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Hunting for the perfect online printers

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I’ve recently been asked to make a lot of 4×6 prints for family members. This is nice, and I know why everyone likes 4x6s, but they’re HUGELY time consuming on my Epson R300 (and have low ROI from my perspective, ’cause I really like 8x10s). I’ve tried Ofoto.com, and they’re nice and cheap, but their prints are sortof crappy. They’re dark and muddy and … well … cheap looking. They look like bad drugstore film prints.

Pictopia.com makes great prints (and I’ve sung their praises before), but they’re a bit pricey for 8x10s and don’t even offer smaller prints. Great for “fine art” prints, but not what I’m looking for in this case.

So, I spent a few quality hours with Google this weekend looking for the following things:

  • Great prints – This is obviously the most important one, because if I want crappy digital prints I can go to Costco or Walmart. Ideally I want better prints than I can make.
  • Cheap – Now, from my perspective, cheap is less than $1 per print, but I understand that for most people, cheap would be less than $0.40 per print, so that’s what I’m looking for.
  • Reasonable uploads – From worst to best: One file at a time via http, applet-based file browser, thick-client or plugin, FTP access.
  • Simple bulk ordering – It’s very likely that I will get into some sort of event photography in the near future. I would like the ability to generate a proof-book, order tons of duplicates, albums, etc. without too much of a headache.
  • The resultant list was:

  • Mpix.com – Cheap, supposed to be good, miserable upload process, basically like a high-quality ofoto.com. I ordered some test-prints from these guys. One big negative, they charge $5 for USPS ground shipping regardless of the number of prints you order… very odd.
  • Pictage.com – Very oriented towards event/wedding photos, expensive, supposed to be great quality, good uploads (I think), expensive… and finally… expensive. I did not order prints from these guys.
  • WHCC.com – The current winner (from a feature perspective). FTP image uploads, “thrifty or quality” file handling (not different printing, just allows you to do as much or as little processing as you want prior to uploading the files), very (unbelievably) cheap, a reputation for quality prints, and a great “signup process”… really an excellent setup. I hope the prints are awesome, maybe then I can sell my printer 😉
  • I’ll follow up on all of this when I get the test prints.

    Written by jthurber

    October 25th, 2004 at 3:30 pm