Photo comparison: Shutterfly vs. Snapfish vs. Mpix vs. AdoramaPix—which online photo prints have the best quality?

Numerous websites offer to print your digital photographs and ship them to your home—but which of those sites offers the best photo quality? As I mentioned in a previous post, Kodak Gallery has long been my go-to site for all things photo, but a recent decline in customer service sent me in search of a new business partner.

It is hard to take a good picture of photo prints, but here are the photos I ordered (click on image to enlarge):
Top left: Snapfish; top right: Mpix
Bottom left: AdoramaPix; Bottom right: Shutterly

I decided to put four photo-printing sites to the test: mainstream competitors Shutterfly and Snapfish, along with two other companies whose names may not be as familiar to you— Mpix and AdoramaPix. Mpix says it is the largest professional photography lab in the United States. AdoramaPix is affiliated online camera store Adorama.

The process

I selected five photos I took on a Canon digital SLR camera. Four were outdoor shots taken on a cloudless day, while the fifth was an indoor shot taken with a flash in mediocre lighting conditions. Before submitting my orders, I used Adobe Photoshop Elements to crop and adjust lighting in the photos. When placing each order, I used the companies’ default ordering options for color correction. When ordering from Mpix, I selected the more-expensive “pro quality” prints; they’re reviewed by color correction technicians and printed on premium paper.

After the photos arrived, I asked four people to review them: two men and two women. I presented the reviewers with one photo at a time, laying the four versions of the photo in a grid pattern for them to compare. I asked the reviewers to look for clarity and color accuracy. I also asked them to choose the the version of the photo they’d most want to put in their own photo album. I reviewed the photos on my own as well, following the same process.

When the reviewers were complete, I gave each company one “point” for each time its photograph was selected as the winner in its group. Then, I totaled the points.

Here's the photo I submitted to the companies for printing.

Here’s the photo I submitted to the companies for printing.

The results

Snapfish received the most votes, with a total of 16 out of a possible 30 points. Reviewers who favored this company’s prints said its photos were clearer and brighter than the others. One reviewer said he was willing to settle for less-than-perfect color in the Snapfish prints because of their sharpness.

Mpix came in a strong second, with 12 points. Reviewers who picked its prints felt they did a better job of delivering true skin tones and vibrant colors.

AdoramaPix finished a distant third, with only two votes. Shutterfly received no votes.

Other considerations for the frontrunners

Snapfish and Mpix had equally fast shipping. I ordered from both companies on a Thursday and received my order two days later.

Snapfish is the clear winner on price. Its prints cost 9 cents each, while the pro-quality version I ordered from Mpix cost 29 cents each. All prints were 4 x 6 inches in size.

Mpix charged $3.00 to ship five photos. Snapfish charged $2.46 to ship 30 prints.

Both companies get high marks for their communication with the customer. They promptly confirmed receipt of my order and notified me when the order shipped. Mpix and Snapfish also provided tracking numbers for my photo print packages.

Summary

Both Mpix and Snapfish offer solid-quality photos, but reviewers rated Snapfish the best by a modest margin. Its lower prices for prints and shipping cement its position as the winner of this photo comparison.

Stay tuned for future comparison tests pitting Snapfish against other competitors.

Update: I recently completed a digital photo calendar comparison pitting Snapfish against York Photo.

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42 Comments

Filed under Customer service, Saving money

42 responses to “Photo comparison: Shutterfly vs. Snapfish vs. Mpix vs. AdoramaPix—which online photo prints have the best quality?

  1. Alice

    nice summary, many thanks!

    • Sharona

      do you find glossy or matt produce a better picture?

      • Sharona, thanks for your question. For some reason, I automatically default toward glossy photos, but I am not sure why that is. I will try to do some research to see which photo finishes are recommended in which circumstances.

      • Christine

        Glossy paper tends to give the illusion of a clearer, sharper image. However, I feel sometimes it is more commercial, which suits casual photos just fine. When printing more formal images (or more art related photography), matte/low-lustre looks much richer and more professional.

  2. I have never heard Snapfish outdoing Shutterfly. What about archival quality? I can get no clear answer from Snapfish about that.

  3. Phyllis

    Thanks for your comparison study and report. Very helpful. I’ve been ordering from Costco for years and continue to be frustrated by their upload system.

  4. skeeta

    found this article by googling and it was exactly what I was looking for. And so true! I printed some professinal jpegs at shutterfly and they looked HORRIBLE. Color and sharpness were terrible.

  5. nikole

    Would you mind telling us, in order, which companies produced the photos in the set of photos you posted? Thanks!

