Printing photos for an exhibition, a client, or a portfolio photo album is a delicate and stressful job. It’s the last step between your photos and the public and it can change everything. Low quality printing can ruin image colors and contrast, add noise, and blur the images. When the photos are badly cut, the subjects on the edges may be awkwardly cropped. Sometimes the ink and paper quality are so bad that the image fades after a short while.
So how can you be sure that you’ve chosen the best photo printing service? A method is to use several of them to print the same photo and decide which one delivers the best quality. But this can be expensive, especially if you choose online photo printing services and pay for delivery every time.
Another method is to make a list of criteria and choose the service that checks most of them. And because photo printing online offers you a wider range of options, let’s focus on this type of services.
Criteria for choosing an online photo printing service
To achieve high quality photo prints you need to pay attention to the following criteria. Some are directly related to printing quality, others are related to printing workflow that in the end also reflects in the final product’s quality.
1. Photo size — If an online photo printing service doesn’t offer the dimensions you need, there’s no reason to use it. Don’t compromise on size (8.5×11’’ and 8×12’’ aren’t the same thing) and don’t change the aspect ratio just for the printing sake. There’re so many photo printing services that you’ll definitely find one that offers the dimensions you want.
2. Paper types — Paper adds its textures and properties to your photos. Based on gallery or client request you may want to use a specific type of paper. Fine art photography usually needs more sophisticated materials, varying from eco-friendly paper to canvas and silk photo paper.
3. Online image quality validation — Some photo printing services validate image quality when you upload your photos. It’s a way to be sure that your photos match printing size and specifications. For example, photo enlargements can cause blurry images if done improperly.
4. Large photo printing — If you need very large prints, make sure the online photo printing service is specialized in working with large photo. Some of them have experts that enlarge photos and make sure you’ll receive high quality photo prints.
5. Quality of Service — While high quality photo prints is the main objective, other features are also important. Price, time and cost of delivery, support, copyright protection, image enhancing service, and a wide range of products are just some of the features you need to consider.
6. Reviews — Happy customers means a job well-done. Try to find out what photo printing service other photographers and gallerists use. Anytime you see a high quality products (photo albums, restaurant menus, advertising, portfolios, etc.) check out where it was printed. Information is knowledge.
While a professional photo printing that offers image enhancing may be appealing, it’s better to retouch your images by yourself. There isn’t a single recipe for a good photograph and photographers have their own artistic vision that can’t be achieved by an external editing service. In addition, these services are rarely free.
Choose a good photo editor and improve the quality of your photos. An image editor like Luminar 3, dedicated to photography and with many smart features, can add magic to your photos in just a few seconds. It’s also less expensive than paying an image retouching service. Luminar 3 has a traditional one-time-pay license and you can download the trial version for free.
Top ten online photo printing services in 2019
The following list is meant to ease your job in finding the best online photo printing service. It covers many types of printing, from holiday cards to fine art photography, from wedding albums to metal prints. High quality photo prints was the only criteria for this list.
At WhiteWall you find very large formats (up to 180×120’’ for some products), high quality prints, and exquisite paper types. For fine art pictures you can decide for UV photo paper (very robust and resistant to temperature changes and water splashes), high gloss paper (ultra smooth and extra rich colors), or Kodak Endura photo paper (high contrast and luminous colors). They also print on metal, canvas, acrylic, and wood, and they can frame your prints.
White Wall has experts that assist you to make the best choice and provides ICC profiles for a consistent color management. They also sell sample packs so you can know exactly the quality and features of their products. WhiteWall is definitely a professional photo printing service you can trust with your pictures.
2. Bay Photo
Bay Photo Lab has been providing photo printing services for over 40 years. Today, it offers online services and an amazing variety of products. Maybe the most appealing of them is the professional photo printing on different materials (paper, metal, canvas, acrylic, and wood). Bay Photo Lab is also a Green Certified Business, for preventing pollution and conserving natural resources.
Bay Photo Lab is an expert in fine art printing and uses high quality archival inks and high-resolution large format inkjet printers. You can choose from more than 60 dimensions, 18 types of paper, many borders and edges, and three display options.
If you’re interested in other types of products, you’ll find at Bay Photo Lab calendars, photo albums, advertising products, business related products, books, cards, photo gifts, and more.
