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Online photo printing recommendations

Discussion in 'Photography Issues' started by Larry Peterson, Mar 4, 2016.

  1. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    I have some JPGs that I would like to have printed and then frame them for myself. They are in the 12x18 size range; photos and posters. I don't have a high quality printer so I took a quick look online and saw a zillion places for printing online. Everything from Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walmart, Walgreen's, FedEx Office, etc, etc, etc.

    Any recommendations for a place that does high quality printing. My walls are waiting. :)
  2. CB Art & Framing

    CB Art & Framing SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Costco can be good.
  3. DVieau2

    DVieau2 PFG, Picture Framing God

    Ok, I'll make a few heads explode here.

    After 30 years of photofinishing I now have a pretty high regard for Costco, Walmart and Sams.

    I like these guys because I can pick up at the store. Also.... the quality parameters of photo printing is controlled by the Manufacturer trained engineers ( Usually Fuji). These guys are good.! This also means the unskilled technicians are button pushers only and if a machine is out of parameter they stop until it's fixed.

    Consistency from day to day and size to size is the most important thing.

    Here's how to get the most out of your project:
    Do your own sizing so you don't run into aspect ration issues. ( (#1 problem in any lab)
    Send all orders to be printed without color control. (A feature they have for pros)
    Then send a test print for 4x6 This will cost 19 cents.
    Go home and fine tune your image in photoshop and send it again.
    Maybe another 4x6 or if little work is needed go for the big print.

    No guarantees of perfection but it works pretty darn well.
    Oh.... and be nice to the staff no matter what the result.

    Paul Cascio, FramerKat and cvm like this.
  4. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    One thing to keep in mind is some of the sources offer specific sizes so you need to do a little work to fool the system. Costco here offers 20x24 but not 18x24 so if you hand them an 18x24 file it will expand the 18 to 20 and crop the ends. I have customers who use them create a solid black canvas in PS and then drag the 18x24 on top of that so it won't expand and crop their photo. Wal-Mart now acts as a fulfillment service for many of the online sources so you place the order through brand X and the printing is done by WM and shipped to you with brand X label on it.

    When I order ink for one of my Epson printers it is one or two cartridges. When the large sources order ink it is a thousand of one, 4,000 of another 15,000 of another and so on. If you are using truly ready to print files the big guys provide excellent results because they are printing a million photos for every one the small custom shops print. When you need custom work you are best served by the independents who can make the adjustments you need.
    Carmichael likes this.
  5. snafu

    snafu MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Carmichael likes this.
  6. stcstc

    stcstc SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    actually a lot of the LARGE places don't use ink. there lab prints they do are C-type prints, i.e. wet lab. using RA4 paper and chemicals

    the cost per print is massively cheaper than ink based (dry labs) when your doing volume
  7. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    The Costco here still has one Fuji wet system in use and the prices are dirt cheap with the prints being total garbage.
    caliguy37 likes this.
  8. stcstc

    stcstc SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    the fuji system works well if the person using it knows how to. generally the issue is crappy maintenance and bad user input :)
    FramerKat likes this.
  9. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    The one they are using here is very old and it produces the sticky, prone to fading prints. The only reason they keep it in service is to sell 20x24 prints for less than $4.
  10. DVieau2

    DVieau2 PFG, Picture Framing God

    I've used Costco with good results. All aspects of the process are checked in the morning and of anything is out of tolerance they shut down till it's fixed.
    Have you ever noticed how often these places are off line.:)

    Not sure what you mean by sticky and prone to fading? Next time your in look for the model.

    Fuji has been producing RA4 print processors for 30 plus years and believe it or not the print that spits out of the end is essentially the same. Yes, from film or digital the RA4 paper and process hasn't changed much. Now the printing....that another story.

  11. Jeff Rodier

    Jeff Rodier SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    The Fuji printer they have in service uses 20 inch rolled paper. The paper is glossy but it is very tacky to the touch and the quality of the prints is very poor. They also have high quality printers in this same store but the cost the better quality printing is 250% of the Fuji. I'm not a member of Costco so I haven't checked out the model but the Local Sams Club and several of the Wal-Mart locations here are using several new models of the Epson printers. These are all walk in service so it has nothing to do with any online shipped prints.

