Digital Photos and Photo Labs - 6 Things to Consider

The popularity of digital cameras has skyrocketed in recent years. Every event or celebration you go to now has at least several people snapping away. Once you pay for the camera and memory cards, your costs are zero, until you actually have a picture you want to print. You can take 40 pictures of your new child, niece, nephew, grandchild, etc, and if only two good shots came out of that, then you only pay for those two.

The question is - where should you print those two masterpieces?

Owning your own photo quality printer is definitely faster. There are even people who take a small printer with them and make prints for other guests right away. Almost as easy as a traditional Polaroid camera.

Is it cheaper?

The large chains have jumped into this fray in a BIG way. Wal-Mart, Blacks, Business Depot, and many others. With all this competition comes low, low pricing. A typical 4x6 print from a big chain is cheaper than the retail cost of the do-it-yourself paper that the same chain sells in their photography center. And at home you still have to pay for the ink!

Here are 6 things to consider when getting a photo lab to print your digital pictures.

(1) Price. All the major players have priced their 4x6 size very competitively. The larger sizes though, like 5x7 or 8x10, are usually higher in cost than what you can do it for at home.

(2) Drop Off. Can you upload your digital pictures to them via the internet (very convenient) or do you have to deliver them on a floppy or CD?

(3) Delivery. Does your photo lab let you pick them up in the store, or do you have to wait for the post office or a courier? Picking them up at the store should be a no-cost option. If you can pick them up, is the location easy to get in and out of?

(4) Timing. How fast do they work? One photo lab has a reputation of having most orders ready in one business day. Another is a bit cheaper, but takes a week.

(5) Quality. You may have to talk to relatives, friends, and co-workers about this one. Find others who have already tried various printers. One photo lab's web site states that they will not print a picture with too low a resolution (nothing under 150 DPI allowed). This can be inconvenient, but assures you of a quality print.

Speaking of resolution, a 4x6 printed at 200 DPI requires a digital print that is 800 by 1200 pixels. An older model 1.0 megapixel camera can do this easily. If you have a more modern 3.3 megapixel camera you can create a 200 DPI print that is 8x10. One of the advantages of a better camera, say a 5 mp, is that you can "crop" part of the picture away and still have the 3.3 megapixels required for an 8x10.

There is one more item you need to be concerned with.

(6) A standard "snapshot" for a photo album is 4x6 in size. That is a ratio of 1.5. Most new cameras have a photo ratio of 1.33! What happens if you send a 1.33 picture to a photo lab and ask for a 4x6? They cut off ("crop") part of the picture you took, making it shorter on its longest side. You may not like the part they cut off! The best internet upload systems for photo labs allow you to indicate what can be cut off. Alternatively, use a program on your computer to make the digital picture the correct size and ratio before uploading.

Memory for digital cameras is getting cheaper all the time, so load up on memory, take lots of pictures, and proudly display the ones that turn out well.


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