  6. Kat

    Skeeta… I thought something was wrong with my camera after I received my latest order from Shutterfly. The quality was terrible! I know it was Shutterfly and not my camera now, because I had the prints re-done at a brand new Walgreens near me (yes I know Shutterfly prints can be picked up there now) but the Walgreens had a FujiColor printer system and paper and the pics turned out beautifully! But the ones I ordered direct from Shutterfly which were shipped to me were awful! I think when you order from Shutterfly for delivery, their printer is Kodak, whereas if you order pick up from a store (like Walgreens) if they print it there and have a Fujicolor printer it’s better. The image quality, and colors were way better with Fuji.
    I wonder what MPIX uses? I think SnapFish uses Fuji. I am going to try SnapFish next and then MPIX.

  7. Kat

    Thanks for the comparison. But you didn’t say (or I can’t seem to find it) which photo on the top was which. The top left looks best.

  8. Crystal

    Thank you for posting this blog…I agree with your decision that with Snapfish, you get “the most bang for your buck.” I recently ordered from there since it was a quick inexpensive option…however, I was second guessing my order, while hoping the photobook would come out clear…Now I am confident of my decision and choice! Thank you! I can’t wait to receive my product!!!

  9. Christine

    Love Snapfish for calendars I make every year from our vacation pictures! My husband loves them as we’ll as my sister if she was with us for vacation!
    I’ve also done many mugs, travel and other….as well as some photo Christmas ornaments! Yes you could say, I really like snapfish, I store my pictures there for the ease of making things. Yes, have made a few photo books as well….some still in progress! I always find promo codes or special offers, makes it all affordable! Christine

  10. Lisa

    Thanks for the comparison. I was sitting here trying to make a photo book on Shutterfly and it is not working. Their customer service person does not seem to speak English well. After reading your article, I am going to move on to Snapfish. Thanks!

  11. Lou

    I’ve had good experiences with both. One big difference for me is the deal/coupons available though. That plus the cashback i get while shopping there. Best I’ve found is

    Snapfish – 12% from http://www.mrrebates.com?refid=686742
    Shutterfly – 5.6% from http://www.bigcrumbs.com/crumbs/landing.do?r=newyorkcity&s=92972

    There are other opportunities out there but those are the best for each site. Other than that maybe check retailmetnot for further discounts as well

    • Nick Chris

      We are looking to make a nice photo album for our wedding. Something professional looking, (more than the Snapfish Wedding Photo Book) Any recommendations or advice?

      • Nick, congrats on your upcoming wedding! Mpix seems to cater more toward professional photography, and I prefer their photo products over Snapfish. I ordered a baby photo book from them recently that turned out pretty well. Definitely avoid Snapfish.

  12. Lisa

    I ordered from Mpix. For some reason, the pictures came out with the white replaced with black, like it autofilled on part of the picture. I immediately contact them with a picture of what they sent me. They acknowledged the mistake and said they would reprint. However, they never did reprint. They kept “forgetting” and then eventually, they just blew me off. I have had to dispute the charge on my credit card and go elsewhere to print.

  13. Daphne

    I recently ordered matte prints from Shutterfly and was satisfied. But, I thought of exploring other options, and stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for your informative review! Will definitely check out Snapfish.

  14. Rhonda

    I am waiting on an some prints from Shutterfly. I was planning to check out Mpix next but I think I’ll give Snapfish a whirl first.
    Thank You for great info!

  15. I always use shutterfly or mpix. I used snapfish twice the the color was not very good AND the paper was not either. I was very disappointed. I would have to take pictures of both to show but I had a totally opposite experience with snap fish. I refuse to use them again.

  16. Christelleny

    I recently decided to try Shutterfly to print some 200 4×6. The prints were actually 4×5 7/8 and the right side of the pictures was cut. Also, the pictures were automatically and arbitrarily cropped. Print quality was much inferior to my local print shop. Shutterfly gave me a credit, but if their 4×6 don’t measure 4×6, why bother? The So I think I’ll keep paying a little more for good pictures.

  17. David Gerstenfeld

    Question: Are prints from snapfish direct the same quality as snapfish to Walgreens to me??

    • David, I have not ordered Snapfish prints at Walgreens, so I cannot say. However, I have found drugstore prints at another chain to be of lower quality than those ordered from the manufacturer directly.

      • David Gerstenfeld

        I was thinking the same so, I’m going to order a few pics from both & compare. The only advantage is hours instead of days. Thanks for the
        response
        David

  18. David, please post again after your comparison to let us know the results. Thanks!

  19. Rose L.

    I am wanting to do a photo album for my mom’s 75th birthday. I’m wanting to know if you have made any photo album using snapfish or any other photo websites, and which ones you feel is the best.

    • Rose, I have created photo books using Snapfish and Mpix, and they both turned out very nicely. The quality was quite similar, but if you use a good promotional code to lower the price, I think Snapfish photo books are a better value. Both of my gift recipients loved their books!

