Where to Print Your Photos (advice from a photographer)

As a photographer I’ve answered the question, “Where can I get the best quality prints?” so many times I’ve lost track. But it occurred to me recently that while I answer questions like that in person often, I don’t think to share the answers here. So today I want to not only answer that question, but also show you why.

where to print your photos

To begin, I want to clarify that this post is about recommending the best consumer labs. If you have had professional photos taken by a photographer and they work with a professional lab, I definitely recommend ordering prints through them. Particularly prints that you plan to enlarge and display in your home. However professional prints can add up. So if you are working with a photographer who offers a print release (which allows you to print the photos at the lab of your choice), you may be looking for a good lab to print your photos. Since I offer a print release with each session I do, I’m often asked questions about the best consumer labs. Which brings us to this post. 🙂

I ordered the same 10 prints from the professional lab where I have photos printed for my business as well as from Walgreens, Costco, Mpix, Snapfish, and AdoramaPix. I chose these specific consumer labs because they cover a wide range of options and are the ones I hear people talk about using the most.

photo comparison

My goal was to find the prints that match the truest to the original. Sharp images, true color, and accurate brightness. There was a clear absolute best and a clear absolute worst and a couple of in between. So here are my overall thoughts.

adorama vs pro lab

By far AdoramaPix was the best. Of the 10 images I had printed there, the colors and brightness were excellent in each one. 1 of the 10 images wasn’t quite as sharp as the pro lab print, but it was still a beautiful photo. AdoramaPix is most definitely at the top of the list of places I recommend to people who ask.

{side note: this is not a sponsored post. AdoramaPix has no idea that I’m even writing this. I just really honestly think they do beautiful work.}

Since I am recommending AdoramaPix, I am going to use them as my “on point” images for the rest of this post so you can see the difference between their images and other labs’ images.

adorama vs mpix

Next up is Mpix. Before I heard of AdoramaPix, this lab had long been a favorite because they do beautiful work. In general their prints come out a little more pink/red than the actual images (as you can see in the photos above), but the sharpness of the images is always excellent.

adorama vs snapfish1

Snapfish is one of those services that I have used countless times in the past because they run great deals. They have penny prints all the time so I have definitely taken advantage of that (especially when I scrapbooked more). But you get what you pay for. The photos are often blown out (which takes away from the beautiful detail in the images) and the colors are off – particularly the reds and yellows. In the image comparison above you can see that I am rocking nearly red hair in the Snapfish photo. I do have some natural reddish highlights thanks to my red-headed dad, but nothing quite like that photo portrays. 😉

adorama vs walgreens

I’ve printed photos at Walgreens from time to time because there’s one on every corner and it’s quick. I can upload images from my computer at home and go to the store in an hour to pick up my prints. I love that instant gratification. But the quality of the prints isn’t stellar. Like Snapfish the photos are pretty blown out and the colors are off. Most prints come out too red or yellow.

adorama vs costco

By far Costco was the worst. This really surprised me because I have heard so many people suggest getting photos printed at Costco because their printing labs are great. Maybe at some locations they are, but at the one here – it is terrible. The photos have this horrible grey cast over them. Beautiful images were robbed of their vibrancy and life. You can see it a little in the comparison above, but it’s even more dramatic in person.

So in conclusion… 

Walgreens can get you your photos in a hurry and Snapfish has super cheap prints. But if you can be just a little patient and wait for AdoramaPix to work their magic, you won’t regret ordering from them.

And like I said at the beginning, if you have had professional photos taken and your photographer has a pro lab that he or she works with, then definitely consider ordering through them. But truthfully, AdoramaPix is a great second option. Definitely my favorite consumer lab! You have invested your time and money into these photos and the photographer has invested his or her time, expertise, and skill into your photos. Make sure you don’t miss out on how gorgeous your prints could be by printing them at a place that won’t do them justice.

So tell me, do you even print photos anymore? It seems like more and more people just have their photos stored on social media. Which is totally understandable, but I do love having a couple of updated favorites printed out and framed throughout our home. 🙂

Love Rach

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43 responses to “Where to Print Your Photos (advice from a photographer)

  1. Thanks for the tip. What do you think about shutterfly?

    • I didn’t order from Shutterfly this time because every time I’ve ordered from them, the quality has been exactly like Snapfish. I sometimes suspect that those two companies are owned by the same people because they are so similar, haha!

  2. ooooo rach this is such a great post (seriously!)
    i have never heard of adoramapix!!

