best photo printing service

Best Photo Printing Service for Reliable Image Quality

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

Living in our paperless digital world means we rarely interact with physical copies of documents or photos. Nevertheless, the value of creating a personalized gift or memorabilia has not faded, and people are out to preserve their snaps in different forms. The best photo printing service can help easily convert digital photos into hard copies that retain the captured quality.

What makes an online printing service stand out? Are there specific considerations to make before getting your photos printed? We will answer these questions and more in our review of the best options you can use for decent prints.

Image Source: Printique.com

Adorama, a company focused on providing people with top-notch photography, video, and audio equipment, launched AdoramaPix in 1998. Since the company wanted to cater to the changing times and photography landscape, the photo printing service became Printique. The photo printing lab in Brooklyn, New York, has professional artisans that will fulfill your orders.

History aside, the quality we got from Printique photo prints put the service at the top of our list. Also, the historical background of catering to professional photographers does not alienate the company from newbies. Instead, you can lean on their skills to ensure you get the highest quality prints.

Products

The standout feature of the Printique service is the print wizard that aims to help you place an order when you are new to the platform. Admittedly, the site is intuitive, and you can find the things you want without prior experience navigating it. However, the wizards are a lifesaver if you want to create a bespoke gift for someone.

The Prints Wizard starts with uploading your images from various sources and selecting the ones you want to use for your project. Next, you can choose Express mode, which allows you to select a single type of material, size, and finish for all the prints.

Alternatively, the detailed mode offers a hands-on approach where you can select different options for each uploaded photo. We liked the amount of control we had over individual prints, and we could place an order for different kinds of paper in no time.

The Wall Design Wizard is intuitive and offers a visual backdrop where you can test your prints before ordering. Of course, the different rooms came off as generic, but the tool is an awesome visualizer that covers an office, hallway, living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, and other kinds of rooms.

Plus, you can upload a photo of the specific room you want to cover with wall art. Alternatively, you can check out our inspiring master bedroom ideas to help you figure out where to place your prints.

Choosing the wall texture seemed to bring the entire space to life, and it helps you make an informed decision. In addition, selecting the photos' arrangement, sizes, and numbers gave us control over the printed gifts.

Some of the products on offer:

  • Photo prints
  • Hardcover books
  • Leather albums
  • Metal prints
  • Acrylic prints
  • Wood prints
  • Fabric books
  • Giclee prints

Ease of Use

For starters, you can upload your photos from your local storage, saved Printique galleries, Google Photos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Lightroom, or Dropbox. These options offer flexibility to users.

Additionally, you are only limited to JPEG and TIFF formats that are 8-bit sRGB standards with no compression software applied. The limit ensures photo prints can retain a respectable level of quality regardless of the product you want to get.

The editing features did not blow our minds since they are quite basic compared to other online photo printing services. However, the option to change the color from its original look to either Sepia or Black & White was new. Also, the slider that lets you know whether the image quality is good is a terrific addition when you want large photo prints.

Pros:

  • Excellent print quality.
  • Intuitive editing software with wizards to speed things along.
  • Plenty of cutouts to choose from.
  • It is available on Android and iOS.

Cons:

  • Some choices like texts, borders, and drop shadows are not consistent.

Image Source: Nationsphotolab.com

If you are a professional photographer, chances are you want high-quality prints. However, the choice comes at a price, especially for Nations Photo Lab. Although you can take advantage of the numerous promotions, coupons, and discounts, it is one of the best online photo printing services but strains affordability.

The pricing is not out of reach for most people since you can find other services that use special processes or high-end papers for their products. Additionally, the prints arrive in secure packaging that we found impressive since it ensures the quality remains consistent. However, the editing software is bland with few options, and you cannot see a slideshow of your snaps on the platform.

Products

The platform falls short in popularity compared to other services, but it offers one of the best printing quality for art prints, wood prints, metal prints, photo books, and other surfaces. Consequently, professional photographers can revel in the accurate color representation Nations Photo Lab delivers. Despite the narrow scope of the products, you will not complain about the output.

Framed prints are another outlier not typical in other online printing services. Nations Photo Lab gives you options for the size, display types, and mat designs that offer a classic look. Additionally, you can include an acrylic layer that protects the photo from UV rays and extends the prints' vibrancy lifespan.

Some of the products on offer:

  • Mountings
  • Albums
  • Single gallery blocks
  • Press cards
  • Photo gifts

Ease of Use

Nations Photo Lab lacks social media integration which means more steps if you do not have them on your computer or local storage. I found this annoying since I needed to download them before reusing them. Additionally, the site did not accept any photos in the PNG format.

