There’s something about holding a photo in your hands that mere digital photos can't match. That we can purchase a tangible image to photo paper or into a greeting card to remind us of a special time, place, experience, or person, might be one of the most meaningful developments of this age of technological advancement. Memories can live on forever, thanks to the photograph.
But it matters which photo service you choose. After months of research, and multiple photo product orders from 10 different online photo services, we found that not all photo services are going to deliver the same quality of products. While most gave us reprints that were not terrible, some definitely were terrible, and some were way better than the rest.
In the end, Shutterfly is the service that we would entrust to create best quality photo prints. Not only does it offer a gigantic variety of photo products and gifts, the quality was superb across all of our tests.
Here are the best photo services ranked, in order:
Shutterfly offers a huge variety of print and gift options, its prices are reasonable, and its photo quality is excellent, catapulting this online photo printing service leaps and bounds ahead of all the other services we tested.
Across the board, Shutterfly sent back the best quality photo prints. They were brighter, lighter prints, which meant tiny details were visible, even in the small wallet-size images. Those details were lost in all the other services’ prints we tested.
Great quality was the uniting thread across all the Shutterfly products we ordered: wallets, 4x6s, 8x10s, a photo book, and a 20x30 poster, with a number of paper options. The poster was also packaged really well and arrived in perfect shape.
But of course the Shutterfly product lineup is much more extensive than just prints and photo books. It offers a huge variety of customizable holiday cards, invitations, calendars, home decor, and even specialty items for kids and pets. That’s right, you can finally order your dog that custom T-shirt.
And if you’re looking for a great photo book, you can design your own from its many styles and sizes, or for $9.99 there's a “Make My Book” service. Make My Book allows you to hire a Shutterfly designer to take your photos and turn them into a beautiful book within three business days. You receive the final design, add any finishing touches, and pay for the book only if you decide to order the finished product.
We were impressed with Shutterfly. It delivers awesome prints and photo products, and it has a great website and app. But if you’re willing to sacrifice a little (not much) quality and a lot of photo product options, you can save money with our budget pick: Amazon Prints.
The Amazon Prints offerings are pretty basic, but the photo quality is respectable, the price is reasonable, and prints can be mailed to you for free. The Amazon Photos app can automatically back up photos from your phone or tablet’s camera roll for easy ordering later (and a little peace of mind that your memories are stored in the cloud). Amazon also provides unlimited photo storage space for free with a Prime membership.
Since Amazon Prints doesn’t offer wallet-size images, we couldn't compare the quality of these smaller photos to that of the other services. But if you’re looking for standard sizes and good-looking prints at a decent price, Amazon is a good choice. It also offers a basic selection of other services including photo books, invitations, enlargements, holiday cards, calendars, and announcements.
If you’re looking for more options when it comes to photo products, our top pick, Shutterfly, is a better bet.
Hi, I’m Sarah Kovac. After many, many years of spending way too much money and emotional energy trying to find my loved ones the perfect gift, I’ve come to the conclusion that photo gifts are really the only surefire way of getting somebody a present that will be extra special.
I have three kids, and I know that if I’m drawing a blank on a gift for the grandparents, there are few presents that will bring them more joy than seeing the smiling faces of their kids and grandkids—be they on a coffee mug, a blanket, or a framed print for the office.
Over the years, I have reviewed hundreds of products, websites, and even software. I’ve been trained in design, and I have a deep appreciation for intuitive layouts that give me a lot of options without overwhelming me.
While I can speak to the typical user’s experience with these online photo service sites, I am not a professional photographer with deep understanding of makes a perfect quality print. Luckily, Reviewed’s resident photographer, Jackson Ruckar, was available to lend his professional critique of the photos we received from each of these services.
When Ruckar first picked up a camera 15 years ago he became an addict. Since then he has worked as a photojournalist for the U.S. Army, various magazines, and now USA Today. When reviewing photo-printing services, he focused on color accuracy and print defects.
