I've been meaning to do this experiment forever, since I couldn't help but feel that my default picture printing at Costco was the less-than-desirable route for memory keeping. Then last week so many of you responded to the photo organization element to my frantic nesting.
In the next couple of weeks I'll lay out exactly how I manage the hundreds of pictures I take each month, but first I wanted to figure out the best way to print said photos. Since storing them on your computer is nice, but holding them in your hand is better.
Here was what was important to me:
-Ease of website (uploading, ordering)
-White border option
-Matte/Lustre finish (as opposed to a glossy finish)
-Auto Correct option on or off
EXPERIMENT: I chose 8 photos that had been taken in the last year. I chose pictures taken with different cameras, three of them from non-amateurs so that I couldn't blame myself for any strange color or focus issues. I ordered the same 8 prints from these places on a Friday night, and selected the cheapest option for shipping. Here's how it stacked up:
I was really impressed with the speed and ease of Snapfish. I had a coupon, so I uploaded a huge chunk of pictures as a separate order from the experiment order. We're talking 200 prints and they went up quickly and easily.
Autocorrect: Yes it let me turn it off
White thin border: Yes
Cost: $.09 each, my total with 3-5 business day shipping was $1.48
Shutterfly was equally easy and quick to upload.
Autocorrect: No, or I couldn't find it if it was an option.
White thin border: No
Random pro: Gave me 30 minutes after I ordered to cancel
Cost: $.15 each, but it automatically applied a first time user credit. Total with 3-7 business day shipping was $1.79
The uploading process at Costco photo seemed archaic in comparison to Snapfish and Shutterfly. Once navigated, they loaded as quickly (under 2 minutes) but it was definitely not as smooth or intuitive.
White Thin Border: Yes
Arrived: I picked them up at the location just a few minutes from my house. So it was immediate (well, within the hour).
Cost: $.13 each, but without shipping charges. My total was $1.10
MPix was definitely the most professional site I tried, recommended to me on twitter by several photographers I trust, including Miz Booshay.
Not quite as user-friendly as Snapfish and Shutterfly, but easier than Costco. At least it was after the upload plugin failed three times.
White thin border: Yes
Arrived: Friday (a full week after ordering)
Random pro: Gave me 30 minutes to cancel after ordering
Cost: A whopping $.73 each ($.44 of which was the lustre coating)
Shipping ranged from $3 for 1st Class USPS to Next Business Day for $10.75 (reasonable). I chose the cheapest (and clearly slowest), so my total was $8.84.
And now for the proof of quality:
Right away, Shutterfly was out for two big reasons: no white border option and the colors looked significantly different than from the other places. You can see it best in the black and white, where it has a yellow tinge that borders on light sepia.
So that left the other three. I could see (but just barely) that the colors from the Mpix prints were the most accurate.
After weighing all the pros and cons, I had a clear winner for my everyday printing:
It was the cheapest, hit all my major points, and I liked the web interface the best. It also offers frequent coupons (the one I took advantage of at the same time was 200 prints for $2!) This outcome really surprised me.
For something immediate, Costco stood up just fine, so it will remain a decent option for me.
For large prints, gifts, or things deemed precious, I was glad to discover Mpix. But for daily prints, the price difference is just too much to be ignored.
Consider me a newly converted Snapfish customer!