Q&A - Printing 

We'd like to teach the world to print...

We'd like to teach the world to print...

  • Q. Are your prints real photos?


    All of our prints are processed on site, so we have complete control over the quality of our work and turnaround time.

  • Q. Are they better than the prints I can do at home?


  • Q. Yeah, you say that, but how do I know that your prints will be any good?

    Berkhamsted Imaging is all about producing beautiful work and helping you to get the best out of your images. That’s what we do.

    We’re not really too interested in making bland assertions about how we’re “always endeavouring to uphold high standards of quality and professionalism” or some such other marketing babble. We’ll leave that to others.

    For us, the proof is in the pudding, or the picture, if you’d prefer. Our work speaks for itself.

    …and we’re honest enough to say that, ultimately, a print can only ever be as good as the image from which it is made.

  • Q. OK, but how do you actually make sure that your prints are any good?

    Our Mini-lab routinely goes through a comprehensive, calibration process at the start of each day before we produce any customer prints and it constantly monitors itself and its own internal operating parameters, within tight tolerances, to ensure that it and its output are optimal.

    Each of the paper sizes that we use, are balanced, calibrated and adjusted for performance, at least once a day. In fact, these checks are carried out every time a new batch of paper is used in the machine and therefore, in practice, we often balance, calibrate and adjust our paper stocks several times a day.

    Additionally, our calibration readings are monitored on a daily basis by an external company to ensure that the output we produce meets objective, measured standards. This is a bit like, if we made cakes, getting Gordon Ramsay to taste test one of them on a daily basis… it keeps us on our toes.

    But, more important than any of these processes, is our desire to produce good work.

    We know that we have to provide our customers with a quality of work and a quality of service, that they value and can rely on.

  • Q. That all sounds lovely, but what’s a mini-lab?

    Sorry. It’s our big, expensive, lean, mean, photo printing machine.

  • Q. Looks nice. How fast can you print my pictures?

    How fast do you want them?

    Normally, the fastest service we offer is 30 minutes… but if you come into the shop in a desperate hurry, provided our racks are empty and you ask really nicely, we’ll try our best to print them there and then for you. Obviously, the pictures still have to physically printed and whilst our machines are super fast, the more pictures you want printed, the longer it will take.

  • Q. How big can you print my pictures?

    We can print photos upto 18”x12”, or, if you prefer, 9 times larger than a normal 6x4. If you start with a high quality image, the fidelity of a true photographic 18”x12” print is, simply, amazing.

    We can also print really, really, really, big poster-sized prints on our wide format printer. This can produce prints upto 60cms (just under 24”) wide and whatever length you want (within reason). We only use the very best paper and the very best inks and the results are stunning.

  • Q. Do you have any photo kiosks at Berkhamsted Imaging?


    We have 4 in store. The current ones are our 3rd Generation kiosks… so they’re nice and shiny and fast… and whilst they’re simple to use, you can do loads of things with them, if you want.

    There’s usually one free, even at the weekend, so you should have to wait to use one. You can take as long as you like to place your order and there’s always someone around to have a chat with, if you need some help.

  • Q. I don’t really want people peering over my shoulder while I’m ordering my photos. What should I do?

    Yeah, we know what you mean… who wants to stand in the middle of a supermarket, editing their bikini pics, while the world and his dog, walk by, gawking at them?

    3 of our kiosks have privacy screens and they are located at the rear of the shop in a cul-de-sac… so, with us, there’s nothing to worry about on that account.

  • Q. I’ve never used a photo kiosk and I don’t like computery things, can I just leave my photos with you?

    Of course, you can.

    But, our kiosks aren’t at all scary. They’re no harder to use than say a microwave or a petrol pump. We can walk you through it, if you like. Once you see how easy it is, you’ll know what we mean.

  • Q. I don’t believe in kiosks, they’re just another way of getting rid of customer service and putting cashiers out of a job, like the self service tills at supermarkets or DIY stores, aren’t they?

    No, we’re not that cynical.

    Kiosks are good for customers, because they give you choice and control. You get to choose exactly which images you print, at what size and in what style. You can do your own cropping, correct red-eye errors, correct colour casts, correct brightness and contrast. You can print 1 or 1000 copies of an image. You can create funky photo gifts.

    That’s why we have them.

    Strangely enough, in our world, we’ve noticed that the kiosks actually encourage people to talk to us about their images and what they want to do with them, because it helps them to visualise how the print will look and explain what they want to achieve. It’s a win-win.

  • Q. Can you enlarge a small picture, or part of a picture?


    However, extreme enlargements can reveal faults and defects that, whilst present on the original, are not especially noticeable or intrusive. The enlargement of digital images, whilst simple, can reveal pixelation or the presence of digital noise, particularly in shadows or other areas of dark, solid colour, which is unwanted.

    The better the original image, the better the enlargement will be. If the enlargement is likely to make the picture unacceptably fuzzy or unattractive, we will discuss this with you before we print your order or, if you’re using one of our photo kiosks, it will warn you before you place your order that the resolution of your original may not be high enough to produce an acceptable result when printed.

