Updated March 30, 2015

Best Place to Print Photos - Shutterfly vs Snapfish vs MPIX

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We're all taking more photos than ever. But what are we doing with them? Are they forever stuck in our phones or in the cloud somewhere? Photo sites make it easy to pull out your favorite images and turn them into printable keepsakes and gifts. The only hard part is deciding which one to use.

Before you entrust any website with your precious memories, you want to be sure they can do them justice without breaking the bank. What do people say about their print quality? How many prints do you need to order to get a good deal? Do they have a mobile app? Can you share photos from your account within their site? To help you answer these questions and more, CreditDonkey has reviewed the top 3 places to print photos — Shutterfly, Snapfish, and MPIX— to see how they stack up against each other.

Where is the Best Place to Print Photos?

ForPhoto Printing Site
Best SelectionShutterfly
Best PricesSnapfish
Best ReputationMPIX

© Benurs - Learning and... (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

Did you know: Shutterfly offers "100% happiness guaranteed." That means if you are not happy with a purchase, you can contact them and they'll help make it right.

Click here to see Shutterfly Special Offers for July 2018.

Study Methodology

Here are the main factors we considered:

  1. Prices
  2. Selection
  3. Reputation

For many people, cost is the most important factor when deciding whether to print photos or let them linger in cyberspace indefinitely. Capturing and preserving memories can be addictive, which can be a good thing, as long as you can afford it. Printing your own photos at home might be less expensive at times, but the quality isn’t always great and even the most tech savvy of us get printer jams. Another reason to use an online photo site: There’s a whole world out there of collage books, personalized postage stamps, and even magnets, at least with the sites that have the most variety of options. Once you start uploading prints and thinking of the possibilities, you may never want a mundane, single image, 4-by-6 ever again.

Finally, before you choose an online printer for your most precious memories, you'll want to be sure they're known for producing beautiful products in a timely fashion. If the print quality is inconsistent or the uploading process cumbersome, the bargain price you received won't feel so special.

Best Selection: Shutterfly

  • Prices: Moderate base cost ($0.15 for 4-by-6 prints, $7.99 for 11-by-14 prints, or $24.99 for an 8-by-11 photo book), great discounts (50 free prints for registering as a new customer, free shipping on orders of $39+, and many more), 4/5
  • Selection: Photo books, cards, stationary, prints (including canvas, metal, and wood wall art), gift items (magnets, mugs, puzzles, etc.), home decor (pillows, photo blankets, candles, etc.), and more, 5/5
  • Reputation: Forerunner in the photo printing market, no minimum order requirement for photo storage, local pickup options available (but may result in a different quality product and/or price), 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

Shutterfly has been around since the birth of the online photo printing business with the goal of disrupting the traditional way we once printed photos, and it’s succeeded so far. According to Bloomberg, it’s had to compete against more than a thousand startups in addition to brick and mortar retail shops. If the mere fact this site has survived the competition doesn't say enough, consider the fact that it now guards more than 16 billion treasured moments on their servers. (The company claims it has never deleted a photo.)

Although Shutterfly now offers customers the ability to print on almost any surface imaginable, The New York Times felt it was "best suited to book creators and mug decorators." Perhaps Shutterfly at least halfway agrees with them — TechCrunch reported the company recently purchased Shark Tank backed GrooveBook to expand its foothold in the photo book niche. It's likely the average consumer will be content to know that when The Wall Street Journal reviewed photo book printers, the writer’s Shutterfly purchase arrived first and cost the least.

Why We Like It
Shutterfly makes one-stop gift shopping easy by offering more creative photo printing options than anywhere else — everything from personalized pet tags to custom puzzles. The company is the only one in our top three that offers glass and wood prints. As a leader in the photo printing business for more than a decade, the company and its print quality meet the standards of the average consumer.

You can upload your photos through the Internet or by using its smartphone app. Shutterfly doesn't impose a file size limit or require you to order any photos to store images on the site. You can easily share albums with friends from there if you aren't a fan of social media, and you can pick up your order at Target if you like.

Purchasing a pre-paid print plan for 4-by-6 photos lowers Shutterfly's per item prices enough to nearly meet Snapfish at rock bottom. Buying a 400 or 600 print plan won't break your budget ($44 and $54, respectively) and knowing you need to use your credit within 2 years may help you keep your goal to fill your photo albums with new memories or enable you to buy copies of the best ones for friends and family. If 4-by-6 prints aren't your standard choice, you could opt for an annual subscription ($29), which gets you 30% off all orders and a free 8.5-by-11 photo book.

Its Downsides
You won't find glowing reviews (nor raging rants) about Shutterfly written by professional photographers. The company's print quality is in line with its major competitors but also correlates with its moderate to low prices.

