Thursday, January 8, 2009

Favorite On-Line Resources for Photography Products and Services - Part 4 - Where I Shop For Services

Although some of the services I mention could be labelled as 'products', I classify them as services because they are products that either need replenishing or are purchased often for clients and such.

Printing Services

VistaPrint (www.vistaprint.com and www.vistaprint.ca) - Vista Print was the very first on-line printing site I used. They offered 'free' business cards and I needed some. They offer Free cards and way back when shipping was cheap. I am not sure how much shipping is now. They also offered premium card upgrades like no VistaPrint.com Logo, Double Sided Printing, High Gloss and so on.

They have grown and evolved over the years and now offer many other free products. They also offer premium products and also now have a site in Canada.

Although I like PrintRunner (Listed below) better for inexpensive premium quality printing, if you need some free cards, VistaPrint is the place to go.

PrintRunner (www.printrunner.com) - PrintRunner I found over a year ago after doing a very in-depth search for a great place to order printing services. I wanted a place with a great assortment of services that could handle all my printing needs, that offered great print quality, offered great service and didn't cost an arm and a leg like they do at local print shops around town here in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

After deciding to give PrintRunner a try I sent them some business cards I needed printed before attending the Consumer Electronics Show for some colleagues. I followed all their great directions for submitting the files properly. The following day I received a phone call asking me if I had made a mistake or if I had intentionally set a color funny (this had to do with 'Press Black' versus 'Photo Black' but more on this in another blog).

I knew right away that I had made a mistake when the printing person called me and I asked if I could re-submit the file to which he answered yes. I thanked him. That evening I fixed the file and re-submitted it and a week later I received the nicest full color high gloss cards that had the correct blacks. I am so thankful for that thoughtful phone call. There were no extra charges.

I have since used PrintRunner for my company business cards and my photography cards. Everyone that sees them comments on the quality. I have also used them for other print jobs with great success.

I have referred others to PrintRunner and the have also been very happy with their service, the quality and the pricing.

Short Run Posters (www.shortrunposters.com) - I while ago I needed to get some posters for displays in a store front for a friends business. I was doing this as a favour and was trying to find a good cheap solution so that he could have nice prints and posters that he could change regularly without a lot of cost.

Through a magazine ad I found ShortRunPosters.com and decided to give them I try. Check this out; 18" x 24" full color posters are only $2.00 U.S. Need it laminated? Only another $2.00. Shipping is kind of expensive for one poster but the cost is the same if you add more to the order so shipping can be fairly cheap. Your 10+ posters order do not need to be the same as they can all be different. You can have just one poster printed.

My initial order was for 5 posters of which I had one laminated. The laminated image was much nicer and obviously much more durable for retail store use. The quality of the posters were great for the two dollars. The largest problem was the original image quality I had sent. The two full frame and one near full frame images were great. The two half cropped images were looking a little grainy up close but from four or five feet away where the sidewalk is, the looked good.

If you think megapixels are not required and don't count for anything, try cropping 33% off your image and then have it printed at 18 x 24 inches! Any way, the colors were great and since all I did was send a few test/sample images I am sure I could get better results if I spend the time prepping the images. By using the extra megapixels of my 50D (15.1 MP) rather than the 40D images (10.1 MP) I sent and by using ICC profiles suited for ShortRunPosters printing press, I should get much better results.

These posters are not Gallery Quality Archival prints, but for short term low cost posters, these are excellent.

Supplies

Amazon (www.amazon.com and www.amazon.ca) - Yes this was listed in the Products page but I have listed this one here in services and I have listed a few others also that are worth mentioning a second time. A great place for some papers and inks.

I get the best prices on the Canon PGI-9 10 Cartridge Value Pack for my Canon Pixma Pro 9500 printer. Like other vendors, check out their pricing and watch for sales.

Digital Art Supplies (www.digitalartsupplies.com) - They supply Scanners, Professional Inks and a great selection of some harder to find Papers including a great selection of Rolls. Their pricing is OK but they have some great sales every once in a while. Check them out.

CardBlanks.com (www.cardblanks.com U.S. and Canada) - A source for Clear Boxes and Clear Sleeves/Bags.

Documounts (http://www.documounts.com/) - Again, duplicated entry. They are a good source for Frames and Framing supplies. Although I have tried their Wooden Gallery Frames which are just OK, not great, I purchase better quality frames locally for less money. They have been reliable, and tend to have way better prices on Mats and other supplies than what I can get locally. They are also a good source for those clear poly bags for bagging you matted pictures. They have these poly bags in all sizes.

Pro Studio Supply (www.prostudiousa.com) - Again, not the best pricing but a great assortment of hard to find products and supplies. Only used them once and all was OK.

Educational

National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) (www.photoshopuser.com) - NAPP is a great place to learn not only Photoshop but he skills required to improve all your photographic digital imaging processes including printing. NAPP is also a great source for inspiration and for all sorts of tips and tricks.

Members get their own On-Line Portfolio, a 1 Year Subscription to 'Photoshop User' Magazine, access to great resources and tons of discounts to other great products and services. Well worth the money.

Kelby Training (www.kelbytraining.com) - A great source for excellent training in Adobe products (Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom, others) and other great courses that cover all aspects of Digital Photography Editing. Check out all the courses on their site. Only $19.99 per month for all the courses you want to take in that time. Discounts for a yearly membership and greater discounts for NAPP members.

Lynda.com (www.lynda.com) - This is another great source that may not quite be at par for Adobe Courses as that given by Kelby Training, they still offer excellent classes including their great new CS4U course and they have way more classes. Their classes cover every aspect of Computers, not just Adobe. Only $25.00 per month.

Computer

Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) - These guys offer great on-line backup services at great prices. I have been using their services for about a year now and their product works very well. They will backup an unlimited amount of data to their site for only $49.00 per year.

Although it is a great service, note that this is not a great solution for backing up all your RAW files. Remember that any file that gets backup up will need to be sent by your computer through the Internet to the Carbonite site. For you basic Data alone this could take a long time and if you wanted to do 500 Gigs of RAW Images it could take almost forever. A warning also, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) could charge you if you send too much data over their Data Line. Most ISPs have limits on how much you can send per month and if you go over those limits you could wind up with a fairly large bill in the mail.

I did test restore some files during the Free test period (give it a try) and it worked well. You can also specify which files and folders you want backed up. I also changed computers and restored all the files onto a new computer and that was also successful.

Like I mentioned perhaps not the best solution for Image Backups (although you could back up copies of your best and most valuable images only) but a great solution for backing up all your Data and giving you peace of mind so you can concentrate on Photography.

Magazines

Amazon (www.amazon.com) - Amazon offers a great selection of Magazine Subscriptions and great prices. Check them out.

Closing

I hope you enjoyed this four part article on Shopping on the Web. If you have any thoughts or ideas or great sites to buy from that you would like to share with the rest of us, please pass them on.

I have already received a few other links from readers and even have one comment posted in part three of this article from one of the Adorama Staff Members. I Didn't know they read my Blog.

I will be posting a follow up blog in a few days with more links (I also forgot a few), one more warning for Canadians, and any final notes based on what people send to me.

Thanks for reading.

© 2009 Francois Cleroux

(Version 1.00 - January 2009)

Please feel free to leave comments, corrections, ideas, thoughts or suggestions.

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux