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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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