Sure, you can just go down the street with an SD card and pick up your favorite photos from the local drugstore or super-center an hour later, but that’s kind of like putting a $50 lens on a $2,000 camera. All print photography isn’t equal — the quality of the images you receive back differs based on where you are printing photos. For that reason, a professional photo (or other printable art) isn’t typically printed at the same place where you can order images from your iphone or social networks for a dime.
Several photo labs pack enough quality into the print to be considered among the elite options that even pros will trust with their print work. While there’s some variation in quality between the top professional photo printing labs, the difference isn’t as steep as stepping from a consumer platform like Shutterfly up into the realm of professional imaging. Each lab will also vary on prices, photo paper options, customer service, specialty prints, and ordering platforms, to name a few.
So where do the people who really care about high quality photos go for that print order? Whether you’re looking to print Christmas cards, wallet prints, back to school pictures, photo greeting cards or even photo business cards, here are eight printing labs recommended by the photography community to order prints. Before you shop prints or other photo products, read on to see what each place offers and how the prices compare for a simple 8×10 photo keepsake.
Paper options: E-Surface paper, metallic paper, true black and white paper; lustre coating and fine linen texture options.
Mpix’s prices make the photo lab an easy entry for photographers ready to move from the inexpensive consumer photo labs into something more high-end. The 24-hour turnaround (excluding shipping) also makes the photo lab ideal for quick photographic prints. Photographers that recommend Mpix note the company’s great quality, while keeping true to the photo that you actually sent in. Print photography options include e-surface paper, metallic paper, and true black and white paper along with lustre coatings and fine linen texture options. Mpix also offers mounting, framing, and retouching. Besides the prints, the Kansas-based company also allows you to shop photo books and wall art such as canvas prints and wall calendars.
Paper options: More than 12 different paper types available, including Fuji, Kodak, and Illford.
Whitewall images are less prints, more art — the photographers that recommend them usually toss around words like gallery-worthy or at the very least, high-end home decor. The professional printing company is known for its canvas and wall art such as metal and acrylic prints, but the printing company’s “basic” prints shouldn’t be overlooked either. The company is one of the pricier options, but the attention to detail suggests this might be the photo lab for the detail-oriented photographers looking for high quality photos.
Paper options: Lustre, glossy, matte, silk, metallic, deep matte finish
AdoramaPix provides high quality products and excellent customer service at an affordable price. Not only do they use advanced printers and high quality papers, AdoramaPix goes out of its way to inspect each order to ensure it’s up to customer standards. They help curate products by occasion (holidays, weddings, graduations etc), offering a thoughtful touch to any customer’s experience and offer classes to better help the customer understand the photography and photography printing experience.
Price: $2.24 ($2.65 color corrected)
Paper options: Lustre, metallic, glossy
Nations Photo Lab’s prices and wide variety of products makes it an easy transition for the serious photographer switching from a basic photo lab. From prints to real leather albums, wood prints and custom USB drives, the lab is still big enough to meet many photographer’s needs. Nations is also a photo lab where something is almost always discounted and the company is known for good customer service.
Paper options: E-Surface, silk, metallic, true black and white, Fuji Deep Matte
A lab that’s known for both high quality photos and a fast turnaround, Miller’s Professional Imaging is a favorite among photographers. Along with print photography, wall art, and albums, the Missouri-based company also has school and sports print options for photographers working in those genres. Sign-up is required to see the full price list, but login in was shortly followed by an offer for a free print sample pack.
Paper and finish options: Lusture, metallic, deep matte, mounting with texture also available
White House Custom Color started as a print lab and continues to focus on prints even after expanding to wall art prints and other options. As the name suggests, the photo lab is one that prides itself on getting accurate colors in the prints. Add in a variety of paper and finish options with free shipping and it’s easy to see why WHCC is respected in the photography community.
Price: $2.20 (starting at $3.52 for fine art)
Paper options: Fuji Lustre, Fuji Pearl, Kodak Metallic, Fuji Deep Matting, coatings, and texture also available
Pro DPI is a high-end photo printer, but choosing between a regular photo print and the company’s fine art printing enables a range of different prices and features. The print service has an excellent selection of paper and finishing options, including color correction and texture as add-ons to the original price. The lab also offers free shipping on orders over $12.
Price: $1.79 ($3.50 with color correction)
Paper options: Various Kodak Endura and Fuji papers with options for protective coatings, texture, and mounts
Bay Photo Lab’s website claims the company has the widest selection of professional print products — and looking through the print photography options, that’s easy to see. At Bay Photo, you don’t just pick the size of the print — you pick the paper, the finish, and the mount. The lab also distinguishes between professional photo prints and fine art and also offers wall art, albums, photo gifts, custom USBs and more. Several photographers also note the quality of this lab’s metal prints.
Paper options: Lustre and metallic, mounting options also available
Artsy Couture is the new kid on the block compared to the labs with decades of experience, but what they lack in history they make up for with unique print products. The photo lab offers lustre and metallic print photography in a variety of sizes along with options for color correction and mounting. Known for their gallery blocks and other wall art, they also have unique USB drives and custom and wood presentation boxes for a great first impression when delivering prints to clients.