We selected 10 of the most popular online photo services and ordered a variety of products from each: 8x10s, 4x6s, and wallets. Two of the photos we used were taken on an iPhone SE, two were taken on an iPhone X, and two were taken by our professional photographer on a DSLR camera. One photo from each camera was in black and white, and one was full color so that we could see how each service handled both color and grayscale.
Without consulting each other, Jackson and I judged each photo for its quality in comparison to the original, and for consistency from one photo to the next (we ordered duplicates in order to compare them to each other).
I spent time on each service’s website and app (if applicable) on both iOS and Android to judge ease of use and see what special features each service might offer. After these considerations, we narrowed our picks down to the top five performers in reprint quality and ease of use.
From those services, we ordered 20x30 enlargements and photo books to get an idea of how well they handled these special orders.
When we took into consideration the quality of the original prints, the quality of the special orders, the ease of use and special features of each service, and of course the price, we found that Shutterfly is the best online photo service right now.
What You Should Know About Online Photo Printing Services
1. (Print) size matters. A lot.
Our testing showed very clearly that the same image with the same photo service can yield drastically different print results from one size to the next. If you are only interested in printing 4x6s and 5x7s, probably just about any photo service can get you decent prints. But once you start moving toward less common print sizes, print quality can suffer. Be especially careful if you are ordering wallets, as only a couple of the services we tested gave us wallet-size images that weren’t too dark or washed out.
2. It’s tough to get a good black and white photo print.
The services we tested were pretty hit and miss in producing high quality black and white prints. And the ones that didn’t turn out great lost a lot of detail if the print was too dark or too light. Unless you order your same black and white photo from several photo services, it’s difficult to know who’s going to give you a good black and white print and who’s not. Luckily, we did that research for you.
3. This is not a category where “you get what you pay for.”
So often, saving money means receiving a lower quality product. In our testing, we found this is not the case with photo printing services. Some of our most affordable services sent us back the highest quality photos (for example, we saw the best reprints from Shutterfly, Walmart, and Amazon). There’s no need to pay top dollar for photo prints. If you do, you might be disappointed with the results.
4. Original image quality matters.
Some of the photo services we tested sent us back reprints that were a bit lackluster. This was most obvious in the photos that were taken by an iPhone SE. The quality of these images was just not the same caliber as those taken by the iPhone X or the DSLR camera. If your image is not great to start with, expect your reprints to be just as bad or worse. Even the best photo service can’t make up for a bad image.
5. There are different sites for different needs.
Some photo printing service websites are way too complex for those of us who aren’t professional photographers. As we were testing, it was easy to tell that some of these services are intended for professional photographers, while some are designed for the consumer just looking for a cute Christmas present or birth announcement. Our Best Overall winner, Shutterfly, is easy to use and offers enough variety for the shopping needs of the average consumer while delivering high-quality prints that professionals would appreciate.
That being said, services like Nations Photo Lab, MPix and RitzPix offer a few extra features that photographers might find helpful. Drop shipping, custom framing options, and extremely secure packaging might not be necessary for the average consumer, but certainly worth considering for a client.
Ordering Holiday and Greeting Cards
If you are shopping print services to order custom holiday cards or announcements, all of the services we tested can accommodate your order. They all offer similar photo card templates, and you can pretty much design the exact same card at any of these websites. However, there are a couple things to consider when ordering your photo cards.
Most of these services require a minimum order of 20 to 25 cards. So, if your list of recipients is on the small side, use a service that doesn’t have minimum ordering requirements. Of the 10 services we tested, only Walmart Photo, Nations Photo Lab, AdoramaPix, and RitzPix don’t have minimum order requirements for photo cards and invitations.
On a related note, most services advertise their custom cards with an “as low as…” price. That price assumes that you will be ordering a huge quantity of cards. The likelihood is that your actual price per card will be considerably higher than the one they advertise. Unless you’re ordering 3,000 cards. But who does that?
Many of the test prints we received back from these services really struggled with print quality when it came to small format black and white photos. Black and white holiday photos can look super classy, but if you pick the wrong photo service, your black and white holiday cards may look washed out or too dark to see details. Our top pick, Shutterfly, handled small black and white prints really well. Most of the others we would not recommend for black and white photo cards.
