What Makes These Prints the Best in the World?  Behind the Scenes at WhiteWall

What Makes These Prints the Best in the World?  Behind the Scenes at WhiteWall

Named the world’s best photo lab, WhiteWall is in constant pursuit of excellence in the physical reproduction of photographs. How do they do it, what motivates them, and is there really a difference? I took a trip to WhiteWall’s factory in Germany to find out.

My relationship with technology has never been so bipolar. On one hand, I appreciate the advancements in tech and all the new possibilities that it brings. On the other hand, I find technology discussions and debates quite boring, instead seeking peace in traditional approaches and methods. Printing has always intrigued me, but I never had the time to dive deep into it. When I was starting out, I went to the local printers and had my images printed. Then, once I started shooting a lot, I stopped for a while, and would only print works when a collector would be interested. One day, a fairly large collector approached me and said they needed a specific print that would look different. They wanted a print that would look like the ones sold at Lumas. For reference, Lumas is one of the most successful commercial galleries selling photographic works.

I was a frequent visitor at the local Lumas store and was always mesmerized by how good the prints looked. They had a certain life-like quality to them, a quality I haven’t seen anywhere else. I kept seeing such prints at exhibitions I would go to, and they would always be distinctively different from anything else. Eventually, my curiosity could not be tamed, and I asked the person working at Lumas where the prints came from. The answer was WhiteWall. And so, I went down the rabbit hole.

How Is It Made?

It is always interesting to see how things are made, especially a product, a version of which, you can make at home. However, if your homemade print would be a landline phone, a WhiteWall print would be the latest iPhone. The leap is massive, and seeing what makes WhiteWall special was quite an eye-opening experience.

I went into the tour of the factory with fairly good knowledge that there are a lot of labs that offer prints. Printing as a service is widely available, at a variety of price points. It all depends on what quality you need, and what products you need.

The best quality does come from WhiteWall. This has been proven by a number of tests from independent reviews, myself, and other institutions.

It All Starts Here

Every print at WhiteWall starts off as part of a large sheet. The images are printed on these large papers. Depending on the print you select, it will either be printed with ink, or with laser exposure. If it is printed on specialized black and white papers, your paper will first go through lab testing and preparation.

While ink printing is quite straightforward, laser exposure is not. UltraHD photo prints is a technology that only WhiteWall has. The benefits of using an exposure process with a solid-state laser are obvious: the details are sharper, more life-like, and leave a much more lasting impression on the audience. WhiteWall’s ultraHD prints on Fuji Crystal DP Maxima paper are able to produce super sharp photos, and maximize every image’s potential. Another benefit of such technology is deeper blacks and more saturated and vivid colors which last longer. WhiteWall claims a 10% improvement in maximum density, and a staggering 21% increase in color space volume.

The printing itself takes place in a large production hall, which is climate-controlled, for ultimate consistency. As an artist, you might be selling a series of five, and need to make sure that all of the images are identical in terms of print quality and reproduction. WhiteWall is able to achieve that for you.

It’s All About Detail

There are color charts printed on every large sheet WhiteWall produces, in order to ensure that the prints are consistent with one another, from order to order. The attention to detail in the printing process took me by surprise.

WhiteWall has a number of advantages over other printing services. Besides great printing quality and trust from the world’s leading galleries and creatives, WhiteWall is also the only place that can print ultra-detailed images in custom sizes, up to 196 x 94 in or 500 x 240 cm. Imagine a single-piece print that is 5 meters tall and 2.4 meters wide. This is called a Masterprint, which can easily weigh around a hundred kilograms. The technology behind the Masterprint is just like the Coca-Cola formula: it is only known to a few people and is kept secret from the rest of the employees. You may have seen WhiteWall Masterprints in first-class lounges, luxury car clubs, and other upscale places. Chances are, those large prints are WhiteWall Masterprints. 


Following printing, comes the mounting and sealing process, after which the images are cut up into their respective sizes. Following this process, the images are finished and framed. When it comes to framing, WhiteWall has a plethora of options.

Framing is done in-house with some of the finest raw materials sourced from Italy, Germany, and other countries. As such, the frames can be customized to fit the print you have in mind, the way you have in mind. WhiteWall has a variety of options. I saw over 30 different wood frames, among metal, pop art, and other options. The framing department is a separate part of the factory. While there is plenty of technology in the WhiteWall facility, I would still consider the final product to be handmade. As such, the framing, mounting, and final touches are indeed done by hand. Skilled professionals hand-frame hundreds of images a day, with a fascinating degree of precision. This all contributes to the longevity and high value of the final product.

Leaving The Facility

At the end, of course, the images are carefully packaged, and shipped out. Each print is carefully wrapped in order to protect it from any damage during shipping. Extra-large orders such as the Masterprint get special treatment, such as fine art crates. Should the shipment arrive damaged to you, WhiteWall will replace the print for free. From what I saw, the biggest reason for returns is damage during shipping, which is already a really rare case. WhiteWall has very robust quality control, and monitors each individual print from the moment the order arrives to the moment it leaves the factory.

Closing Thoughts

It was a fascinating behind-the-scenes experience over at WhiteWall. Their print quality is hard to match, partially due to patented technologies, but also due to the ability to customize the print in more ways than you can think of. While it is a premium product, it is a one-time purchase. As macabre as it is, the chances are that those prints will outlive the artist, which is perhaps the best way to truly freeze a moment in time, for decades.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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For the purpose of declaring one particular printer the best, I would think the author should submit the same photograph to several different printers and compare the products side-by-side. As it is, most of the information in support of his conclusion in this article sounds as if it were written by an advertising agency. The assertion that the best quality comes from WhiteWall because of other independent reviews proves absolutely nothing. We don’t know who those reviews were made by, which printing companies were compared, or whether there was any inherent bias contained in the study… such as whether sponsors promoting the research were involved.

