Digital Photo Printing Services
This is the most expensive post I’ve ever written. Over the last year, I’ve been asked dozens of times to do a comparison of the online photo printing labs to see who has the best print quality. I surveyed the members of our group on Facebook and found the 11 most popular online photo print labs and ordered the same 5 prints from each lab (which cost me over $250!).
Then, we performed a blind test to find the best print quality, price for the five photos of various sizes, and even called many of their customer support numbers.
UPDATE: After publishing this post, MANY MANY MANY of our listeners pointed out two things that need clarification: (1) I personally interviewed the owners of Pro DPI and they said amateur photographers ARE allowed to register and order from their lab. The requirement of “professional photographers only” when registering on their site is not accurate. The intent of that warning is to remind users that this lab is only for photographers and not consumers. Amateur photographers CAN use Pro DPI.
(2) A few users mentioned that the prices we quoted in our test are not the same prices they are seeing when ordering from the companies. This is because shipping charges will vary depending on where you live. We could only test the cost that we were charged by the companies to ship to our studio.
Below, you’ll find the results. After the graphic representation, I list each of the online print labs and some notes about my experience in ordering from them. Although several of these labs offer affiliate programs where I could earn money by endorsing them, I have chosen not to accept ANY affiliate offers from these labs so that this test can remain impartial and unbiased.
Pro DPI was the overall winner of the test. This was especially surprising to me because they had THE CHEAPEST prices of all of the 11 labs we tested, and because I had never even heard of this company before polling our readers to determine which labs we should test.
Contrary to what their website says when attempting to create an account and order the first time, AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE ALLOWED to order from Pro DPI. We confirmed this in speaking with the owners of the company.
Pros: Pro DPI was the overall winner of the test. They had the best print quality, being selected first place in 3 of the 5 tests. That is significant because the top 4 or 5 prints from each test were often very alike, but the prints from Pro DPI stood out. Our order of 1 5×7, 4 8x10s, and a 11×14 cost only including shipping.
Cons: The biggest drawback to Pro DPI is their website. The information is not laid out in a logical fashion, so it takes a while to navigate the site and do what you need to do. For example, it took me over 10 minutes to find the pricing for their prints, because they made it a PDF and put the information under the “Downloads” section of the site instead of in the navigation bar, where they should really put it because their prices are terrific.
The shipping speed for Pro DPI was worthy of 4 stars. We received the prints faster than most of the prints, but some companies shipped the prints faster.
Nations Photo Lab
Pros: The print quality from Nations photo lab is excellent. We were particularly impressed with the amount of detail in the prints, which were 3rd best overall in terms of print quality. Also, we like that they offer both a web-based ordering system or a traditional ROES system. That way, it is simple to order quick prints without firing up the ROES software. The prices at Nations were quite good. The order of 5 prints cost $15.51, which is only $3.51 more than the price leader.