When you’re looking for an online photo service, you want one that is convenient, easy to use and offers a balance of flexibility, creativity, quality and reasonable prices. But there are so many photo companies on the web and prices and features vary widely, it can be confusing to know which one to use. Here are some tips on choosing a photo processor.
Digital photo services do a lot more these days than merely print pictures. You can get an amazing variety of products and gifts, including photo books and calendars, greeting cards, stationery, t-shirts and other clothing items, tote bags, mugs, puzzles, large canvas prints and posters, and the list goes on. Shutterfly particularly excels at this and offers a vast range of customized photo gifts.
The better services, however, also offer social media integration. Some sites allow users to upload photos from Flickr or Facebook, create online photo galleries and albums to share your photos with friends. Shutterfly and Snapfish and even offer users their own private sharing site or group room.
There is a surprising diversity of pricing amongst companies, so it pays to check around. On average, it costs between 8 cents to 27 cents for a 4×6 print, which is a pretty big range. However, it is generally a lot less than printing at home, which will run you around 27-50 cents per photo on average, depending on your printer, the cost of the ink cartridges and paper. With online processors, you don’t necessarily have to pay the most to get good quality. There are several services such as Snapfish that offer cheap (9 cents), high quality prints.
A good photo service will print your pictures as close to the original colors as possible with vivid color, avoid over- or under-saturation, and with proper cropping. Some processors, including Shutterfly, will optimize images for balanced color, accurate neutral areas, and proper exposure. Most companies offer a choice of glossy or matte prints and use acid-free archival photo paper.
More and more sites are offering the convenience of in-store pick-up at retail locations. However, if printing is done at the retail partner there may be some quality variation versus having photos processed directly by the digital printing service.
Most online processors offer at least basic editing. Some just offer cropping and red-eye removal while others like Picaboo also feature color and exposure correction. If you think you will need to do more extensive editing, it is best to do that in a dedicated photo editing software program like Adobe Photoshop Elements prior to uploading photos to an online photo service.
Online Photo Storage
Most services will offer you unlimited free photo storage, but most require that you make at least one purchase per year. Shutterfly is one company that does not delete your photos and there is no minimum purchase requirement. A few sites including Snapfish (but surprisingly, not Shutterfly) offer the ability to download your stored photos in full-resolution.
Finding the right photo processor is a matter of deciding what is important to you, whether it be the lowest price or the variety of customized photo gifts, and choosing the company that most closely meets what you are looking for. Fortunately, there are many excellent services that you will be quite happy with. Click here to get reviews.