Best Choice For Occasional Offsite Photo Printing?
March 5, 2010 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a way to make very occasional photo prints, color and b&w, in the 8x10 and 11x14 range. I've looked at buying a printer and concluded that's not cost effective for my needs. Ideally, I'd like to send a Photoshop file to someone and then drive by to pick up the prints or have them ship the prints to me. Are any of the online services any good? If so, who is the best? What about places like Costco and Kinkos? I've found a few old threads here on this subject, so I suspect things have changed. I'm looking for better than drugstore/Walmart/Target quality.
posted by justcorbly to Technology (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Check the yellow pages for your local pro lab. Here there are several choices. Alternatively you could investigate if there are advanced amateurs with the right equipment who could do it for a fee. Check your local Flickr group for example.
posted by JJ86 at 8:12 AM on March 5, 2010

I really like the prints from, and several MeFites like, whose prints are cheaper and offers a flat fee for shipping multiple prints.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:20 AM on March 5, 2010

costco is amazing and cheap. $3 for a 12x18 print. very fast too.
posted by kimyo at 8:30 AM on March 5, 2010

Seconding Costco. I've printed images for model agencies and what not, no complaints yet. The prices are good and they seem to hold up well over the years.
posted by arishaun at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2010

nthing mpix.

Just make sure you either get your printer to do color correction (less ideal) or calibrate your monitor. I use a Pantone Huey and have been quite pleased with it.
posted by GodricVT at 8:37 AM on March 5, 2010

For digital prints, what you get from the drugstore or Walmart is probably identical to what you'd get from many pro labs. I work at a big pro photo company, and we run some of the same exact printers here that they use at the Walmart down the street - just more of them.
posted by pocams at 9:05 AM on March 5, 2010

what you get from the drugstore or Walmart is probably identical to what you'd get from many pro labs

Not if you're particular about color. I take care to color-correct my files, and I want that color reproduced in my prints. I have not found that with Wal-Mart or CVS-type prints, but I have with Ritz Pix.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:10 AM on March 5, 2010

For quality prints of the larger size (5x7 and up) I use Adorama - I love the prints and quality I get from them. But, since I'm not lucky enough to be local NYC, I usually save up my prints for larger orders from them due to shipping costs. I have never been disappointed with their service.

I've had good luck with Costco as well for more everyday stuff, and I've used Walgreens from time-to-time for "proofs" prior to sending bulk orders off to Adorama.
posted by JibberJabber at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2010

I have been very happy with Adorama Pix. You pay shipping, but costs seem good, they have an option to request color adjustment or ban the techs from tweaking. Paper choices are vast and good. Pulls directly from flickr or Picasa if you want that.
posted by ydant at 10:08 AM on March 5, 2010 is (in my opinion) the best printer in the industry! I sell my photography at art shows/fairs throughout the summer, and I totally rely on MPIX for all my products.

I have printed at Costco when I'm in a bind for time and need a print made within an hour, but their print quality is substantially less consistent than MPIX.
posted by MorningPerson at 10:20 AM on March 5, 2010

MPIX is the best around.

If you are doing B&W, make sure that you choose the black-and-white paper. By default, they (like most places) will print black and white images on color paper. Almost inevitably, even with really well-balanced processing chemicals, you'll get a slight color cast. Sometimes magenta, sometimes green, sometimes something else. It sucks.

Monochrome prints = monochrome paper. Since the paper is incapable of reproducing anything but shades of gray, there's no color cast. It costs slightly more than regular color paper but it is worth every cent IMO.

MPIX also does a nice job on mounting, if you want to outsource this as well. (I hate hate hate mounting prints and can never seem to get them perfectly straight, so I think this is a great service.) One time they sent me a few prints that were mounted off-center, and I contacted them and they sent me replacements the next day. Great customer service.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:29 AM on March 5, 2010

MPix is great for high quality printing. Costco is the best I've found for online upload, 1-hour print pickup.
posted by geeky at 11:08 AM on March 5, 2010

Seconding both Adorama and Mpix. I just had large prints made at both sides and they both came out lovely. Also, Adorama's photo books are amazing for the price if you ever need one.

Of the consumer sites, I think KodakGallery recently switched to using better paper, but I've not tried it out. I've had photos printed out at Shutterfly and as long as you make sure they're not color correcting (they go way too red), their prints turn out well. I would avoid snapfish, I've not had luck with their prints at all. Shutterfly also often has great promotions.

I've not had anything printed at a local store in ages although I bought photo frames at Costco recently and there was a coupon in there for 100 free I might try that out. My parents use them for their photos and seem pleased.
posted by echo0720 at 7:51 PM on March 5, 2010

MPix has never disappointed me. Results from my local Costco are excellent 90% of the time, OK most of the rest of the time, and poor but minimally acceptable otherwise.

Assuming your files are set up correctly, print quality from places like Costco,Walgreen's, etc. will be as good or as bad as the degree to which the lab personnel ride herd on the machines and chemicals.

When I pick up something from Costco and don't like it, it's virtually always because there's a cyan tinge to the color; meaning that the chemistry is out of balance and probably at or near exhaustion/
posted by imjustsaying at 2:59 AM on March 6, 2010

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