Dedicated to creative photographers, ProDPI has a wide range of interesting products. It provides photographic and fine art prints. You can choose from regular photographic paper, smooth matte for high-contrast and colorful images, torchon for monochrome and warm-toned colors, and velvet for a soft matte watercolor texture. The print sizes go up to 40×60’’.
ProDPI also provides metallic and wood prints, canvases, eco-friendly bamboo panel mounts, and framing services. Cards, photo books, and albums are also available. ProDPI has partnerships with Pixieset, Instaproofs, Pro Image Software, ShootProof, and Swift Galleries to offer you complete professional solutions.
Miller’s offer handcrafted products for professional photographers. It has been providing photo printing services since 1964 and has adapted to technological changes and customer behavior to make sure it delivers high quality photo prints. It still offers film developing and processing.
Today Miller’s offers regular photo prints and giclee prints with seven dye-based inks and premium paper options. It has a team of experienced color technicians that supervise every order and offer advice on color management. It also offers image retouching services, raw image processing, custom design, and custom art services. You can order sample kits to make sure their products match your requirements.
Snapfish is Hewlett-Packard’s online photo printing service and has some of the best prices on the market. In its case, small price doesn’t mean low quality. Snapfish has a wide variety of print sizes and formats, materials (metal, glass, acrylic, and canvas), collages and photo book options. It prints on acid-free paper and guaranties up to 70 years of impeccable photos.
Snapfish is a popular service with great reviews. It offers high quality photo prints to any user and it’s not exclusively dedicated to photographers and designers. Fine art photographers may miss a specific type of paper or large prints (the largest format available is 20×30’’), but for everything else Snapfish is a good choice.
Amazon’s photo printing service is a popular choice, with worldwide delivery, and good reviews. Amazon Prints is accessible and reliable. It has a lot of products, a slick interface, and seems to have sales all year long.
A photographer may be interested in printing materials that cover three types of paper, canvas, wood, acrylic, and metal. Amazon Prints doesn’t make prints larger than 20×30’’ but it guaranties accurate color representation and long lasting high quality prints.
7. Mimeo Photos
Mimeo Photos is an extension for Apple Photos that allows you to create photo books, cards, and calendars. More than a printing service, this is a complex application, with design features, effects and image enhancing tools, and full synchronization with Apple Photos. Mimeo Photos is recommended by Apple, who discontinued its photo printing service in 2018.
Mimeo Photos eliminates any copyright concern because you don’t have to upload images on a website. It works directly with Apple Photo app and sends the final product to printing. In addition, Apple users will find it extremely familiar and convenient. Still, Mimeo Photos lacks the variety of products a fine art photographer might need and it doesn’t offer enough print sizes.
Walgreens has a lot of good reviews. It’s in top best online photo printing services because it offers high quality services for regular users and provides a wide range of prints, cards, photo books, and gifts.
Walgreens isn’t specialized in fine art photo prints. The largest print format you can find here is 8×8’’ and you can only choose between matte and glossy paper. But it does provide canvas and wood prints, posters up to 24×36’’, and photo books with several cover options.
9. York Photo
York Photo is also a provider for professional photographers and home users. It offers prints and posters with good sizes, metallic look paper, collages, canvas prints, framing services, cards, journals, and photo books.
York Photo guarantees long-lasting prints and provides templates and design tools. It’s a low priced choice for professional photo prints but York Photo doesn’t compromise on quality.
Extremely popular, Shutterfly is considered one of the best online photo printing services. It offers creative ideas, templates, and design tools that match any artistic vision. With Shutterfly you can print photos, cards, photo books, collages, posters, calendars, and many others.
The largest format available is 20×30’’ but the landscape photographers will appreciate the panorama formats 5×15’’, 8×24, and 12×36’’. You can choose from four paper types, canvas and metal prints. Shutterfly offers free backprinting so you can annotate your images with any key information you want.
Choosing the best online photo printing service becomes easy if you consider the main criteria to accomplish your artistic vision. Order sample kits if you aren’t sure of provided quality and contact support team to have all your questions answered. Pay attention to image resolution and ICC profiles. It’s always a better idea to edit your pictures by yourself. Investing in a professional image editor is less expensive than paying for this service.