Nations Photo Lab lacks feature-full editing software for the images you upload. Still, professional photographers prefer to have the print quality retain the same lighting and filters of the original image. For the rest of us who take photos during special occasions, a helping hand from the print service can improve the quality.

While other services may allow you to add various filters to your images, Nations Photo Lab only allows cropping, rotating, zooming, and centering. However, the color correction option before creating an order helps improve the quality. Unfortunately, you do not have much control over how the corrections are made.

You can select the print sizes on the web interface, but resizing individual images to fit a specific size is tricky. For instance, canvas prints will apply your original image quality to the output without fitting it inside the selected frame. Consequently, the test prints show that the final image does not fit inside the final product.

Our review of the best online canvas print sites will help you if you want to work with canvas.

Pros:

  • One of the best photo printing services in print quality.
  • Excellent packaging to keep your order safe.
  • You can also upload photos in TIFF image format.
  • It is available on Android and iOS.

Cons:

  • The editing is too basic.
  • Placing an order can be tricky since the site is not very intuitive.
  • Print services only apply to images in your local storage.

Image Source: Shutterfly.com

Shutterfly operates separately, but its parent company is another online photo printing service, Snapfish. As a result, the website's popularity does not stem from its production of high-quality prints or a good ratio between price and caliber of execution. Instead, the sheer number of options available for print services is impressive.

Consequently, if you want to make beautiful prints on unconventional surfaces like shower curtains or create themed celebrations, Shutterfly has your back. Additionally, our ordered prints arrived in secure packaging, enhancing the value we paid for. However, the print quality left a lot to be desired, while the editing was subpar when you upload images for printing.

Products

In our opinion, Shutterfly's standout feature is its wide range of printing services. Additionally, the categorization of products made navigating to what we wanted much easier. For instance, the photo books section was impressively stacked with different choices depending on the size or occasion I wanted to mark.

Although the printing options are vast, the online service lacks capable editing software once you upload photos. Unfortunately, you are only bound to either cropping or rotating your images. Hence, editing your snaps before sending them to the website for printing makes sense.

Some of the products on offer:

  • Wall art
  • Home accents and tabletop prints
  • Drinkware, glassware, and barware
  • Party decor
  • Wedding stationery and announcements.
  • Keepsakes

Ease of Use

The ease of use of Shutterfly makes it one of the best online printing services. For starters, you can upload individual images or an entire folder and make size adjustments for each one or all of them. You can view your selection on a single page, easing the decision-making process.

You can connect your Shutterfly account to social media pages like Facebook and Instagram and select photos from there. This feature is excellent if you do not have them on your computer or in your Google Photos storage. Plus, you can use their mobile application, available for iPhone and Android, to store albums and take advantage of exclusive offers.

Pros:

  • Prints arrive in a secure package.
  • You can create an online gallery where you can choose the specific photos to print.
  • Numerous products are on offer.
  • You can add text to the back side of photos.

Cons:

  • Images printed do not retain the same quality as your uploads.
  • Large canvas prints are pricey.
  • Edits are restricted on the website.

Image Source: Mixbook.com

Few online photo printing services can edge out Mixbook in the value proposition. We found the prices affordable and the options available far-reaching to ensure you are covered for the occasion or personalized gifts you are working on. The photo prints for cards and calendars also appeared vibrant in color reproduction.

On the downside, Mixbook photo prints were not superbly done, especially ones with predominantly black backgrounds. In addition, we were disappointed by the lack of deep blacks in some of our samples. Still, the affordable prints made a huge difference when we made a bulk order.

Products

Mixbook offers a wide variety of add-ons you can insert into your unique designs to enhance their look. So whether you want to go with the numerous size and canvas prints for photo books or create themed cards, calendars, or home decor ideas, the platform has you covered. After all, you can rely on the professional templates that help elevate the quality prints.

Moreover, you can choose the paper and cover options to suit your preference for photo books. For instance, you can have a glossy hardcover or opt for a matte or leather finish. Still, the design options are not as numerous as Shutterfly, but you can turn typical photo gifts into works of art.

Some of the products on offer:

  • Photo books
  • Cards
  • Calendars
  • Acrylic prints and blocks
  • Poster prints
  • Canvas prints
  • Metal prints

Ease of Use

The Mixbook web interface is intuitive, powerful, and loaded with features to ease your design process and ensure high-quality prints. Additionally, you can access awesome templates with an unmistakable professional touch. Plus, the library for clip arts, stickers, and other services is easy to find and sufficiently stocked.

The calendar feature stood out to us because it highlighted the power of the Mixbook editing software. For instance, you can use a single background image while adding specific ones for particular dates. Also, you can include texts to specify the importance of the day.

