Guess what? In today's digital world you have basically the same two choices, and there are pros and cons to both options. Neither is perfect.
Make Them Yourself
Pros: Photo quality inkjet printers can produce high-quality results on your desktop, and there's no waiting. Cons: Ink and paper are expensive, and if remake a print for any reason the cost of printing that particular image just doubled. Although inkjet printers let you make prints easily, making good prints takes some experience and computer knowledge. Making a few prints doesn't take much time, but making a hundred or more does and amplifies the possibility of problems and cost.
Have Somebody Else Make Them
Pros: Somebody else does all the work, saving you time. If printed online, this saves drive time and expensive gasoline--an important factor these days. If they make a mistake, they have to pay for any errors. Cons: You've got to wait and do some of the work. Many photo labs of discount stores some require you to download the data from your memory card or CD to their system. Using an on-line service also requires you to upload the image files and you still have to wait for the prints to be delivered.
|News Flash: Flickr and Picasa users can order prints direct through AdoramaPix
Flickr and Picasa Web Album users can now order their prints directly through AdoramaPix without having to leave AdoramaPix or re-upload the image files. Simply log onto AdoramaPix.com and click on the "Photo Albums" tag. You will then see a row of green tags. Choose Picasa or Flickr and follow the prompts to order prints from your photos on those photo sharing sites.
Kiosks combine the worst of both worlds. They eliminate the convenience of having the printer on your desktop, but you still have to drive to the supermarket or discount store and stand in line to use somebody else's printer. There is still a learning curve, and because mistakes happen, you get to pay for them. On the upside, you get to take the prints with you and when you need them now you need them now!
Out Here In The Real World
When visiting her family in California and Nevada, my wife, Mary, made lots of digital photos and decided to make 4x6 prints to mail to her sisters and parents. Her first attempt at making prints was to insert a memory card into a Canon all-in-one and push a few buttons, quickly running into problems after making twenty or so prints. After doing the math Mary realized she didn't have the time to shepherd a few hundred 4x6's through the printer and decided to make them on-line through AdoramaPix.com.
Be prepared: Before uploading image files to an on-line printer, take the time to sort through all of your photographs, selecting only the best ones for printing. Mary used Adobe Bridge for this process but you can use Adobe Photoshop Elements or any inexpensive, even free image browser to create a folder of images that you can upload.
Loading: To upload images to AdoramaPix, you have to sign up for the service. The free Basic membership-- the one Mary chose--lets you use the system and keeps your images on line for 90 days. The Premium membership costs $19.95 a year and offers unlimited on-line storage. If you just want a free account, you can store up to 3GB of images on AdoramaPix indefinitely. If you want to make prints after 90 days, that's the option for you. This Upload page les you create an album, name it, and upload image files as either JPEG or 8-bit TIFF RGB files. If that latter option sounds confusing, just use JPEG's right out of the camera. That's what Mary did.
Waiting game: Upload time will vary based on the number and the size of your files. Mary had a total of 106 files that were captured with a Sony digital point-and-shoot camer,a and the system estimated an upload time of a little more than an hour, which was close to what it took with a cable broadband Internet connection. As the EPA says, your own mileage may vary.
Rule of thumbnails: After uploading, you'll see thumbnails of all the image files s and will later have the ability to tweak them including fixing red-eye and even cropping.
AdoramaPix offers several printing options for deciding the paper surface you want (glossy, matter, luster and even metallic) and whether you prefer borders or borderless prints. You can have images printed “as is” or have the folks in the lab tweak them for the best results and that's the option she checked. You can even have a customized message printed on the back. The following windows let you decide how many prints and what size each one should be.
Fit and trimmed: At some time during the process of ordering print on-line you'll have a chance to crop your photographs to match the print sizes you've selected. That part of the process will be easier to understand if you first read my story, “Where's The Rest Of My Photo?” that explains the difference between the aspect ratio of your photograph versus the aspect ratio of the print.
The rest of the process involved paying for the order and telling how and where to ship, which it turns out didn't take long and in less than a week (counting a weekend) the prints were delivered to our mailbox. Since Mary had already printed some of the photos using the Canon all-in-one, she was able to make a direct side-by-side comparison, and each case she found the color of the AdoramaPix prints was more accurate and the contrast less intense, resulting in more pleasing looking prints.
So why not do your own test? Pick a handful of your favorite image files, make a set of 4x6 prints on your own printer and then send the same set of images to AdoramaPix to compare the results in image quality, cost, and time. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the advantages of on-line printing. We were.
Joe Farace is the author of a new book called "Getting Started in Digital Imaging" published by Focal Press (ISBN 024080838X.) It's available in all the best bookstores as well as Amazon.com.