Whenever I am asked what the difference is between a Walgreens 29-cent print and my $50.00 professional print, believe me - I understand. It is not your job, as the consumer, to learn the ins and outs of monitor calibration, print quality, hues, tones, etc. When you hire a photographer, you aren't just hiring them to click the shutter. You are hiring them to deliver an end-product that you can display in your home which captures a slice of time that is yours forever. I put printing in the very capable hands of a professional print lab for all of our orders (Miller's in this case). We give clients proofs of their images at their Session Premiere so they can see, feel, touch and categorize the images from the session. It helps organize thoughts and put a plan in place as to how and where they can enjoy their new pieces of art in their home. When we do these proofs, we almost always print them from Walgreens because they are ready in an hour and I am often finalizing a gallery a day or two prior to the Session Premiere (not enough time to reasonably order from the lab without having a heart attack and stalking my FedEx guy). So when we present them to the clients, we always have the caveat that the prints we are showing them are merely proofs. They are used to draw on, to fold into crops, etc...anything that helps them visualize the final piece in their space.
But...that doesn't answer the original question. What is the difference? As I was double-checking orders that arrived today, I had the Walgreens 4x6 proof casually lying next to the Miller's Professional Lab 8x10 print on linen archival paper with a mount (to protect it). And it's not just the quality of the paper and backing that make the difference, but the biggest aha is to just LOOK at the COLOR! This is the same exact file that I sent to Walgreens. No changes...no edits...no falsification. The Walgreens version is dark...it's red...the shadows hide the details...it's - in a word - awful. But don't let me preach - I believe it speaks for itself:
If you're going to make the time investment and financial investment with a professional photographer, allow them to do their job to the finish line...with gorgeous prints on your walls that you can enjoy for a lifetime.