Should You Print Your Digital Photos at Home or Use a Photo Printing Service?

There are lots of options available for getting your digital photos printed, but which method is the best and most economical choice for you? Let’s look at some of the options and the pros and cons of each.

PRINTING YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS AT HOME

Convenience and instant gratification are two popular reasons for printing your digital photos at home. Depending on your printer, you can print directly from your camera or from your memory card in most cases. Or if you want to touch up your photos first you can copy them to your computer, use your photo editing software (I like Photoshop Elements 3.0) to enhance your images, and then print right from your graphics program. You don’t have to make an extra stop to drop off your photo memory card at the photofinisher or drugstore and then return to pick up your prints, and you save the shipping fees the online photo services charge.

However, printing your photos on your home printer may be more expensive than you realized. The per-print price can approach $1 per picture when you factor in the cost of buying a photo printer, high quality photo paper and lots of color ink cartridges. If you print a lot of photos you’ll go through ink cartridges and paper rather quickly, which gets expensive, especially if you make mistakes and have to reprint. If you use inexpensive or off-brand paper, you will likely find that your photos may start to fade or discolor within a few months. According to industry experts, if you print at home, use the same brand name paper as your printer manufacturer (i.e. if you have a Canon printer, use Canon photo paper). Your prints will be better quality and last longer.

USING AN ONLINE DIGITAL PHOTOFINISHER

Online digital photofinishers like Ofoto and the new PhotoWorks make the process of printing your photos very easy. You can edit your photos either using your own photo editing software or download free software from the online line printing service to crop, fix red-eye, and add special effects or borders to your images. Then simply select the images you want to print, click to upload to the photo site, and you will receive your order, printed on high quality photo paper, in your mailbox in approx. 2-5 days. In addition to prints you can order customized photo calendars, photo cards, photo books, mugs, and other photo items. With some online services, like Shutterfly, you can even try out and order frames for your photos.

The downside: you do pay a shipping charge, so you may want to wait and order a number of photos or photo products at one time to make it more economical. Print costs for 4×6 inch photos range from about 19 cents to 29 cents, depending on the company.

Wal-Mart.com’s prints are inexpensive and the bonus is you can upload your photos to their website and then pick them up at your local store and avoid shipping charges. Photo stores like RitzCamera.com or WolfCamera.com are also good options because you can either upload your photos to their website and pick them up at a local store in as little as an hour, or you can drop off your memory card at the store and pick up your prints later.

PRINT YOUR PHOTOS AT THE DRUGSTORE

Digital printing is now available at drugstore chains such as Walgreens and Longs. You can bring in your memory stick and use their photo kiosk to crop and edit your images and then print them. The cost is about the same as an online printing service, but you have to stand there at the kiosk and edit/upload your photos. Not something I really want to do, nor do I want to wait in line while someone else finishes their photo order. The good news is these drugstores also offer online photo services so you can upload your photos to their website and you can pick up your prints at their store usually the next day.

The other option is you can drop off your memory card or CD at the drugstore’s photo department and pick up your prints anywhere from an hour later to a day later, depending on the service selected, just like the “old days” of 35mm film. The print cost is about the same as full service online photo finishers (less the shipping fee). There are frequent sales, so the per-print cost can be relatively low if you hit a sale, but you don’t have the option of cropping or enhancing your images unless you edit your photos then burn them to a CD first.

My suggestion is to experiment with several methods and find the best one that works for you. Whatever you do, don’t just let all those digital photos pile up in your memory card or on your computer, get them printed so you can show them off. Of course you can also share them online with family and friends, but that’s another article.

Printing on Matte or Glossy Digital Photo Printing Paper

When printing digital photos you have a choice between matte and glossy photo prints. Glossy photo prints have a shiny finish while matte ones have a more subtle neutral one. So which one should you choose? There is no right answer – there are pros and cons to both.

Matte and glossy are two different finishes to the photo paper digital photos are printed on. Using different chemicals and processes photo paper can have a glossy or a matte finish. Glossy finish looks shiny, reflects light very well and looks vibrant and color rich. Matte finish on the other hand does not reflect much light and looks “darker” and duller.

There are pros and cons to choosing either matter or glossy digital photo prints. Here are some of them:

Glossy photo prints: Glossy photo prints are shiny and are more appealing to the eye. They look fancy and convey a high quality feeling. Glossy photo prints have vibrant colors. Colors also look rich and deep on glossy photo prints. On the downside glossy photo prints “shiny” attribute can be a problem when photos are viewed using intense light sources such as daylight sun or strong light bulbs. Light reflected from the photo print can blind the viewer making it hard to see the photo. Glossy paper is also more likely to attract dust and fingerprints and is thus more likely to get dirty over time. Black and white glossy photo prints do not look as good as matte ones.

Matte finish: Matte photo prints do not reflect light and are thus easier to view at almost any light condition. Matte photo prints are also less likely to attract dust and fingerprints and are less likely to get dirty over time. Black and white matte photo prints look better than black and white glossy photo prints. On the downside matte photo prints do not have the fancy high quality look that glossy photo prints have. Colors in matte photo prints are less vibrant and less rich than on glossy photo prints.

