- 1 Some online photo printing
- 2 Photo Printing Services
- 3 Photo Printing – Mounted Prints
- 4 Avoid Using Photo Printing Services
- 5 How to Improve Your Photo Printing
Print out memories to hang on the wall, keep in your wallet, or simply hold in your palm. Your images deserve more than just a smartphone screen. We put the top online photo printing services to the test and rate them to find out which ones have the greatest rates, user experience, and print quality.
One one-hour photo lab for every 500 people used to be found in suburban America. Like pepper on a poor steak, little kiosks were strewn around strip mall parking lots. Then the digital camera arrived, and there was no longer any film to process. Those kiosks vanished without warning, taking with them our photo printing possibilities. Although developing film is no longer prevalent, the urge to own a photograph as an item has never gone. Instead of 1-hour photo booths, there are a plethora of online printing options, the most of which give significantly superior outcomes than the kiosks. Regrettably, some of them are very terrible at printing your photos.
We put together a selection of images meant to test color, tonal range, blacks, whites, and more, and sent them out to almost a dozen services to make sure you don’t wind up with prints of your kids with orange skin against green skies (yes, that happened in one test). The best places to print your images are listed below. All of the pricing are for 4 x 6 prints.
There is a significant distinction between a photograph and a photograph. Rather than being just an image file displayed on a screen, the latter is an object in and of itself. Sure, you can hold your phone up to someone’s face to show them pictures of your infant niece, but that’s not the best method to show off a favorite photo. People still desire photo prints, which is why online photo printers like Mpix, Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Walmart Photo exist. The services listed below can turn your digital images into high-quality prints and mementos, whether in the shape of wallet-size snapshots or wall-size photo canvases.
We’ve put up a list of things to think about when choosing a photo printing business to give your digital mementos a physical form.
Some online photo printing
Most People’s Choice – Mpix
I wanted to make sure that my children, like me, inherited a shoebox full of faded family photos when they were born. I got a film camera, but the film was too expensive, so I sold it and replaced it with a DSLR. I started printing everything with Mpix. The outcomes have never let me down. Mpix is a spinoff of Miller’s Professional Imaging (a pro-only printing service), and the print quality reflects this.
Mpix uses Kodak Endura paper and has a number of different paper options. I tried out the E-surface, which produces rich, deep blacks and vibrant colors. It lasts a long time; photos produced in 2013 appear precisely the same as they did when I first got them.
The website is easy to navigate. Images can be imported from Dropbox, Facebook, Google Drive, and OneDrive, among other major social networks and photo-backup providers. Instagram isn’t on the list, unfortunately. You can get prints in practically any size after your photographs are in your Mpix account, including options dedicated to images for your phone (4 x 5.3 inches, for example). Printing on canvas, wood prints, and other materials are also available.
Mpix isn’t the cheapest service, however it has frequent sales. I recommend waiting till prices drop unless you’re printing something as a present and need it right away.
Photophiles will love it – Printique
Adorama’s Printique service, formerly known as Adoramapix, produced the highest-quality prints in my testing. One of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in this job was deciding between Printique and Mpix. In the end, I choose Mpix since it offers free delivery and has frequent deals, but if printing quality is your primary issue, Printique comes out on top by a hair.
One of the reasons is that it has a variety of options: You can choose from a variety of papers, which are listed alphabetically by brand name, such as Kodak Endura or Fujifilm Matte. I also enjoy that each image may have the date and file name printed on the reverse.
Printique is more expensive, but you receive much superior prints for the extra money. The Kodak Endura Luster paper was my choice (which is also what Mpix uses). With rich blacks and good details in both shadows and highlights, the colors are quite true to life.
Printique also shines in the photo-uploading procedure. You may import photographs straight from your computer or from Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, Google Photos, Instagram, and Lightroom, among other locations.
