Clicking for Photo Deals
The holidays for me mean lots of picture taking. Photos of the in-laws eating, shots of my daughter striking a pose only a 4-year-old could invent and a picture or two of my husband sleeping with his mouth gaping open on the couch. (It always seems funny at the time.) And then my camera sits, full of photos I never get printed. It's one of the downfalls of a digital camera: you see the photo the second after taking it so there's less urgency to get it printed.
But this year I'm getting my photos printed, so I shopped around for the best place to get digital snapshots processed. I experimented with a picture I took this summer of sunset at Long Beach Island, N.J. I had a 4x6 of the shot printed at several stores, including online sites, and large and small retailers. I looked at the quality of the print, how long it took to print and price. Here's what I concluded: Snapfish.com had the cheapest rates at 12 cents for 4x6 prints; Target and eKlick.com had the best quality prints and eKlick.com was the fastest with my photo being ready for in-store pick-up five minutes after I placed my online order.
Other things I learned:
No matter where they're printed, there's very little variation in quality. The reason? Most photos these days are printed by minilabs, which are likely manufactured by three main companies: Fujifilm, Kodak and Noritsu, says Dimitrios Delis, director of marketing research for the Photo Marketing Association International. "It's an issue of technology rather than which retailer to use," he explained. I did, though, notice a slight difference in the crispness of my prints from Target, which uses Kodak equipment, and eKlick, which uses a Fuji machine, compared to other retailers that use the same technology.
Time was hardly a factor when it came to ordering prints online and then picking them up at a store. eKlick.com had the fastest turnaround. You just need to make sure you're close to one of its four local stores -- McLean, Potomac, Washington and Alexandria -- to make it worth your while. Other labs, such as Target and Walmart, weren't bad though with wait times of 30 minutes to an hour. If you're impatient, stick to the local labs. Ordering from online stores like Snapfish.com and Shutterfly.com can take several days for the prints to come in the mail.
The more you have printed, the cheaper the price. While Snapfish.com had the cheapest prints at 12 cents, Shutterfly.com also offers a 12 cent 4x6 deal if you sign up for their pre-paid plan. You just have to pay $60 upfront for 500 4x6s at 12 cents each. You then have two years to order that many photos. My one 4x6 print ranged from 12 cents to 29 cents before retailers tacked on fees for my small order. "Depending on the volume and the type of customer that the retailer expects to attract, they can set the pricing high," Delis told me. CVS added $1.49 because I was spending below $5. And don't forget about shipping and handling. The fees can be triple the cost of a single print. Shutterfly's 19 cent-print ballooned up to $2 after they charged $1.79 for shipping and handling. Snapfish.com does, however, reduce its shipping fees the more prints you order. They also charge less the more 5x7s you order. Obviously you save on shipping and handling if you're willing to schlep over to the store to pick up the prints. Just don't try to figure out what you're spending on gas.
So where are you getting your holiday photos processed?
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