Who It Works Best For
Anyone who wants the widest array of print surface options available, combined with reasonable prices, will enjoy Shutterfly.

Visit: Shutterfly to print photos

Best Prices: Snapfish

  • Prices: Low base prices ($0.09 for 4-by-6 prints, $6.99 for 11-by-14 prints, or $24.99 and up for an 8-by-11 photo book), ships orders for as little as $0.99, offers great discounts (55 free prints with your first upload, free shipping on orders of $25+, and many more), 5/5
  • Selection: Photo books, cards, stationary, prints (including canvas and metal wall art), gift items (magnets, mugs, calendars, etc.), home decor (pillows, photo blankets, etc.), and more, 4.5/5
  • Reputation: Popular with bargain shoppers, prints sometimes appear oversaturated, local pickup options available (but may result in a different quality product and/or price), 3/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.2/5

Like Shutterfly, Snapfish has been around since the birth of the online photo printing industry. Snapfish likely has a few billion fewer files on its servers, since customers are required to order at least one photo per year to earn their piece of the storage pie, but it has also offered consistently lower prices than Shutterfly from the start.

Lifehacker readers rated Snapfish #1, in agreement with the author's sentiments that it was the "most generous" photo printing site. PC Magazine called Snapfish's prices good, implying that you may sacrifice a bit of quality in exchange for the discount. However, when you look at reviews like the one on Printaholic.com, you can see that Snapfish is a strong contender for #1 and prints for less than half the cost of the winner.

Why We Like It
Snapfish offers rock bottom prices without any pre-paid requirements or subscriptions, and CreditDonkey has coupon codes available to lower those prices even further. The Snapfish site offers a vast array of print size and style options in addition to tangible gift items and personalized decor. And the site makes it easy to upload photos through the web or by smartphone and has partnerships with stores like Walgreens and Walmart for local pickup.

Its Downsides
Some reviewers reported that items they received were printed askew and had to be redone (i.e., greeting cards and photo books). Others stated that prints retrieved at their local printers differed in quality from those ordered by mail.

Who It Works Best For
Those who merely want the absolute best price possible will adore Snapfish.

Visit: Snapfish to print photos

Best Reputation: MPIX

  • Prices: Moderate to high base prices ($0.29 for 4-by-6 prints, $7.49 for 11-by-14 prints, or $25 and up for a 7.75-by-10 photo book), little or no discounts, 3/5
  • Selection: Photo books, cards, stationary, prints (including canvas wall art), and more, 3/5
  • Reputation: Premium quality prints, high quality photo paper, 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 3.7/5

MPIX, an offshoot of Miller's Professional Imaging (which began as a full-service photo lab for professional photographers in Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1964), quickly grew into the most popular professional lab in the U.S. MPIX was formed in 2003 to serve the company's burgeoning digital needs and offer high quality prints to the many avid amateurs blossoming in tandem with the DSLR trend.

The New York Times, PC Magazine, Lifehacker, and USA Today all agree — MPIX is the place to go for high quality prints.

Why We Like It
MPIX uses higher quality paper than its competitors and takes the time to individually color correct every photo. Its color prints shine with a Lustre finish, and its black and white prints have the depth only dedicated black and white paper can provide. Furthermore, once you step up the print size ladder, MPIX's prices begin to rub shoulders with the competition.

Its Downsides
When you're in the market for standard 4-by-6 prints, the cost of your MPIX order can add up quickly. Furthermore, the site doesn't prompt you to click the "edit crop" feature (which allows you to choose exactly what part of your image will end up on paper).

Who It Works Best For
Anyone shopping for a large wall print should compare pricing at MPIX. Those who want professional quality, 4-by-6 prints at reasonable prices will be pleased with the visible difference in print quality.

Other Photo Printing Options to Consider

If you want to go big, really big, check out this New York Times article about full wall options and companies that can create wallpaper and vinyl murals from your photos.

If you like the idea of Shutterfly prints on glass and wood but wonder if there's a company that specializes in that, check out Fracture and Woodsnap.

If you prefer to remain old school and print as many of your prints from home as possible, even though you enjoy certain modern pleasures like Instagram, you may want to check out Prinkl. Entrepreneur.com said that the site that specializes in Instagram photos "puts the power to print in your hands and lowers the price margin for those on a budget." More specifically, it enables you to turn your Instagram photos into a pdf file that you can print at home.

We hope our research will leave you feeling motivated to start printing your life memories, rather than leaving them trapped in a digital realm. We may have mastered the art of ensuring life's precious moments don't simply pass by, yet if we never glance back at them, they still risk being lost forever.

Rachel Hoyt is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Rachel Hoyt at rachel@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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