Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where should you print your pictures?

(F.Y.I..... I did all this research to find good quality on the consumer-not-pay-too-much side of photos. Just my o-pin-ion. Just another option{smile} )

Imagine you just paid to have some great photographer :)  take your family pictures.  You purchased your  15-20 digital images on a disk and now it's in your hot little hand. You can't wait to go print them out somewhere, but where? Not all photo labs are created equal.  I noticed a while ago that some of them gave me different results so I wanted to share that with you.

I decided to print out one picture at six different labs, some in town and some online, some in town BUT with online access too. Confused? I hope not.

The labs  I tested this time were:

Walgreens ( nationwide in-store/online 1 hour lab)

Sam's Club ( nationwide in-store/ online 1 hour lab-Does every state have them? )

Creve Coeur Camera  ( in town/online access STL camera store/lab)

MPix ( online only consumer division of Millers Pro Lab)

Shutterfly ( online only)

Diversified Lab ( professional photo lab here in the STL)

You deserve to get the most consistent results from your digital files that you can. You should see the same color and quality in your prints as you do when you view them on your computer screen.  That being said...the pro labs will always give you the best color and  quality. Getting prints through your photographer is always the best way to go.

I understand the need to save some moola so that is why I did this test. I know most the folks I take photos of now ( here in the STL)  want the digital files and want to go get prints out and about.

Here are some of the things you should be looking for when you print your images:

Type of paper
Do you want your picture to be glossy or not glossy? It really does change the look/feel  of most images. Some photo places give you a choice, some don't.  Don't be surprised. If you don't know or can't tell from their site, throw them an email and ask.

Cropping preview
( again... a whole other blog post)

When you print anything above the size of 4x6, there is going to be some cropping that happens. If you are ordering a vertical picture, the cropping will be on the top and bottom. If you are ordering a horizontal image, the cropping will be on the left and right.  You may lose some of the image that you don't necessarily want to . That's why previewing your crop is so important.  Look for a place that let's YOU decide where you want to crop and then let's you preview it.

Too Dark or too light or weird color

 You don't want your images to be way darker than you intended or way lighter.  Like I said , they should look very close to what you see on your computer screen ( for the most part). Test out a few places yourself, you might be surprised like I was. Some you will definitely notice a color whether it's yellow, red, or blue.

I used the picture of  Louie above to check for color, clarity, and lightness/darkness in my prints. I sent the same exact file that I had corrected to six different photo labs. I wanted all of them to print as is but as you will see, that  didn't always happen.  To be fair,  I also think my monitor needs to be calibrated.  That just means that you buy a little contraption that helps you to make your screen as neutral as you can so your prints don't have too much of any one color at any time. But I digress, that's a whole other blog post.

Here are all of the prints laying together so you can see the differences with them close up.

1) Walgreens

The only option you have as far as paper goes for a  one hour print in any size is glossy.  Now, I'm not knocking glossy but sometimes you want it and sometimes you don't. My image came out dark and I lost alot of detail in anything that was even sort of shaded.  I usually only use them in situations where I need something asap like a school poster for K.  You do get the option on how you want to crop your picture so make sure you use it. ( see image below)

2) MPix

This one was pretty good. It was a little on the warm (orangey) side compared to my screen but all of the details were in the shadows. And it was in a matte  (non-glossy) paper which I wanted. They offer the cropping tool as well. ( see image below)

3) Diversified Lab

They offered me some test prints to test the color between my monitor and their printers. It was still off , a little too yellow/orange compared to my screen.  Over all the lightness  and details of the picture were good. They also got it to me very quickly. They offered many different types of paper: matte, glossy, metallic, etc.  Lots to choose from based on the kid of image you would have. As  I chose any given size , they had a very easy to use  cropping tool that left nothing to the imagination.  What I saw, was what I got. They also have the option to  not( see image below)

4) Creve Coeur Camera

This one was one of the top three for me. It was probably the best as far as looking like my screen. It was the right lightness and the details were all there.  They have the crop tool  along with a setting that says " no color correction" .  That is important when you receive digital files from your photographer as they have taken the time to edit and enhance all of the images they have given you. They also give you a choice of paper.