Other Online Photo Printing Services We Tested
Walmart is known for its product variety and reasonable prices, so it's no surprise that Walmart's photo service offers both of those things. Many of the photo products are available for pick up the same day or one hour, and all orders over $25 receive free shipping. Walmart photo offers metallic easels, wall tapestries, Christmas cards, plates, jewelry, invitations, phone cases—you get it. It's a decent variety.
We were happy with the prints we received. As with most of the other services, the wallets were a bit darker than necessary, but not to the extent that the average buyer would notice. Via the Services menu in the Walmart app, select Photo Prints and you can import photos from your camera roll, Facebook, or Instagram to order prints for pickup or home delivery.
To order from one of their many other photo gift options, like wall art, photo books, blankets, mugs, you'll need to go to the Walmart website and place your order there.
Overall, our experience with Walmart photo was a good one. The only hiccup we encountered was that 4x6 photos can only be picked up in-store—not shipped to your home.
Holiday cards, announcements, invitations—$0.40 each, no minimum
The prints that we ordered from Snapfish were decent, but nothing to get excited about. The larger prints turned out well, but the wallets suffered darker shadows, and the color was a little off on one of our color portrait photos (it contained a lot of green grass, but the brown dog ended up looking a little green as well).
The quality issues weren’t something that would probably be noticeable to the untrained eye, but the price was more than that of comparable services. If you’re okay with getting good-but-not-crazy-good photo quality, you might as well save a few bucks and look at Walmart Photo or Amazon Prints. And if you plan to order a photo book, we suggest avoiding Snapfish. Print lines were visible, and while we liked the feel and flexibility of their photo book, Shutterfly’s photo book print quality was far superior.
It is worth noting, however, that Snapfish does offer a huge array of photo products (holiday cards, birth announcements, photo books, invitations, etc.) and the ability to import photos from Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram, Flickr, and mobile devices. So, you do get a few bells and whistles for the extra money.
Our CVS Photo prints arrived in packaging that was not confidence inspiring (just a paper envelope with the cardboard back), but thankfully the images inside were not damaged. The quality of the photos was good, but as was common with almost all of these services, the wallets were quite a bit darker and lost detail. We also noticed that the 8x10s were cut poorly.
The CVS app allows for same-day photo prints and cards and it can import photos from your device, Facebook, or your CVS account. The website offers many more photo product options and import services. It can pull in your images from Facebook, Instagram, Google, and Flickr, and the variety of photo products is just about as robust as most of the other photo services. You can order photo books, calendars, wall art, holiday cards, birth announcements, wedding invitations, and much more.
As with Snapfish, we felt that CVS’s photo service was just “meh” for the money. We recommend going with Amazon prints if you’re on a budget, or pay a little more for the superior print quality of Shutterfly.
Our experience with Walgreens Photo was almost identical to that of CVS. Walgreens Photo offers a nice variety of photo products from photo cubes to potholders to iPad sleeves. They even have a large selection of customizable Christmas ornaments. Many of their products are available for same-day pickup at your local Walgreens.
Walgreens Photo is built into the regular Walgreens app, and it allows you to order any of their products eligible for same-day pickup. To order a product from the rest of the catalog, you'll need to go to the Walgreens website and order there. It offers custom cards of all kinds, photo ornaments, drinkware, passports, and photo books to name a few.
Both the website and app are pleasant to use, and though Walgreens "cannot guarantee the permanence of images stored on Walgreens.com," there is no limit to the number of pictures you can upload, and you don't have to make a purchase to keep your photos stored there.
The prints we received in our Walgreens order were solid. There were no serious issues. They did, however, arrive in a thin paper envelope with no padding—it's not hard to imagine pictures getting a little roughed up during transit. However, ours arrived in fine shape.
Nations Photo Lab offers middle-of-the-road pricing with good print quality and an interesting selection of photo products. While there is no app, the Nations website is pleasant enough to use. It doesn't offer photo uploads from sources other than your hard drive, so don't expect to import your Facebook photos or Instagram pictures, but the desktop upload process is easy and the site offers a variety of paper types, mounting options, and photo cropping options.
