Digital cameras: Choosing the best photo printing service Photo processing options
Printing digital photos yourself is a convenient way of turning digital images into photos you can put in a frame or album. To find the Best Buy printer for you, see the Which? printer reviews.
But choosing a good high street or online photo printing service can give better results than printing pictures yourself - and it's probably cheaper once you take into account of the costs of photo paper and ink.
We've broken down the pros and cons of online versus high street photo processors to help you decide which method to use.
Your choice of camera has a large part to play in the quality of your photos - take digital photos to be proud of with a Which? Best Buy digital camera.
Online photo printing
- It's convenient. Online photo processors - such as Bonusprint and Pixum - let you order photo prints from the comfort of your own home and deliver straight to your door.
- It's cheapest for lots of photos. Online photo processors are often the cheapest option for getting large numbers of photos printed.
- Share digital photos with friends and family. Many online services let you store photos in an online album so you can come back and view or reprint at a later date. You can also send links to some online albums so that friends or family can see your photos.
- It takes time. Because they're sent by post, the fastest typical turnaround for online processing services is two working days - and delivery can take up to a week.
- You need an internet connection. You have to upload your digital images to an online album, which means you have to have an internet connection - ideally broadband, otherwise uploading photos can take a long time.
High street photo printing
- You get your photo prints quickly. High street shops, such as Boots and Jessops, will produce your photos within an hour. Some require you to upload your photos onto an small self-service device before they're printed behind the counter. Others allow you to hand over a digital camera memory card or CD of images to a staff member who will upload them for you.
- It's easier for the less technologically-minded. If you choose a service that lets you simply hand over the memory card, you're spared the trouble of uploading the photos yourself.
- It's not as convenient as online. You'll have to make at least two trips to the high street processing store - depending on the speed of the service you choose, this could be the same day or a day or more later.
- It can be costly for large numbers of prints. On an hour's turnaround service, the cost of printing 50 or more photos can be more than twice that of an online service - though choosing a 24-hour or longer turnaround will bring costs down.
- Large numbers of prints may require a longer turnaround. If you want to print more than 100 images, some stores may ask you to leave them overnight for processing.
Other photo printing options
Photo printing kiosks
Photo kiosks from manufacturers such as Kodak are increasingly popular. They're quick and easy to use and give good quality prints.
You may be limited as to your choice of image size and finish (Kodak Kiosk only offers a 'lustre' finish, which is a mix of gloss and matt) and they can be a little on the pricey side but they're perfect when you just want a couple of images in a hurry.
Printing photos at home
Printing out your own photos at home is an expensive business compared to using a professional photo printing service, but if convenience takes precedence over cost for you, it may be worth it.
1) Printing photos with a standard inkjet printer. The cost of printing photos on an inkjet printer varies, but in our tests of inkjet printers we've found that printing one A4 size photo on a typical home inkjet costs about 70p in ink. Printing smaller 6x4-inch photos will use much less ink. Photo paper costs range from 18p to 90p depending on the quality of the glossy photo paper you use.
If you've got an inkjet printer that's been tested by Which? that scores more than four stars for photo quality you should find the standard of your print comparable with those from a professional processor.
2) Using a specialised compact photo printer. These printers are designed to print 6x4-inch photos and the cheapest ones can cost as little as 19p per print, although generally the cost is nearer 30p. They're really convenient and easy to use.
For an easy way to display your digital photos without the need to print them, why not try a digital photo frame.
For advice on using a compact digital camera, as well as editing and sharing your photos, see also our book Digital Photography Made Easy.