Snapfish and Shutterfly. Walmart and Walgreens. Even Amazon—the king of digital disruption—has jumped into the ring. Today, if you want photos printed, you have a surfeit of services to choose from.

To help you make a selection that will continue to satisfy you even after the photo has been on your mantel for years, we put 10 services through their paces to assess the ordering experience, cropping and color-correction options, and costs. We also enlisted the testers in our labs to rate each one for print quality.

More on Photography and Photos

To simulate the average consumer’s experience, we asked CR staffers to contribute their digital photos. We ordered prints in various sizes and finishes, then tasked our panel of trained photo experts with evaluating the results using the protocol we employ in our printer labs.

Our testers rated each print on 20 metrics, including color saturation, sharpness, the accuracy of the flesh tones, lack of streaking or graininess, and the breadth of the image’s blacks and whites. All that data was then telescoped into a numerical score for color, clarity, and contrast. See the scores below.

Our Guide to 10 Print Services

It turns out that you don’t have to pay top dollar to get top quality. Three of the least expensive services for per-print price—Walmart, Amazon, and Snapfish (all 9 cents per 4x6 photo)—received high marks from our testers for photo print quality. Mpix, our lowest scorer, charges 29 cents per photo in the popular 4x6-inch print size.

Focus on Print Quality
After testing the photo print quality of the 10 services, we applied numerical ratings to each. According to our in-house printing expert, Rich Sulin, “there were clear differences.” The prints from Walgreens, AdoramaPix, Walmart, Amazon, CVS, Shutterfly, and Snapfish were rated Excellent. Those from Costco and Nations Photo Lab were Very Good. And those from Mpix were Good. Our testing panel found the Mpix prints to be slightly undersaturated, not very crisp, and a bit grainy. In an emailed statement, Mpix expressed surprise. “We often rank highly in similar tests. We tightly and regularly calibrate our equipment, and our team closely monitors every order all the way through the lab.”

We also compared the results to the photo print scores of two all-in-one inkjet printers in our labs: the Canon Pixma MG7720 and Epson Expression Home XP-440. The Canon prints scored an 81; those from the Epson, a 31.

(If you’re reading this article on your smartphone, we recommend that you rotate the device to landscape mode to better view the table below.)

Service Score Price for: Features
  Print quality 4x6 prints 8x10 prints In-store pickup Mobile app Print sizes Framing Cloud storage
Walgreens 98 $0.33 $3.99  6
Comments:Provides same-day pickup. With the app, you can arrange pickup times at nearby locations.
AdoramaPix 97 $0.29 $1.89 28
Comments:Offers free economy shipping on orders of $49 and more.
Walmart Photo 91 $0.09 $1.79  8
Comments:Offers 1-hour pickup at extra cost.
Amazon 88 $0.09 $1.79  7
Comments:Provides free shipping with $99/year Amazon Prime membership.
CVS Photo 88 $0.29 $3.99  7
Comments:Offers same-day pickup.
Shutterfly 81 $0.15 $3.99 13
Comments:Provides 1-hour pickup or free shipping on orders of $39 and more.
Snapfish 81 $0.09 $2.99 11
Comments:Offers in-store pickup at CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Costco Photo Center 72 $0.17 $1.79 11
Comments:Requires a $60-a-year store membership.
Nations Photo Lab 68 $0.28 $1.95 70
Comments:Provides free shipping for orders of $49 and more.
Mpix 54 $0.29 $2.29 29
Comments:Offers free shipping with rewards points.

Guide to the Chart: All photos we tested were delivered by mail from a lab. The overall print quality score is a combination of clarity, contrast, and color accuracy of our reference image (not shown) reproduced by each service, as evaluated by our trained panel. The 4x6 and 8x10 prices were current as we went to press. There may be additional charges for retouching and color correction. In-store pickup indicates services available nationwide. Cloud storage designates services that offer to store all of your photos, not just those used in photo books and collages.

Service Score Price Features
  Print Quality 4x6 prints 8x10 prints In-store pickup Mobile app Print sizes Framing Cloud storage
Walgreens 98 $0.33 $3.99  6
Comments:Provides same-day pickup. With the app, you can arrange pickup times at nearby locations.
AdoramaPix 97 $0.29 $1.89 28
Comments:Offers free economy shipping on orders of $49 and more.
Walmart Photo 91 $0.09 $1.79  8
Comments:Offers 1-hour pickup at extra cost.
Amazon 88 $0.09 $1.79  7
Comments:Provides free shipping with $99/year Amazon Prime membership.
CVS Photo 88 $0.29 $3.99  7
Comments:Offers same-day pickup.
Shutterfly 81 $0.15 $3.99 13
Comments:Provides 1-hour pickup or free shipping on orders of $39 and more.
Snapfish 81 $0.09 $2.99 11
Comments:Offers in-store pickup at CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.
Costco Photo Center 72 $0.17 $1.79 11
Comments:Requires a $60-per-year store membership.
Nations Photo Lab 68 $0.28 $1.95 70
Comments:Provides free shipping for orders of $49 and more.
Mpix 54 $0.29 $2.29 29
Comments:Offers free shipping with rewards points.

Guide to the Chart: All photos we tested were delivered by mail from a lab. The overall print quality score is a combination of clarity, contrast, and color accuracy of our reference image (not shown) reproduced by each service, as evaluated by our trained panel. The 4x6 and 8x10 prices were current at publication time. There may be additional charges for retouching and color correction. In-store pickup indicates services available nationwide. Cloud storage designates services that offer to store all your photos, not just those used in photo books and collages.


Cropping

Photo cropping is the term used to describe what appears in a print and what ends up on the cutting room floor. Each service we tried provided an automatic cropping function that, in most cases, worked well enough. But not always, as you’ll see in the examples below.

To steer clear of cropping woes, avoid images with crucial details on the edge of the frame. And, if you can, preview a service’s crops before completing your purchase.

You can also use online tools to crop it yourself. A little cropping can enhance an image, but if you go too far, forcing the software to enlarge one area of the photo—especially on a shot from a cell phone—you’re likely to end up with a grainy, muddy, low-resolution image. Amazon, Snapfish, and Nations Photo Lab provided warnings when extreme cropping made the resolution too low.


Color and Image Correction

For those who don’t want to retouch photos themselves, the services offer a variety of color and image correction options to try to improve sub-optimal photos. To see how this worked, we chose the photo shown here—a challenge because it contains both bright autumnal colors and subtle skin tones. We selected the autocorrect option provided by each vendor, allowing the service to evaluate and adjust the brightness, saturation, and contrast in any given print. For a fee, you may be able to request a range of other retouching options. Mpix, for example, offers red-eye reduction, facial retouching, glass glare removal, stray hair removal, and teeth whitening.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the December 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.