How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck
A few years ago, I created a comparison of 8 well known printing companies and the results were amazing (check out the comparison from 2018 below)! I wanted to create an updated version, as print quality, pricing and overall experience with companies changes over the years.
When you spend a good amount of money for professional pictures, it's important to have quality prints to show off these memories in the best format possible. So where is the best place to order prints from? In the following post, you'll see exactly where you should and should NOT print your pictures.
COMPARING & RATING
In this updated experiment, I took the same image and printed it at 15 different locations...all of the companies I chose offered shipping. This comparison is based on prints only, and I did not factor in canvas prints, photo books, or other photo products. I compared and gave ratings from one half to five stars for each print company based on the following criteria:
PRICE - the price rating was based on the overall average price of both smaller and larger prints. The regular price was used to determine this score, and sales did not play a factor.
SHIPPING - the shipping rating was determined based on shipping speed and price. Discounted shipping based on memberships and accounts was not included in the rating. For example, if you have Amazon Prime, shipping is free for prints. However, if you do not have an account, there is a significant shipping charge. So in this case, Amazon's rating is based on not having an Amazon Prime account.
PACKAGING - the packaging rating is based on how the items arrived...overall package aesthetics, print protection, if the images are rolled or flat, etc.
QUALITY - the quality rating is based on the overall image print quality. Image clarity, color accuracy, sharpness, exposure, contrast, tone, image noise, and paper quality all played a factor in this rating. Keep in mind when looking at a print below, it may appear very close to the original, however the printed product may have had a significant amount of noise (grainy/appearance of small dots).
OVERALL - the overall rating is an average of the ratings of the four criteria above. This number was rounded to the closest half star.
Based on price, shipping, packaging and quality, here are the results of my print test from these 15 commonly used companies:
That's a lot of stars to look at, I know! To sum things up, here's how everyone ranked:
5 STARS - mpix
4.5 STARS -Artsy Couture
4 STARS - Nation's Photo Lab
3.5 STARS - Printique/Zazzle
3 STARS - Snapfish
2.5 STARS - Amazon/Cosco/CVS/Walmart
2 STARS - ezPrints/Sam's Club/Shutterfly/Walgreen
1.5 STARS - Target
So let's look a little more into some of these companies, what they offer, and why they receive the ratings they did.
THE ONE HOUR & BIG BOX STORES
One hour photo...while there's nothing wrong with these services as they're cheap and convenient, the results vary tremendously from one store to the next, and the quality is very poor. In this experiment, I ordered the prints online and had them shipped to my home. The results were the same...poor quality. While the CVS print looks fairly close to the original on your screen, the physical print was full of noise (those little annoying grainy specks). I've been guilty of ordering from these places before when I'm in a time crunch, and never once have I had results I was remotely happy with. You definitely get what you pay for with these companies.
While Costco and Sam's Club photo printing is fairly cheap and convenient, you have to have a membership to use their services, which really pulls down that price rating. And just like the companies mentioned above, the results are less than desirable. The Costco print had a darker red tone and was very grainy, and the Sam's Club print was a little green and overexposed.
ONLINE PRINTING COMPANIES
These are the companies who focus solely on photo prints and products, unlike Target, Walmart, and others who offer an array of products and services.
These companies are cheaper to moderately priced online services, with ezPrints and Snapfish coming in at a lower cost. Printique was the most expensive, however the quality was the best of the four.
You definitely get what you pay for with these services. With overall ratings of 2-3.5 stars, these companies lack in comparison to some of the more reputable providers.
As I said a few years ago, I'm not even a little bit of a fan of Snapfish. We printed our Christmas cards with them one year and I couldn't even get myself to send them out because the print quality was so terrible. The color accuracy appears to have actually gotten worse, and the images print extremely grainy.
Shutterfly is all about getting you to print additional photo products. I found the constant upselling on the website tiring. Every time you upload photos, even if you've already said you want to make prints, Shutterfly interrupts to say "We've turned your images into a book" and forces you to dismiss the message if you want to continue what you were doing. The prints have a flat green look to them, and the paper is junk compared to my top picks.
ezPrints really stood out when it comes to quality...poor quality that is. The print had a hazy, washed-out appearance, as if they applied a matte finish. These were the least sharp photos of the bunch, and areas of the picture had an overexposed appearance.
Zazzle is one of my favorite online printing services. While I don't use them for prints, I love them for other print products such as pillows, shirts, business cards, invitations, and a whole lot more. While their prints came out with a slightly hazy appearance, they are a great place if you are looking for large scale poster prints.
Use this LINK to save 20% off your first order!
Even though I shop on Amazon a LOT, I had no idea they offered photo printing until I started do some research for this experiment. There may be a reason I didn't know they offered the service...because it's AWFUL lol! Sure the prints are dirt cheap, but it's a complete waste of money, in my opinion, as the results were terrible. I wasn't overly impressed with the packaging, which consisted of a flat mailer with two sheets of thin cardboard inside. The entire package bent easily if I tried, so I wouldn't be surprised if prints arrived damaged. And, unless you have an Amazon Prime account, the shipping cost was high.
So now let's talk about the three companies that earned the top three spots.
Nation's Photo Lab/Artsy Couture
To be honest, I had never printed with Nation's Photo Lab before this test. The price was reasonable, but the shipping was very high. The print was on quality paper, and the packaging was some of the best, but shipping times were among the slowest.
While the prints are high quality, I did find a slight variation in the overall tone of the print.
What I really disliked about Nations is their website. It's slow and difficult to navigate, which is not what you if you're trying to upload multiple photos in one session.
Artsy Couture used to be my go to place to order prints. They offer superior print quality and packaging, but their shipping cost is fairly high and slow. What ultimately made me seek out a new print company was their price...at the time. They used to be extremely expensive. However, since looking into them again for the first time in about 5 year, I discovered their prices have gone down drastically, which earned them the second overall spot.
So which company earned the coveted top spot for photo prints? mpix by a long shot. Look at the two images below...see a difference? Me neither. That's because mpix, who is also a part of the mpix Pro and Miller's family, is known for their professional and superior print services. The results have never disappointed.
The website is simple to use, and you can import images from the popular social networks and photo storage sites. There are also options to print on canvas, wood, and more.
Mpix also offers a variety of paper options, and they hold up well over time. Images I printed ten years ago through them still look exactly the same as the day I got them. Their turn around time is quite fast, and you'll never have to worry about your prints getting damaged en route, because they take the utmost care in their packaging.
Although it's not the absolute cheapest, Mpix does have sales daily, which in turn makes it one of the most reasonably priced services...especially for the outstanding quality you receive.
In addition to offering daily sales, mpix also has a loyalty program to build points for free and discounted prints. Want to place an order with mpix (I mean who wouldn't!)? Visit their site and make sure you use code URBANRHINO25 at checkout and save 25% off your purchase!
You spent time and money seeking out the perfect photographer, now it's time to make mpix your next choice when printing those photos!
Did you find this information helpful? Don't forget to follow Urban Rhino Tutorials on social media and subscribe to our website for more upcoming photography tips and tutorials!
Urban Rhino Tutorials has included certain products and links to products on this site that we may earn an affiliate commission on for any purchases you make, at no additional cost to you.
The mpix code URBANRHINO25 is valid until May 31, 2021 at 11:59pm.