Trying Out a New Print Partner: Nations Photo Lab

Trying Out a New Print Partner: Nations Photo Lab

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you have never heard of Nations Photo Lab. They certainly aren’t as big as some of the other print house powerhouses in the industry, but in a way I’m glad they aren’t that huge. I can appreciate them, and while working with them I got the feeling I was appreciated. What really matters, though, is price and quality of the product. Nations didn’t let me down.

I was originally drawn to Nations Photo Lab because of the wit I noticed from their Twitter feed. Whoever does their tweeting certainly has the humorous voice down, and though they do often talk about sales and whatnot, they do it in a way that doesn’t rub me the wrong way. They’re funny, and I really like that. Plus they often tweet cool and interesting stories from around the web, and that's always nice.



So I decided to give them a shot. I took a look at their pricing at nationsphotolab.com, and I was happily surprised: their prices are really affordable. Outside of the sales they have now and again (keep an eye out, their last big print sale made for some ridiculously good prices), their prints are still really competitively priced. I wanted to get three prints done:
 
  • 16x24 Black and White, metallic paper, color corrected
  • 20x30 Color, metallic paper, mounted on foam core, color corrected
  • 22x28 Black and white, metallic paper, mounted on foam core, color corrected

 
I was expecting to pay an arm and a leg for this, but those three prints (two mounted) cost me about $115. That’s not bad at all. What’s more, there was no tax charged and the shipping was free.

Free shipping was huge for me. I hate paying for shipping. What’s more, the prints shipped to me way faster than I was expecting, taking only three days from when I ordered them. That’s pretty swift.

So how is the quality? Well, let’s just say I was extremely pleased with the result. The metallic paper that Nations uses gives my images a beautiful shine that makes edges and different colors (or contrast points) real “pop” when viewed from different angles.


NPL 1

npl 2

npl 3

npl 4


It's hard to judge how great these look with images of the prints. The colors are really accurate, and the contrast was exactly what my digital files showed on my monitor. One of my least favorite situations is getting a print done only to find the contrast or color isn't what I wanted. That was not a problem with Nations. The images looked exactly like I was expecting.
 
Nations prides themselves on knowing what pros are looking for in high quality prints, and I'm inclined to believe them. From what I have seen from the ordering, to the pricing, to the speed of delivery, to the quality of the product, they certainly know what I am looking for in my printing.
 
Check out their pricing for yourself, and make sure to hit them up on Twitter for info on impending deals.
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15 Comments

Good post... How was the black and white print quality? Was it true black and white or did the prints have that purplish tint that some black and white has when it is run through color process?

Jaron Schneider's picture

Good question! Let me scrutinize the prints and get back to you. My memory is telling me it was pretty darn black, but I want to make sure.

You will know pretty easily if the black and whites are not "true black and whites" they almost always have a purplish or greenish tint to them. Hold it up next to a print that you know is going to be neutral blacks, maybe one you printed off B&W film in the darkroom...

So far the only lab that I know that offers "true" B&W prints is Mpix. That means they use a machine dedicated to B&W with print media specifically for B&W. The prints from them would blow away the B&W I was getting from WHCC.

Just a tip...

how do you know they were accurate? is your monitor calibrated?

Then why would you order an image 'color corrected'? I would be concerned they would run it through an automated contrast 'enhancement' algorithm, potentially changing what you intended?

Typically high quality pro labs like Nations do all their color correcting by hand....i know Miller's does....it's not just an "auto correct" like you would find at Costco and Walgreens.....Miller's calls it "competition color and density adjustments"...as in, they wont change the intent or artistic look of your photo...they only do minor tweaks to make sure it's printed correctly....they're professionals, they know how it should look....

Their displays are calibrated as well, but more importantly their machines are profiled, and they apply a soft proofing profile to the photo and then make color corrections under that profile....you can do the same at home in PS, or Aperture, or LR, but they just do it for you...

Also, i know with Millers, they only guarantee that your prints will be perfectly accurate if you let THEM correct....if you've done your own testing, and know your prints match your screen, then that's one thing (they send you test prints when you sign up to make sure)....if they correct them, and they come out bad, they'll re-print for free....

Hey! We just started using Nations Photo Lab too. We are trying them out for our specialty products. I can't seem to let go of Miller's yet. Miller's turnaround can't be beat - turnaround time for large size matted prints is only 1 day. How is Nations turnaround for large size matted prints?

Jaron Schneider's picture

They print and ship in one day? Is that shipping free or are you paying for it? The free shipping for Nations got me the product in four days. My buddy got his in three. Not sure if you paid for overnight shipping if they could do it in a day.

Jeremy Hohertz's picture

Any chance we can get a review article of popular printers, like Nations Photo, WHCC, Millers, Bay Photo, MPix, etc? (I did a quick search to see if that has already been done on this site, but I came up empty. Forgive me if I just missed it.)

I've been using them since 09 and I love them, their customer service and turnaround is awesome especially for me since I'm based out of Delaware and they're right in Maryland. And they definitely keep you in the loop about your purchase. Definitely number one on my list.

I've been using them for a few years and have never been disappointed with anything. I thought I had a good little secret going!

Awesome article. Nations boast they were built by former pro photographers which is a plus in my eyes. We have been using them for about a year now. We used to use WHCC, Miller's (who we still use for certain wedding products), and Bay Photo Lab through the years. I tried Nations (or NPL they call themselves) 5 years ago. They were not as big of a lab as they are now. Recently we got a postcard which brought us back to give them a try-skie again.

Nations Photo Lab has become our go to Lab because they have amazing customer service and ridiculously low pricing. Like ridiculously low!

I am also a fan because they recently came out with a new ordering software. We hated using ROES and other programs that other labs use. Nations has their web shopping cart. I can use my Smugmug account to upload photos my clients picked/liked. Then the best part is we can combine products order types. One thing I hated about ROES was I had to order one paper type at a time or one product category at a time. So rather then place an order for one catalog at a time in ROES, we can combine all paper types and products into one checkout process. Pretty cool. Also drop ship different products to multiple clients.

I am a fan of NPL. Thanks for the article.

I won't use Naitons ever again. I wanted to like them and was looking for a good lab to do my flush mount albums. But...they "color corrected" 2 large albums of mine when the instructions said "Do Not Color Correct" ....the skin tones came out blue-green!!! They told me "we always color correct the deluxe books" Huh?!!! Since when does some lab tech know how I want my skin tones?!!! (and what my clients expect of my skin tones) They did re-do them but it took 2 additional weeks and my clients were not pleased with the delay. I sent a letter FedEx, signature required, to the President of Nations -- Never heard back a word and the customer support people were worthless. There are better labs out there... might be a few dollars more... but when you say "do not color correct" they don't.

Nation's customer service is on point as well. I use them for all of my print orders and have always been very satisfied =)
*the 1/2" gatorboard mounting option is great for hanging frameless*