  • Q. What print finishes do you offer?

    We offer gloss and matt finishes for photos.

  • Q. When should I choose a gloss finish and when should I choose a matt finish?

    You should choose whichever one you like best.

    However, as a general rule, gloss works well in albums and places where there isn’t much light; matt works well under glass or for enlargements over A4 in size.

  • Q. I’ve scanned some pictures. Can you print them for me?


  • Q. I’ve taken pictures using my mobile phone. Can you print them for me?


    You can bluetooth stuff direct to our Photo Kiosks or if you’ve saved your pictures to a memory card (rather than your phone’s SIM card), our photo kiosk can probably just read the data straight off your memory card. Our kiosks, being nice and shiny and new, natively support the micro SD card format currently used by most mobile phone manufacturers.

    If you’ve got an i-Phone, our Kiosks support them, too and we have data cables in store to help read the data from them. However, even so, you may find that getting stuff off of your i-Phone is pretty clunky. If so, you’ll need to take this up with Apple… and we know that some of our i-Phone customers have resorted to e.mailing the images[1] to us.

  • Q. Can you print my pictures in Black & White?


    If you provide us with a black & white image or a black and white film, it will be printed in black & white.

    If you provide us with a colour image or a colour film, we can print it in “black and white”, if you ask us to.

    Black and White here is in quotes because, whilst the prints will be black and white in the broad sense; technically, colour images or colour films do not print as true black and white images… we’re being picky here, but the distinction is particularly relevant for colour digital images.

  • Q. Do I need a digital camera to get a print from Berkhamsted Imaging?


    We still process and print film, in house.

    And, if you’re asking “Do we need your digital camera to print your digital images?” the answer’s still no. All you need are your image files. How you store them is up to you. You can put them on pretty much any removable media from a memory card, a USB stick, to a CD or you could even upload them to a Website.

    We have the ability to print digital images from almost any medium. All we need is some way to access the files containing your images. Of course, if you only have some random, obsolete old tape drive back-up from the Eighties, this might be a problem, but we can read or write from pretty every modern or widespread data medium used in the last twenty years… even things like 3.5” diskettes and Zip Drives are no problem.

  • Q. How long will your prints last?

    A lifetime. Probably.

    The exact life expectancy of a photo is difficult to predict with any certainty, as it depends on many various, unknowable factors such as the intensity of the light the print will be exposed to and the temperature, humidity and hostility of its environment. However, if stored sympathetically, real photo prints should last a lifetime. Many of us have photos taken by our grand-parent’s generation that have been handed down and print, paper and ink technology has improved markedly since the days when these shots where printed.

    We only use, what we believe to be, the best photographic paper on the market for our prints. The manufacturer’s claim a life expectancy of 150 years for it!

    The same cannot be said for home prints.

  • Q. Is there any difference between prints obtained from a digital image and those from a film?

    Practically, no.

    If we were to take a film and process it, then take the negative and produce a print from it, there would be little or no discernible difference between that print and a print produced from a digital image created by scanning the same negative. Theoretically, the processes are different and therefore there must be some difference in the final result. Furthermore, as an exercise it would be pretty futile and fraught with difficulties (because you’d need to arbitrarily establish the “reference” settings for the scan)… so we’ll leave this to the PH.D brigade.

    In the real world, you can get great prints from both digital and film.

    We print directly from your original digital files. We never compress or reduce file sizes to save space as some companies do. This guarantees that all the hard earned resolution and detail in your images is present in the print.

  • Q. I have a inkjet photo printer at home. How does printing my images at home compare with what you do?

    It doesn’t.

    It’s like comparing a night in a tent in Newquay, with a night at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami. …and then asking which kept you the driest. It sort of misses the point.

    One is something you’ll try once and then realise it’s actually a bit rubbish; and the other will give you a memory that you’ll treasure for a very long time.

  • Q. Nice metaphor. Did you make that up or did you, erm, borrow it?

    Thanks, it’s one of mine. I’m glad you liked it. I was pleased when I came up with it…

    Isn’t it nice, that we can chat like this?

  • Q. Can I have my photos delivered to my home or business?

    We will do this, if you really, really, really, really want us to… but you’ll need to either

    • place your order on the website or
    • if you’re in store, you’ll need to arrange it, before placing your order

    We don’t recommend that you have your photos etc. delivered, because there are way too many things which can go wrong. Things can get lost, damaged or bent in transit. Photos can be received by people that weren’t supposed to get them. Surprises can get ruined. Frames and Canvases don’t generally enjoy the rough handling they get in transit.

    Besides, we’d rather not use up the trees on the packaging pointlessly; or get you to spend your money to use them up.

  • Q. So, I’d be better off to pick them up from the shop, then?

    Well, yeah, but this way we can ensure you are happy with your prints before you take them away.

  • Q. Alright, what if I’m not happy with the quality of my prints?

    We don’t want you to be unhappy.

    The quality of your prints depends quality of the images, we receive. The most important factors in determining quality are focus and the resolution.

