Yes, every professional photography has heard this from a client at some point in their career. While we avoid rolling our eyes, we politely smile and try to explain the benefits to using our specially selected professional printing lab. With the growing photography community, I have even seen "professional" photographers offering walmart/drugstore prints. Yes, I just put quotation marks around the word "professional". That is a blog for another day.
So, why should you choose to use your photographer for purchasing prints? Well, let us start with, what I like to call, Quality vs. Quantity. Drugstores and grocery/retail stores that offer printing services tend to be more about the quantity of their output instead of the quality. When you walk into your local drugstore to pick up your prints who is it that walks over to the photo lab? Any employee who is available at the time, and probably the same employee who sent your images through the printer. They don't care if your images look a little green, or if that brides wedding dress is tinted orange. They just hand you your package of 5x7s and send you on your way. At a professional lab, they use technicians who have been trained to be able to color correct, and adjust if needed. It is their job to make sure each photograph shows true color, and is a good quality print.
Speaking of color correction...that brings me to my next point. Consistency. One of the classes I took in college devoted part of the semester to color management. The assignment that stuck in my head was one in which our professor put up a color chart. He had every student take a photo of the chart, and then he told us we were to go to a printing lab of our choice. Many students chose local drugstores/retail stores, a select few chose professional labs. We brought the prints back to class and set them up next to the actual color charts. The array of differences was amazing. What I found even more incredible: when we put two prints from the same lab side-by-side. There were obvious differences in color. And these were from the same lab! The images that were closest to true color, and consistent with each other: the professional labs.
So are you convinced yet? Maybe you need a little more. Paper choices! Recently I sent out some test prints to a new lab. When they sent me back the prints (which were awesome btw) they sent me a ring of their paper samples. I am now even more excited to get some prints done with them. I am also excited to share them with my clients. Some photographs get a little more pop with a different type of paper. Yes...I am a nerd getting excited over paper samples! But hey, that is the life of a photographer. The pro labs also use better quality ink, which is designed to last longer and have less color fade over time.
I encourage you to go out and test this! Next time you get printing rights from your photographer, go get them printed at a drugstore/retail store. But also have that same image printed from your photographer's lab. Then put them side-by-side and compare! I'll bet you will be shocked at the differences!