Resources for getting prints from digital photos
December 15, 2003 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What's the best place (online or otherwise) to get prints made from my digital photos? The less expensive the better, as long as somebody can vouch for the quality.

I know of Ofoto, Shutterfly and DAPrints. Any others that people recommend highly?
posted by Aaorn to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I keep reading reviews that claim shutterfly and seem to offer the best quality prints, though I've only personally used ofoto before and been happy with the results.
posted by mathowie at 7:48 PM on December 15, 2003

I've only used Shutterfly (because it was the first out-of-the-box service supported by the excellent Gallery.

I was happy with their prints and their service.
posted by tomierna at 7:56 PM on December 15, 2003

I've used ofoto as well and I've always been pleased with the quality and the service.
posted by bshort at 8:02 PM on December 15, 2003

I have also been happy with prints from ofoto and shutterfly, but I also recently discovered these Kodak Picture Maker kiosks in my local CVS drugstores that make 4x6 prints from digital images for about $0.25 each. You could feed it just about any kind of memory card, or a CD or floppy, as long as the images were in JPG format.

Watch out, though, there was also another Kodak kiosk in there that had a scanner built into it--that one printed 8 1/2 x 11" sheets at something like $8 each.

For quality and larger print sizes, I'll probably continue to use ofoto and shutterfly, but the instant gratification (5 minute photo developing) of the Kodak kiosks is great, and honestly the prints look just as good as any I've gotten printed from film at drugstores.
posted by hashashin at 8:05 PM on December 15, 2003

Has anyone made one of those hard-bound books from iPhoto? Quality-wise, how does it compare to getting prints made from one of these services?
posted by stonerose at 8:07 PM on December 15, 2003

stonerose, I think iPhoto outsources the printing to Ofoto.
posted by hashashin at 8:13 PM on December 15, 2003

Response by poster: It bears mentioning that Ofoto is actually Kodak, so that's who iPhoto is really outsourcing to if hashashin is right.
posted by Aaorn at 8:15 PM on December 15, 2003

Many different photo forums have suggested Costco and Walmart as cheap places to print 4x6's. I haven't tried them myself, but quality was reputed to be acceptable-to-good.
posted by DaShiv at 8:16 PM on December 15, 2003

I use Always good service , you even get to talk to a real person if you need problems fixed .
This is generally for larger prints 8x10; panoramas etc.

CostCo is are very good for smaller sizes and will do the work fast.
posted by stuartmm at 8:23 PM on December 15, 2003

Is there a place that offers iPhoto type bound book with photos printed directly on the pages?
posted by riffola at 8:28 PM on December 15, 2003

The quality of the iPhoto books is much lower. The books are beautiful, but you're getting photos printed on glossy magazine type paper rather than photos developed on photo paper.
posted by sudama at 8:41 PM on December 15, 2003

Find a local 'one-hour-photo' type of place that uses a Fuji Frontier machine. These are designed for fast throughput processing, but are capable of remarkably good prints up to 12" x 8". They work by scanning the negatives after conventional color-negative processing (C-41 process), then using lasers to expose conventional photographic paper to create the prints. For the price (very cheap), print resolution and all around quality is unbeatable. Generally much better than the quality we've come to expect from the older, analogue mini-lab processes.

Given that the print output is created digitally, it's easy for the lab to take just about any digital input (your files on a CD or from a flash card, for example) and introduce them to the printing process, creating nice photographic prints from digital source. It's also why it's so easy for them to provide a CD of your (film) pictures when you get them processed.

Depending on the lab, some are more willing than others to be flexible in their workflow (they might not be keen on 50Mb TIFs, even though the machine can handle them). But lately, I've been taking scans of old 35mm slides produced from a 4000dpi film scanner to my local Walmart and been very pleased with the prints they've made - much better than a consumer photo-printer, certainly - and it's cheap!

Big advantage is that you can go as mad as you like in photoshop and have good control over the output. It's even possible to download ICC color profiles for the Frontier (but make sure you know the model your local lab is using, first).

The main disadvantage is that most local mini-labs are usually very limited in the choice of paper available, often standardizing on Fuji Crystal Archive of some type - which is perfectly good paper, so no big problem.

If you want prints of better quality than a Frontier can provide, Lightjet prints from outfits like West Coast Imaging are the way to go, but expect to pay for it, and don't bother unless you know your digital source file is worth the quality or you're also prepared to pay for a drum-scan of a negative or transparency.
posted by normy at 8:54 PM on December 15, 2003

Thanks, sudama. I thought so. What a pain - they're quite costly; I'd rather have them send me a kit with a hardbound book containing the requisite number of blank pages, and my prints done on proper photo paper, with some photo mounting corners. Grrr.