    Therefore, if your prints aren’t as good as you hoped, the first things you should do is check that your camera:

    • is taking pictures at its possible highest resolution
    • has the correct focus settings for the subject matter

    (Some, auto focus cameras are, oddly, set up to “manual” by default. So, if you’re using auto-focus, its worth spending a few moments to check that the correct setting have actually been applied, particularly, if the camera hasn’t been used for a long time and the batteries have gone flat).

    Our Print Resolution table sets out guideline minimum image resolutions for particular print sizes.

  • Q. Well, I took 20 photos which you printed and 18 of them came out beautifully, but 2 of them have got weird colours/are out of focus/are fuzzy/are pixelated/are noisy etc. What gives?

    How can we put this delicately…

    You took 18 beautiful pictures.

  • Q. No, I didn’t change anything and the other 18 were fine, so it must be the way you printed them or your machines, right?

    On the contrary, the fact that most of your prints were fine, proves that there wasn’t a fault in the printing process, itself.

    Any fault in the printing process would manifest itself across an entire batch of prints and therefore would be present in all your photos to exactly the same extent from one photo to another.

    We produce tens of thousands of prints a year and so quality control is really important to us. Furthermore, because we check every print by eye and pack every print by hand, any fault which might develop in the print process would be noticable within a 2-3 minutes of it occuring and corrective measures are taken.

    If any of the prints we produce, fail to reach our exacting standards, we destroy them and print fresh copies at our expense.

    Nonetheless, if you believe your prints have a defect which our printing processes are responsible for, we’ll destroy the problematic print and not charge you for it.

    We want you to be happy!

  • Q. So, if it wasn’t your machines, what went wrong with my 2 prints?

    Sometimes, things that are hard to see at the time can make all the difference to a photo.

    • Hairs or dust on camera lenses.
    • Misplaced thumbs (although this is less of a problem with digital).
    • Moisture or dirt inside the camera.
    • Dangling jewellry.
    • Shaky hands.
    • Over-enthusiastic button pressing.
    • Rapidly changing lighting conditions caused by moving clouds, birds, passing lorries etc.
    • Not adjusting settings from one shot to another.
    • Auto focusing on something other than the intended subject matter.
    • Incorrect use of flash.
    • Incorrect ISO settings.
    • Almost impercepible artefacts in the background; telegraph lines being the main culprit.
    • Unusual and disruptive reflections from water, glass, metal surfaces.

    The list is almost endless.

    Realistically, no-one takes perfect photos all of the time. This is why pro’s take a lot (and delete a lot) of pictures.

  • Q. Why do my prints look different to the way that my pictures look on my computer screen?

    This is a common problem and there are a lots of reasons which might explain it.

    In fact there are so many potential explanations, that you’d need a book to adequately cover it. The following is therefore a short(ish) list of the most likely reasons:

    • Monitors are built down to a price, not up to a quality threshold. The colour reproduction of LCD monitors is, generally, not as good as the colour reproduction of CRT monitors.
    • Your monitor, itself, is incorrectly adjusted. Few people take the trouble to do this or know how to do it, properly. They assume the manufactures set them up correctly in the factory. They don't. They set them up, so the look "punchy" when they are on sale.
    • Your monitor needs colour calibrating.
    • Your monitor is using a generic, rather than model specific, driver.
    • Your monitor has the no, or the incorrect, colour profile assigned to it.
    • Your display settings are using a non-native, i.e. emulated screen resolution.
    • Your display settings are displaying 16 bit or less colour.
    • Your graphics card driver settings are incorrect.
    • Your graphics card or other software uses colour management and this is modifying the way colours appear on your monitor.
    • Your editing software is using a specific colour palette.
    • Your editing software's working colour gamut is a colour gamut, other than RGB.
    • Your editing software is soft proofing your images using a colour gamut, other than RGB.
    • The ambient lighting in your room is modifying your perception of colour. Monitors both reflect and generate light. Colour reproduction will therefore appear different under different types of ambient lighting. Most domestic lighting produces light of a low intensity (around 1500-2000 lux) that is very warm, i.e. it has a high yellow content. This is comforting and flattering for humans, but less than ideal for rigourous colour analysis. Rigourous colour analysis demands at least 5-6000 lux of neutral light.

    ...you get the idea.

  • Q. Wow, that all seems massively complicated. What should I do about it?

    Well, you could expend a lot of time and energy, learning about all of this stuff and adjust everything, as precisely as you can and then get annoyed about how hard it is to get what you see on screen to match what you get in print.

    …or you could just accept that Monitors and Printers don’t reproduce colour in the same way and therefore, there will always be some, albeit small, differences between, what you see on your monitor and what your prints look like.

  • Q. Is that a bit of a cop out?

    We’re not saying that it’s OK for things that look green on your monitor to look purple on your prints. We’re just saying that minor differences in hues or colour depth are almost inevitable… and any that do exist will probably be exaggerated in post-production.

    So, rather than asking do my prints look like my monitor, a better question to ask is, does my monitor display colours that look like my prints.