When I got engaged, my grandma, who was losing her memory, asked me every time we talked on the phone what my ring looked like. It was kind of hard to describe, so I texted a picture to my aunt, who I knew visited her often. Still, my grandma would ask me during every conversation what it looked like, insisting that my aunt had never shown her the photo, even though I knew she had several times. My grandma didn’t have access to a cell phone or a computer, so she couldn't see a digital file unless someone came and showed it to her, which we already knew wasn't working out. I printed off a photo and mailed it to her, along with some photos from our engagement session. That way, they could hang on the fridge she passed every day, and she wouldn’t forget what my ring looked like or whose ring it was.
So why would you want to order prints if you can just print the digital files yourself?
The short answer I give in my portrait guide is that I give you the option to order prints from a professional lab so that they’ll last longer over time and look closer to what you see on your screen. Plus, it’s easier than downloading the photos and re-uploading them to wherever you’re printing them.
As for lasting over time, I always think back to the section of the athletic hallway at my high school with all the photos of teams that won state titles. The color and clarity on some of these photos was pretty typical for the years printed on them—large, pixelated photos with overexposed faces from the 80s and 90s, and then smaller black and white photos from the 70s. Then there was an ivory-colored piece of paper in a frame, where you could see outlines of something if you got really close to it in good lighting. It was on a wall that faced away from the windows, presumably moved away from the sun a few years too late, but it was still there as a reminder that some team had won a state title sometime. I'm not sure that any teachers could tell us what the picture was, but I was sure that the team members would be upset if they came back to visit and the important picture of their winning team was all but gone from the wall
As for color, I went to Clemson. Sometimes, I would take photos of athletes and their uniforms would look orange and blue instead of orange and purple. Other times, the orange in their uniforms would look like Tennessee orange or Texas orange, or even red. I worked hard in my editing to make sure the colors in my photos looked like what I saw in person. Still, I soon realized that this didn’t always matter if I was printing from the least expensive print source I could get to, because the print could be more yellow or blurry than the file I sent. In college, I'd either pick up smaller prints from a pharmacy in a flimsy envelope, or the larger ones would be mailed to me in a cardboard tube. Not even millimeters separated my prints from whatever could be happening outside. What if a bigger package fell on it? What if I spilled something on the envelope on the drive home? Well, I can assure you that the prints that come from my galleries come from the same lab as the photos that hang on my walls. They came in thick boxes with tons of layers, and you can see that our wedding colors are CLEARLY purple and orange.