5) Sams Club

Again, just like Walgreens, very dark and I lost all details in the shadows. yuck.  That being said I have used them for 4x6 album prints in the past but know I'm wondering  how good my prints would have looked from somewhere else. I would only use them in  pinch if I really had to. Someone told me Costco was really good but I don't have a membership there so I don't know.( see image below)

6) Shutterfly

This one was again very close  to my screen....good lightness, good details and decent color.  I got the glossy here and I don't know whay I chose that.  You only have the choice of matte in prints bigger than 11x14 here in case you like the gloss.I would definitely order other images from them. And as they seem to always be running some kind of special, it would be good for  your wallet as well.( see image below)
Can you see what  I am taking about with the details? And the color?  Look at his eyes... only in some images can you tell there is some brown in there.  Or that you can see the pattern of his fur.

I think I would rate my favs as  Creve Coeur and with a tie between Mpix and Shutterfly.  I hope this helps you decide on where to take your pictures.  I know there are so many other photo labs you can go to and this is all just my opinion. There might even be some better than these.  I just know that I do my best to take awesome pictures and when they  don't turn out awesome being printed.  I get  kinda mad.

So where do you go for pictures and do you love them? Tell me so I can go try them out and report back to you.  Happy photo taking!

What is the Gunny Sack -Making the world Cuter -Debbie Doo -DIY Show Off
-I should be mopping the Floor


 Tip Junkie - My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia -The Kurtz Corner
Sugar Bee - Romance On A Dime -The Winthrop Chronicles

 Someday Crafts - Sew Much Ado


Beyond the Picket Fence - Somewhat Simple - Live Laugh Rowe
- The Shabby Cottage The Taylor House- House of Hepworths 
Two In Diapers-Mommy Brain Mixer

Naptime CraftersStay At Home Nation
Young and CraftyMy Turn(ForUs)
Delicate Construction
Serenity Now


Six Sister's Stuff

Cheerios and Lattes


  1. That was awesome! Thanks, Emily! We always get the CD and then have them printed at Costco. If you want to send me your image, I can have it printed at Costco for you to compare. They have a no color correction option, allow you to see your cropped image, and allow you to choose glossy or matte which is nice. Great to know about Shutterfly! I've always heard great things about CCC.

    1. Thanks, Christie. I did Costco for Christmas cards and they turned out pretty good.

  2. SO helpful...really! I always use CC when it's something I am putting on the wall or something awesome...but beyond that I never knew really. I love how you tested it...makes me love shutterfly :). Though I got my xmas cards at walgreens...I don't care as much about that. LOL. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I' glad you liked it. I know lots of people don't have the time or the inclination to do a test like this. I hope it helps my future customers here in town.

  3. Finally! I've been waiting for this post! I found the same with MPix. I ended up using Black River Imaging. I also noticed with Shutterfly you lose a lot of details in his face. Not a bad pic, but worth spending the extra $$ if you want a nice print.

    1. Totally. I've using the pro lab here in town for most things since they are so close. I want to try Black River though since they are in my state :)

  4. I use Nations Photo Lab for my clients. It is for professional photographers use. I would NEVER print my photos or recommend clients to use anything but. The most true to color quality and quality papers. Metallic prints are great too. Check it out!

    1. I'll have to give them a try as well. I think I just need to get my monitor calibrated as well so I can get truer color no matter where I go.

  5. Wow - very interesting. Thanks for sharing your results. I wonder how CostCo would compare? Thanks for linking up at Romance on a dime.

    1. Betsy, I did Costo for Christmas cards and they looked fine but the print I did to match the ones above didn't turn out so great. You never know, it could have just been a bad batch.

  6. I have to say, I was not only THRILLED but really surprised to see exactly what I was looking for when I did a google search! Being located here in St. Louis and a long time user of CCCamera, I was interested in what the results would be should I choose MPix. With CCCamera being a local chain, I was sure I wouldn't find the comparison that I was looking for but thankful that I did! You just saved me some time and money, so thank you!


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