    We have 8 Wal-Marts plus a Sams Club within a 25 mile radius here and each location has a different assortment of printers in the store.
  12. Daniel Smith

    Daniel Smith Grumbler

    Doing Photo workshops and seeing prints people bring for critique sessions has given me more experience with some labs than I want at times. I can pick out Shutterfly prints most of the time and it is not because of their high quality.
    My experience comes from doing custom B&W printing as well as Cibachrome/Ilfochrome custom printing using contrast masking.
    I like the work from Bay Lab and White House Custom Color these days in the US. Others are good as well but I have found consistent results I like with these. In Canada, Bob Carnie Printmaking and Elevator Lab, both in Toronto do good work.
    WalMart and the like have good machines but individual help is too often not sufficiently interested to get the best from them.
    A lot depends on what you are looking for in quality.
    Top quality and individual attention take more time and experience. Going with a professional lab is worth it to me for many prints I don't do myself. I usually do a few prints so the lab and I are 'on the same page' with quality, color balance and communication. That is worth more to me than quickie results from places where quality is hit and miss.
  13. Cheri Sharp

    Cheri Sharp Grumbler in Training

    Go to a pro lab, or find a photographer that can get them printed for you professionally.
  14. njw1224

    njw1224 CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    As a pro photographer, I would avoid the big box photo departments and go with a more professional lab. Mentioned earlier was Bay Lab, Millers, White House Custom Color, and I would add Adoramapix. They all do consistently good work, on pro-grade photo papers. That is a big plus. If you go to your local big box or 1-hr photo department, they will be using consumer grade paper on somewhat poorly calibrated equipment (the equipment technician can't be there every day to keep it calibrated). Pro-grade paper has better contrast and color qualities. They also calibrate their equipment daily to keep it in tune. And as someone else pointed out, choose "do not color adjust my images" when you order, as long as your computer monitor gives you a pretty good rendering of what you want your images to look like. As soon as you let any lab color correct your images, your at the mercy of someone (possibly minimally trained) deciding the color and contrast of your photos. I've never had good luck letting the lab adjust my photos.
  15. Mike Labbe

    Mike Labbe Member, Former moderator team volunteer

    A good percentage of framers have wide format printers that use archival inks. If you dont find a lab, i'm sure one of us would be glad to do it for ya.
  16. samcrimm

    samcrimm CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    I have used Richmond Labs and they a great job on Aluminum for me. I print all my images with my Epson 7800.
  17. Myrna

    Myrna CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    What Mike Labbe said. There must be a number of framers in your area that can do large format digital printing. We print and I guarantee our colors and sizes are much better than what any of the box stores can produce. We have had side by side comparisons and the difference is amazing. If possible, it is great to support our industry.
  18. Mark A. Wallenfang CPF

    Mark A. Wallenfang CPF CGF, Certified Grumble Framer

    After being in the photo lab business for over 35 years, I recommend you find a locally owned photo lab or a reputable online lab that still prints silver halide prints or even a better quality print (Giclee). DO NOT get prints from the big box photo departments, including the drug stores, especially if you're going to frame them. There isn't a day that doesn't go by in my shop where I'm reprinting something done by one of these places, especially if I'm framing it. The big box photo departments will not be able to tell, if you ask, how long their prints will last without fading. And I believe they know but they just say they don't or they're not sure because the quality is not that great.
  19. KevinAnnala01

    KevinAnnala01 True Grumbler

    I specialized in printing my own photographs before starting to print for others. I wouldn't touch a big box store with my own work, and can tell you that I crush the quality of anything coming out of a lab based on my own experiences that drove me to do my own printing. I'd recommend working with a local fine art printer. Any printing processes coming out of chains are going to be garbage bottom end.
  20. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    I took a look at what is available locally; not much. There is a FastSigns and FedEx Office here. I'm in the FedEx site almost every day.
    Does anyone have any experience with either of these. Are they in the carp BigBox category or something better?
  21. KevinAnnala01

    KevinAnnala01 True Grumbler

    FedEx delivers packages. I would maybe print office documents with them if I had to. Sign shops, in a lot of cases, will specialize in signs, and in most cases will use a different printing process, so no. If you can't find anything locally, look for a place that does free shipping. Some do over a certain order amount....
  22. MarkyW

    MarkyW SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Larry, if you want local and quality, there is PPS - Professional Photographic Services. I haven't used them in a long time because they were a bit pricey, but then people say the same thing about picture framing.

    I usually get my own art photography printed at either Adoramapix or Nations Photo Lab, both are online places. Get the color correction because then they guarantee that it will look good or reprint it. I did have a little problem with both of them, however, getting ready for a small exhibit of my stuff, although I plan on staying with them unless more problems occur.
  23. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    I have driven by there before. I remember looking at their website (just re-looked at it to confirm). It's something out of the 90s and the bad 90s at that. I figured someone with such a horrendous website can't be much of a printer. Besides the look and fell there are a number of bad links and site errors.

    But what kind of judge am I. See for yourself. http://www.wbpps.com/

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