    • Try them out! Order a couple of 4 x 6s from AdoramaPix and then the same ones from your favorite lab and see what you think of the comparison. I’ve really been amazed at the quality being SO similar to the prints I get from my pro lab! And I love how they actually LOOK like the photos I took & edited. 🙂 And I really like being able to give my clients an affordable option if they want good prints that don’t cost a small fortune. 😉 If you end up doing it, let me know what you think! I love talking to other photographers about photo related stuff. 🙂

  3. I still print pictures! Usually I go through Shutterfly because they have good deals. I would think the quality would be similar to snapfish? But I’ve also used Persnickety Prints for my Project Life book and they are clearly of better quality, though more expensive. I got pictures printed at Target once when o was in a hurry and oh man never again! They were terrible.

    • You are spot on with the Snapfish / Shutterfly comparison. Every time I’ve printed photos from either one, I’ve gotten the same quality prints. Honestly, the two companies are so similar and run such similar deals that sometimes I think they are owned by the same people. 😉

      I had forgotten that you mentioned Persnickety Prints on your blog! I need to browse their website a little more. I love that they have photos in unique sizes. 🙂

  4. Really great post! I haven’t done a comparison before but I have had several people rave about Costco’s prints. Someone at work who prints tons and tons of her pictures goes to Costco. I’m going to have to recommend Adoramapix to her. And I’ll have to check them out when I print pics again. I am bad about not printing mine and then I get new frames and don’t have anything in them. Or have frames with outdated pictures.

  5. Oh this is such a helpful post! I have used Mpix before and Walgreens but I hadn’t heard of Adoramapix! I will definitely look into it for the next printing session!

  6. this is great! I normally use Walgreens just out of convenience but 8 out of 10 times in disappointed, especially with larger prints. I just tried out Mpix and was pleased with the 16×20 photo I had printed. I was going to start using them, but I think I’ll try out AdoramaPix now 🙂

    • Maybe at least try a comparison run with 4x6s. If you’re pleased with Mpix results then you can continue to use them for sure. I’ve recommended them for years before I heard of AdoramaPix. I just notice Mpix photos are a little more on the red side. But they are super sharp which is definitely a bonus. Let me know if you try out AdoramaPix and what you think! 🙂

  7. thehipandthrifty

    Thanks, this is really helpful! I love having hardcopies to sprinkle around to get nostalgic over, but I don’t usually get prints because it can get pricey ( yeah, I take a million pictures of one thing. It’s a curse.), so I pretty much just store them on my pc/send to myself in e-mail and print them out as I need them, but I’ll have to try these out sometime. 🙂

    • Printing photos definitely gets pricey! That’s part of the draw Snapfish has held for me with their penny prints. But now that I don’t print many photos for my personal use (usually just a couple a year to update the frames in our home), I can spend a little more on the prints. 🙂

  8. This is SO HANDY!!! Thank you for sharing this! I have a bunch of wedding photos (from a year and a half ago haha) that I keep meaning to get printed but when I got a few done at the drug store, I was disappointed with how they turned out. Now I know where to go!

    • Yes!! Definitely! And you can always order a couple of 4 x 6s just to be sure that you like the quality before you order more expensive larger prints! Believe me, AdoramaPix does beautiful work! Kind of makes me want to reprint some of my own wedding photos, haha!

  9. This was SUCH a helpful post, especially since the holidays are just around the corner and I plan to do photos in (or for) Christmas cards this year. I’d never heard of adoramapix before, but I definitely plan to check them out!! Thank you for sharing your research with us!

    • Definitely at least order a couple of test photos from AdoramaPix (they aren’t terribly expensive) to see if you like the quality better than wherever you would normally print the photos. And let me know what you think if you do! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the great tips! We get ours from Snapfish and we have never been disappointed, they are always great quality.

  11. woah. i had NO idea. this post is so helpful, you have no idea! thank you so much for sharing. i use snapfish quite a lot, but only because i hadn’t heard of adorama.
    so you may or may not know this, i am sorry if it’s like.. insulting, lol. i want to get some ‘yearbook’ photo books done, i am NOT a scrapbooker lol so i want these to be super simple. any idea the best place (and not crazy expensive) to get those done? sorry if that is totally off the wall.

    • Yay!! I’m so glad this post was so helpful! I was wondering if it was even going to be something people cared about since so few people seem to print photos these days, but I get asked in person all the time so I wanted to at least have the information here too! 🙂

      Not an insulting question at all! I’ve used a couple of different companies to print photo books, but to be totally honest – those things can get stinking expensive. Especially when you’re making multiple ones as gifts. Or in my case last year: making individual yearbooks for the 6 years we’d been married. So I’ve totally been where you are on that. And I honestly tend to go with whatever company is offering the best deal. Maybe that makes me a bad photographer to suggest this, but it is what it is. The only company who’s quality was really terrible and customer service was awful was Mixbook. Otherwise I’ve had good results with Snapfish and Shutterfly. Snapfish seems to run slightly more deals than Shutterfly does (even though I kind of suspect they are owned by the same people because they are so similar!) so I’m signed up for Snapfish’s emails. Most of the year I just delete them without even opening them, but I always keep my eyes open for “photo books 60% off!” in the subject line. Several times a year they run deals on their photo books that are 50-60% off (sometimes up to 70%!).

