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I hear so many conflicting statements about digital photo printing services. Which is correct?

I have a list of premium, professional digital photo print services that will create 'archival' 8 x 10 prints for $10 to $30. Then I see Costco offering 8 x 10's for $1.99, and I've heard they produce as good a product as anyone. What is the deal? Just what makes the premium sites better besides storage space, cataloging,etc. Is it the printing equipment, paper stock, etc? Let's say I've photoshopped my photos exactly to what I want via my monitor settings. Do the premium places adjust your own 'adjustments'? Also, there is an element of subjectivity involved in the product (I might like the color/contrast results at Costco's; you might think it sucks). BTW, when Frank Stella (his paintings go for $500,000 nowadays) began painting, he went to paint store basement sales because he could only afford a dollar per gallon for paint. Now everyone calls him a genius. Bottom line? Does it make a difference where you get your work done (other than doing it yourself)?

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Is Dove soap better than Ivory soap?

    It doesn't really matter where you get it printed. It depends on how discerning you are with your final output and your expectations. If you don't care about how archival your prints are and can't see the difference in color between a Costco print and an archival print from a "professional digital service bureau" then go with your pocket book and stick with the former. Whatever floats your boat. One really isn't better than the other.

    Professional Digital Service Bureau's cater to people who are very particular about the color in their image and who may want their print to last longer than 10 years. There may be a variety of papers to choose from that are considered "archival." The pro digital service bureau's also have their printer's calibrated with their monitors, so everything is in sync for the different papers as well. What your file on your computer screen looks like may look completely different when you view the same file on your neighbors computer screen, right? What is seen on a pro digital service bureau's monitors is what will be output on paper. They have technicians on staff that are constantly, or should constantly be profiling monitors and output devices whenever paper stock, ink or chemistry changes, so they have complete control over what the final prints are going to look like. At least, that's the idea, and that's what a good pro place is suppose to be doing. There are some pro places that will provide you with profile settings to adjust your monitor to their output devices so that you are in sync with what they are outputting and you know exactly what to expect. Typically, though, it's Adobe 1998, but that doesn't matter if your monitor isn't calibrated properly.

    Costco, on the other hand, is geared toward the consumer who can't really tell the difference between a print that is too magenta and one that is neutral in color. Who knows? Maybe you prefer the magenta one.

    I'm sure if Frank Stella had a digital file of his painting and had a print from a pro digital service bureau and from Costco, I think he would be able to tell the difference.

    For more information on archival printed materials and how long materials will last and in what environment, look into the information on this website:

    If you are planning on being a nazi about how your images are printed, want full control, want to keep costs in-house and have the time on your hands, here's some software that you might be interested in looking into:

    And if you are trying to choose a good digital service bureau, do what any good print buyer will do for ad agencies, record labels, studios and retail companies, etc., run some tests and get references from other people with the same level of concern for printing as yourself.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    My suggestion would be to experiment with different printing services by having maybe just 1 image printed from each place. This way you will be able to see which one you personally prefer. I like for my everyday photos & have also printed some 16"x20" prints from, which turned out as I expected from viewing on my computer screen.

    Most places will have an option of whether or not you want them to auto correct the photos. In most cases, if you have already done so yourself you would not want to select this option.

  • 1 decade ago

    The main difference is the paper they print the photos on. For example, Snapfish used Kodak Edge which is a thin (cheap) paper. You have to pay extra for Snapfish to use better paper. Shutterfly, CricketPrints and others use Kodak Royal paper. Kodak Royal paper is a premium (thick) paper. I am not sure if Shutterfly still uses Royal?? They may be on Fuji paper now.. I have not used them for a while.

    The reason Walmart and Costco are not as high quality is because the thin paper and the people who do the printing. I also suggest trying some online services to see who you think is best.


    (I use cricketprints)

  • ?
    Lv 4
    5 years ago

    It would be cheaper, easier, and faster to just do it from a print company. If you are too much a procrastinator I would suggest shutterfly since it is inexpensive and they are shipped to your door and you don't have to leave your house to upload them or anything. As for Walmart, I would suggest their 1-hour service. The mail-out and Kodak Picture maker service aren't the best. The only thing to consider is that they are only printed in matte, so if you want them glossy, you will have to look else were. I have never tried Walgreen's, but I do not like the print service at Rite-aid pharmacy.

  • 1 decade ago

    I have used many different "labs," including, Wal*Mart, CVS,, and There are many degrees of quality involved here. Walmart and CVS were not very good for me, but they may quit your budget, and they quited mine at that time. is a company run by kodak and they are very good, but they take forever to ship your photos without paying extra for expedited shipping. is pretty much a professional lab at consumer prices. they are higher in price than almost every one else i've tried, but still a good deal. the kicker for me is turn around time. there motto is "Shoot today. Upload tonight. We ship tomorrow." They have the option of "color correction" for no extra charge. I usually use it and my photos from them have always been great. I have not had any problems yet. they take great pride in their work and it shows in everyway, including how your photos are packaged.

    Source(s): Trier of many labs
  • 1 decade ago

    Here is a quick to the point answer. They are all different. Some of the better places do color correction. wal-mart, CVS etc.. does not. it doesnt matter how you calibrate your own system they will see it differently. Just try places till you find one you like.

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