Nowadays, we can place photo orders via our computers or mobiles – either to have the prints posted back to us direct or, if linked to a retailer, delivered to our local high street photo processor for collection mere hours later.
It seems a long way from the days when you’d drop a roll of film into the chemist or your local camera shop for processing and return 24 hours or 48 hours later.
For years now we’ve also been able to transfer image files from camera memory cards to our computer desktop and upload them to dedicated online processing outlets of our choice, with not only the advantage of convenience, but also the fact that we can enjoy discounts and deals and earn credits the more images we choose to have printed.
We can also crop and tweak our images from the comfort of our armchairs and place our orders late into the night if desired.
The UK services we've looked at in this buying guide cover all the most popular types of printing - from standard prints at a variety of sizes and dimensions, to photo canvases, and printing on more bespoke items like business cards, T-shirts, mugs, plates, phone cases and jigsaws.
But how do you whittle down the best candidates for having your photos printed online? Which services provide the best quality, and who delivers the best, cheap photo prints? Read on to discover our recommendations.
Long serving pioneer of online printing for the consumer market
Cost wise, a 6x4-inch print from Photobox starts at 15p, reducing to 12p if printing 200+, but of course you also have to factor in postage (starting at £2.99 second class for between one and 19 prints). Like most online print service we also get the occasional lure of free prints, a percentage discount the more you spend, plus photo credits as incentives and calls-to-action. Quality wise Photobox claims that all of its orders are individually checked before dispatch. And since we’ve used this service many times without complaint, it’s one that gets our personal vote. Photobox was one of the first print services to set up an online-only presence back in 2000 and is therefore today one of the best established online photo printing services. Indeed, it claims to be the European market leader for photo products, serving millions of customers a year. With the ability to get everything from standard 6x4-inch prints to canvases and photo books (in square format, A5, A4 or A3 sizes) – as well as personalised ‘photo gifts’ including mugs, jigsaws, smartphone covers and the rest – another obvious advantage here is a wide product range to choose from.
Not just the standard photo gift options but business cards and marketing materials too
Another familiar name, Vistaprint not only caters to the consumer market but also the business one too. So, alongside the offer of having your image files transformed into photo books and personalised greetings cards, you’ll find the offers of logo design, business cards and promotional banners too on the same site. It’s easy enough however to click straight onto the photo gift section. This is not one then for individual prints of your favourite snaps, but rather for those who want to turn said images into a project instead – such as the aforementioned books, mugs, mousepads and T-shirts. What may be of more interest here is that the likes of its photobooks start from a mere £5.99 for a pocket or handbag sized 12x10cm, rising to £24.99 for a more standard sized 28x21cm. Personalised covers for smartphones are also increasingly popular for obvious reasons, and here Vistaprint provides options for both the iPhone and Samsung galaxy range. If you’re not satisfied for any reason with your order, it offers to reprint it or refund you in full.
A familiar name in photofinishing from the days of film makes the transition into the digital realm
If you're over the age of 30, you may remember the days of getting of getting envelopes through your door with the post, offering to develop your film prints; you simply had to pop the roll of film in said envelope and post it off. Now a familiar name from such times, Truprint, has made the transition to a fully-fledged online print service offering, offering the hook of an introductory 15% off immediately you land on the site. A standard 6x4-inch print in gloss or matt starts from just 14p, rising to £1.20 for a 10x8-inch to make the most of your portraits, with delivery time a transparent three to five days from when you initially place your online order. Appealing to the Instagram generation it can do square format prints, from 4x4-inches upwards, as well as regular sizes and collage prints with it. Prints can be ordered framed too, if desired. A wide selection of photo books, canvas prints, mugs, cards and other photo gifts, including the ubiquitous printed phone case, is complemented by more specific services – such as personalised wedding gifts, wedding invitations, and photo book-style albums. A quick, easy and straightforward service – and an actual phone number is thankfully provided in the ‘contact’ section.
An almost identical site layout and product selection to Truprint – with the addition of a ‘home décor’ section
Although a different company, Snapfish apparently uses the same web platform as Truprint, which is obvious from the moment you land on the homepage, as it boasts a very similar and straightforward layout. This ensures it’s quick and easy to find the product you want with Snapfish and get your order underway. One very narrow difference between the sites is that instead of a dedicated wedding-specific books and gifts section (Truprint), with Snapfish we get a broader range of home décor options, including acrylic prints plus metal and wood panels, alongside the perennial canvas print options. Standard 6x4-inch prints start from a very cheap 9p each in matt or gloss. A broad range of photo books also starts from a small 6x4-inches in size, rising to 15.5x11-inches, with prices ranging from £6.99 to just under £50, depending on size, hard back or soft cover, and paper finish. The range of photo gifts also seems broader at Snapfish, and includes your images on a chopping board and/or beach towel if you're that way inclined.
Another brand in photo processing services that has been with us since the film days - now reinvented and offering a wide selection of digital print services
Another old hand of the photo processing game now doing its stuff online, which means everything from standard photo prints upwards, with sizes including a square 4x4-inches, a less usual 5.4x4-inches as well as regular 6x4-inches, with prices from as little as 7p per print.There are also options to not only choose matt or gloss finishes, but also add a retro look to prints, via a template that resembles an old-school Polaroid print. Photo books, calendars, mugs and personalised card options also feature heavily among its range of services, as do wall art options including acrylic and aluminum, alongside the now standard canvas prints; the latter of which can be had for £14.99 at 30x20cm. There may be nothing out of the ordinary on offer here, and a distinct lack of printed mobile phone cases unlike other sites, but there is everything else one might expect, and bonus points too for including a phone number in the contact section.
A less familiar name perhaps, but one that uses a very similar and straightforward web template to the likes of Snapfish, Truprint and Bonusprint. However, ordering a handful of standard 6x4-inch prints upwards isn’t the focus here – indeed you won’t find that option at all on its site. Instead the spotlight is on the lucrative photo gift and printed wall art end of the consumer market. At the time of writing, a 20x20cm canvas print can be had from as little as £8 (normally a little shy of £30). Less obvious materials to have your photos printed on include towels, blankets and cushions, as well as acrylic blocks, and, naturally the ubiquitous phone cases. There’s free delivery on orders over £45 to mainland UK too. If you’re looking for a bunch of ideas for photo gifts that are relatively inexpensive, this site is definitely one worth considering for your next order.