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Print Test #1: The Guadalupe River Print

This is the first of three looks at the photos in my test of the online printing labs.  To see the article about the test, click here.

The first photo is had each of the online printing labs make into a print is a photo of the Guadalupe River in south Texas.

Just to get us started, here is the original picture:


I submitted the photo to each the labs online, so that is the exact file each of the labs received.

The Initial Comparison of Prints

When I got the prints, I compared them all.  I cannot really show you the original prints.  So, in an effort to demonstrate the quality of the prints made by the different labs, I scanned in each of the prints I received.  Below are scans of the prints for the Guadalupe River photo, all around the original file, which is in the center.  These are not very big, but they do not need to be to show you that there are serious problems with some of these prints:

Examples of Prints from Each Online Photo Lab

If you are wondering why some of these pictures are different sizes, it is because the original photo was not exactly 8×10.  I knew this, and planned to have the labs all fit the entire image in the 8×10 space.  Then I would cut out the white space at the top and bottom.  Some of the labs – namely Shutterfly, Snapfish, Nations, and Mpix – would not allow me to do that.  They forced a crop on me.  That is why their pictures look taller.

Anyway, to me, the photos in the top row are all terrible.  They prints look even worse than what is represented here.  There are obvious color shifts to each.  The Adorama print has dulled color and is too dark.  The Shutterfly print is too bright and washed out.  The Snapfish photo has dulled colors and the darks are all black.

In the next row, the Nations print is also bad.  The colors and brightness are clearly off.

That leaves us with the prints from Mpix, Bay, Pro DPI, and WHCC – all of which look pretty good.  So I will dispense with any further discussion of the terrible prints and focus from here on these remaining 4 prints.

The Four Remaining (Good) Prints

Honestly, the four remaining prints look almost exactly the same.  I would be happy with any one of them.

Here are the final four, slightly larger to see if we can tell anything further: GuadalupePrints2

They all look pretty good, don’t they?

Since we cannot tell much, let’s try zooming in.  I am doing this with a magnifying glass on the prints, but we’ll try zooming in on the scans:

Print samples - zoomed in

Even here, I don’t think we can tell much.  The colors all look good.  The detail looks good in each.  I score Pro DPI the best of these 4, but they are all very close.

What To Do Next

For additional information on my prints test, you can check out the video I did on it.  I also have specific information on the testing and the pricing in my 2014 Photographer’s Resource Guide, which you get free if you subscribe.

You can also check out the results of the second print I tested with the same labs.