What's the best way to print a lot of (different) digital photos?
June 14, 2010 6:35 AM   Subscribe

The thing about the digital photography era is I no longer have hard copies of every single picture I take. This worries me. I'd like physical backups of the best of the billion or so pictures I've taken in the last five years. Is there a great and economical way to print several thousand DIFFERENT digital photos? Some online service? Some wonderful workflow?

Honestly, it bothers me that my boxes of old photos, which I really enjoy going through, basically stop at 2005. Looking through old iPhoto libraries isn't quite the same. And hard drives eventually die.

PS: I live in Canada. So I'd need a service that could accommodate that.
posted by saltykmurks to Technology (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

Are you a Flickr user? Here's the appropriate FAQ. )If you're not, you'll have to purchase a Pro account to hold more than 100something photos at a time.)
posted by griphus at 6:42 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: iPhoto books are great but not economical for the volume of pictures I'd like to print.

And I do have a pro flickr account but I don't really want to dump all my gigs of pictures onto the service and then print each one individually. Ideally, I'd like a service to which I could just FTP a mega-zip-file or few and have them sort them out, print em and mail them to me.
posted by saltykmurks at 6:55 AM on June 14, 2010

What do you mean by "individually"? While it won't sort them -- unless you can import whatever file structure within which they exist now -- you can have it print every photo you have (or whichever set you want) and mail them to you.
posted by griphus at 6:59 AM on June 14, 2010

For big ol' backups, get thee an Amazon S3 account. You only pay for what you use (i.e., no monthly fee. And it's like 10 cents per 10 gigs up/down. And up-stream is free until June!), so dropping 10 or 20 gigs of photos will only set you back a buck or two to upload and then you can let them sit.

As for printing, well.
posted by GilloD at 6:59 AM on June 14, 2010

If you have a local photo printer you trust, why don't you call them and see if you can just send them the files via FTP or CD or whatever? A lot of smaller places are willing to work with you on things like that.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:01 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm, griphus, poking around on Flickr I notice they use this "Snapfish" service that I can directly upload without necessarily having to go through Flickr itself—and they do accept zips of JPEGs, which is kind of crucial. Maybe that would be the best option. (Although I guess it would be good to have backups on Flickr itself).
posted by saltykmurks at 7:04 AM on June 14, 2010

You can just get prints from Apple from inside iPhoto. Not the most economical (4x6 inches: USD $0.12 each), but more so than the books, and certainly easy to do-- select all -> "Order Prints" in the bottom right corner.
posted by supercres at 7:06 AM on June 14, 2010

My friend did a quality test by sending the same file to several different services. He found Costco to be the lowest price and by far the best quality. Their price is down to 13 cents a print. You need to pick them up at the store. I think if you use the mail service they are printed somewhere else and I don't know about quality.
posted by snowjoe at 7:10 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Did your friend post the results anywhere? Would be curious to see how they all stack up.
posted by saltykmurks at 7:18 AM on June 14, 2010

The lab I work with (WHCC) has specific pricing for proofs - I just emailed them for a clarification about printing prices.

The proof quality is exactly the same as the regular print quality (as far as I've seen). They are good, fast, and offer free shipping to the United States. It appears you have to pay extra to ship to Canada, but you can contact them and get clarification for that as well. I have found them to be incredibly responsive to email requests for information.

For large batches of photos, if you just want to print them all a standard size like 4x6, you could start looking into other proofing methods for photographers in Cananda. Proofing involves printing a ton of photos - which is what you're looking for.
posted by kellygrape at 7:29 AM on June 14, 2010

I don't know what their prices are these days but I have used Adorama Pix in the past with great results. I tend to buy 5x7s and larger, but I've done batches of smaller prints as well and absolutely loved the results.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:04 AM on June 14, 2010

Most services probably do, but make sure that whoever does it using archive quality prints. If you were to just print them off with a photo printer, they might not last very long.

Also, you should get electronic backups as well. S3 would be a good way to do it.
posted by delmoi at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2010

The large online photo printers (Snapfish, Shutterfly, etc.) offer bulk discount packages. When I came back from two years of traveling and wanted to print a good portion of my photos I sent test prints (different lighting conditions) to each. I ended up using Shuterfly but didn't see a huge difference in printing at the time. Both services gave a free offer of 15 prints so I could test the quality for free and both allow you to upload in bulk, organize into albums and even share online, if you like.

I bought its largest pre-paid print plan. The current one is $0.10 per 4x6" print. There are plenty of services like this so you'll need to compare bulk price plans and see which works best for you. Don't forget about shipping because that got expensive in the end. In fact, the ridiculous shipping costs as Shutterfly have me questioning if I'll print with them again.

Now I have 900 4x6 prints sitting in my office waiting to be organized into albums — that's going to take a while to get to and is incredibly daunting.
posted by Bunglegirl at 9:53 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: I have to say, $0.12 for iPhoto shots, with fairly cheap shipping, seems like a very good deal.
posted by saltykmurks at 10:40 AM on June 14, 2010

Winkflash and York Photo both offer $0.08 per 4x6 print.

Two cent difference may not seem like much, but if you're gonna print ten thousand pictures it can add up.
posted by davr at 10:53 AM on June 14, 2010

PEphoto accepts orders by FTP and costs $0.08/ 4x6 print + $3.00. I used them to print several hundred pictures and I was satisfied with the quality and the price. It may be slightly cheaper ($0.06 + $1.95) to order using their clunky software, I can't really tell. I used FTP and it went off without a hitch, they sent me two boxes of prints via priority mail.
posted by ChrisHartley at 11:19 AM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Hmm looks like PEphoto might be the best for me. York's price is good but shipping will be 10c/print, which more than doubles it.
posted by saltykmurks at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2010

Response by poster: Except... this kind of scares me:

posted by saltykmurks at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2010

Honestly, it bothers me that my boxes of old photos, which I really enjoy going through, basically stop at 2005

Did you want to create several boxes of new (individually printed) photos? If not, a Blurb book might be of interest.
posted by unmake at 2:51 PM on June 14, 2010

My friend did not post the photos in his test. You could replicate his test for less than five bucks. If you are going to print thousands of photos it might be wise. If you do could you post the results here? It seems like there are several people that may be interested. I know I am.
posted by snowjoe at 10:16 PM on June 14, 2010

Yeah, those are some pretty terrible reviews. I was happy with my prints but maybe their quality has slipped as they struggle to stay at $0.06/print. I was just checking out York and Clark photos and their websites are almost identical, probably because they are using the same css files from snapfish.com. Does snapfish sell web storefronts to independent processing labs or are Clark and York just re-branding?

It is probably worth contacting whatever printer you go to see what the easiest way to send 1,000s of photos is. I'm sure they won't expect you to use some crappy flash based upload tool to send several GB of pictures. Perhaps a few DVD-Rs via USPS?
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2010

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