Best Photo Cards of 2019

Best Value: Mixbook

In partnership with Mixbox

Mixbook offers some of the best-quality photo cards of the services we evaluated. The service offers an excellent selection of holiday and themed photo cards and creates beautiful final products.

Promo code TTRSPRG19 for up to 45% off (ends June 30)VIEW DEAL ON Mixbook

We ordered two sets of Christmas cards from 16 companies – one printed on the best-quality paper offered and one printed on the least expensive paper. (We ordered only one card from the services that offer just one paper type.) 

Our experts not only evaluated the paper quality and print quality of each service but also compared the companies’ prices to determine which service was the best value.

We also noted whether the cards and envelopes arrived in good condition, and the speed of delivery.

Design details were very important in our testing. Sites that offered a greater variety of shapes and paper textures for photo cards received higher scores. Some companies quite literally think outside the box with ornament-shaped cards, glitter or foil embellishments, and scalloped or other kinds of borders.

We have concluded that Simply to Impress is the best overall photo card service because it offers some of the best design options and gives you more creative freedom than other companies. 

You can even have this service mail your cards for you. Although it isn’t the least expensive option, this service isn’t overpriced, either. 

ProductPriceOverall RatingPricingQuality & ServicesTemplate SelectionConvenienceHelp & SupportCards for $35 (including tax/shipping)Overall Card QualityDesign QualityService ScoreHoliday SelectionHalloweenDiwaliThanksgivingHanukkahChristmas/Winter HolidayOrnamentsKwanzaaNew YearChinese New YearValentines DayMinimum Order QuantitySame Day PickupHelp & Support Score
Simply to ImpressView Deal4.5/58.3109.57.31015100%100%100%95%15-100%
Shutterfly Photo CardsView Deal4.5/58.39.38.310101595%100%95%90%---1-100%
ZazzleView Deal4.5/58.88107.8101983100%87%100%1-75%
Mixbook Photo CardsView Deal4/588.88.38101399100%80%90%---1-75%
Nations Photo Lab Photo CardsView Deal4/59.87.37.861.82595%95%75%85%-----25-50%
Snapfish Photo CardsView Deal4/596.510610090%95%80%100%20-75%
Walmart PhotoView Deal4/59.867.59.38.32095%95%60%80%---150%
TinyPrintsView Deal4/57.38.889.5101096%100%90%90%----1-75%
Walgreens PhotoView Deal4/59.36.396.3102084%100%65%95%--2075%
CVS PhotoView Deal4/59.36.386.88.32094%100%60%85%---2050%
CardstoreView Deal4/57.37.39.38.5101083%90%75%95%-1-75%
Amazon PrintsView Deal4/5105.87.35.5102594%95%60%85%-----25-75%
MintedView Deal4/55.899.37.510093%100%100%95%-15-75%
PostableView Deal3.5/56.37.58.57.50889%95%75%90%--1-25%
Paper SourceView Deal3.5/56.36.597.58.3092%85%90%95%--20-50%
Meijer PhotoView Deal3/56.55.867.81.8092%100%60%65%----1250%

Best Overall

Simply to Impress

Reasons to Buy
There’s a beautiful selection of designs
The cards are decently priced
The company can address and mail your cards for you.
Reasons to Avoid
This service doesn’t make postage stamps
It doesn’t offer same-day pickup
You cannot sort the designs by price.

Simply to Impress does exactly what its name suggests: impresses with its selection of beautiful designs and final products.

You can choose from six paper options: matte, satin, pearl shimmer, cardstock, double thick cardstock and foil stamping. When choosing the design for your event or holiday, pay attention to the price. We found that the least expensive options cost around 62 cents per card, while the most expensive options are about $1.53 per card. The company offers discounts when you order large quantities, so the price may depend on how many cards you purchase. Simply to Impress isn’t the least expensive photo card service, but it’s not overpriced. Considering the amazing print jobs the company delivers, we think the pricing is just right. Standard shipping is somewhat expensive, but it’s definitely not the worst pricing we’ve seen. Our order didn’t have any taxes attached to it, which makes the overall price pretty average. However, keep in mind that your order may incur tax depending on your state.

Simply to Impress stores your addresses, and you can pay extra to have the service mail your photo cards for you. This is an especially nice feature if you need your cards mailed quickly or you’re too busy to send them yourself. You can choose from multiple envelope colors and various inner linings.

