2. You want a really big print. Most of us don't have a printer capable of making poster-sized prints—at least not yet. And for most of the photos we take, an 8x10 or smaller print is usually sufficient. We all have images, though, that would be ideal to print poster size and framed over the fireplace. This is another occasion when the help of a professional with the right output equipment can save you time and increase your options. Labs can produce huge prints several feet in size and on a variety of materials.
3. You're on the road. Vacations are one of the big photo opportunities of the year for most of us. You can probably wait until you get home to make prints, but there might be photos you want to share with family that you're visiting or friends you meet along the way. Or, if you're on an extended trip, you can have custom postcards made from your own photos instead of something store-bought.
4. You want specialty prints. Your inkjet printer at home can make beautiful enlargements, but there are other output options that only a professional lab can offer, such as silver halide, output to film, custom-bound photo books and even permanent prints on washable fabrics.
5. You need expert retouching. Maybe you're new to digital imaging and haven't yet mastered the art of image processing. Or maybe you don't have the time right now to spend working on your photos. A professional lab can take your digital images and perfect them before making your prints.
Getting The Results You Expect
Before you head to the lab to get prints made, here are some things to keep in mind for the best experience.
1. Choose an appropriate photofinisher for the job. You can't expect a high-volume lab like the one at your local drugstore to pay a lot of time or personal attention to detail in printing your images. Most likely, your prints will be good enough for sharing, photo albums and the like, but not finely crafted and perfected by a skilled printer. Conversely, you can't expect a professional lab to churn out prints in one hour at a discount cost. So, choose the one-hour photo lab when you need quick and inexpensive reprints, and go to the pro lab for custom enlargements and specialty output when quality is more important than price or speed.