I used to hand print lithographs for artists where the choices of translation of the image to the final print is nearly infinite. In order to narrow down the choices, you work with the artist through discussions about what the image should look like. Then you do variations of the image for the artist to look at and discuss.

Through an iterative process, you end up with the final artist's proof against which all other prints are matched. While this is standard practice with fine art printing it is not something normally done in a photo lab - although there is no reason it could not be done that way.

I have done Ilfochrome printing professionally for a select group of photographers and used my lithographic experience to print for these photographers using the same techniques of discussion and review of printed images. The goal is to translate the artist's intent to the final image. This takes a lot of time and a personalized approach which most labs can't do as time = money.

If you want to use a commercial lab, you'll either have to be willing to spend more money on proofing, or be better at communicating what you want to the printer.

If you find a good printer, and work with them over a period of time you should be able to create a relationship where the printer will be able to get close on the first proof and with discussion nail the proper look for the final print.

There are quite a few photographers of note who have not printed their own work. They rely on the artist / printer relationship to generate the final print. Often times, a good printer can find things in images that the artist overlooks and can assist the artist in making the image even better than first imagined.

As for color being easier than black and white - it is for a lab. Color printing can be more straight forward because there are less "tools" (controls) that can be applied compared to black and white where you have choices like: paper type, contrast grade, developer, length of development, split development, toning, etc.

So for color, labs can apply a "just make best color" approach. This works for color negatives because you don't really have variable negative contrast with color film. Color transparency printing is a whole different story and can be easily as complicated as black and white if you include contrast masking in the process.

With black and white many labs use the same type of approach as printing color negatives, and print everything on grade 3 and let the tones fall where they may with minimal adjustments to account for negative contrast range as it takes additional materials and time to "dial in" the print.

If you get into fine art printing of color work, you'll find that small changes in filtration, exposure, and color dodging / burning can make color printing as challenging as black and white - with far fewer tools to work with.