Standard shipping is somewhat expensive, but definitely not the worst pricing we’ve seen. Our order didn’t have any taxes attached to it, which makes the overall price pretty average. Keep in mind that a tax charge might get added, depending on the state you order from. Simply to Impress keeps a record of your addresses. Should you desire, you can pay them extra to mail your photo cards for you. This is an especially nice feature if you need it done in a pinch or if you are simply too busy to send them off yourself. There are multiple envelope colors to choose from, including various inner linings should you want to make your card presentation extra fancy.

Read the full review

Best Value

Mixbook

Reasons to Buy
This service offers some of the most fashionable graphics and themes
It has some of the best print and book quality
It covers a wide selection of holidays and special occasions.
Reasons to Avoid
There is no same-day pickup
There is no mailing service
You cannot choose the envelope color.

Mixbook’s cards are slightly more expensive than average; they’re neither the best bargain nor overly expensive.

You can purchase 13 cards for $35, which includes taxes and shipping. There is a decent variety of holiday and themed cards. However, there are some holidays, like Kwanzaa and Chinese New Year, that the company doesn’t cover. Our experts found the print and paper quality of these cards to be among the best in our testing. The least expensive satin card displayed perfect coloring and good image clarity, but the pearl-shimmer card was a little off-color and slightly blurry by comparison. However, very few companies produce a pearl card that doesn’t alter the clarity and coloring of the images. Mixbook offers expedited shipping but not same-day pickup.

Read the full review

Most Inexpensive Mailing Service

Shutterfly

Reasons to Buy
The print quality is amazing
The company offers an affordable mailing service
You can design and purchase postage stamps.
Reasons to Avoid
There aren’t many paper options
The service doesn’t cover a wide range of holidays
There is no same-day pickup.

Shutterfly offers thousands of the best holiday and themed designs. The service came in second, after Simply to Impress.

The print clarity and color accuracy of the cards were slightly off, but you’d notice only if you were comparing them side by side with another card. The pearl-sheen cards we ordered displayed the red design beautifully, but they also blurred the images a bit. This service allows you to design your own stamps, so you can often get them to match or complement the design of your card.

You can have Shutterfly keep track of your addresses and, for an additional cost, address the envelopes for you. And if you’re willing to pay even more, Shutterfly will mail your cards for you, which can be helpful if you’re busy during the holiday season or occupied with wedding preparations. This mailing service is relatively inexpensive compared with the other companies that offer to mail your photo card projects. We also found it much less expensive to order from Shutterfly than from its sister brand Tiny Prints. If you want to address or mail your envelopes yourself, have them sent to your home. Keep in mind that this service charges for shipping and tax.

The interface for designing your card is easy to use, and there are thousands of beautiful holiday and seasonal designs to choose from. However, we found only three types of paper to print on. Another downside is that this service isn’t associated with a physical store, so there are no in-store pickup options. However, Shutterfly does offer express shipping.

Read the full review

Best Budget

Amazon Prints

Reasons to Buy
It’s the least expensive photo card service
You can purchase 25 cards for as little as $35
Express shipping is available.
Reasons to Avoid
There’s only one type of paper
It doesn’t offer as many designs as other services
The holiday selection is hard to find.

In addition to being the least expensive photo card service, Amazon Prints doesn’t charge shipping on orders of $15 or more.

Although this service charges a tax, it didn’t bump up the overall price much. You will spend more than $15 even if you purchase only the smallest pack of cards, so you’re guaranteed free shipping. Our testers found Amazon Prints’ cards to be a little above average, but the image quality was a little grainy and dark. However, these flaws were only noticeable when we compared the cards side by side with other companies’.
Its unnecessarily difficult to find holiday themed cards with Amazon, which is partially why it ranked so low in our testing. When you first sign in to your account, the cards section only lists wedding, thank you and baby related cards. To access the holiday cards, click on any of the card categories and then, when the page loads, click on the Amazon Prints logo at the top middle of the screen. Christmas and New Year’s cards will then show up as a category.You’ll find photo cards for many occasions, such as milestones like birthdays and weddings, as well as for specific holidays. Although we liked the designs that Amazon Prints offered for most occasions, we noted that some holidays, like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, didn’t have any designs.

