Reviews: Online Print Services


Printing your digital photographs can a be a tricky process, and many photographers never get to see or pick-up their work. Film users take the 24 or 36 glossy prints that they get with each developed print film for granted. Slide users and digital shooters, on the other hand, usually need to separately order prints. They have the advantage of selecting the best images and only having those printed, but often this just doesn't happen and the images are left in the slide-box or on the PC.

The other alternative is the home inkjet printer. Epson and Canon both offer affordable printers that rival the quality of prints from the traditional film lab. But I've recently been experiencing problems with my inkjet printer (an Epson 890). In a bid to save some cash, I tried using compatible cartridges, rather than the official Epson ones. After initially producing indistinguishable prints, the heads on the printer have now become clogged, resulting in much cleaning and swearing!

Also, the Epson 890 only prints up to A4 size. I wanted to make larger prints with the idea of selling a few, so they had to be archival as well. The cheapest A3+ archival quality printer available at the moment is the Epson 2100, which at £520 is a pretty big investment for the casual home user.

So I decided to try out a few of the many online print services to see what kind of quality they could offer. I would order a few 6x4 inch prints first (to keep initial costs down) and then order some larger prints later.

After posting on several photography forums asking for recommendations, I selected the following 7 UK-based online print services:

I chose the 3 photographs shown below and also included a Fuji calibration image. Each photograph was saved as a JPEG image (Quality 12 in Photoshop).





I ordered 6x4 inch Glossy prints from each online print service. The same 4 test photographs were sent to each service, either via the company's dedicated software or through a web browser (Internet Explorer 6).


This table compares certain aspects of each online print service e.g. price and delivery times.

  Bonusprint Fotango Jessops Peak Imaging PhotoBox TopFoto Colab
Price per 6x4 print £0.15 £0.49 £0.34 £0.79 £0.29 £0.75 £0.12
Post & Packaging £0.90 £1.07 £1.50 £1.80 £1.50 £1.50 £2.22
Total Price £1.50 £3.03 £2.86 £5.36 £2.66 £4.50 £2.70
Software Download Required? Yes No (Web browser) Yes Yes No (Web browser) Yes Yes
Total Upload Time 3 mins 12 mins 2 mins 20 mins 10 mins 2 mins 5 mins
Order Date & Time 29th July
29th July
29th July
29th July
29th July
29th July
30th August
Received Date 2nd August 31st July 5th August 31st July 30th July Not Received 2nd September

This photograph shows all of the prints laid out together. You may be able to discern some differences between them.

From top to bottom: Jessops, Bonusprint, Fotango, Peak Imaging, PhotoBox (Colab was tested later).

Note that I never received my order from TopFoto! I'm pretty sure that I used the software properly to submit the photos, but they never sent me any form of receipt and they haven't charged my credit card, so I'm assuming that the order wasn't completed successfully. Therefore TopFoto are no longer part of this review.


I scanned all of the prints on my Black Widow 4830 Pro flatbed scanner at 72 dpi using the default settings. This initally created a problem - all of the scans were far too dark. To give you a better idea of what the prints actually look like, I used the Levels tool in Photoshop to set the midtones of each print to a setting of 1.50, so that the Input Levels was set to 0 ; 1.50 ; 255. I then cropped them, resized them to 300x200 pixels and saved them for the Web as JPEGs with a Quality setting of 60.

Please note that the images shown on the next few pages don't really do justice to the final prints that I received. Instead you should compare the images with each other, as they do still show differences in colour when looked at side by side.

Here are links to all of the print services:

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