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Cheap Digital Photo Printing Buying Guide
With the advent of the digital camera, demand for low-cost digital prints has created a new online market. Cheap digital photo printing services are now major players in the photo world and a boon to frugal shutterbugs.
The best cheap digital printing services are also user-friendly. They offer an expansive array of products and services, including numerous print options, gift items sporting favorite images, online sharing, image storage, and more -- some of which you may not even know you need or want. Most cheap online digital photo printing services also provide decent technical support and rapid turnaround. Indeed, with the online world as essential to many people's lives as the physical world, being able to capture an image on any one of your digital devices, receive a hard copy on your doorstep overnight, show off your shot to a worldwide audience, and store it forever in a virtual scrapbook neatly explains the appeal of cheap web-based digital photo printing services.
Cheap online digital photo printing services are similar to the high-end providers in many ways, but differ in certain critical respects. Cheap digital photo printing services, like Shutterfly, Snapfish.com, and SmugMug, are geared towards consumers. Costly online digital printing services, like Reed Photo and Nation Photo Lab, are meant for professionals. The quality of the prints produced by low-cost and high-cost providers is the biggest difference between the two. By most accounts, cheap digital photo printing services deliver good quality prints, but their standards are a sight lower than the expensive services. For obvious price-related reasons, the cheap online digital photo printing providers use lower quality paper and the equipment is not as technically exacting. Note, too, that the pricier websites offer more guarantees for the prints and are more likely to give frequent users membership deals that save money on bulk jobs.
Even so, as a thrifty consumer you want value for your money. So before making a decision about which cheap digital photo printing service to use, it's best to know which features each online provider offers and what kind of performance you can expect. Most cheap digital photo printing services give you a choice of finish for your prints, usually glossy or matte, and sometimes luster. You also have a pick of delivery options, ranging from overnight to six to 10 business days to one-hour pick-up at a nearby retailer; options and pricing vary by processor. There are also a host of keepsake items and gift possibilities, including mugs, t-shirts, mousepads, calendars, photo books, tote bags, and more. Cheap digital photo printing services also store your images online -- sometimes for free, sometimes forever -- and provide ways to share images online with friends and family. And finally, you want access to helpful technical support.
But don't be swayed by bells and whistles in the form of appealing services and product choices. These enticements don't compensate for poor quality prints or inconsistent results. The hallmarks of good cheap digital photo printing services are performance attributes that show attention to detail and also reveal a site's dedication to its customers. In our research we specifically looked for indications of consistency; that is, quality prints that satisfied customers time after time. We also noted the quality of each cheap digital photo printing site's technical support.
For the reasons touched on above, we identified Snapfish.com (starting at $.09/print) as the best cheap digital photo printing service, SmugMug (starting at $.19/print) and Shutterfly (starting at $.15 /print) as runners-up, and Walmart Photo Shop (starting at $.09/print) and RitzPix.com (starting at $.19/print) as services that don't quite cut it.
Good Cheap Digital Photo Printing Services
While smaller prints are relatively pricey at SmugMug, larger prints are cheaper than at Snapfish. SmugMug also offers a video uploading service, unlimited online image storage for members, and gives iPhone users a path to upload content. Consumers and experts laud the site's technical support and social networking capabilities.
Shutterfly is a popular site for printing digital photos and offers numerous ways for users to share pictures online. Consumers can host photos on their own website and the interface is user-friendly. Users also get unlimited storage for images with the guarantee that they'll never be deleted.
Walmart Photo Center
Walmart may boast low fees for prints, but it defaults to luster finishes instead of glossy unless you specifically ask; matte finish is not available at all. Also, print quality disappoints many consumers and contacting customer support is a challenge.
Customer support is Ritzpix's strong suit, but the service suffers from several problems. Some users report that print quality is lower than similarly-priced sites, others complain about a no-cancellation policy for orders, and the site is difficult to navigate for first-time users and seems outdated.
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