Once you find a design you like, Amazon Prints’ online interface is a snap to use. You can insert images from social media, your computer or Amazon Photo, and you can store your photos in the online library for free. Like most other services, Amazon Prints warns you if the resolution of your images is too low, so your photos won’t come out blurry.

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Best Paper Selection

Zazzle

Reasons to Buy
This service offers the most paper options
There are thousands of beautiful card designs
You can find a photo card design for any occasion.
Reasons to Avoid
It does not offer same-day pickup
The color quality of our cards was mediocre
There is no mailing service.

Zazzle is not your standard photo card service. The company offers plenty of customizable photo gifts from professional designers and companies (like Disney), but many of the designs are submitted by users.

When you order, Zazzle sends print jobs to various printing companies, so the print quality of your order depends on the printer your project gets assigned to. Whereas most companies give you two to four paper options, Zazzle offers 12. Just keep in mind that the paper available to you depends on the design of the card you select, so all 12 might not always be options. Because users submit many of the graphics and designs, Zazzle has themes for more holidays and occasions than any other photo card service.

The cards we received from Zazzle didn’t have the best image clarity, but they definitely weren’t the blurriest cards we ordered. Our expert testers noticed that the colors were murky and dark compared with the colors on cards from other services, especially on the pearl-shimmer paper we ordered. In fact, the sparkly look of the paper made the images look blurrier than they actually were. Zazzle doesn’t let you print the recipients’ addresses directly on the envelopes. Nor does the company offer a mailing service, so you need to send the cards yourself. And because Zazzle doesn’t have physical stores, there are no options for same-day pickup. However, the company does offer expedited shipping.

Read the full review

Best in a Hurry: Walmart Photo, CVS Photo & Walgreens Photo

Three factors determine the service you choose: your proximity to a brick-and-mortar store, your print-quality preferences and your price range. Each of these services has strengths and weaknesses. Walmart Photo is the least expensive, offering cards for as little as 64 cents each. CVS Photo and Walgreens Photo cost about $1 per card. All three services are among the cheapest we tested, and all of them offer discounts when you order large quantities. Walgreens and CVS have the same four paper options: matte, glossy, cardstock and premium cardstock. Walmart basically offers the same, but with a linen paper instead of the regular cardstock. If you need to pick up your cards the same day, however, your paper options will likely be limited.

If you don’t mind a potentially lower-quality product, your best option is a service that offers same-day in-store pickup. In our testing, Walmart and CVS had better print clarity and color accuracy in our pictures. However, the quality depends on the printers the stores use to create your project. Walgreens covers more holidays and themes than the other two services and is the only one of the three to offer foil-stamped cards. Walgreens and CVS offer expedited shipping to your home, but Walmart does not. 

None of these services offer address lists or mailing services, so you need to address and send the envelopes yourself. For CVS and Walgreens, the minimum order is 20 cards. Walmart lets you order one card or packs of five, 10, 20 and more. But if you’re in a hurry, you’ll likely choose the service that’s closest to you, unless you have strong preferences for printing, price or themes.

Why Trust Us?

We’ve been testing photo cards for over 11 years. Our expert evaluators have backgrounds in graphic design and photography, and they know what to look for when examining photos and design elements. They also evaluated card thickness and envelope quality in their overall assessments. We wanted to make sure that every aspect of the photo card had a professional feel to it. We looked at each service’s card theme options to determine which ones covered the most occasions and themes while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Our goal with reviewing these services was to find decently priced cards that had the best print and paper quality. Services that gave us more freedom when placing photos and choosing fonts scored higher because they allowed us to truly create what we envisioned.  We also contacted Lisa Mariko, a professional photographer with four years of experience, to get more insight into photo card creation and learn how to get the best image quality from your projects.

How We Tested

In our testing, we ordered photo cards from 16 companies, evaluated the attractiveness of the designs and counted the number of holiday and occasion templates.

We ordered two sets of Christmas cards from each company – one printed on the best-quality paper offered and one printed on the least expensive paper. (We ordered only one card from the services that offer just one paper type.) When our orders arrived, we noted whether the cards and envelopes arrived in good condition. All of the services delivered the cards pretty quickly, but we gave higher scores to the fastest services.

Design details were very important in our testing. Sites that offered a greater variety of shapes and paper textures for photo cards received higher scores. Some companies quite literally think outside the box with ornament-shaped cards, glitter or foil embellishments, and scalloped or other kinds of borders.

