I'm frequently asked by clients what is the difference between archival quality prints vs. prints at a discount photo lab at their local retailer and why should they invest a little more in archival quality.
Is there really a difference in the paper and print quality, or is it just marketing hype? The answer is YES!
There is a significant difference in quality between archival quality prints from a professional lab and your local discount photo lab.
One of the differences between the prints I provide vs. a discount photo lab is the paper is archival quality (or also called museum grade). Archival quality is acid-free, tear resistant, made from cotton, and follows strict guidelines to ensure the quality of the paper is significantly stronger than other papers to withstand more handling, and will maintain a brilliant image for years to come without fading or degrading. If your precious memories and emotions are printed on non-archival quality paper, you are not seeing them in their full glory as they were meant to be enjoyed. Also, over time, the color in the images will fade and change color.
Another difference is image quality and color. Most professional photographers edit their photos and calibrate (match) colors to the professional lab they work with to ensure the most accurate, reliable colors. Have you ever had a one photo printed from several sources and noticed the color varies from each print vendor? That's because each photo printer is calibrated slightly different, along with the different makes and models of equipment, which causes the printed image not to be consistent.
There are also several specialty archival quality papers available such as Fuji Pearl and B&W papers. These are slightly more expensive than the standard paper due to them being specialty in nature. Fuji Pearl has a magnificent pearlescent look to it that makes each image come alive with depth and brilliant color. This is by far my favorite and works beautifully for wedding, portrait and landscape images. The B&W paper is speciality-crafted for black and white images, to showcase the best monochrome tone and contrast.
Hopefully you've learned a little bit about photo processing and the differences in paper to help you make a more informed decision when preserving your special memories. As you can see, I have a passion for paper in addition to photography.