I’ve finally found a printing service that fits me. It’s been a long search, and a frustrating one, but Canada Camera Pro Lab seems perfect for me. First of all, the numbers and the features add up just right. It’s a professional lab, so they offer prints on Kodak Endura Pro paper, which is nice and thick and has a beautiful pearl finish. All prints have a personalized copyright notice stamped on the back to discourage unauthorized copying. They also have metallic prints at reasonable prices (more about that later). Speaking of prices, it’s very reasonable. In fact, it’s cheaper than Future Photo, which I didn’t think was possible. A standard 8×12 print costs $2.41. A metallic print is $3.59. They also have an option to print proof sheets that are watermarked and labeled with your contact information. You can see the full price list here.

Their policies are interesting. They will do color correction on the photos unless you specify that you don’t want them to. In my experience, it’s normal for a place to say this, but they don’t always follow through with it. Future Photo could not keep its grubby hands off of the color settings no matter how emphatically I requested color correction. The color and contrast was often totally ruined. Often I’d have to order reprints, explaining that they had ignored my request for no corrections, and they’d come back corrected too. Canada Camera Pro Lab does not do reprints. I think the attitude is that if there’s a problem with the photos, it’s your fault. They could be right.

Canada Camera Pro Lab uses the Kodak ProShots Basic software. Installing it is easy. You just go to the Canada Camera Pro Lab website and click a button. The installation is automatic. You need to fill in a form and get an account from Canada Camera, which takes a day or two. After that, the Kodak software downloads the catalogue from Canada Camera and you can start uploading files for printing. The process is very easy. You can do all the standard things like cropping and rotating images within the Kodak software. You add notes for the lab, and then send the order. The software packages all the photos into a ZIP file and uploads them. You can track the order status from within the software.

The thing I’m most excited about is that I can create galleries for my customers. They can order their prints directly from a password-protected website at prices I specify. Kodak and Canada Camera Pro Lab will take a cut of the profits (about 12% I think). That’s pretty fair. That will let me get prints directly to customers much faster than I can now, with only one shipping charge instead of two. I had been hoping dA Prints would implement something like this for photos that are not uploaded as deviations, but so far no such luck. It is an invaluable feature, and I can’t wait to try it.

The minimum print order is $25. Shipping is $15, which I find a bit steep, so it’s in your best interest to make big orders to keep that per-print shipping cost down. If you make an order over $100, you get free shipping. So basically, if you find your order reaches $85, you might as well throw some other stuff in there to bump it up to $100 so you’re getting prints for your money instead of shipping.

Print orders take about three days to process, and then the lab calls to get your credit card number. I would prefer to be able to give my credit card number at the time of ordering, but this feels quite personal. I don’t have a problem with it. The only problem is if you’re not there to receive the phone call, they won’t ship the order until they get your card number. This might be ok with me though, since it will ensure I know when the prints are going to arrive, and I can arrange to be there. The other option is to give them your credit card info to keep in their safe, so they can use it when they need it. It seems so old fashioned. I picture the old bank in Deadwood, with a dusty cowboy guarding the door with a six-shooter. If someone steals my credit card number, we’ll round up a posse and scour the hills for the scoundrel!

My first order arrived yesterday and I was very impressed. I had ordered 10 prints, and they came packaged in a cardboard box, not an envelope. The prints were sandwiched between sheets of cardboard inside the box, and shrink wrapped. This prevented almost any possibility of damage to the prints. The quality of the prints is astounding. All of the prints look just like they do on my screen, or better. The contrast levels are perfect, and the colors are exactly what I expected. Labs often have trouble with my photos because so much detail is in the shadow areas, but these came out fine. The metallic prints are my favorites. The paper is so thick and shiny. I’m not usually a huge fan of glossy prints, but these are gloss to the extreme. The Eiffel Tower looks like it’s made of actual copper, and every detail is razor sharp. Colors just jump off the page. I’m so happy with these prints. They’re definitely the best I’ve ever seen of my work. Now I’m itching to have an exhibition! 😛

Anyway, I’m glad that my print service search is finally over. Now I’ll just need a loan to finance all the prints I’m going to order…