Once the cards arrived, we had a team of people with graphic design and photography experience examine and compare the cards. The logos and brand names were hidden so that they would not affect the testing. For each card, we used the same photo from the same source, and the designers considered how nicely the company reproduced the color and clarity of the photos. They compared these cards with a high-quality print of the original photo. The services with photo reproduction that was the closest to the original photo received the best scores.

Paper quality was a factor as well. All of the high-quality paper samples were printed on nice paper, but some were noticeably thicker. All of the low-quality paper samples were printed on flimsier stock, but some stood out for being sturdier or making the photo look crisper and closer to the original.

Photo Cards

One easy way to create and customize cards for holidays and other occasions is to use photo card services, which often also make photo books and other gifts. You can make unforgettable cards in minutes by simply clicking and dragging on a web-based interface, without downloading anything new onto your computer. Most layouts do not allow for much text, but some allow quite a bit. Photo card pricing usually includes envelopes too, so you can slip a note into any card before mailing it. The price of photo cards varies greatly from company to company, as does the minimum number of cards per order. Photo card services often offer a lot less customization than photo books because you usually cannot rearrange the graphics and artwork as much.

Lisa Mariko, a professional photographer with four years of experience, told us that it’s best to edit your photos at 300 dots per inch (dpi) because it helps them look crisp. When we asked her what improvements she’d like to see in photo card services, she said it would be more convenient if these services allowed you to create your own designs and graphics. This is definitely a great option for creative people. She also warned that many of these sites don't allow you to use foreign characters in your cards, which can be frustrating when you’re writing locations or names.

Mother’s Day Photo Cards

One of the best ways to greet your Mom on her special day is with a personalized Mother’s Day card.

Mixbook and Shutterfly both have plenty of “Mother” themes to choose from, which is nice since many photo card services do not have specific pre-made Mother’s Day themes. If you end up using a service that doesn’t have Mother’s Day themes, keep in mind that you can always choose a card that you like the look of and change the text to make it Mother’s Day oriented.

Once you have your background, fill the card with pictures of grandchildren, siblings or other family members. We recommend choosing a card that allows you to add text to the backside so that you can add a personalized message for your Mother or Mother-like figure. Choosing a foil stamped card can also give it a special touch.

When Should I Order Christmas Cards?

If you’ve ever ordered your greeting cards late in the season, you know that prices may go up and processing times may be longer than usual. To get a more in-depth answer as to when we should order our holiday cards, we reached out to Shutterfly and Mixbook. Representatives at both services said that the peak of the season is between Nov. 10 and Dec. 31. Therefore, it’s best to order your photo cards before Nov. 10. If you want to include a big family photo, you need to factor in how long it will take to get your family together for a photo shoot. Many photographers are busy during the holiday season, so we recommend getting family photos done by late October or early November. This gives the photographer time to touch up any photos before sending them to you. 

There is always the possibility of a printing mistake, whether that be the fault of the printer or the user. As such, try to order your cards with plenty of extra time in case you need to get replacements. Outside of the busy season, it usually takes about three to seven business days for a standard-shipping order to arrive. During the peak season, however, it will probably take longer.

Also consider that, unless you choose a service that can print addresses or mail your cards for you, you need to spend time writing out recipients’ addresses and placing stamps. Depending on how many cards you need to send, this can be very time-consuming, which can be especially inconvenient during the busy holiday season. Then there’s the mailing period before your recipients receive the cards. Considering all of these factors, we suggest ordering your photo cards no later than Dec. 5. To be safe, we advise you to mail your cards no later than Dec. 10. We determined that Shutterfly has the most affordable mailing service of any photo card company we tested, and we suggest having Shutterfly mail your cards for you if you're in a pinch.

How Many Christmas Cards Are Bought Each Year?

Because young people tend to keep in touch with friends on social media rather than through the mail, fewer people are sending traditional greeting cards. But that doesn’t mean the greeting-card industry is dead. According to Southern Living, about 7 billion greeting cards are sold each year. That’s an estimated $7.5 billion in annual retail sales. However, Christmas is not the No. 1 event for card sales; that honor goes to birthdays, which account for 50 percent of all cards sold. In comparison, only a little over 2 billion Christmas cards are sold each year.

