View Full Version : ProLabExpress for comp. prints?

06-16-2006, 11:01 PM
I read the thread on WHCC and have been looking around for other labs that offer inexpensive competition prints, as I have absolutely no idea how to correct the density for competition. (I haven't competed before, except for one local competition with a traditional, fiber print - a few years ago, before I went digital.) I came across ProLabExpress, which sounds like a great deal. Their price for a 16x20 lustre/glossy is $27.50, for metallic it's $29.95. They print on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Those prices include two proofs before the final print, plus mounting on 3/16" black Gatorfoam with edge coloring. It sounds like the only thing not included is the spray, but their clear coating for a 16x20 is only $2.65. (If you ordered a glossy print anyway, would a clear coating be less glossy than using a high gloss spray?) Does anyone have any experience using them for competition prints? This is the web page, if anyone wants to check it out: www.prolabexpress.com/MemCompetitionPrints.aspx

-- Karen Joslin

06-17-2006, 05:53 PM
Hey Karen,

That's a great find... You may want to contact them to see who uses their lab for print competition purposes and if these people hang and/or get true merrits.

If a lot of people that win and/or score high at competiton prints at a certain lab then that lab must be doing something right on the printing/density/hue (the lights are slightly yellow) and mounting.

Good luck...

BTW, we use Bayphoto.com for all of our competition needs...

06-17-2006, 08:00 PM
sigh...I remember the days when $125 was a good deal for comp prints.

06-17-2006, 10:13 PM
I wouldn't hesitate to use ProLabExpress. Though, I haven't used them for comp prints, I have for just about everything else. They are actualy a division of Corporate Color Services ( http://www.corpcolor.com ) -- a high-end lab and graphics production company in Grand Rapids, Michigan serving corporate customers. Their customer service is one of the best in the industry and they are very responsive to customers input.

06-19-2006, 12:27 AM
I (If you ordered a glossy print anyway, would a clear coating be less glossy than using a high gloss spray?)

-- Karen Joslin

Don't know anything about this lab but wanted to throw this in. A lot of labs are laminating their competition prints. Find out if the lab is using the heavier gauge lamination or the standard. The heavier stuff gives a cyan shift which is not good and will affect your scores. The standard lamination is plenty glossy and does not seem to have that cyan shift. This observation is from personal experience as well as observation at several regional judgings. Also clear spray and glossy spray and diamond are all just different brands of the same thing. All are good just make sure it's a multiple coats.

06-19-2006, 06:01 AM
Thought I would try to help out here, since I do have an account with ProLab Express, though have not used them for print comp. I did email their Customer Service department to find out about other photographers merited/hung images. I will repost when I receive a reply.

06-19-2006, 10:01 PM
Thanks for all the feedback. I've been looking for a new lab in general, so I'll send something to ProLab Express and see what I think. May check out Bay Photo, too. I'll have to ask about the lamination issue. ProLab's web page didn't mention lamination, but it's certainly possible that they do it.

-- Karen Joslin

06-19-2006, 10:34 PM
I received my competition prints for this year from ProLab Express, and they looked fantastic! Actually, all my prints from them look great. I pretty much use them exclusively (with the exception of canvas prints and press from WHCC) and I can't say enough good things about the lab. Their customer service is fantastic.
They send you two soft proofs - meaning they send you a copy of their color corrected file for you to evaluate before making the final print. Last year I just color corrected my own (I was using a different lab), so we'll see if it makes a difference. This is only my second year competing.

06-20-2006, 04:51 PM
Here is the reply I received from ProLab about comp prints:

[I]Good Morning Jackie,

Thank you for your inquiry and interest in ProlabExpress.

The ProlabExpress Team goes above and beyond when creating Competition Prints.

When a competition print is ordered, the order is routed and handled only by our most experienced craftsman. As you are aware, the typical competition print is printed a bit darker than your typical print because of the lighting generally used when the print is being judged. We make the correct adjustments to insure your competition print is optimized for viewing under these lighting conditions, translating into higher print scores. We also include a soft proof for your approval before the final print is completed. Generally, we print competition prints for our regular customers.

We suggest that folks study the PPA guidelines for specifics regarding competition print surfaces and paper types, which usually consist of glossy or metallic prints mounted on black 3/16" gator foam. We provide both coated and non-coated finishes. However, we do not recommend applying any spray coating over metallic, as it will negate the positive attributes of the paper itself. Additionally, using a clear spray applied over the glossy print will tone down the glossy finish.

Some of our PPA members competing with success include Bruce Boutet CPP, Christine Gribble, Cynthia Higgins, Gabe Guerro, and Rob Alway.

Hopefully this information addresses your questions. We appreciate your interest in ProlabExpress and look forward to serving you in the future.

Best Regards,

Becky Herbert
For the Team

06-22-2006, 04:48 PM
I have a prolab as well as being a photographer working to achieve my master's. I have worked for 6 years making other's digital entries for convention look good, this year was the first year to try mine. I have photographed for decades and of course, had too many to choose from and asked the master photographers who are our customers for suggestions and recommendations.

I entered four and got two merit prints. One, my mentor was stunned that it didn't score higher or at least high enough to merit so when I sent it to International, I paid the extra to get a video critique.

We laminate our images for the high gloss finish instead of the high gloss spray. I feel the spray is more durable but takes a day between the three coats to dry and so many things (dust) can happen to it in between each coat that the cost/time factor is not realistic.

As stated in other threads on here, the mounting requirements have changed for entries on the national level yet some locals do not reflect that yet. You need to read your local's instructions and if they vary widely from what you wish to use, contact them to see if they have reviewed their requirements recently to reflect the national standards.