Online photo printing and sharing

For the past couple of months I’ve been using Costco’s online photo center to print my digital photos, and it’s worked out well. My only gripe is that I can’t save my finishing preference. I prefer the “lustre” finish to glossy, but glossy is the default, so I have to remember to change to lustre every time I send a print job. So far, I’ve only forgotten once… Also, I’ve learned to upload photos that are already cropped to fit the aspect ratio of the prints I want; e.g. photos to be printed as 4x6s should be cropped to a 3:2 aspect ratio, 8x10s to a 5:4 aspect ratio, etc. Otherwise, the Costco software/hardware does the cropping for you and you may not like where it chooses to cut.

The photos I upload to Costco can be shared with other, sort of the way Flickr works, but without the tagging, commenting and other cool stuff. Earlier last year, I had set up a Flickr account (in my real name) so I could let my mom see and maybe download our latest family photos. I didn’t think downloading would work too well for her, because she lives in a rural area and has only a dialup connection. Megabyte downloads are a big and painful deal for her. Also, she’s not really a whiz with her computer and printer. Flickr recently began offering photo printing services through Target, which would be perfect except that there are no Targets near her. And no Costcos, either.

Enter the Evil Empire. There are, of course, two or three Wal-Marts relatively close to Mom and she’s at one of them or another a couple of times a week. I hate Wal-Mart, but it’s really the best option for Mom, so today I set up an account with the Wal-Mart photo system and uploaded a few files as a test. I did some dry runs to see how easy it is to order prints and, as you might expect, it was very easy to choose the files to print, the number and sizes of the prints, and which store you want to pick up from. They even have a way for you to choose how you want your photo cropped. No choice of finish, but Mom has never been as picky as I am about that. And she’s been having her film processed and printed at Wal-Mart for years, so she’s used to whatever they typically do.

Wal-Mart is cheaper than Costco for 4x6s, but not by much. Costco charges $0.17 per print and Wal-Mart charges $0.15 for in-store pickup. You may have heard that Wal-Mart charges $0.12, but that’s if you choose to have your prints mailed to you and it doesn’t include shipping. In my dry runs of different quantities, shipping always worked out to 7 cents per print.

If Mom is happy with this new account, I will succumb to the Wal-Mart hegemony. My only solace is that she’ll be paying them for the prints, not me.