According to the Hartford Courant, U.S. households sent an average of 15 holiday cards in 2012. This was the most recent information we could find, and the number has likely fallen since then. The same article says 80 percent of all card purchases are made by women, and most are bought by women over 40. Even though younger generations may not be buying as many cards, they are a beautiful way to celebrate the holidays. Greeting cards make great holiday decorations and let people know you’re thinking about them.

Photo Cards for Weddings & Formal Occasions

The type of paper and envelopes you use affect the look and feel of your cards. Many services offer more than one paper type; glossy and matte photo paper don’t really fit the feel of a formal event, however. According to Pipkin Paper Co., 120-pound cardstock is the gold standard for wedding invitations. Most photo card printing companies feature gold foil cards, which are perfect for save-the-date notices, graduation cards, Christmas cards and party invitations. Some services let you choose the color of the envelopes; the best services offer at least five color options, allowing you to match the cards with your party or wedding colors. The best services also let you select the color of an envelope’s inner lining, which adds a tasteful touch to your invitations.

Digital Photo Cards

Although sending out physical Christmas cards is still a common practice, many people prefer to send electronic greeting cards. Paperless Post and other digital photo card companies offer beautiful selections of designs that look just as nice as those offered by printed photo card services. After you create your card, you simply email it out to your loved ones.

You still pay to use the design. However, sending your card electronically saves money, because you don’t have to pay for paper, shipping or stamps. You also save time because you don’t have to write out the names and addresses on a bunch of envelopes. In addition, you don’t have to run to the mailbox or stand in line at the post office. If you really like Paperless Post’s designs, you can have them printed through Paper Source; the companies partnered to create physical cards. Just be warned that Paper Source is a bit pricey.

Digital Party Invites

Keeping in line with digital invitations, Paperless Post has created Flyer, which allows you to create invitations for casual events such as barbecues, birthday parties and friend get-togethers. The designs range from playful and kitschy to elegant and refined, so you can find graphics and fonts that match the feel of your party. You can choose from multiple backgrounds and stickers to customize your digital cards. 

You can share these invitations via email or text. You can also copy and paste a link to the invite on social media sites. Another advantage of this service is the RSVP feature: When your friends and family members open the link, they can view the time, date and location of your party and RSVP right then and there. As the creator of the invite, you can keep tabs on who is coming, thus helping you plan your food and party needs.

For the DIY-er

If using a service seems a bit pricey, you might be interested in printing your own cards with a photo printer. It’s definitely cheaper, but keep in mind the expense includes the cardstock or photo paper, the envelopes, the stamps and the ink cartridges.

Also, if you want to design your own cards, we recommend using Print Artist Platinum 25 or Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe 2018, both of which received high scores in our greeting card software tests. You can also design your greeting cards online; for this, we suggest using Canva. Canva's graphics and designs are modern and stylish. The most basic plan is free and gives you access to plenty of fonts and art. The software itself is free, but you will likely want to pay for cloud storage because the basic plan includes only 1GB.

Costco Photo Center vs. Sam’s Club Photo

We chose order test cards from Costco Photo Center and Sam’s Club Photo because they are membership-only services. But we have taken the time to compare them side by side to determine the pros and cons of both companies. The companies are comparable, but certain aspects might make you prefer one service to the other. Sam’s Club Photo offers same-day pickup on select products, some of which can be ready within an hour. This option applies mainly to calendar cards, posters, canvases and prints. Photo cards aren’t available for same-day pickup, but they can be purchased for next-day pickup, which is faster than many other services. Costco does not offer same-day orders, so it might not be the best choice if you need your cards in a hurry.

Costco has hundreds of themes and premade designs to choose from. Christmas is the only holiday it covers, but it has wedding-, party- and baby-themed cards. It also has two paper options: premium 120-pound cardstock and photo paper. The cardstock cards are double-sided, which is a nice touch. Costco includes envelopes with printed return addresses with its cardstock cards. Photo-paper cards come with foil-lined envelopes, which look classy. You must order at least 50 cards; it would be better if the service had a lower minimum-order requirement. Fifty photo-paper cards cost only $13.99 before tax, while an order of 50 cardstock cards costs $34.50.