Although it is largely intuitive, some settings are difficult to find, especially when new to the platform. For example, I had to figure out that specifying important dates required me to navigate to the Events Manager tab to make edits. Plus, I could not alter the font, color, or size of my writing.

Pros:

  • Creating high-quality photo prints is simple, thanks to the powerful software.
  • Intuitive navigation through the platform.
  • The templates are excellent and offer full control over various editing aspects.
  • Libraries are stacked with helpful add-ons to help you get stunning prints.

Cons:

  • Although the calendar edits are powerful, managing specific events can be tricky.
  • Few options for editing text.
  • It lacks an Android application, but people running iOS can find it in the App Store.

Walmart Photo retains the perks of its parent company: choice and affordability. In addition, the platform is stocked with options to help you create a piece of art for yourself or a loved one.

The intuitive and powerful editing software makes all the difference when you want your gift to stand out. Plus, you can choose the source of your photos from different social platforms like Flickr, Instagram, or Facebook.

Admittedly, color reproduction is not the best among competitors. For instance, some samples looked dull but not washed out.

Pros:

  • Ideal for those who want hands-on experience creating their photo prints.
  • It is available on Android and iOS.
  • Quick turnaround, thanks to the same-day pickup.

Cons:

  • The print colors are not as vibrant as the original image.

Snapfish has reasonable prices for their photo prints, but the results do not entirely capture the preferred image quality. Nevertheless, it takes a keen individual to notice the color bleeding that happens when your photo a few things depicted.

The issue is more prominent in their photo books, but the photo tiles stand out. Additionally, their integration with various image sources and a wide range of products ensures flexibility for the users.

Pros:

  • Numerous options for designs and gift ideas.
  • It is available on iOS and Android.

Cons:

  • Color reproduction for the photo books is pretty hit and miss.

Choosing Between the Best Online Photo Printing Services

1. Print Sizes and Image Formats

Image Source: Pxhere.com

The print sizes matter if you want to create a personalized gift that will complement a DIY project. Most photo printing services had similar choices for photo books and other small outputs. The difference came when dealing with larger prints and the surfaces you can use.

If you are looking for bespoke online print services, it helps to take the time and peruse their offerings. You may need to settle for the next best thing as there are numerous issues in extra large or small outputs. Hence, image quality should be the next consideration.

Some photo printing services, like Nations Photo Lab, do not accept certain image formats. Thus, consider whether the website you want to use will work with your gallery or if you need to take the extra step of converting them.

2. Retaining Upload Image Quality

Image Source: Pxhere.com

Ask yourself where the photos you want to output are before settling on any particular print service. Some websites do not integrate with social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. Therefore, you need to have them on your local storage, depending on whether you are using a mobile app or accessing the website through your computer browser.

In some cases, downloading images from social media sites could result in a dip in their quality. Dealing with a bad photo is tricky, even for the most professional printing service. So expect the final image to look terrible or worse if you want a large print.

Ensure you import photos from a source that does not compress the image to save cloud space. Afterward, check the color preproduction and possible pixelation in a preview before making the order. After all, photo printing services cannot perform a miracle and boost the quality of your uploads.

You can plan and take the photos you want to print with high-quality digital cameras. More pixels mean you can blow the image up without becoming hazy or pixilated. Plus, the final output can retain the small details.

3. What Are Your Needs?

Image Source: Pxhere.com

In our search for the best online photo printing services, we did not test all the offerings from the reviewed candidates. Nevertheless, our rankings are based on what they were able to deliver compared to typical photo books.

You may want to create a collage that involves drinkware or metal prints. In these scenarios and other cases where you need bespoke solutions, it helps to go through the products of different websites. Some sites do not have a wide range of options, so some digging will help.

4. Does Budget Affect Print Quality?

Image Source: Pxhere.com

Paying the big bucks does not always translate to better service. For instance, the print quality we found most alluring in our tests was from Printique. However, Nations Photo Lab had the highest quotation for a similar order: product, paper size, and type.

It is important to account for the techniques employed in printing and the editing features of their website. These factors have a role to play in the overall print quality received from the different services. So, check reviews of the specific product you want to order and compare them across different platforms before settling on one.

Conclusion

Online printing services are a dime a dozen, but finding quality requires plenty of research. Luckily, we have done the hard parts and prepared a detailed review of the ones that stand out in features and ease of use.

Printique is our preferred choice for any printing work as the color reproduction, quality materials, and excellent customer support help it edge out the competition. Nations Photo Lab is a close second, but their higher prices could alienate some would-be gifters.

Featured Image Source: Pxhere.com

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.