With the world of photography (seemingly) inexorably switching to digital (did you know Kodak no longer makes film cameras? Nikon either, except for one very expensive professional SLR), there’s the everpresent question of what to do with all those files. And specifically, how to get prints made from them.
Why get prints made? I think most people can probably see the point to it, but with digital you really have to make a concentrated effort to keep up with it, otherwise you never have a hard copy around. Basically the more copies you have of something, in the digital world, the better. There are, of course, the usual possible technical disasters — crashing hard drive, bad CD or DVD or memory card — and also the not-quite-so-usual — fires, natural disasters, what if your computer or camera were stolen? As a scrapbooker, it’s way easier for me to get something done if I have the physical photo in front of me when deciding what to work on next; just not having to turn the computer on and risk getting sucked into the Abyss that is the Internet is an important consideration. (Of course there’s always digital scrapbooking, but that’s another discussion for another time.)
The beauty of digital photography of course is that you don’t have waste money printing the bad shots, just the ones you like and want. But for goodness sake, do print them! In a recent article I read a child psychologist’s opinion, on how a child might feel, wondering why there are pictures of his/her older siblings around, but not him/herself. Of course there are pictures, they’re just all on the computer. I wouldn’t want to get hysterical about that idea, but I do think there’s nothing quite like being able to physically touch something. Especially in our increasingly plugged-in world. BUT ANYWAY.
Some people go the home printer route. I don’t have a photo printer per se, though my all-in-one does very decent printouts, and I do use it occasionally, especially for unusual or large sizes. But ink (and photo paper) is awfully expensive, not to mention the longevity issue — I’ve had family members who printed their photos on the home printer and had problems with the color altering in less than a year. Even just the price issue: most things I’ve read indicate that home printing usually comes out to be around 0.25-0.29 per photo. Also there’s the time it takes… and I have A LOT of photos. So for me, I thought it prudent to (for the most part) go another route.
I tried a lot of the different online places, getting the free prints and so on to compare and see what I liked. (If you wanted to do this more scientifically than I did, you would get one or two of the exact same photos from each service. But I’m not that anal… at least not this time. Here’s a review where someone did just that — I must add that I read this after I had pretty much settled on Winkflash myself. Ah, the validation.)
I recently tried our local Walgreens, didn’t care for it too much. Didn’t like the way they did the automatic color correcting, which is also an issue for me with some other places — stuff coming out too dark, or yellowy.) Sometimes I use Costco one hour, but only for less than 20 prints that (for whatever reason) I need right away. (If you use the online upload for Costco, you can ask that it turn off the autocorrection. But you still have to deal with the cropping to 4×6 — see below.)
My personal preference is Winkflash. Here are the top reasons:
- No limits of space for your uploaded photos. Also they don’t delete them if you don’t buy something within a certain time period, etc, as with some places. I think of it, frankly, as another backup for all my photos, since I upload them by month.
- You can order regular or “digital size” prints; 4×6 or 4×5.3, the same price. I love this option because I tend to take a lot of closeups, and so when they have to be cropped to make a 4×6 print it cuts off bits I didn’t WANT cut off and makes me cranky. Also, they automatically print the name of the file (and a short note, if you enter it in) on the back of the photo, which is awesome for me since my camera has a date file naming system, so I always know the date of each photo.
- I have loved the quality on every print I’ve received from them. They have a satisfaction guarantee, and they specify in their faq that they use “Fuji paper and chemistry” to develop the photos. I don’t know a lot about how this works (something I need to look into), but it certainly sounds more impressive than just my home printer. They also don’t do any kind of automatic correction to your photos, so if you play with them on your computer yourself, that could be good. You can also get glossy or matte finish, and add a white border around the photo. The cropping interface could be a little more user-friendly, but I almost never HAVE to crop a photo now, since they have the digital aspect ratio size. They also have the option to just “inset” the photo, if (on a scan, for example) it doesn’t fit the default sizes and you don’t want it cropped.
- If you have a slow internet connection, like I did when I started using winkflash, they have an option that could be helpful: if you ask they will send you a CD, you put photos on it, then send it back (postage paid by them, I believe) and then they will upload those photos to your account and send you a print of each (or doubles, if you request it)
- You can easily share (with a password) an album, and email people you want to have see it. It doesn’t put as much emphasis on the sharing aspect as some sites (like kodakgallery, etc) but it’s available. The people you share with can also download the full size file if they want to.
- And then, also, I love the price: 0.12 per photo (4x6s) and 0.99 shipping, no matter how many you order. We have thousands of photos on our computer now, and I decided it was really time to get serious about getting prints (after all, it’s so much more fun to look through photos and be able to scrap them RIGHT NOW). So now I’m budgeting about $20 per month for photos (at least till I get a bit caught up), and for that I can get about 160 prints. Still with the 99 cents shipping, which just really rocks. (They also have decent prices on other sizes — 5×7 for 0.29, and so on.)
- I also love their uploading interface, I think you have to download some driver to get started with it, but it rocks. The only drawback is that you can’t use Firefox with it — it’s one of the few sites I still visit using IE. (If you’re not using Firefox you should try it for free. It’s better, better, better. You can use tabs instead of having a zillion windows open, and it’s better for security, avoiding viruses, etc.)
- I’ve had quick service from them, the order usually ships the day after I put it in, and now that they’ve opened other locations and I don’t have to wait for it to come from Rhode Island, it gets here really quick.
So there’s my suggestion, which I make to anyone who will listen to me ramble on… I’ve been very happy with them.
Thoughts from anyone else are certainly welcome — how do you develop your photos?)