From digital to prints, the best ways to process.
I remember the days when I used to wait for a roll of film to be processed into prints. First, you had to finish taking all of the photos on a roll of film, and then you took the roll to a photo processing place which was often in the local drug store, or a camera shop. Then you would have to wait a few days for the prints to be ready to be picked up. Then a business called Fotomat was started to offer customers film processing in one day, and to make the experience even speedier Fotomats were drive through shops in a small cute booth located in parking lots of shopping centers where there were grocery stores, dry cleaners and other stores you shopped at frequently. They were easy to spot with their bright yellow roof with FOTOMAT in big letters on the roof. Fotomats went out of business once digital photography became popular and nearly replaced film photography. Even the Polaroid camera had almost become extinct, but the instant photo technology is making a limited comeback with a new model called Snap.
The reasons to love digital photography are many with the convenience of high-quality digital cameras in the current cell phones that most people own. Instant gratification is standard for any memory taken by you on your phone. Sharing your photos on social apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter gives your friends and family a chance to live those memories with you. Still… there is nostalgia and novelty in having a print of a photo that makes a piece of personal history special as you hold it in your hands. Since my Dad (95 years old) prefers to have prints rather than view digital photos on a phone, computer, or even the nifty digital frame I bought him, I’ve started to print more photos for him because he delights in getting the pictures and displays them all over the house.
Many new businesses have sprung from the need consumers have to print that special picture to frame, put in a scrapbook or photo album, or give as a gift. I’ve tried a few services for this purpose and there are some that are good, some not too good and one I found that’s great! The photos I’ve had printed are from my phone, but you can also use these services to print photos from a digital camera. I have two phones, Android and iPhone and have printed from both types of phones. Here is my list of digital photo processing services from the good to the great:
- CVS Photo – You can get the free CVS Photo app for your phone (Android or iPhone). It is easy to select the photos you want to be printed and you can pick up your order the same day, or the next day if it’s late in the afternoon when you place your order. The cost is relatively inexpensive for 4×6 prints – range is 20 to 29 cents each or you can opt to have your prints shipped to you, then the price drops to 10 to 13 cents each depending how many prints you order. It could be just the CVS stores in my area of Los Angeles, but the customer service at these locations was below acceptable. The prints were good quality, except for some photos that were low resolution (72 dpi) came out grainy.
- Walgreens Photo– This is also a free app for your phone (Android or iPhone) and it works in a similar way and is easy to use like the CVS app. The ordering and pick up is easy too with the choice of same day service or next day, or have the order shipped to you. The pricing about the same as CVS, but the in-store service is very good. Walgreens has the best store service. The prints were good quality, except for photos that were low resolution (72 dpi) came out grainy.
- Shutterfly – Recently this online company added the ability to pick up your order at a CVS, Walgreens or a Target store. I have not tried the pickup service, but the pricing is a little higher than ordering direct from CVS or Walgreens so I would probably not use Shutterfly for that. It takes about 5 to 7 days to receive your order in the mail, and you can pay more for rush shipping. Their photo quality is good, but again low-resolution photos are grainy. The app is free for Android or iPhone and their service is good.
- Free Prints – I started using Free Prints two months ago and really like the service. The app (Android or iPhone) is free and the prints, 4×6, are also free up to 85 (4×6) prints per month, maximum 1000 free prints per year. Other sizes are charged and if you order duplicates of a 4×6 print the extra copies are charged, and the prices are reasonable. The shipping charges are low enough to make it worth ordering a few more photos than you would normally with other services. I tested a print of a low resolution (72 dpi) photo and it actually came out sharper and clearer than I got for the same at Walgreens or CVS. You can also choose photos from Facebook, Instagram, Google Photos, Dropbox and other cloud drives to print. My order arrived within 5 days, but they also offer rush shipping. I rate Free Prints the best out of the services I have tried.
One of the great things about printing photos from the pictures you have taken on your phone is that you can select the best photos and not waste money or paper on a bad picture. Back in the day when we printed film from a camera I often got back pictures with my thumb covering the lens, or blurry pictures because I shook the camera, and other photo atrocities that I can just delete from my phone and never have to see on paper!
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