Last month on the blog I talked about why you should print more photos instead of leaving them all on your computer. Last week we started talking about where to get them printed, to get the best quality print. This post originally appeared in my newsletter in its entirety. Go here for part one of the post, where last week we talked about print quality and paper. This is part two:
4. Price. Because after quality, that’s what matters most (right?), especially if you’re printing a bunch of images. The company with the best price got 10 points. Walmart’s 4×6 prints were the least expensive at 9 cents. That’s really hard to beat, but with free shipping, Target came in nearly a dollar under because of the price of the 8×10’s. The prices were all over the place though. Look:
The asterisk beside Target’s Free Shipping is because they were doing a post-holiday free-shipping deal to get people to print their holiday photos. They may not have been the cheapest if I hadn’t gotten that deal.
Ten points for pricing to
5. Shipping time and protection. Because I want my pictures, dangit! I chose standard shipping for each company. How long does it take to get from ordering to shipping? How long does the company’s “standard shipping” take? How long from the moment of ordering to the moment of delivery? This is taking into account that orders were placed NOT during holiday rush time for the company or the mail system. Also part of this evaluation is the condition of the packaging and photos when they arrive. While I know the company can not factor in delivery company shenanigans (I’m looking at you, USPS), they should know the correct way to package their products so they arrive undamaged. Fastest/best shipper got 10 points.
So here’s the deal with the shipping. Either I ordered it wrong (very possible), or Richmond Camera read my order wrong and just called me when it was ready because they have my info on file. Either way, my order was not shipped, but was ready for me to pick up less than 48 hours after I placed the order online, and that includes a Sunday in the middle during which they don’t print or work. I’m only disappointed because it threw off my tally. RC is 4 blocks from my office, so I can walk over during lunch and get anything I need. Nevertheless, they’re DQ’d because they didn’t mail the prints to me. Mpix had the best shipping time, and they slip each print into a plastic sleeve to protect it from getting fluids. It did not, however, protect against my mail carrier, who despite the cookies I slipped her for Christmas, managed to bend the package nearly in half to jam it into the mailbox. Can’t blame them for that, because she muscled the hard cardboard package like the Hulk, but the 8×10 print is definitely messed up. I would have been upset if I was planning to hang it in my house.
Mpix gets 10 points for shipping and packaging. USPS gets -10 points for their treatment of something that’s stamped “Do Not Bend.”
Tallying the results: Nations printed the color best, and had the best paper (which Target also uses on its smaller prints). Richmond Camera gave the best options for printing without cutting off the edges of the print. Target was the cheapest, but to be fair, they were all pretty cheap. Mpix got an A for effort for their packaging and their shipping time. Walgreens got an F for their shipping time – I nearly forgot about it by the time it got to me (2 weeks from the time I ordered to the time it arrived? Ridiculous.) I didn’t list Nations Pro Lab in the pricing or the shipping categories, because I ordered the Nations prints last fall, and can’t remember how long it took for them to get to me. Plus, I just need to keep the price of my pro prints to myself. Suffice it to say they would not have won the pricing challenge.
Overall, Richmond Camera got 20 points, for photo quality and available printing options. Target got 20 points for paper type and price. Mpix got 10 points for packaging and shipping time.
The Takeaway, aka, TL;DR: Print your photos. Understand that your images may not come out exactly the same as they appear on your computer (part of that could be your computer monitor’s calibration as well), and aim for the best quality and longest-lasting prints you can, so that you, your children, and your children’s children can love and appreciate the images you fill your home with. Of the companies profiled in this study, that would be Richmond Camera.
If this article did more to confuse you than to help you, drop me a comment below and ask me anything. I’ll be bringing this set of images to my next Coffee & Consultation on March 22, so you can come by and see and touch the prints in person.