The print quality of the wallets we ordered was fine, however we had mixed feelings about their precut, pop-out design. (Jackson hated it, Sarah loved it.)
A couple of the prints turned out darker than we would have liked, but for most of the photos, we didn’t have any complaints. All around, Nations Photo Lab is a solid photo service, with good print quality, a variety of products to choose from, and mat/frame/display options for your special images. We just wish it had an app.
Products offered include prints with mounting and frames, photo greeting cards, holiday cards, announcements, invitations, photo albums and books, bracelets, ornaments, and much more.
Holiday cards, announcements, invitations—$0.46 each, no minimum
Of the 10 services we tested, AdoramaPix had by far the most secure packaging. To the extent that it almost felt like overkill. Surprisingly, the extra secure packaging did not result in a higher cost. In fact, AdoramaPix was one of the most affordable services we tested.
Unfortunately, all of the prints we received were darker than the original images. This was true in every size print we ordered, not just the wallets as with other services. AdoramaPix has an app, but all it allows you to do is upload photos to your AdoramaPix gallery.
The website, however, is loaded with functionality and allows you to upload photos from services like Facebook, Google photos, and Instagram among others. It offers some unique choices in photo products, including photo albums with metal covers, wood prints, and leather-bound photo books (insert Anchorman joke here). And of course it also offers the standard options: photo books, custom cards, calendars, wall décor, etc.
Holiday cards, announcements, invitations—$2.99 each, no minimum
When we were ordering our prints from the RitzPix website, we ran into a few hiccups during the upload process. Some of our images took several tries to load. Unfortunately, we ran into a similar issue (with different photos) using the RitzPix app. The app was also a bit confusing to navigate, and we didn't find it to be terribly intuitive.
By the time they arrived at our door, our RitzPix photos were a little beat up. They were shipped in a paper envelope, and many of the corners were bent. The condition of the photos aside, the quality of the prints wasn't anything to get excited about. The smaller the print, the darker the image got. By the time we got to wallets, the color was pretty off, as were the shadows.
This wasn't a bad service for our larger images, but we wouldn't recommend them for anything smaller than an 8x10.
Print quality aside, RitxPix offers a good selection of prints, banners, calendars, clothing, photo books and journals, custom cards, and stationery.
4x6—$0.22 (but we’ve seen it on sale for $0.09)
Holiday cards, announcements, invitations—$1.10 each (but we’ve seen them discounted to $0.44), no minimum
20x30 poster—$25 (sometimes $10 on sale)
8x8 hardcover photo book—$76 (wait for a sale, we’ve seen this price drop as low as $30.40)
Our Mpix photos arrived very securely packaged—the photos were covered with plastic and the box contained padding to keep it safe during transit. But despite the above-and-beyond packaging, the prints we received were much darker than the originals. This was most obvious in the wallets-size images, which lost a lot of detail.
The quality didn't suffer as much on the images that were taken with a DSLR camera, so while professional photographers might be able to get away with using MPix for their larger prints, the other services we tested would be more likely to yield appropriately bright prints. MPix’s site and app offer lots of ways to upload your photos from different services like Facebook, Instagram, Google Photos, Dropbox, and more.
Mpix offers a good variety of customizable photo products, like birth announcements, several kinds of photo books, holiday cards, metal collages, photo ornaments, and keepsake boxes.
Finding your way around the site and app is simple and intuitive, but that’s not worth much since the print quality was lacking.
Holiday cards, announcements, invitations—$14.35 for set of 5, which is the minimum
As a photojournalist, Jackson has had stints working with bands, the military, and professional baseball teams before landing with Reviewed.com's camera team. Outside of Reviewed.com, he can be found looking for the next game to relieve his "Gamer ADD" or growing his beard.
Sarah Kovac is an award-winning author and smart home editor for Reviewed. Previously, she worked with a multitude of outlets such as Wirecutter, TIME, PCMag, Prevention, The Atlantic, Reviews.com, CNN, GOOD, Upworthy, Mom.me, and SheKnows.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.