sheets of the HP, so I will definitely be adding that into the mix, before buying more of the Kodak.

Cost wise, I think home prints will turn out slightly cheaper for the short runs I’ll be doing, once postage is factored in. The lab prints are 25c each, and the HP and Kodak 5* work out to 33c each. The 4* I used some old stuff I already have, so don’t have a handy cost comparison, but I’ve ruled it out of contention anyway. At 8c a print difference, I’d need to be running around 100 prints to offset the (quite reasonable) $6.95 postage from the lab (again, I curse my local for closing down). Of course, ink needs to be factored in too, so I will re-evaluate in a month or two once I have an idea how my ink consumption changes.

The final verdict :: while home printing is slighter dearer per print, and slightly less true to my soft proofs, and the quality of the lab prints are fabulous, for convenience, it’s the option I’m going to run with home printing for now (unless I need to order other prints from the pro lab proper, in which case I’ll pop the PL prints in with them).

Starting from next Monday (presuming my kit arrives as expected this week), I will be dedicating my Monday post to my Project Life spreads. My plan is to do each week on a Sunday afternoon – I’m hoping the weekly schedule and K.I.S.S. delightfulness of the Project Life system will help keep me on track and up-to-date!!

3 thoughts on “the great photo test

    • Author gravatar

      You lost me at hello. (I feel like Homer – but I bet you loved every second of those trials and wish I knew what the hell you were talking about)

      However – pretty, pretty papers! Can’t wait to see what you do with all those home prints and yummy bits.

      • Author gravatar

        Haha Rebecca. The short version – the home version has slightly not-quite-right colours compared to what I see on my screen, but not enough to outweigh the convenience of being able to print the photos as I work 🙂

    • Author gravatar

      Thanks! Did you work out an ink cost?? I don’t think my printer would be up to photo printing standard! I’m all for a 100-print run and then getting overwhelmed and putting it away for a few months! LOL

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