Best for a Limited Budget – Snapfish
Snapfish is a good option if you don’t have a lot of money but still want good-looking prints. Snapfish’s prints aren’t as high-quality as our top recommendations, but they’re less than a third of the price, and the results aren’t horrible.
You can import photographs directly from social media or upload them from your computer or phone (Facebook, Flickr, Google Photos, or Instagram). The web interface is simple to use, but you’ll be harassed with upsells for books, mugs, and other items, as with most of the cheaper services. Some of these are amusing (see below), but it’s still irritating.
Considering the price, I was pleasantly impressed by the quality of Snapfish prints. They’re far superior to what I received from numerous other services (not rated here) that cost more than twice as much.
Snapfish also has great deals on some more out-of-the-box printing alternatives, such as coffee mugs. I recently prepared some mugs for my kids out of images of their artwork. The end product was amusing, though I doubt these prints would survive a dishwasher cycle. Still, for $2 (with a holiday coupon), it’s difficult to go wrong. Although these are theoretically $12 at full price, Snapfish usually offers coupons that reduce the price to around $4, if not less. Pay no more than $6.
Best for Books – Shutterfly
I’ve used Shutterfly for everything from calendars to books and been pleased with the outcomes, but the company’s prints aren’t the finest.
The tonal range is strong, shadows don’t dissolve into full black, and clouds keep lots of information at the white end of the spectrum. However, the prints appear flat, and the paper is thin in comparison to our top picks. The frequent upselling on the website was extremely irritating to me. Shutterfly interrupts the buying process every time you upload photos, even if you’ve previously said you want to make prints, by saying, “We’ve transformed your images into a book,” and requiring you to dismiss this annoying dialog just to get to the thing you actually want to buy.
Ideal for portraiture – Nations Photo Lab
Nations Photo Lab uses high-quality paper and has the nicest packaging of the lot. Although shipping delays are among the slowest, it’s difficult to foresee anything happening to your photographs in transit due to the way the organization secures them.
While the prints are of excellent quality, I observed that the colors were frequently washed out, especially in landscapes. When compared to the identical photographs from Printique, highlights, particularly dazzling white clouds against a blue sky, lack detail. The portrait results are significantly better. Nations’ color correction performs a good job with skin tones, and its portrait-style prints are the best of the services I tried.
Nations’ website is one of my biggest pet peeves. It takes a long time to get about and might be tough at times (and I never could get it to give me a receipt). If you wish to upload a large number of photographs to Nations, you should utilize the third-party software ROES (Remote Order Entry System). It’s a Java-based desktop application that vastly improves the user experience once installed.
Users of Google Photos will like this – Google Photo Printing
The built-in printing service is the simplest method to get artifacts in your hands if you’re all-in on Google Photos. Users of Google Photos have a few printing options available to them. The prints aren’t recommended; the quality is comparable to what you’d find at Walgreens or CVS, which we also don’t recommend. A photo book, on the other hand, is a Google printing service that is available in the United States, Canada, and Europe and that we can highly suggest.
I used Google Photos to create a picture book with my best images from a vacation to Mexico City in 2019. First, I curated a few dozen photographs in the Google Photos app, gathering them into an album and sorting them into the rough order I want them to appear in the book. A small shopping bag icon appeared at the top of the page when I accessed that photo album in Google Photos.
The book-building process began when you clicked on it. I went with the least expensive choice, a 7-inch-square softcover book, which costs $15 for the first 20 pages and 50 cents per page after that. (Larger hardcover books start at $30 for 20 pages, plus $1 for each extra page.)
Although the interface for creating a book is basic, you may organize your images in a variety of ways. Most of my pages have the photographs floating in the middle, surrounded by a large white border. For some of them, I went with a full-bleed option, which means the photo extends all the way to the page’s edges. (I got to choose how the photo was cropped in those circumstances, which was good.)
