Photo enlargements
September 20, 2005 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What's the least expensive source for quality photo enlargements? (big ones!)

I might want to do 11"x17" or 5 x 6 foot posters. Walmart has the cheapest I've found online... but does anyone know what the quality is like? Kinko's seems pretty expensive. I'm interested in photo quality prints for framing. Source is mostly digital photos, could be a few negatives as well.
posted by kdern to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The dirty secret with Photography Students is that CostCo does 12x18s for a couple of dollars with pretty fair glossy/matte quality if you know what you're doing.

The posters aren't too much more expensive either.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:38 PM on September 20, 2005

Snapfish and Kodak (formerly Ofoto), et al. seem to be in a price war over 4x6 prints. It might trickle into enlargements (fingers crossed!). Also, look for coupons/discounts. I occasionally get emails from Snapfish with codes to get 20% off or something like that, which can lower the price of an 11x17 a fair bit. (though, they are still rather expensive. The jump from 8x10 to anything larger is pretty significant price-wise.) Google for coupons/codes.

Walmart's online fulfillment might come from an outsourced lab which might actually result in an ok print (if the walmart name has you concerned about quality). Might try an 8x10 from them as a test.

If you have a local Ritz, some stores let you upload the photo online and have it printed locally, which doesn't help on price but makes pick up easier (and might save your print from being rolled into a tube and mailed).

I seem to recall a company online that specialized in over-size prints, but I can't think of the name at the moment. If it comes to me, I'll let you know. I think they were based in Washington State or somewhere in the Pacific NW.
posted by shoepal at 8:40 PM on September 20, 2005

I teach photo and see a lot of Costco prints (though I haven't (kick self) used them myself) that are very impressive. I would definitely try them.
posted by johngumbo at 8:43 PM on September 20, 2005

I think CostCo uses Snapfish, at least for Online fulfillment. I've been really pleased with my prints from snapfish, though I've not ventured beyond the 5x7 size.
posted by shoepal at 8:45 PM on September 20, 2005

Not sure if this violates some esoteric law, but here are the prices at CostCo as of this evening.

11x14 ($2.99 ea.)
12x18 ($2.99 ea.)
16x20 ($9.99 ea.) (mail order only)
20x30 ($9.99 ea.) (mail order only)
posted by shoepal at 8:57 PM on September 20, 2005

Response by poster: Only problem is I don't have a CostCo membership... and there's not one around for many miles. Paying $45 for the membership would negate the cost of the cheap posters... any other options?
posted by kdern at 5:49 AM on September 21, 2005

kdern, I signed up and bought an 8x10 last night and it didn't cost anything (well, the acutal print was like $1.5, but no membership fee!). I think the $45 is only if you want to pick up your prints in the store. And the 20x30 is mail order anyway, so no need to get a store membership. Good luck!
posted by shoepal at 6:23 AM on September 21, 2005

Where do people get very very large prints made, as in several feet by several feet? I went to a gallery showing that had some extremely high-quality prints on some kind of thin rigid board backed by foam. It was all a single sheet, and it didn't look like the picture was pasted on to the board.

Most likely a professional print shop. I highly doubt Costco has the ability to lith print or print on materials other than photo paper.
posted by spicynuts at 7:00 AM on September 21, 2005

One option is They do custom printing up to 78" by 52" (6.5' by 4.33'). The prices are decent, but apparently more expensive than CostCo. There are various choices for paper/print quality. They have some nice customization features, but it sounds like that's not too important to you.

I just ordered a poster from them, though it's definitely taking longer than their promised 24 hours to ship it out to me (about four days now)... and those CostCo prices look good (though their sizes don't go as large as Zazzle). If I ever get my poster, I'll try to remember to come back here and comment on the quality.
posted by whatnotever at 8:38 AM on September 21, 2005

I've gotten some very nice enlargements from El-Co Color Labs.

Very cheap for a professional lab. I see now you can download their printer's profile for soft proofing (for what it's worth.)
posted by sevenless at 10:07 AM on September 21, 2005

Epingo (not exactly cheap, but they mount the print) No clue regarding quality.
posted by shoepal at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2005

Fotki, a site I use for photo-sharing, has mail-order pricing that's fairly competitive with Costco, and prints up to 4ft x 4ft. I've only ever gotten prints as large as 5"x7" from them, but they were very good quality.

Can't help you with prints onto foam-core board... you'll likely need to go to a print bureau for something like that . FWIW, I recently got a full-color banner design printed onto vinyl at a local FastSigns and was impressed with their pricing and capabilities (although perhaps not the quality you need for art prints).
posted by skyboy at 2:27 PM on September 21, 2005

Thanks skyboy! Fotki looks perfect for my needs!
posted by shoepal at 5:36 PM on September 21, 2005

Followup to my earlier comment about, just for anyone reading this later:

My poster from Zazzle arrived today. The quality is reasonable, but not great. They print at 100 pixels per inch max, I think, and it shows. Even the custom text I added below the photo is pixelated. The colors are darker than I had expected, but I'm guessing they would be better with their more expensive paper. Overall, it's a good poster quality, fine for viewing from a few feet back. It's good enough for my wall, at least.
posted by whatnotever at 5:10 PM on September 22, 2005

As a followup to the Costco quality:
I received my 8x10 from Costco. Shipped from the same address as my previous Snapfish order. Was only like $1.50 and they didn't charge shipping (no clue why!). Used the same file I had used to print an 8x10 at Ofoto (kodak) and a 5x7 @ snapfish. The Costco print is soft. They must run it through some program or something. The Kodak (ofoto) print is much sharper and looks more like I would expect it to. But, the Kodak print was like $4.50 including a coupon and including a shipping charge. So, I suppose you get what you pay for. The 5x7 from snapfish, which is theoretically the same place that the Costco 8x10 came from is far superior to the Costco print, which I suppose is to be expected given the smaller size. Though, I wonder if snapfish has a reputation to protect, such that when their name is on the envelope they use better paper, ink, etc.

I was planning on trying a poster from Costco, but now I'm not sure if it is worth it.
posted by shoepal at 9:48 PM on September 25, 2005

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