I’m not saying that WhiteWall is not deserving of a reputation for making fine prints. I have no experience with them or reason to criticize their work, and I’m sure the author is capable of recognizing a good print. I just object to the way that the article implies that WhiteWall is superior or provides unparalleled quality, for nebulous reasons. Their prints are supposedly “more life-like, and leave a much more lasting impression on the audience.” Really? How does one measure those qualities of a print for comparison with other printers? And does a 21% increase in color space actually make a real difference vs a theoretical one? In other words, can the average person visually discern a difference in that regard, let alone the camera sensor and photo editing software’s capacity to feed a printer that much more color data? I’m skeptical that an 11-color inkjet printer can’t get the same or better results. Another claim is that their equipment produces a sharper more detailed print. Sharper than what? A professional grade inkjet printer? I find that hard to believe. Lastly, printer manufacturers have been touting deeper blacks and greater detail for decades. You’d think the printers we used 10 or 15 years ago were absolute junk.

The fact is… there’s very little new printing technology, especially something in the way of a secret sauce provided by only one particular company, that is so super special that it’s clearly better. There are an immeasurable number of printers around the world that can make stunning, museum quality prints. The best ones are the ones that listen. Ultimately a great print is more dependent on the quality of the digital image file (nobody is gonna make a stunning print out of a lousy picture), the choice of paper, the skill of the printing device operator, and the skill of the printer in communicating with the photographer regarding their values. Technology does not necessarily make great decisions… people do.

" I just object to the way that the article implies that WhiteWall is superior or provides unparalleled quality, for nebulous reasons."

It's already established via numerous awards and accolades that WhiteWall is the best producer of prints out there. Hence the article's title, "What Makes These Prints the Best in the World?" It's apparent that the author is telling us those reasons. Do order some prints Edward and get back to us.

As I said, I'm sure they make a fine product. But I'm skeptical of anyone or anything that claims to be award-winning. Not that they're not good, but that there are numerous others that are just as good. Take the Fstoppers contests, for example, or any other photography competition for that matter. Those who have won these contests can surely claim to be the best photographers. But does anyone else really believe that the best pictures win anything? Most of us shake our heads and wonder, how in the heck did that picture win even a participation prize? If there's more credibility to WhiteWall's awards or reviews, the author glossed over it. I'm entirely at his word. It's like the photographer's CV who states one specific award or another, plus numerous other awards and publishers of his work.... unidentified, of course.

After all that, I really have no interest in searching for their awards and accolades anyway. That's because I make all of my own prints, and don't honestly care too much about photo lab printers, no matter what their credentials are. If you asked me, I'd say I make the best prints... and you'd think I was an egotistical arrogant jerk. It's all about perspective as to what a person thinks and who we believe. I suppose I get a little defensive when my print work is placed in the category of an antiquated "landline" compared to the other guy's state of the art iPhone. I take that as an insult to my craftsmanship. I only commented because printing is a subject of great interest to me... not because I wanted to pick a fight over WhiteWall's quality. I had hoped for a broader discussion about what drives photographers to one printer or another.

I think it's totally legit to compare 'laser printing' to iPhone and an amazon purchased inkjet (even if professional grade) to a land line.
I haven't seen the difference myself but I used to hang out in c-print labs (20 years ago..) and the difference between the 'tech' in the studio I was working vs. the TECH in the print lab we had commercial jobs processed was worlds apart.
any technical metric, color space, sharpness, is that, a metric, there fore measurable.
everything else, aesthetics, a 'good' or 'winning' image, like you write, is - for the most part - of course an objective value. tho of course some images / photographers clearly stand out and deserver the hype or accolades or whatever.
dont be defensive, enjoy YOUR process, but give others a chance and instead of complaining online just upload an image to whitewall and see what you get. you might be surprised, in the good way.
that being said, I print on an epson 2880 and am completely satisfied. for my needs. for now

If you're completely satisfied with the prints you make on your Epson 2880, and I'm completely satisfied with the prints that I make on my Epson P8000, then maybe our "landline" printers are better than given credit for. In my opinion, these inkjet printers are capable of making better prints than anything from a C-print lab 20 years ago. I remember when Cibachrome prints in the 80s were the gold standard. By today's standards I don't think they're so great. Same for the Chromira prints that are still being touted as superior. I'd claim they were better too if I had spent that much money on a printer.

I realize there's a financial cost and learning curve in any inkjet printer that photographers might not want to make, but I still believe the prints are as good as any lab printer out there. Especially since the cost of printing a second or third try to get it perfect is minimal, compared to buying it from a lab. And for what it's worth, the pride of taking ownership of the print-making process adds something to the product as an artist. I don't feel like I'm complaining... I feel like I'm opening the discussion to other possibilities besides assuming the large company In Germany is the best way to go because one writer says so.

I used this company once... and only once. Took 3 high res images to their shop in Munich. That was their recommendation after having spoken to them on the phone. Employee imported them into their system via a MAC. 2 weeks later received them in 60x90cm and 2x 60x40cm. Colors where off and the image did not pop at all. Spoke to their hotline... their answer "oh that can happen". Sent them an Email but got the same answer.

Went to a local printer here in Nuernberg... 3 days and I had 3 perfect prints.


I always got great prints from them. Just make sure to deactivate any auto correction and do proper print Preparation. I always use their online Service and never went to their lab though ;-)

Another day, another hyperbolic article from Ilya. Would be nice for him to cite his sources other than just blanket statements like "The best quality does come from WhiteWall. This has been proven by a number of tests from independent reviews, myself, and other institutions." What tests? What testing did you do? Who did you compare them against, and how?