Press printing vs photographic prints

I'm in the process of ordering my first high-end album. Can anyone explain to me the difference between press printing and traditional photographic prints? Seems like many vendors (WHCC, Bayphoto, etc...) offer only press printed products. These are not cheap, but they are less expensive than a photographic print mounted into the album (Black River Imaging, etc...)
 
Can anyone explain to me the difference between press printing and traditional photographic prints?
Quick answer:

Photographic prints are created using the traditional "wet lab" process, which exposes photographic paper to light and the resulting images are created via a chemical reaction that is then "fixed" before finishing.

Press printing (at least the type you're referring to here) is usually accomplished via a short-run digital press that uses 4-6 inks and can print on a variety of paper types and surfaces.

The raw materials used in a press print can sometimes give you cheaper (and more varied) options for final output. Continuous tones and gradients aren't quite as good as traditional photographic prints, though, and the quality can vary along with the papers used.

Both types can offer reasonable quality for albums, depending on the options you choose.

You may want to try getting some sample kits from various vendors to see the differences more clearly. I know that WHCC offers them, I'm sure others do as well.
 
I have not seen those products, but "press printed" or "magazine style" images are screened images - composed of fine half tone dots, so the four colors of ink (CMYK) can print them.

To see this, look at any magazine picture with a small magnifying glass (or take a close macro lens copy), and then compare with any real photograph (NOT an ink jet print, which is dotted in other more random ways). A real photograph is continuous tone, the magazine is screened (dotted).

Here is a quicky:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halftone

There are degrees... a glossy magazine (esp the cover) will be the smallest dots, and a more coarse pulp paper magazine (or newspaper) will be more coarse dots. In great contrast, a simple document, printed with only purple and black ink probably uses actual purple ink, called spot printing, instead of CMYK ink.


It is a puzzling concept to me. It is considerable extra work to screen the photo, and do the prepress work, but once you have that press ready, you can run off thousands of copies very inexpensively. Which seems inapplicable to these products? The press can often have a million dollar color control system in place however.
 
It is a puzzling concept to me. It is considerable extra work to screen the photo, and do the prepress work, but once you have that press ready, you can run off thousands of copies very inexpensively. Which seems inapplicable to these products? The press can often have a million dollar color control system in place however.
Short-Run Digital Press technology has changed the processes (and economics) somewhat. There's still some pre-work needed to optimize printing, but it's not the same as traditional offset printing.

This video gives a bit of insight into how the HP Indigo system works, which is an example of a common digital press in use today.
 
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