I used Google’s drag-and-drop interface to rearrange the photographs and discovered that juxtaposing the two layout styles (matte and full bleed) on opposite pages made the results look almost professional. Within a week, the book was delivered. With thick, satin-finish covers, a square-bound spine, and minimal Google branding on the back cover, it has a great feel to it.
When you upload photographs to Google Photos, they are compressed and kept under 16 megapixels. However, I don’t observe any pixelation or digital distortions in the photographs in my small, 7-inch paperback book. About half of my photos were taken with my Pixel phone, which has a 12-megapixel sensor, and the other half were taken with a good Ricoh point-and-shoot, which has a 24-megapixel sensor. I can’t tell if the photographs in my book are compressed because they look sharp – Michael Calore.
Photo Printing Services
What Are the Prices of Photo Printing Services?
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your photo printing. Several services here provide 4-by-6-inch prints for 15 cents or less each photo. Walmart has the cheapest pricing, which is only 9 cents. Nations Photo Labs charges 32 cents for a postal 4-by-6 print, whereas Mpix charges 36 cents. Both give outstanding image and paper quality. The 15 cents for a 4-by-6 print from Amazon Prints and Shutterfly are in the middle. Local pickup is usually more expensive. For local pickup, CVS Photo and Walgreens start at 37 cents for 4-by-6s, but you can usually get your photographs faster this way.
You don’t have to pay a lot of money to get enlargements in popular sizes like 5-by-7 and 8-by-10. For for 69 cents apiece, Snapfish will deliver you 5-by-7s. For an 8-by-10 print, Nations Photo Labs and Printique (previously known as AdoramaPix) charge $2.49, while most other services charge a still-reasonable $2.99–$3.99. You’ll spend more for wall-art-size prints, but they’re still not outrageous. All of the services in our collection charge around $20 for 16-by-20 prints, with the majority charging closer to $15.
Photo Cards and Gifts
Why limit yourself to standard photo prints when your images can be featured on mugs, playing cards, and even pillows? The services available here provide a wonderful selection of items that you can personalize. Greeting cards, calendars, and photo albums are all available (more on this below). The majority of the stores sell phone cases, blankets, and coffee mugs.
When you include a photo or photo printing of your family in your holiday cards, they become much more meaningful, and most of the firms listed below can make them for you at a reasonable cost. Most services offer 5-by-7 flat cards, which range in price from around 50 cents (at Walmart) to around $3 for higher-end services. For a little more, a few places sell conventional folding cards. With a higher order volume, you’ll pay less per card. Foil printing, unusual cutout shapes, and linen card paper are also available at premium costs.
Shutterfly has the most photo printing, including flowerpots, blankets, cell phone cases, pillows, shower curtains, and even pet food bowls. CVS can sell you a necktie with your photo on it or several copies of a single photograph. I’m still waiting for photo-embellished rugs and lampshades to be offered. Puzzles and magnets are two interesting options that many companies provide. Walmart will sell you a teddy bear with your photo on a t-shirt. Capes for youngsters, drawstring backpacks, tea towels, pot holders, bottle openers, tote bags, and pet food containers are some of the most recent photo gifts I’ve seen.
Large Canvas Prints
CanvasChamp and CanvasPop, two of the firms featured here, don’t even print ordinary little images, instead focusing on huge wall art (as well as magnets and pillows). CanvasPop charges $83 for a 12-by-8 canvas print encased in a 3/4-inch frame. Retouching and restoration services are also available. CanvasChamp has photo printing up to 54 by 54 inches and is more affordable than CanvasPop, with costs starting at $4.25 for a 5-by-7 or 8-by-8-inch canvas. However, the quality isn’t as good as CanvasPop’s.
These aren’t the only options for turning your images into huge wall art. Snapfish’s canvas options start at $19.99 for a 4-by-6 canvas, while Nations Photo Lab’s start at $49 for an 8-by-10 stretched on a 3/4-inch frame. Printique’s prices range from $25.99 for an 8-by-8 canvas to $183.99 for a 24-by-36-inch canvas. Mpix’s 8-by-10 gallery-wrapped canvas prints start at $59.99.
