Guys, my pictures are probably more important to me than they should be. So when I have them printed I want the very best quality I can possibly get. But I’ve wondered for years though which site really is the very best. Usually, the site I choose is based on what I plan to do with the pictures. If they are going in a frame or a scrapbook it has to be Mpix. I know they aren’t cheap but money is no object in those situations, though my husband would argue otherwise. If they are for some random project, or Christmas cards or something that I need to not spend a small fortune on, I generally go with Shutterfly. They have (seemingly) awesome sales. If I need pictures in an hour, it’s Walgreens. We’re talking speed not quality here.
But I’ve often wondered if I really am getting a superior product with Mpix. Every once in a while I hear someone talk about a canvas they had printed at Costco or large prints from Shutterfly and it makes me wonder. I use Amazon photo storage (as one of the 3 locations I store my pictures) and noticed recently that they do photo printing. I also found out that Kodak is still around, guys! I thought they were long gone but while researching how much trouble I would get in if I used the phrase “Kodak moments,” I discovered Kodakmoments.com is a photo printing service. Who knew?
If I have wondered who is the best, maybe others out there have wondered as well. Or maybe I’m the only one in the world who cares. That’s also possible. But I decided to run a little experiment.
Before I go on, please note that this is in no part a sponsored post. None of these sites even knew I was doing this and I paid for every bit of it. My husband was not happy. This also means that the opinions expressed are totally unbiased (though I promise if I were to ever get a sponsored post [Ha!] that I will always be 100% honest). Also, I am not a statistician. So when I use words like “median,” or “average,” take it with a grain of salt.
I asked my Facebook friends which sites they use. I got a couple Mpix users, but I also got a bunch of Walgreens. First of all, I was floored. Surely my friends have better sense than to send ALL their pictures to Walgreens, right?! I wasn’t going to bother including Walgreens because I thought that was obvious but then I had to. From that point on I was determined to educate my friends on the value of a good print. So Mpix and Walgreens were in, but I’ve wondered if there really is a difference between Mpix and Shutterfly, so Shutterfly was automatically in too. I also threw in Costco, Amazon, and Kodak for my own curiosity. Not gonna lie, I thought I already knew what the results would be, but in some cases I was actually surprised.
From each site, I ordered one 4×6, one 8×10 and one 11×14 canvas. I used the same picture for each size so that I could compare accurately. I don’t generally order the same picture from different sites which is why I’ve never truly been able to tell which site had the superior product.
Here is the original, digital version of each print:
First of all, Quality.
At first glance, you can’t really tell a huge difference with any of them. You have to reeeaally look close. So to my Walgreens people, if you really don’t care then go ahead (just please don’t do one-hour for my sake).
In the 4×6, I decided Amazon actually had the print with the sharpest picture and most accurate color. Mpix was a close second, but they were all okay.
And was Kodak wanting me to trim up the bottom of the picture? I thought that’s what I was paying them to do.
Here’s where I started to see a bigger difference. Probably because my face was on this one (guys, please don’t look too close, just trust me) I scrutinized these prints even more. Mpix had the best print in my opinion. It had the most accurate color and sharpness. The Amazon print had great focus, but was it somehow too sharp? Nobody wants to see that much detail in my face, least of all, me. As far as the others, we are all normally pretty pale but we aren’t that pink or that blue. The Shutterfly one kinda made me laugh though. They gave me a weird tan (Insert sun-glass wearing smiley face here). This picture itself kinda cracks me up. It’s me and the triplets. Don’t try to tell me those 2 look like me at all. They are Dustin’s clones. Also, keep in mind that these are also pictures of pictures of digital prints. So just trust me when I talk about the quality of the prints.
The canvases were where the real difference came in. But again, remember that these are pictures of pictures. Overall best picture quality goes to Mpix again for sharpness and most accurate color.
Amazon was a close second.
In person, the Costco canvas probably had the most vibrant colors but I think that may be because it had a more glossy sheen to it than any of the others. Still, the color was a little too vibrant.
The Kodak canvas was pretty grainy but in their defense, I ordered a 16×20 instead of the 11×14 like I had done with the others, simply because it was on sale and actually cheaper than sticking with the smaller size. So maybe my results are skewed.
The Walgreens canvas looks pretty washed out and was already marked up toward the top and flaking at the bottom. The frame is sturdy, but the canvas itself was not mounted very well.
