April 7, 2008

Printing Digital photos at home versus paying a service

I did a little research a bit ago into the costs of printing digital photos. I have two printers at home. One is a fairly old HP model that prints photos OK but is out of ink and the other is a newer Lexmark all-in-one scanner/copier/printer that has ink but prints photos poorly. So I'm faced with the choice of buying a new printer, buying more ink for the very old HP and maintaining ink in 2 printers or finding an alternative to printing photos from home.

I looked at a few online services and compared their prices:

6c for 4x6
$4 ship
20 photos = $5.20 total cost ($0.26 each)
100 photos = $10.00 ( $0.10 each)
8c for 4x6
89c for 1-10 ... 71-100 for $4.29 shipping
20 = $3.09 ($0.15 each)
100 = $12.29 ($0.12 each)
Snapfish (by HP)
9c for 4x6
$0.99 + $0.49 / 10 prints shipping
20 = $3.77 ($0.188 each)
100 = $14.89 ($0.14 each)
12c for 4x6
1-5 for .99, 6-15 for $1.48, 16-25 for 1.97, +10 over 25 for +0.49 shipping
20 = $4.37 ($0.21 each)
100 = $17.89 ($0.17 each)

A lot of these services will advertise costs of 6 to 12 cents per photo but don't forget the cost of shipping!

So that's a range of $0.10 to $0.26 per 4x6 photo for the online services. You get a lower cost per photo by ordering 100 photos at once due to spreading the shipping costs over more photos.

By comparison I also checked out the costs of printing photos at home by buying paper and printer ink.

Here's reference to some data I found:
Photo paper 8x11, 100 sheets costs $12 ($0.04 ea)
Photo ink cartridge was $10 each or 3 for $30
photo yields about 300 per cartridge:
300 pages, $30 (0.10 ea)
INK + paper = 0.10 + 0.04 = $0.14 ea
75xl: 145 4x6's per cartridge, $30 or $0.20 ea

A couple options for paper/ink costs came out at $0.14 or 0.20 per 4x6 photo.

So depending on what options you chose you could spend more or less in either using online services versus printing at home.

I don't see a clear choice here myself based on just price between online service or home printing So I think the choice will really come down to individual preferences based on other features of either option.

There are pros and cons to each option. Printing at home has more convenience in some ways for sure but you also have to own a printer, buy paper and ink supplies. Printing via a service is less immediate and and convenient but you don't have to worry about supplies and should get professional quality prints.

My father who is retired and not very computer savvy recently got some prints done at a local grocery store via their self service machine. He spent closer to $0.30 per print but it was quick and easy for him and he didn't have to bother trying to figure out the computer at home. So even this is a practical option for some individuals.

I think I'll try an online print service and see how well it works.

Note I am not endorsing any of the services above, I have not tested them myself. For reference here are some independent reviews of online photo service I mention above.
Snapfish: http://www.viewpoints.com/Snapfish-reviews
Walgreens: http://www.viewpoints.com/Walgreens--21176-reviews

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