So which one to choose – matte or glossy? It really depends on your needs and what you are going to do with the photo prints. As a general rule use glossy photo prints for color prints and matte photo prints for black and white ones. If the photo prints are going to be touched by many people and used a lot matte is a better choice unless you do not mind spending time cleaning your glossy photo prints every now and then. Also if you plan to print large photos (for example to hang on the wall or frame and put on your desk) matte is a better choice since a large glossy print would act as a large glossy and shiny light reflector.

As with many other choices a matter or glossy choice is a matter of personal preference. To make an educated decision you should have experienced both. If you do not have that experience you can choose a few photos some color and some black and white and print them both on matte and on glossy paper and in different sizes. Look at the prints and see what you like and what you do not like about them. In the future you would be able make better choices by applying that experience.

Free 4×6 Photo Prints – 1,475 Prints From Ten Companies!

Do you have dozens, or even hundreds of photos languishing on your hard drive or memory cards? Did you ever want to get them printed, but think you would go broke trying? What if I told you you could get all those prints (and more) for free? It is amazing, but true. There are lots of photo printing businesses that are willing to give you free 4×6 photo prints, just for trying their service!

There are generally some caveats, the primary one being that you must be a brand-new customer of a given service in order to get these first-time bonuses. The great news is that there are so many of these offers, you are bound to find at least one in this list that you have not yet signed up with. The other caveat is that you generally must pay shipping in order to receive your prints, even though the prints themselves are free. This still usually turns out to be a good deal, as the price of shipping is generally far less than the cost of both printing and shipping. In this article, I will give you the top ten offers available today, as well as the cost-per-print of each offer, in order to make it simple for you to compare your options.

10. Hoorray has an unique offer among photo printing sites, designed to keep you coming back: 20 free 4×6 photo prints per month, and varying sign-up incentives from 0 to 75 free prints, depending upon whom you sign up through. The stipulations on the 20 free prints per month offer include requiring that all 20 prints be redeemed at the same time and on the same order, and remaining prints, if unused, may not be rolled over to the next month. Unlike other online services, which generally ship via the Postal Service, Hoorray’s least expensive shipping option is UPS/FedEx Ground, so to ship 20 prints it costs $6.69. This works out to a cost-per-print of 33.5 cents, so I would not recommend taking advantage of this offer unless you can locate a site or coupon code that will give you the 75 free prints to sign up.

9. Dotphoto offers 20 free photo prints for signing up, and their shipping charges are $3.34 for sending 20 prints. So your final cost-per-print through them is 13 cents.

8. Snapfish credits you with 20 free 4×6 photo prints when you first upload, and shipping costs $1.97. Note that there are other ways to sign up for Snapfish that will give you more free credits to start with; for example, if you have a friend who is already a member, you can have them send you an invitation, and when you accept, both you and your friend will get 50 free prints credited to your account. Assuming you start with the 20-print deal, however, your cost-per-print will be 9.9 cents.

7. Clark Colorlabs provides 20 free photo prints, and charges shipping of $1.97. Given the look and feel of this site, I strongly suspect it is operated by Snapfish. However, it does require a separate registration process, so you should can take advantage of the free print offer even if you are already a Snapfish member. The cost-per-print on this offer comes out to be 9.9 cents.

6. York, like Clark Colorlabs, appears to be operated by Snapfish. Thus they offer the same 20 free 4×6 photo prints, with corresponding $1.97 shipping, giving you a cost-per-print of 9.9 cents.

5. SeeHere is currently offering 50 free prints; to take advantage of this offer, you must use code “prints-6” (without the quotation marks) at checkout. Shipping for these first 50 prints will cost $3.19, or about 6.4 cents per print.

4. Shutterfly gives you 50 free photo prints for starters, and shipping charges are a mere $2.99 if you print them all at once. This comes out to a mere six cents per print.

3. ArtsCow offers a whopping 1,200 free 4×6 photo prints to new members, the catch being that you can only receive 100 of these prints per month, and that these print credits expire after a year. Still, if you have lots of photos waiting to be printed, this is an excellent deal – just be sure to remind yourself each month with a note in your calendar, so that you do not waste your monthly print allowance. Shipping costs $5.99 per 100 prints, which matches Shutterfly’s cost-per-print of six cents.

2. If you have a CVS Pharmacy near you, you are in luck! CVS offers 50 free prints to all new members with free shipping to the nearest store when your order total is over five dollars. In order to bring your order total up to five dollars, you will need to print 34 more prints (for a total of 84). This will cost you $5.10, which works out to an average cost-per-print of six cents. If you do not have a CVS nearby, you still have the option is to have your prints shipped to your door, though as with any offer where shipping is involved, it will be more expensive. For 50 prints, this would cost $3.99 for shipping and handling, plus CVS adds a surcharge of $1.49 to any orders which are not at least five dollars. Total: $5.48, or roughly 11 cents per print.

1. If you are fortunate enough to have a Ritz or Wolf Camera nearby, make sure you look into Ritzpix; they offer 25 free 4×6 photo prints, and also allow you to pick them up free. An extra bonus to this site is that it only takes one hour (depending upon order volume at your local store – I would recommend calling ahead before driving over) from the time you order online to the time you can pick up. If you do not live near a store, and must have them shipped, it should cost roughly $1.99. Thus your final cost-per-print would be eight cents.