Digital Photo Printing Review
How to Choose a Digital Photo Printing Service
The top performers in our review are Walgreens, the Gold Award winner; Shutterfly, the Silver Award winner; and York Photo, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 services.
There is something nostalgic and charming about the art of traditional photography: winding the film, steadying your hand and, of course, the development process in a darkroom. But no matter how charming the process is, digital photography allows you to take hundreds, even thousands of shots without the hassle of re-loading and storing the film. Fashion photographers, photojournalists and mothers alike love and embrace the ease of digital photography.
Forget the darkroom, the rolls and rolls of film and the limited frames. If you are a professional photographer or a soccer mom who loves capturing special family moments, digital photography and digital photo printing services allow you to capture every moment and share them with the world.
For the best quality photo prints, we recommend Walgreens, Shutterfly or York Photo, our top three digital photo printing services. These services allow you to upload images and choose your project, print finish, paper type and size – and the photo printing service does the rest. For more information concerning the best digital photo printing companies, you can view our side-by-side comparisons, peruse individual reviews and visit our articles on digital photo printing services.
Digital Photo Printing Services: What We Tested, What We Found
As we compared photo printing companies, we looked at them from the standpoint of a consumer. We ordered prints from each website to evaluate ease of use and explored the features of each service, comparing the sites against each other. We scored each service in multiple areas to find the best overall printing options for most people, and our side-by-side comparison displays our results as well as average prices for each service.
Site features and customer support services are important, but print quality is paramount. We ordered samples from every digital photo printing service on our lineup and looked at them side by side.
To determine which samples compared best with the original photos, we inspected the clarity and color accuracy of every photo. We ordered the same set of photos from each printing service, both in glossy and matte, to see how each service scored between the two finish types.
It is common for a photo printing service to send its orders to several different printing locations. Operating this way allows a company to produce a large volume of orders and not overwhelm one printing location, which ensures faster printing and delivery times. Since the same company uses various printers in different locations, the print quality can vary depending on where you order from. This also means your experience may differ from ours.
It can be difficult deciding between glossy and matte prints, so here are a few tips to help you:
Colors tend to show up more vividly on glossy prints than on matte prints, but the shiny finish can easily get smudged and distract from the image. Keep in mind that the glossy finish can make a photo look fancy or formal but can be difficult to see from certain view points and lighting conditions due to how reflective it is.
This non-reflective finish might look less formal, but fingerprints and dust are far less likely to mar matte photos. These days, professional photographers and artists tend to print on a matte finish, so your photos might look more professional if printed with matte. However, keep in mind that the texture of matte finish can sometimes make photos appear grainy. Colors are often more subdued and shadows darker in matte finish. However, they are easier to view at multiple angles and lighting conditions since they aren't as reflective as glossy prints.
Our favorite photo printing services are those that understand social media and incorporate it into their uploading and sharing options. Many printing services allow you to upload photos from Facebook and your online Flickr accounts. All of the photos you upload, whether from these sites or from another source, filter into albums that you can organize according to date uploaded, date taken or assigned name. If you don't want to print out hundreds of your favorite vacation photos, you can simply create a digital album and share it with friends and family all over the world through your social networking and email accounts. Those you invite to view the album will then have the option to order prints if they wish.
When looking for an online digital photo developing service, you can find ones with printing options like standard 4 x 6, 8 x 10 and 11 x 14-inch prints, as well as options beyond basic digital photo developing, such as canvas prints, poster prints and custom calendars. The service should also offer a large selection of creative photo-based gifts to suit a wide array of ages, occasions and tastes.
Memories are priceless, so of course you want to make sure that every print you order from a digital printing service is perfect. Digital printing services should duplicate the original digital photo as closely as possible, avoiding over-cropping and incorrect tones and coloration.
Ease of Use
Take the photo, upload it, order prints. The best services make it that simple. Ease of use is one of the main reasons why you should choose one digital photo service over another. If you have never used an online photo printing service, you may be nervous to place your first order. No fear, the best digital printing services have step-by-step instructions that walk you through the process and help you order exactly what you need.
Photo prints are no longer just pieces of paper. Many customers like to put their photography onto products such as clothing, calendars and greeting cards, and companies have responded to this demand accordingly. Some services offer more options than others, and we chose companies for our lineup that had innovative designs and a variety of options to offer their customers.
Support & Shipping
Although uploading, editing and ordering are easy with the right service, you might still need help at some point, especially if this is your first time using a digital photo service. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, we suggest choosing a site that has telephone or email support and a FAQs section. For more advanced help, many of these digital photo printing services also provide live chat support and tutorial videos.
Digital Photo Printing Services: Our Verdict and Recommendations
You need a digital photo printing service that lets you upload digital photos conveniently and place print orders easily. Digital photo services should produce high-quality prints, deliver prints quickly and provide additional services such as offering creative gift choices. Walgreens Photo, Shutterfly and York Photo offer beautiful photo print quality and a wide range of photo gifts. Whether you've just purchased a digital camera or have been taking digital photos for years, these digital photo printing services are the ideal choice for a simple, affordable way to get professional-looking photos.