I’m going to extend this year’s “exist in photographs” goal to include printing some of those photos so Riley and I headed out to compare photo printing using the ahem, ‘more affordable’options.
There is nothing worse than paying good money for beautiful images and then leaving them on the USB in the bottom of a drawer with the elastic bands you were going to re-use and a few dust bunnies, never to be seen again. Portraits are really art and you don’t always have to fork out exorbitant funds for the largest canvas known to humankind to get a shot on the wall (and there is no greater thrill than finding out my images are ‘wall worthy’). To maximise shots and space we’ve got a corkboard in the bedroom that we just keep pinning and pinning over the top of. Its a kinda living time capsule that will take us back in time as we peel off layers. Another nifty option is a folio box (fancy box for storing multiple photos in) that comes with an easel. This allows you to change up which images you display depending on the Mercury’s retrograde, your mood, who is coming round to visit etc… Again maximising number of shots with minimal space.
I get that we all don’t frequent the professional photos labs, nor perhaps do we wish to pay premium prices so I thought I’d compare slash review my local… erm… say ‘everyday’ printing options and share the results. Money is more important in our household these days PR versus BR (post Riley versus before Riley) and I found that the ease of obtaining photos was also more of a factor now that I have a teeny sidekick.
We got these two images printed at Big W, Harvey Norman, Kmart and Officeworks (prices listed are correct as of Jan 2018 and I’ve listed the results in visit order not ranked – that info is in the results section). The photo center software was almost identical at each store and I selected no auto correct and no border every time. The first pic is something kinda close and colored (and cute) (yes biased):
and the second is something pulled back a bit, that’s black and white (and also cute) (yep, still biased):
Cost & Quality
These are not listed in order of preference but the order I visited them – skip to the results for that.
Kmart photo processing was as advertised – instant. After paying I had my two shots in my hot hands within two minutes from the same location I paid at. Kmart offer satin and gloss options so I ordered both. Kmart are the only Kodak paper users in the bunch.
Cost: 20c for instant, 15c for hour processing and 10c for come back tomorrow
Quality: Blurk. 1. I honestly cannot tell the difference between the satin and the gloss and 2. they’ve got some kind of weird sharpening correction going on such that the image is pretty wrecked close up but probably has the intended effect from a distance.
Officeworks now offer self serve and behind the counter printing – I tested both. You scan your receipt at the self serve machine and it has four printers running so usually minimal wait times however the printing itself isn’t the speediest. The behind the counter option states you’ll be contacted within 2 hours however I just asked how long at the counter and wandered the store until they were done. I did love that each photo station now has its own eftpos machine so you don’t have to take the receipts to the counter and wait in line before the waiting for prints even starts. The website states gloss or matte finish available however that option wasn’t offered at the photo terminal – disappointing cos (as above) I love me a matte finish… There is a 100 print limit, so you might have to use another machine or two if you’ve got a huge order.
Cost: 10c for between while you wait and 2 hours later.
Quality: There was a color variation between the behind the counter vs self serve and I thought self serve was going to be the lower quality however I was wrong wrong wrong. The self serve prints are much brighter and I much prefer them. The lady behind the counter described the behind the counter prints as ‘warmer’ – not sure I agree.. but its really a subjective personal preference not a huge difference in quality. There was not as significant a color variation in the black and white shot, blacks a teeny bit blacker in the self serve – which again I prefered. The only other thing of note is the paper comes a little more curled from the self serve option – not enough to have meaning, but I just can’t leave out a detail – I’m just made that way…
Big W was very much like Kmart without the instant – single counter for payment and pickup with a walk around the store in between because.. not quite instant.
Cost: 15c while you wait, 10c next day
Quality: These images and very similar to the Officeworks over the counter images with the slightly washed out greener hues.
Harvey Norman have the pesky twenty seven steps to get your photo – order at photo station, take two receipts to cashier, cashier stamps both and staples money receipt to one, you drop off the other to the photo counter person (if its manned at the time, else wait or head to computer repairs counter), photo counter person (or equivalent) then tells you how long you’re going to have to wander the store until they’re ready. Sigh. Though you can entertain the baby walking through all the big tellys… Harvey Norman offers both gloss and matte so I printed both. I think matte produces better looking photos so be pre-warned I’m pre-biased.
Cost: 20c while you wait, 15c same day, 10c next day.
Quality: I’m a fan. No weird artifacts. A teeny bit brighter than the Big W/Officeworks counter prints but a little less vibrant than the Officeworks self serve print. I love the matte finish for a professional look and the glossy doesn’t look like a 90’s home print which is great and is the glossiest of all the prints. The paper also feels a little thicker. Here’s some really unhelpful photos of the photos trying to show the different finishes that somehow makes the matte one look the shiniest?!?!
From a distance, the Kmart shot does stand out the most but I dislike how it appears up close. The next brightest is the Officeworks self serve option which although looking a little washed out in the face in my cruddy photo of photos below, its fine in reality with no loss of detail. I’ve already admitted my crush on the texture of the Harvey Norman matte image and this is somewhat replicated in the Big W one but in appearance only, the Harvey Norman paper feels much more substantial. Then does that even matter cos realistically how often are you gunna be handling photos versus looking at them? I guess I like that it feels like a more substantial product.
The Kmart black and white photo has the greatest contrast and the sharpening makes it look more gritty and journalistic. The ‘pinkest’ shot is the Officeworks behind the counter whilst the ‘greenest’ shot is the Harvey Norman gloss and the whites appear brightest in the Officeworks Self Serve print. Pairing up similar looking prints – the Big W and Officeworks behind the counter are very similar as are the Harvey Norman matte and the Officeworks self serve – on par with the colored shots.
The eftpos machines at Officeworks are a game changer with the self serve option, plus the while you wait printing cost at the next day printing pricing of the others is very nice (and there is a coloring station for the kiddies). If the matte option was available at Officeworks then these guys would easily come out on top. If you want/love the matte finish though, then it has to be Harvey Norman taking the slight hit in vibrancy. Am meh about the Big W and Officeworks behind the counter options and would go Officeworks over Big W on price alone if I needed the prints straight away. Even though Kmart won the speed award just don’t unless you plan to rope off a metre or so away from the photos so no one steps up and checks out the details.
The differences between the shots really weren’t huge and what you like or dislike about photo printing is pretty subjective – you may love the impact of the Kmart printing or gloss is your thing so Harvey Norman gloss being the glossiest makes you super happy. I’ll be continuing to use Harvey Norman matte photo printing, taking the $$ hit on small batches I need straight away. After doing this though, for larger amounts and especially larger amounts required right now, I will be seriously considering the Officeworks self serve option.