Sam’s Club Photo has designs for many holidays, as well as graduation announcements, wedding announcements and save-the-date cards. Just like Costco, Sam’s Club Photo lets you choose between cardstock and photo-paper cards. The minimum order is 30 photo-paper cards for $10.50 or 25 cardstock cards for $17. This is much better than Costco’s minimum-order requirement. We found the service's online design interface intuitive, so you should be able to create your cards quickly. The cardstock cards are double-sided, with beautiful patterns and designs on the backsides. Like at Costco, photo-paper cards include lined envelopes. Cardstock cards don’t come with lined envelopes, but you can have the return address printed on the envelope flap.

Chatbook Photo Cards

The popular subscription photo book company Chatbooks also allows you to order and purchase photo cards. This service doesn’t cover as many holidays or offer as many features, so it didn’t really compare with the services we tested. However, it is still a great option for many people. You will find plenty of Christmas, birthday and New Year's cards, as well as wedding and party invitations, with this service. The designs are stylish and usually come in a variety of colors. Cards cost as little as $1 per card and come with free return address printed on the envelopes. Just like with its photo books, Chatbooks ships your photo card orders for free. You’re bound to save money using this service compared with many others on the market. However, note that the Chatbooks logo is printed on the back of the cards.

How Much Do Photo Cards Cost?

Photo cards can be expensive, but some companies offer inexpensive options or deals. Most companies require a minimum order of 10 to 25 cards. A pack of 25 cards on cardstock cost us between $18.75 and $73, depending on the company, before tax. Some companies allow you to purchase a minimum of one or two cards at a time, which can cost between $2.68 and $5 per card.

In addition to the number of cards, the final price is determined by the type of design, cut, paper and envelope you select and whether you choose to have the company stamp, address and ship your cards for you. Most companies charge $2.50 to $10 for shipping, and some can charge up to $10 in taxes. To get the best deal, be sure to use any coupons or specials the manufacturer is offering. During busy holiday seasons, you need to purchase your cards early to avoid paying additional money for expedited shipping. The printers will have plenty of orders coming in, which can make your cards take longer to process and ship.

To compare the prices of each service, we created a photo card, choosing the least expensive paper on each site. Without completing the purchase, we looked to see how many cards we could add to our cart without exceeding $35. The total price had to include shipping and tax. Because many services only let you order cards in packs – often packs of 15 to 25 – the number of cards we could purchase varied. Services that allowed us to purchase more cards with this amount of money scored higher in our testing. Some services were too pricey and required you to spend more than $35 to get any cards.

Photo Card Themes

You can always do the regular family photo with everyone in matching sweaters, but if you’re looking for other fun ideas, we’ve got some suggestions:

  • Plan ahead and take a family picture during your summer vacation to the beach, Disneyland or any other travel destination. Not sure where to go this year? Our Travel Sites and Hotel Booking reviews can help.
  • Have everyone pose with something that shows their talents, (i.e. musical instrument, sports equipment, art materials, etc.)
  • Dive into your family history and wear clothing common to your heritage. You might learn more about yourself in the process. If you want help, check out our Genealogy Software reviews.
  • Outfit everyone with their favorite superhero shirt and have everyone strike superhero poses.
  • Go to a local western-themed photo studio and get a sepia colored portrait of everyone dressed up like cowboys and cowgirls. Or you can change a color photo into sepia using photo editing software like Paintshop Pro.
  • Dress up like flappers, musicians, and mobsters from the roaring 20s.
  • Vest yourselves in dresses and tunics from the medieval period or renaissance.
  • Show off your family’s favorite nerdom by dressing like your favorite fictional characters. (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Superheroes, Disney, etc.)
  • Get a photo of your family doing an activity you all enjoy, (going to a football game, boating, horseback riding, bicycling, etc.)

If you’re a humorous family, you might want to consider creating an intentionally cringeworthy, yet funny, photo card that rivals or even mimics the best known awkward family photos. Careful, some pictures on the Awkward Family Photo site might not be considered safe for work.

How Much Are Family Photos?

When putting together a Christmas card, birthday party invitation or greeting card, it’s nice to have brand-new pictures to use. With so many amateur and professional photographers out there, it’s hard to know what you should expect to pay for family photos. According to Angie’s List, beginning photographers are more likely to charge $50 to $100 per session, while professional photographers charge between $350 and $500. Just remember that you get what you pay for. An amateur photographer may be cheaper, but the images they take might not come out as well. Also, keep in mind that established or elite photographers can charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 for their services. Prices vary depending on where you want the session, how long you want the session to last and how busy photographers in your area are. For instance, getting pictures taken close to a busy season, like graduation, could raise the price because photographers will be more in demand.