Speaking of construction, Amazon didn’t bother to mount a hook at all, they just sent it in the packaging. Some may like that, but I am liable to screw it up. They did include the wall mounting hardware though so I guess that is nice.
Kodak probably has the best mounting with tight corners and a hard backing directly behind the canvas, but they have that annoying hook you can never find the nail with. You know which one I mean.
First of all, their site was quick and easy. They might have the fastest site of them all. But I was a little confused because they don’t have the option to print in matte. The other thing that got me was the fact that the smaller prints came from the same address as the Walgreens prints. I only noticed because they came the same day. So somehow Walgreens uses the same printer as Kodak. I feel like I’ve been conned.
I had really hoped Kodak would surprise me. I have said repeatedly that I live my life in a series of “Kodak moments.” I had visions of Kodak becoming my go-to (because wouldn’t that just be perfect?!?!). While I still received decent prints, they didn’t completely win me over as I had hoped.
I didn’t do the hour photo printing. I already know the quality is not quite there with speedy prints, so I did the mail order prints. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one, friends. One-hour prints are for emergencies only. Also, you can only do glossy one-hour prints anyway and I wanted matte. But when I ordered, for some reason the only option was to pick up the canvas in store. So the canvases are ready in an hour, but they can’t do a 4×6 or 8×10 matte print in the store at all? And then Walgreens uses the same printer as Kodak, but only Walgreens can do matte? I am so confused. Price might have made me still encourage people to use them, but believe it or not, a Walgreens 4×6 (at $0.33) and 8×10 (at $3.99) cost more than any of the other sites. The canvas price was middle of the row, but that was hard for me to believe!
I use Shutterfly a lot. I probably use them more than Mpix just for their cheaper prices (or if I’m honest, for the sales). Their site is really slow but unlike other sites, they do store your pictures forever so if you’re willing to take the time to upload them all you could potentially use them as a free photo storage. The cost of printing through Shutterfly (at least on this particular day) was actually higher than I thought. A 4×6 was about in the median, but the 8×10 was the same cost as Walgreens at $3.99 -the most expensive. I didn’t even get a canvas from them. That day they were offering 40% off and it was still more expensive than any others. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I also had to rethink a lot of my past decisions.
Who doesn’t love Costco? Those people just haven’t been there, I’m sure. Their photo printing does offer color correction but I didn’t use it because the smaller prints were professional pictures so I didn’t think they should need correcting. Still, I thought that gave them a little bump ahead of some of the others. When the prints came in the mail the packaging wasn’t the best and my 8×10 had a little bent spot. Also, the need to have a membership kinda holds them back in my opinion but clearly the company is doing well so I don’t think they care. Not including the cost of a membership or shipping, Costco was the cheapest. A 4×6 was $0.09, an 8×10 was $1.79 and a 12×16 canvas was only $28.99.
Okay, even if you aren’t a Costco fan you have to be an Amazon fan. Thanks to Amazon I never really have to leave the house if I don’t feel like it. Amazon has been life-altering. But for me, Prime is worth the cost just for the unlimited photo storage. And, you know, free shipping. Again, you have to pay for Prime for those perks but is there anyone that doesn’t already have Prime? I’m guessing they are Costco’s biggest competitor in photo printing because Amazon was only beaten by $1 on a canvas. The others were the same price. So when you get free shipping, once again, Amazon had the lowest prices. They also had good, sturdy packaging. And for some reason, I’m a box hoarder. You never know when you’re going to need a good box!
I still love Mpix. Their site is fast but probably because they don’t store your photos forever unless you make a purchase every so often. I have to honestly say I have never used it, but they offer different types of retouching too. Again, the 4x6s & 8x10s were professional pictures so I didn’t do any of that because they shouldn’t need it, right? I had assumed they would be the most expensive (and they still weren’t cheap) but they actually weren’t as bad as I thought. Aside from the Shutterfly’s outrageous canvas price, they were the most expensive canvas. But with Mpix, you get what you pay for. And their smaller prints were still cheaper than Walgreens!
In the end, I would say based on quality alone, Mpix won the battle (the one they didn’t know they were having). But if I had some sort of point system for price, packaging, shipping cost, and website ease of use as well as quality, I would guess Amazon would at least tie, if not beat Mpix. So there you go, friends. Take this information and do with it what you will.