Cheapest Photo Prints

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Why it's better to get prints made professionally

Printing your own photos at home can be easier than gettings photos printed professionally, but there are a number of pitfalls to watch out for - Most notably the cost, quality and longevity of prints. In addition, photo labs are nowadays able to print images onto many more surfaces than just paper.

Cost

Home printers have never been as cheap as they are nowadays, but manufacturers often charge a lot of money for ink. Unbranded third party ink can cause printer problems, including blocked print heads and lower quality prints. If any damage occurs to your printer when using an unbranded print cartridge, most manufacturers refuse to honour the warranty.

It typically costs between 15p and 35p to print a 6x4 inch photo at home, which can be good value if you don't want to print too many photos as professional services often add a delivery charge on (note: some online photo printers such as Tesco, Jessops and ASDA offer free delivery into store). However, this works out very expensive for higher numbers of photos.

As a comparison, online photo labs can charge from just 5p per print for quantities of 200 prints - Giving a total cost for 200 prints of just £10.00, plus postage (if applicable). For this amount of money, you may only be able to print 30-60 prints at home.

Quality

There's no denying that some expensive home printers can produce excellent quality photos, but the majority of us don't have expensive dedicated photo printers. An average home printer costs less than £100, whereas the average photo lab printer costs many tens of thousands of pounds. These printers are dedicated photo printers, producing the highest quality images possible.

If you are going to buy a printer to print photos at home, there are a number of things to look out for. Printers nowadays often have four separate ink tanks and more expensive ones can have six or eight tanks. These extra tanks allow the home printer to produce better ranges of colour. Those printers with a single print cartidge or even one cartidge for colour and one for black can cost the most to run - As soon as a single colour is exhausted, the entire cartidge has to be thrown away and a new one needs to be bought, even though there may be other colours of ink remaining.

Although most home photo printers use inkjet technology, dye-sublimation printers (where a printer ribbon or film contains ink that is heated and transferred to the page) tend to produce better results, but these are often the more expensive printers to purchase in the first place.

Longevity of prints

Although inkjet technology has advanced considerably over the last few years, many home printer inks still have a limited lifespan when printed onto paper. The print often degrades over a period of years (sometimes even months), and the colours gradually obtain a washed out appearance.

This effect can be reduced by ensuring that photos are placed behind glass picture frames (which filter out light wavelengths that cause the degredation), or by keeping the photos in the dark. These techniques will reduce the degredation, but will rarely stop it altogether.

More expensive home inkjet printers can use dye-based inks, which have a much longer life. However these images should still be kept behind glass in order to prolong the quality of the photo.

Other types of printing

Nowadays, professional photo labs are able to take your digital images and transfer them onto a large range of surfaces - mugs, mouse mats, t-shirts, coasters, photobooks, posters, cards, cushions and jigsaws to name a few.

It is possible to print onto some of these surfaces at home, but the results are nearly never as good and home printers often require expensive "kits" to allow them to do this.

Summary

Printing at home can be expensive, give poor quality results that don't last and has a limited range of print surfaces compared to when prints are made by professional labs.

The only time that printing at home makes sense is when you need to print a small number of prints quickly and don't mind if the prints don't last too long!

Company Offer Postage Cost afterwards Other Information Link
Pixum 50 free prints £2.99 16p per 6x4 print   View offer
Photobox 40 free prints £2.99 From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
Truprint 20 free prints From £1.50 From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
Tesco 0 free prints £1.50 From 5p per 6x4 print Free delivery
to a Tesco store
View offer
Snapfish 0 free prints 99p From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
asda.com 0 free prints £1.50 From 5p per 6x4 print Order online,
collect in store
View offer
Aldi 0 free prints £1.33 From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
Boots 0 free prints £1.49 From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
sky 0 free prints Unknown From 9p per 6x4 print   View offer
klick 0 free prints £1 From 5p per 6x4 print   View offer
whsmith 0 free prints £1.99 From 7p per 6x4 print   View offer

We've also written some articles and found some others that you may find interesting:
Why printing at home is not a good idea
Gloss or Matte finish - Which is best
Altering your digital photos - A touch up guide

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