Where do you get your digital images printed?

I was just talking to a client who said Shutterfly is cropping all of the images of her artwork. I've never used Shutterfly and I've never had to make photographs of my artwork into prints, so I'm not much help. I use Photoworks, but I can't say that it won't do the same thing to her prints as Shutterfly.

Any advice?

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13 thoughts on “Where do you get your digital images printed?”

  1. A lot of the current generation of ink jet printers have impressive output and can create borderless prints of a quality indistinguishable from the photo services. The downside is that ink jet cartridges are pretty expensive (cheaper than ordering prints, but expensive for printing letters), and they are constantly getting plugged up– I have to spend ten or fifteen minutes running through the self-cleaning process to get the thing to make a print. The upside– you have total creative control over the image.

  2. I think the cropping thing is very common among all the photo sites. It’s a result of automation. The printing equipment is set to crop all around the image to allow the machines some slop room. Kodak and Fuji both defend the practice by saying that the edges don’t matter to most people. I haven’t tried this workaround myself, but it might work: Using a photo editing program, add a border in a matching or complementary color the approximate width of the cropped area before uploading to the site. Or use white, even wider, so the resulting print would have a white border around it, just like in the old days, when photos were printed by real people. The other thing to try is the advice from Kodak and Fuji: When framing the subject, leave a little room all around it to allow for processing adjustments. Yeah, I make a face at that one, too. The more costly alternative is to use a custom lab. But, even there, most of them use the same automatic printing gear as the photo sites. The machines are adjustable to minimize the cropping, but I don’t think they can eliminate it entirely.

  3. Yes! Well, hopefully a bit anyway. I get my images printed at the local digital lab and had the same problem. Essentially the printer computer detects the edge of the image and then fits it appropriately in the space of the print size. There are two problems here: 1. It will always cut off a slight margin, 2. Odd-shaped artwork images may get cropped drastically as the computer fits to fill the space of the print. My solution was to present the image like a slide. I decided to have a neutral white border around all of my images – so the artwork is centered as if on a slide. I chose white but black or a grey would work just as well. Since I did use white, however, I needed coloured pixels for the computer to sense as the outermost edges of the image (it doesn’t see white as edge so cuts it off). So I include a very very pale grey outline. Having this neutral margin ensure that even with a margin of error (so to speak!) any cropping still shouldn’t reach your art image. First I create a Photoshop file the size and resolution of the photo to be printed and make it the appropriate neutral background colour. If white, I then also select the whole image then use Photoshop’s Edit–>Stroke option to create a soft grey outline several pixels wide. Then, I import or copy/paste the artwork image and resize it within the image space leaving that neutral margin. Basically I think most digital printing processes work the same so this process should work for most everyone. They just want to fill the space with your image – and most people don’t mind if a bit of sky is cropped off their holiday photo. Many artists are now using consumer-aimed services to produce a professional product. This is fine as long as we adjust; an art photographer would go through each image individually and adjust the slide or print to make sure no image area was lost. And a bonus to this method! Now that you have a built-in margin you can “label” your print in Photoshop too with your name, the title and dimensions.

  4. Try http://www.iprintfromhome.com – they cater to artists (making slides, etc) and will make prints without cropping your artwork. Essentially, if your image is 3×6″, they’ll make a 4×6″ print with a 1/2″ of white on either side so the entire image is showing. They’re the only online photo service I’ve found that will do this. They also do slides with black border when the image doesn’t fill the frame. I prefer to make my own prints with a good photo quality printer so I can control the color, but I’ve had good results with iprintfromhome.com, and they’ve even emailed me before when I forgot to check the right box to make sure I wanted my images cropped.

  5. Most photo processing operations (including online ones) are still set up to print based on traditional film-to-paper sizes: 4×6, 8×10 and so forth. But digital cameras produce images in a different proportion, generally 3×4 (or in “widescreen” format, 9×16). So if you order a 4×6 print, for example, the lab has two options: They can enlarge the image 150% and make the short dimension 4.5″ and cut off half an inch (1/4″ on each side) to fill the 4×6 frame; or they can keep it at 100%, which means you end up with half an inch of white space on either side of your 3″ wide image. For most amateur snapshot-takers, who stand too far away from their subjects, filling the frame and cropping some of the edges is preferable to seeing a smaller full-frame image with “wasted” white space around it. If it’s important to show your full image as large as possible, I’d recommend ordering a print whose smaller dimension is in proportion with the larger dimension of your art, even if you have to order a larger print than you really want. (Order an 8×10 if you want to print your image at 6×8, for instance — then trim the excess yourself if you wish.)

  6. I use Shutterfly (order on-line and pick up prints at Costco) and I am able to crop as I like (full image or less) using their custom cropping tools, add borders (I like either black or white) and get the full image on any size of print. I can preview the results before pressing the “order” button. Fast service (pick up same day), good prices, great quality prints with lots of options. Carol Holaday

  7. Whoops! I was wrong about Shutterfly, it is Snapfish that works with my Costco account. I can’t see how to edit my last post. I order prints through the Costco site and they use the Snapfish service. I also order from Shutterfly and have prints mailed to me. Same sort of editing choices as to full image, borders, etc., on from both. I think the Shutterfly site is a bit easier to use, but I sure like being able to pick up my prints the same day and reject any that are “wrong”. Carol

  8. Snapfish alerts you that (after you’ve added photos to your cart and are ready to process the order) you have digital photos that will be cropped unless you ok them to process them in true digital ratio. I’ve had this done and I like it. The only drawback is that the actual print you receive really is smaller than 4 x 6. I just ordered prints of some quilts that I’d already done some manipulating of, so I am anxious to see how they have been processed, i.e. will anything be cropped off.

  9. I’ve used Kodak’s online print service (www.Kodak.com) with success for my photography. Someone else already pointed out the main reason images get cropped when printed: the proportions of compact (point ‘n’ shoot) digital cameras are different from the print sizes we’ve become used to. At the Kodak site you can turn off the automatic cropping feature so this doesn’t happen to your pictures. It’s under the Advanced Print Options and is called “Zoom & Trim”. If you turn this off, then the photo is not cropped when printed. Also, if you have adjusted your picture’s brightness & colors yourself on the computer, then you would want to turn off the Kodak Perfect Touch image correction (also under Advanced Print Options) so they don’t try to “fix” your corrections. Doing both of these things helps me get pictures that look like what I uploaded. Kathy

  10. Hi Alyson, I also print on a good quality Epson and I am very happy with the quality – though it is sometimes a hassle. I like the control of the output. And the speed. I have a little Imagekind shop where I upload images and they print as someone buys them. They have set sizes depending on the size file you upload. I have heard from other artists the quality is excellent. I can’t bet their prices with my own printing … and they use Epson also. ~ Diane Clancy http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog

  11. I have been ordering from pixamo.com- There are tons of different sizes and formats to choose from and I can also send them to other family members from the website- good for gifts and holidays.

  12. john stephen lewis

    A 4 x 6 enlarges to a 5 X 7, not a 5 x 7.5, ect. Cropping is an essential part of making a print. Our traditional print ratios, at least in America, have nothing to do with the ratio of the image captured. This is true even with old film. It’s just that most people never stared at their negatives under a light box to evaluate the editing decisions of a photolab. From the comments It sounds like some companies are helping people keep all the image. Fair enough. If you’re ever in doubt just make the canvas the same size as the print you are ordering, or at least an exact proportion, and cut off the dead space later. If you make your print fatter, they won’t make it shorter.

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