It’s not the cheapest service, but Mpix often has sales. Unless you’re printing something as a gift and need it now, I suggest you wait until the prices drop.
Ideal for photo enthusiasts
The highest quality prints in my tests came from Adorama’s Printique service, formerly called Adoramapix. Choosing between Printique and Mpix was one of the hardest calls I had to make in this job. In the end, I went with Mpix because you get free shipping and frequent sales make it cheaper, but if print quality is your only concern, Printique wins by a hair. Part of the reason is its options: you can choose a range of papers, and they’re listed by their actual names like Kodak Endura or Fujifilm Matte. I also like the ability to print the date and file name on the back of each image.
Printique is more expensive, but the extra money gets you much better prints. I opted for Kodak Endura Luster paper (which is also the one used by Mpix). Colors are very true to life, with rich blacks and good detail in shadows and highlights.
Another place where Printique shines is in the photo upload process. You can import images directly from your computer or from a range of other places, including Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, Google Photos, Instagram, and Lightroom.
Best on a Budget
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, but still want great prints, Snapfish delivers. Snapfish doesn’t offer the same print quality as our top picks, but it’s less than a third of the price, and the results aren’t bad.
You can upload images from your computer or phone, or import them directly from social networks (Facebook, Flickr, Google Photos or Instagram). The web interface is easy to use, though like most cheaper services, you’ll be constantly bombarded with upsells for books, mugs, and the like. Some of them turn out to be fun (see below), but it’s still boring.
I was surprised by the quality of Snapfish prints considering the price. They are better than what I got from several other services (not reviewed here) that charged more than double.
Snapfish also has great prices on some more left-leaning print options, like coffee mugs. I recently made my kids mugs using pictures of drawings they had made. The results were fun, although I certainly wouldn’t expect these prints to be dishwasher safe. Still, for $2 (with a coupon during the holidays), it’s hard to go wrong. The full price for these is technically $12, but Snapfish frequently offers coupons that bring it down to around $4, sometimes less. Pay no more than $6.
Ideal for books
I’ve used Shutterfly to create everything from calendars to books and have been happy with the results, but the company’s prints aren’t the best.
The tonal range is good, shadows don’t fade into pure black, and at the white end of the spectrum clouds retain a lot of detail. But the prints look flat and the paper is flimsy compared to our top picks. I also found the constant upselling on the website tiring. Every time you upload photos, even if you’ve already said you want to make prints, Shutterfly interrupts the purchase process to say, “We’ve turned your images into a book,” and forces you to close that box of junk dialog just to get to the thing you actually want to buy.