Why Do Family Photo Sessions Cost so Much?

It takes much more than the click of a shutter button to get beautiful family pictures. For one thing, photographers need professional-grade software and camera equipment, and these tools are not cheap. In fact, your photographer may still be paying off the camera, lenses, and lights that captured your favorite photos.

Also, after your 1-hour photo session, the photographer spends hours touching up your pictures on a computer to get the coloring and contrast just right. In total, your photographer will spend several hours working on your photos to create the finished product.

Finally, being a freelance photographer isn’t easy. These professionals have bills to pay and mouths to feed, regardless of whether they’re booked. We recommend you read this insightful article by Graham to help you understand the costs.

That said, you still want to get a fair price. Shop around before settling on a photographer, and check how their previous work and pricing compare to their competitors'.

Questions to Ask Your Photographer

To make sure you are satisfied with your pictures, you should ask plenty of questions before scheduling a session with a photographer. For example, you may want to ask the following questions:

  • May I see a recent sample of your work? You may not like the photographer's style, and it’s best to find out if that's the case before you make an appointment. Fortunately, most photographers keep an online gallery or blog to showcase their work. Make sure your photographer has been keeping up their craft. Photography, like any other skill, must be maintained. It’s OK to ask when their photos were taken; the more recent, the better.
  • What does a photography session include? Knowing ahead of time exactly what your session covers and includes can prevent unpleasant surprises later on. For example, you’ll want to know how long a session lasts and how many final pictures you will receive.
  • How will I receive the pictures? Some artists post their work directly onto their website for you to download. Others give you a CD, DVD or USB drive. Most photographers are pretty flexible, so be sure to discuss the storage format with your photographer before the shoot so that you get your photos in your preferred format.
  • How much do you charge? Ah, the big question. You’ll definitely be happier if you know beforehand how much money you’ll be putting down. If you think the price is too much, politely ask the photographer to break down the costs. If you aren’t happy with the breakdown, look elsewhere. Just make sure you don’t burn that bridge; you might realize later that the photographer offers the best price.
  • Can you make the photos look like this? If there’s a specific style of photography you’d like to emulate, bring a sample to show your prospective photographer. Your idea may differ from what he or she was planning to do. If the photographer isn’t comfortable with your preferred style, keep looking.

In-Store Photo Studios

Another option is to go to a department store with a photo studio. In 2013, Walmart shut down most of its in-store portrait studios, and Sears closed all of its studios. These closures make it harder to find an affordable in-store location near you. However, JCPenney Portraits is still alive, and a photo session costs roughly $50 to $100. Use the store locator to see where you can schedule your session. These department-store photo shoots are inexpensive because the companies usually don’t hire professional photographers, and the types of backgrounds and lighting are limited. You probably won’t be able to do outdoor photos, either. But if you’re looking for a nice family photo to add to your Christmas card (or other holiday cards), this is a great inexpensive option. In fact, in-store locations usually have holiday themes and backgrounds to match the look and sentiment of your card.

Addressing & Mailing

If you plan to send cards to a lot of people, consider finding a photo card service that allows you to print your return address and the recipients’ addresses directly on the cards. This costs extra, but it will save you time because you won’t have to write out the addresses by hand; once they arrive, all you have to do is stamp and mail them. Some services, like Shutterfly and Simply to Impress, even address and mail the cards for you (for an additional charge). Some photo card printing companies even let you create your own stamps, which add some flair for special occasions. Outside of busy seasons, such as the winter holidays and graduation, it usually takes only three to seven days for an order to be processed and printed. Allow for extra shipping time around major holidays.

Personalized Photo Cards for Every Occasion
Many people use photo card services for Christmas cards, but these companies also have card designs for other holidays and events. As we prepared our photo card reviews, we saw all types of ideas, including some you may not have considered. For example, wedding thank-you cards with photos of the gift recipients smiling give the cards a very personal touch.

Photo card companies offer many designs to fit a wide variety of holidays and occasions, including Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, weddings, adoptions and graduations. If you can't find any cards for a specific holiday or occasion, some services – like Minted and Simply to Impress – can set you up with a designer you can pay to create custom designs. Unfortunately, Mixbook and Shutterfly told us there was no way to request additional themes.

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