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Printing your own photos or using a print service?



  photo of a cat coming from an inkjet printer
PS_2 / Shutterstock

With the advent of cheap online photo printing services, inkjet printers have been equipped. But as with any DIY project, some claim that it is cheaper to print photos at home. Is it really true?

A Quick Cost Comparison

Let's break down the price difference between home photo printing and online printing services. We will do this by comparing the price of online printing services and home printing. For convenience, we will only look at the cost of 4 × 6 prints.

There are many online photo printing services, but we can handle the big four. Some of these services offer temporary discounts, but we will pretend that they do not exist. Shutterfly, one of the most popular photo printing services, costs $ 0.1

2 for every 4 × 6 print. Not bad, but Amazon, Snapfish and Walmart will print your 4 × 6 images for $ 0.09 each.

Okay, online printing services cost between $ 0.09 and $ 0.12 per 4 × 6 photo. Now we need to compare the prices to a home photo printing service. So, let's build a modest home print. We need a solid inkjet printer, some 4 × 6 photo paper and some ink.

  Nostalgic pictures of a child on the beach
Iryna Tiumentseva_Shutterstock

Let's start with the printer. Canon Pixma IP8720 is one of the most popular inkjet printers in the home, and for good reason. It produces images with a 9600 color DPI, and costs just $ 180. It's a budget price for a pretty decent printer.

Canon Pixma IP8720 comes with ink, but we will buy a complete set of ink carts for price comparison. That ink cartridge gives us back $ 55. Canon claims that these ink cartridges provide up to 780 images (yes right), which means we pay $ 0.07 in ink for every 4 × 6 print at best.

Well, $ 0.07 per print sounds pretty good. But we still need to buy photo paper. Let's buy a lot of it to get the best value for money. We take a 400-pack Canon Ink of 4 × 6 glossy photo paper for $ 20 – it's $ 0.05 per sheet.

So if we ignore the fact that our printer costs us $ 180, we pay $ 0.12 for every 4 × 6 photo we print at home. It's the same price as Shutterfly, and a little more expensive than some of the other online printing services.

If you do not use your printer, it will be more expensive

Of course, this food is quite idealistic. It depends on the idea that we use all the ink and photo paper we have purchased. If we only use our 75 kronor of paper and ink to produce 20 images, we will release $ 3.75 per photo, not $ 0.12.

Talk about our printer, how much does Canon Pixma IP8720 cost to each 4 × 6 photo we print? Yes, it depends on how much we use the printer. Our Canon Pixma IP8720 costs $ 180. If we only print 1000 photos on this printer, we will add $ 0.18 to each of our prints. If we use it 5000 times, it still adds $ 0.03 to each print. If we wanted the printer to contribute less than $ 0.01 to each photo we print, we would have to use it more than 18,000 times.

Geez, printing at home can be kindly expensive. But if you print photos at home costs more than printing photos online, why would anyone buy an inkjet printer?

Print at home gives you control and speed

  a man on his laptop with a DSLR camera
Dustin Petkovic / Shutterstock

There is one aspect of home photo printing that print services cannot match. When you write home, you have control over everything. You can use matte or glossy paper, you can use special ink, and you can use a printer that produces incredible images. You also have the option of discarding or changing photos on the fly if you are dissatisfied with a printout, and you do not have to wait for images to enter the post.

In addition, some printers make it incredibly easy to print photos directly from your phone or laptop. For example, the Canon Pixma IP8720 can connect to your phone or computer wirelessly, and it even has a mobile app. The ability to print photos directly from your phone is not unique to services like Shutterfly; You can do it in your own home.

Of course, most people do not need much control over the images they print, and a few days waiting in the mailbox is not a big deal. Not to mention, if you do not use all your home accessories, you will stop spending much more than $ 0.12 per print.

Print services are cheap and easy

Apart from being ridiculously cheap, web photo printing services are also easy to use. You don't have to handle a frustrating printer, and you don't have to hunt the perfect ink cartridges or photo paper to get the job done. With most online printing services, all you have to do is drop photos into a web site or mobile app and choose how big you want your prints to be.

Not to mention, you can print your photos through an online service at any time. You don't have to be at home, and you really don't have to be anywhere near a printer.

The only real drawback to online photo printing is the waiting time. Shipping may take a few days, although some services like Walmart allow you to download pictures in the shop a few hours after you have sent your order.


Some quick maths reveal it, if you do not buy discounted and printed materials Often printing pictures at home always costs more than printing photos via an online service. However, home printing provides a speed and checks that online services will never reach.

Photographers and scrapbookers have every reason to print their photos at home. If you print a lot of pictures, the extra cost is justified. That being said, if you only need to print a few dozen pictures a year, you should probably sign up for an online printing service.


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