      For me personally, if I can pay just a little more to get really awesome prints from a place like AdoramaPix instead of a cheaper spot, I’m going to do it. Especially if I’m enlarging those prints to hang on my wall. But when it comes to picking photo books – I love that Snapfish runs such great deals. If there were a $5 or $10 difference, I’d pay it. But when it’s a $20-$30 difference, per book, I’m going to go with the cheaper option even if it means the colors of the photos aren’t perfect. But yearbooks (for us, anyway) aren’t a bunch of professional looking photos. It’s us on vacation and traveling and doing house projects. A lot of the photos were taken on a cellphone. So not the best quality anyway. It just depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the most gorgeous book, pick beautiful quality photos to go in it and then print your book at a place like AdoramaPix. But if you are just looking for a scrapbook of sorts that showcases your year, do Snapfish.

      Hopefully this helps! 🙂

  12. This post is SO HELPFUL!!!! I’ve taken a couple of photo classes where my teacher *VERY* briefly compared a few different printing places but didn’t go into depth at all so I knew there were differences but i didn’t know what was better or of any were really “better” or just different (if that makes sense) But yeah this is like so good to know! What do you think of Walmart printing? I actually usually just use them because it’s quick and close to me but want to know how you think it compares to these brands or what place it comes in 🙂 Thank you!!

    • I haven’t used Walmart printing in several years so I’m not sure. But if you wanted to do your own experiment, you could order two or three 4 x 6 photos from both Walmart and AdoramaPix and then once they arrive, compare them to what the photo looks like on your screen and see which looks closer to the original. Keep in mind, though, photos on a screen will always be brighter than a photo in print because our computer/phone screens tend to be turned up so brightly. So don’t be surprised if printed photos look a little darker than what you see on a screen. Anyway, if you try it out, let me know! I’d love to hear what you think!

  13. Great tips! I had never even thought about this before… which goes to show how I’m not a photographer 😉 but I will now! Thanks, girl!

  14. This is so good to know! Embarrassingly enough, I have only used a photo lab twice since Steve and I got married…we printed some wedding photos for our Grandparents for Christmas. Usually, I print pictures myself, which obviously doesn’t result in great quality. Now I know where to go when I want to step up my game 😉

  15. This was such a great idea for a post and is SO helpful! I have always just ordered from whichever place was most convenient/ had the best deals at the time. I have never realized just how much of a difference it makes. Thanks for the tips!

  16. This was really helpful. I want to start printing more because I just think it is so important.

    So, thanks for sharing!

  17. Hey! Thanks so much for posting this! I have only used Snapfish and didn’t realize there was that much of a quality difference! I am going to try AdoramaPix and Mpix.

  18. Pingback: Camera Advice |

  19. I have a question for you now – who do you use for lab pictures?

    Does a place like Artifact Uprising count as a lab? Who do you use?

    • I use a local professional lab here in Memphis. I haven’t heard of Artifact Uprising before, but after pursuing their website, they seem really similar to AdoramaPix or Black River Imaging (one a lot of people use as a pro lab). Really I would look for crisp detail, accurate colors, and good quality paper in prints. So maybe order a couple and see what you think. 🙂

  20. I’m so glad I found your blog! I recently printed photos from Snapfish and Apple photos. The Apple images are beautiful, but I’m not sure if it was just the quality of the picture itself, or the printing quality. Have you used Apple photo printing?

  21. Thank you for this article! I was recently married and so I have 1000s of pictures to print (as gifts and keepsake). I normally use Costco, but man!, I am going to do a test run with Adorama.
    The images comparisons were super helpful. Visuals tell more than words.

  22. Thanks, really useful post. I hadn’t thought about Adorama, though I’ve had great luck buying gear from them.

    I am so done with Shutterfly. The website is full of errors, and it’s impossible to get even the simplest help through their downgraded “customer service” – it’s a complete waste of time. They don’t even read and understand the questions.

    I had hopes for Amazon Prints, since their customer service is actually useful. But since they use Snapfish to print, there would still be the lesser print quality.

    I wonder if it is possible to get Mpix to NOT color correct your photos, and if that would fix their color bias? I adjust the color before I submit them – I don’t want them to modify what I submit.

    • Adorama really does do beautiful work! In fact I just ordered prints from them this week and they should be arriving tomorrow. I’ve been so pleased with everything they’ve done for me!

      It’s a shame that Shutterfly’s service is so lacking. And good to know about Amazon Prints. I didn’t even realize they had a printing service. I don’t know if Mpix offers an option to not color correct. I know that AdoramaPix does offer that option which I love! Maybe give them a try sometime. I hope you’re pleased with the results if you do.

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