What the best
digital photo printing services have
For the most
part, all digital photo printing services offer the same features. Where the
differences lie is in user experience and details. Other than simple personal
preferences for site navigation and features, here are a few things you'll want
to consider before deciding which is most vital for your needs.
cost. You'll almost always spend less on your photos
using commercial service than you would by printing at home, but there are wide
price differences between services. Check out retail discount offers, shipping
prices and costs for items other than basic prints.
storage limits (or no limit). Our top picks, Snapfish and Shutterfly, offer
free unlimited online photo storage. SmugMug charges an annual fee, but also
has unlimited storage of high-resolution files. Note that some services, like
Kodak Gallery, will delete your photos if you don't buy a specified number of
prints or products within a certain time frame.
editing. Some users prefer to use their camera's software,
or any number of photo-editing programs like Photoshop Elements or iPhoto, to
manipulate photos before uploading them for printing. If you don't have access
to these tools, you'll want to find a photo printing service with robust online
photo-editing capabilities. Most offer simple adjustments like red-eye
correction, cropping and rotating, but there are also sites that allow you to
adjust color, contrast, brightness and spot healing, and add effects like
captioning and filters.
gifts. Most online services will let you print your
images onto calendars, coffee mugs, photo books, stickers, mouse pads, cards
and invitations, but if you're looking for a more specialized item like a
jigsaw puzzle, T-shirt or playing cards, make sure you choose a site that can
do this for you.
before you go
Do you have photo-editing software? Most experts agree that photo-editing
software is more effective than the online tools available on a digital photo
service. You'll get better results if you tweak your photos before you upload them
for printing. See our report on photo editing software for our top picks.
Can you calibrate your monitor? Don't expect a photo service to fine-tune
the quality of your images. Unless you are using a professional lab and paying
for color correction and retouching, what you submit for printing is what you'll
get back. You should calibrate your computer's monitor to match the color
output from your photo printing service. A simple way to do this is by holding
a sample photo from the first set of prints you receive from the digital photo
service up to your monitor, and adjusting the color to match as closely as
possible. The photo-enthusiast website CambridgeInColour.com offers a useful
tutorial on monitor calibration.