On preview - more good advice from normy! :-)
posted by stonerose at 8:56 PM on December 15, 2003

As a former lab tech that used Konica, Agfa, and Frontier systems for years, I say "What Normy said". Note that Crystal Archive paper is also guaranteed Archival -- no degredation for at least 100 years if stored well, and no degredation for much much longer than that if it's stored archivally. (Acid free, dark, moisture free environment.)

Another good source for Frontier printing is your local Ritz or Kit's or Wolf's minilab ... Ritz is refitting a lot of them with the new Frontier machines. Call first, though, because not all will have them... especially Wolf's, which was just bought by Ritz recently.

This is in contrast to the other types of prints suggested above, esp. the 8x10 kiosk prints, which are usually done with a dye-sub method.
posted by SpecialK at 9:33 PM on December 15, 2003

normy, where would we find a Frontier owner that'd want to do the digital stuff as you describe, and about how much would you pay for one of those 8" by 12" prints?
posted by mathowie at 9:47 PM on December 15, 2003

mathowie, I can't give you a very specific answer, I'm afraid, because i haven't needed to hunt around for a sympathetic lab, myself. I just got chatting to a couple of the staff that ran the machine at the local Walmart, who turned out to be photography students at the local community college and understood what I wanted to do. I'd just wonder into a local lab that has a Frontier (they're easy to spot - "Fuji Frontier" in big letters down the side of the machine) with a CD of what I wanted to print and see what they say... If it's a bunch of jpgs of a few Mb each, I'm sure they'll do it. The only hesitation I got was when I mentioned uncompressed tifs at 300dpi - had to wait for a quieter time...

Frontier technology has obviously been a major success for Fuji, judging by the number of places installing the machines over the last couple of years. I know Walgreens and Rite-Aid have them in many stores, as well as Walmart, Ritz, Fred Meyer.... From the point of view of an amateur photographer who wants a little control over the process, it's probably just a question of finding a competent and amenable machine operator.

I'm no industry insider, but other manufacturers have responded with similar digital technologies, I believe Agfa have something, and Noritsu(?). Perhaps SpecialK knows more. As usual, Kodak appears to have missed the boat again.

Cost for a 12x8 from Walmart is about $4 or $5. Regular 4x6 prints are way less, maybe even under $1, can't remember exactly. I just remember being stunned at how cheap it was compared to getting prints from slides done at 'professional' labs in the past.
posted by normy at 10:20 PM on December 15, 2003 seems to be the cheapest one listed so far. I tried them once and had no complaints.
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:08 AM on December 16, 2003

I really dig ofoto - I just had them do a 20x30" print for me as well as a handfull of smaller prints and they all turned out great.
posted by soplerfo at 8:08 AM on December 16, 2003

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone. All the online services mentioned offer a free batch of prints, so I'll be trying them out and reporting back. Just ordered my 10 free 4x6s from Snapfish, will see how they come out and then try the freebies from the others.
posted by Aaorn at 8:09 AM on December 16, 2003

I also just got a 20 x 30" print from Ofoto. I haven't seen it (it's a present, so I had it shipped to my mom) but my mom is very happy with it, at least.
posted by kindall at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2003

Oh, kindall and soplerfo, a coworker did something really cool with a shot of mine. Get it printed into a 20x30 poster, then mount it on foam core (or go to kinkos and pay someone five bucks to do it), then use simple stick pins to hold it off the wall (so you get a bit of a shadow).

It looks really cool and it was like $30 total or something.
posted by mathowie at 9:44 AM on December 16, 2003

Normy -- wow, thanks for the excellent advice. Maybe I'll hold off on the epson I was thinking of buying...
posted by daver at 9:45 AM on December 16, 2003

Along the lines of Normy i have been telling friends not to buy so called photo quality printers; esp. the ones that the cameras plug straight into etc. For the amount of time/supplies/errors it is easier and cheaper just to make up a cd and get it printed at CostCo or Kinkos etc.
posted by stuartmm at 10:43 AM on December 16, 2003

Response by poster: The freebies from Snapfish arrived yesterday and were top-notch.
posted by Aaorn at 4:40 PM on December 21, 2003

« Older Automatd hard drive backup in XP?   |   Is The Rabbit wine opener any good? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.