Photo Printing – Mounted Prints
Most services also offer a variety of hard backing options for larger prints, as well as framing. Printing on card stock, which starts at $3.99 for a 5-by-7, is one of Shutterfly’s mounting alternatives. The same size on Pearl Shimmer card stock costs $5.99, and when you add a frame, it costs $99.98. (These are list prices; you may frequently find significant discounts.)
Other possibilities, such as styrene, standouts, gator board, and metal prints, are better for wall hanging than card stock (more on this last type of print below). Because it’s infused with wood fibers, gator board is more durable than regular foam plastic and easier to hang on the wall. Many of the online photo printing providers listed here offer all of these forms of backing.
CollageWall is a Mpix feature that allows you to arrange similar photos with a matching background. The price for a 1.5-by-1.5-foot array of four pictures starts at $84.99. Printique, for example, provides similar interior design services.
Avoid Using Photo Printing Services
Amazon Photo Printing
Not only did this service generate the worst photographs in my test, but it also produced the worst photo printing I’ve ever seen. There is no more to say. The best I can say is that it is quick. In less than 24 hours, I had my photo printing. The problem is that eight of the 25 prints I ordered had photo printing faults. I fired off another set of 25 (different) photos, convinced that a 30% failure rate must be a fluke, and this time seven of them were misprinted. I suppose that’s progress, but it’s not one I’d endorse. I didn’t attempt again, and I advise you to stay away from Amazon’s photo printing service.
1-hour photo kiosks did not technically die. They wormed their way into chain pharmacies. These services are in perfect working order. They’re convenient, and they’re still the quickest option to get your photos printed, as uploaded projects usually take only a few hours to process.
However, the outcomes differ dramatically from one store to the next. The quality of the photo printing you get, just like with the former 1-hour services, is determined by the state of the machine and the skill level of the technician on duty that day. You might be able to acquire nice prints at your local store, and it’s worth looking into if you’re unhappy with your other options, but for the most part, this isn’t going to produce the best results.
How to Improve Your Photo Printing
We picked a variety of images that represented a good cross-section of the different types of photos that most of us have. Green forests, blue seascapes, browns and grays in cityscapes, portraits, macro pictures, close-ups, images with strong bokeh, stacked images with extended depth of field, and more are all examples of this.
We also didn’t limit our testing to decent photographs. We experimented with a variety of fuzzy shots, photo printing that were overexposed and washed out, and images where shadows obscured information. To put it another way, visuals like the ones on our phones and in our cameras. Some of the photos were taken from RAW files that we modified in desktop software, while some were transmitted directly from our phones, and others were culled from social media posts.
While the latter is more convenient, it will result in the worst photographs. Social media photographs are compressed, and most don’t let you view your original uploads (with the exception of Flickr), so you’re photo printing from severely damaged versions. Uploading photographs directly from your phone is a considerably better option. It’s inconvenient, but it’s worth the extra effort.
Yes, a RAW file shot with a full-frame camera and a good lens will print better than anything shot with your phone. However, if your phone has a decent camera, you won’t notice much of a difference in a 4 x 6 print. It’ll be fine even at 5 x 7. If you wish to go bigger, printing on canvas is one way to “conceal” the imperfections of a low-quality photograph. It’s not inexpensive, but the texture will mask a lot of image artifacts and make low-res photos seem beautiful on your wall.
It’s a good idea to use an image editing program to sharpen and add contrast to your photo printing before uploading them. Adobe Lightroom is one of our favorites. Basic contrast editing is available in the free version, and there’s an excellent auto-adjust setting that enhances most photographs with a single press. Lightroom also includes some useful instructions and tutorials to assist you in getting started with picture editing on your phone. Other decent choices are Google Photos (check for the “Pop” slider under modifications, which is extremely useful), Snapseed, and Photoshop Express.
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