  20. sabina

    Can you post the original digital photo as well so we can compare the prints that were done with the original photo? That would be really helpful!

  21. Thank You !!!!!! Good Info !!!!!

  22. Laura

    I’m not sure if you will know this, but I always do photo books through Walmart.com. It is the same software as Snapfish.com, but I’m not sure if Snapfish prints the photos books … or Walmart. Because of your article, I was thinking about doing my photo books directly through Snapfish.com and seeing how the print quality compares to the ones I have always got through Walmart. I will say this, though, for anyone considering Walmart for photo books. They are super easy to make (Snapfish software), but the quality isn’t the best. I have always ignored the quality because I didn’t know where I could find a photo book with over 150 pages for a cheaper price. Mixbook is the only one I know who does more than 150 pages. Have you tried Mixbook?

  23. Geoffrey

    Ok, on the slightly different but related topic of Holiday Cards. (This page came up when I searched for Mpix review.) Have to put my vote in for Mpix. I actually compared them with TinyPrints. Here is my assessment: Mpix has a much better value/quality ratio — you can print full bleed (100% coverage) on both sides of the card. You can get a larger card with heavier stock. Mpix doesn’t add their advertising (TinyPrints prominently adds their name). Mpix is less expensive. TinyPrints’ big advantage is superior designs — we have gotten some very nice TinyPrints holiday cards from friends. We’ve been happy with Mpix’s quality but haven’t done any side-by-side comparisons. Mpix’s turnaround time is lightning fast too.
    What really prompted me to get off my tushy and comment was some great customer service. Fedex mis-delivered our order. Tried to call Mpix and couldn’t find a phone number anywhere. I grudgingly emailed them late in the evening. They responded that night and immediately reshipped. They made a problem disappear quickly and easily.

  24. Kristen

    Shutterfly is TERRIBLE. Terrible terrible service.

    Shutterfly has the absolute worst customer service I have ever encountered! I have never received my item and cannot get a refund! Although I had never used their service before, for Christmas I decided to create a meaningful and personal gift and looked into Shutterfly to create a woven picture blanket. I placed my order on 12/18/2013 and payed $30.00 in rush shipping to guarantee a delivery date of 12/24/2013, for a total of over $130.00. I decided on Shutterfly because the many reviews and picture reviews on their site looked promising, and I could receive a guaranteed date of before Christmas.

    A couple days later, I received an email from Shutterfly that my order had been delayed until 12/26/2013. That won’t work as a Christmas gift, and was especially frustrating as I payed $30.00 to guarantee my item by the 24th! I called Shutterfly’s customer service number and was told there was a wait time of 57 minutes, but it gave the option of having a customer service representative call me back when I reached the front of the line. I opted for that, but I never received a call. I then wrote an email to Shutterfly explaining my problem, and an autoresponder told me my email would be replied to within 24 hours… 36 hours later with no reply I emailed 3 more times.

    Then I wrote a negative review on the Shutterfly woven blanket page. My review was approved and posted, and not an hour later I finally received a reply. I received this reply on the 22nd, 3 days after I initially contacted Shutterfly! This was the response I was given:

    “Thank you for contacting Shutterfly. Our apologies for an unusual delay in delivery of your order. There are orders queued up at the lab and this has caused the delay. Please note that estimated date is just a notification, if you have not received your order before Christmas then please write back to us we will refund your amount. We do not want to pay for the order which has not arrive ontime for an event. We thank you for choosing Shutterfly. Please let us know if we can offer any additional information.”

    Great. So now I know this means I will have to try to contact them again when my item won’t arrive on time. Shutterfly then removed my negative review from their website. Well what’s the point of having reviews if they just delete them!?

    So on the 26th, two days after the delivery date I was charged $30.00 extra to guarantee, and still without my order, I again tried to contact Shutterfly. Again the phone line was pointless, and I still have not received a response or refund. After another 24 hours of waiting for a response, I have just written another email to Shutterfly. I have now been emailing Shutterfly for 8 days trying to receive my item and/or a refund! I even received another automated email from Shutterfly saying that my order is now delayed until 12/31/2013.

    Shutterfly has stolen $130.00 from me. I have not received my order that was guaranteed to arrive by the 24th. I payed $30.00 to guarantee this date. I will never use their service again. Instead of a heartfelt, personal gift, I now have no item, nothing but a $130.00 hole in my pocket and a nightmare!

  25. Barbara

    So disappointed in Shutterfly for numerous reasons: 1. Delivery date for our Christmas cards was changed without notice to us 2. Cards did NOT arrive in time for Christmas. 3. Customer Service would not admit Shutterfly had a major production problem. 4. Customer Service was told to cancel our order which Customer Service did NOT do. 5. Customer Service offered a shipping credit and then did NOT give credit.

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