Drugstore printing of digital photos?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by deetee, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. deetee

    deetee Guest

    Hi all,

    Some questions re getting good drugstore prints of digital photos.

    In the past, when friends have emailed me photos that I've tried to
    print at the local CVS, the prints have come out blurry--not exactly
    unfocused, but "soft." I understand that this is due to the low
    resolution needed to send photos by email...most of these pix are sized
    at about 100-150 KB each.

    So, now that I've bought my own digital camera (a Canon A520
    Powershot), I've been taking photos at the highest resolution possible.
    I've uploaded them to my home computer, where they've looked quite
    good, and then I've downloaded them to a CD. Most of the images clock
    in at about 1 to 1.3 MB each...which I've been told is good enough,
    resolution-wise, for the prints to come out looking sharp.

    In some cases, I've fiddled with the images using the software that
    came with the camera, Canon ZoomBrowser EX. (Usually when the original
    was too dark, or if I wanted the colors a bit more saturated.) When
    I've saved those images, I've always chosen "highest quality," and the
    edited images have clocked in at up to 3 MB, though most are in the 2-3
    MB range.

    That said, when I took my CD to CVS for printing, the
    images--regardless of editing or not, regardless of resolution,
    regardless of original file size--have for the most part come out
    looking soft, washed out, what have you...despite the fact that they
    look perfect on the computer monitor.
    Also, many of the pictures come out cropped so that the edges of the
    image are lost, even when I haven't cropped the images myself. I
    requested 4x6 prints...and I'm assuming that the natural default built
    into all digital camera is analogous to 4x6.

    Any suggestions? The CVS has a Kodak machine (and in the past, when
    I've had 35mm enlargements done, I haven't been all that
    pleased...though I'm not sure if both processes share the same machine
    at this particular drugstore--the machine is behind the counter, but
    connected to the kiosk where I upload the photos from CD).

    Is is possible that a regular CD isn't good enough for photos? Someone
    at another drugstore said that possibly my CD was the "wrong sort" of
    CD to use for such an undertaking (I used a new Memorex CD-RW, which
    doesn't allow any erasing/altering of the images unless you wipe out
    the entire disk--which seems to preclude damaging the images). She gave
    me a different CD that's supposedly made just for photos, but it looks
    like a regular CD to me.

    Is it even possible that the resolution is too HIGH? (Sounds unlikely,
    but I'm new to digital photography.) Should I photograph at high
    resolution (the "large" setting on the Canon, which allows you to
    enlarge to 8x10 or 11x14, I believe), but then make sure to save at a
    lower resolution after I've edited the image? (But this wouldn't
    account for the unaltered images still looking crappy.)

    Any help would be lovely!

    deetee, Oct 13, 2006
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  2. deetee

    Bob Williams Guest

    In at 1.3 MB and out at 2-3 MB means that zoombrowser compresses the
    jpeg image LESS than the camera does. But thats OK.
    Did you examine the images on your screen at 100% size?
    That would be a huge image that you would have to scroll Up/Down and L/R
    to see the whole pic. Printing a picture reveals flaws that are not
    obvious on a monitor. You may actually have slightly blurred images.
    It is very common for persons with their first digicam, to get some
    blurry pictures. It is caused primarily by two things.
    1) You generally focus with the camera at arms length.....not the most
    stable position for taking sharp pics.
    2) The camera does not capture the image immediately after you push the
    shutter button as in 35mm cameras. There is a slight LAG between
    clicking and capturing. During this breif moment you may have moved the
    camera enough to cause a slight blur.
    For a test, put the camera on a tripod and fire it with the time delay
    on to assure that there is NO movement during image capture.
    Nope, the default aspect ratio (W/H) of most P/S digicams is 1.33,
    wheras the aspect ratio of a 4x6 print is 1.50, so ALL of your images
    will be cropped unless you previously edited them to 1.50
    CDs should not make any difference, but why do you use CD-RW disks?
    Regular CDs cost about 15 cents and are more stable than CD-RWs
    NO! Take your pictures at LARGEST Size and LOWEST Compression
    Canon calls this setting Large/Superfine. Judging from your file size,
    you are already doing this.
    You might also try a different drug store. Try WalMart if you have one
    nearby. They usually do a pretty good job and they are cheap.

    If you want to, send me a full sized image that looked good on your
    monitor but didn't come out well at CVS. I may be able to diagnose the
    problem more accurately.
    My email is
    Bob Williams
    Bob Williams, Oct 13, 2006
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  3. Deetee:

    The machine used by the store makes the biggest difference. I doubt that
    you are making any big mistakes. They may be doing a number on your
    images as they download and copy them to their system. Have them make
    another CD of the images they are using, and check them out on your
    computer at home.

    But the main thing to do is take them to a Walgreen or wherever they
    have the digital Fuji Pictograph machine. Any other one doesn't seem to
    be able to cut it. I have a favorite store where I know they have a good
    machine, no matter who is operating it. You should find one in your area
    and stick with them.

    GAry Eickmeier
    Gary Eickmeier, Oct 13, 2006
  4. deetee

    jeremy Guest

    I suggest that you go to Kodak Gallery and open an account. Kodak gives you
    some FREE prints--10 or 20 as I recall--to get yourself started. You can
    upload your shots to them (they have free downloadable software to enable
    you to do that), and you can crop them on-screen. You also are given the
    option of turning their "PerfectTouch" processing on or off (you can see
    what the results will be right on screen, and you can decide for yourself
    whether you want it or not for each individual shot).

    Do not select "In-Store Pickup." Have Kodak make the prints and send them
    to you in the mail.

    Have a look at the Kodak prints and compare them th the CVS prints. In
    fact, you might want to have Kodak print the same images that CVS did, for a
    one-on-one comparison.

    I have had CVS do some prints for me and I was also disappointed with their
    results, versus Kodak's. (Kodak's price is half of what CVS charges, too!)
    I rarely require immediate printing, so I just upload my shots to Kodak and
    I get the prints in about 3 days.

    I have also used Kodak kiosks, and I have found that their free-standing
    ones produce better prints than some of the ones that are connected to the
    Noritsu machines that are in CVS pharmacies. The free-standing ones appear
    to have their own built-in dye sublimation printers.

    Results tend to vary among retail printers. I have found Kodak Gallery to
    be very consistent, very inexpensive and I tend to use them for almost
    everything nowadays. I do not own an inkjet photo printer, and they are
    probably among the most expensive printing options, considering the cost of
    ink and paper. Better and cheaper to get prints from Kodak.
    jeremy, Oct 13, 2006
  5. deetee

    tomm42 Guest

    At my local CVS I wasn't happy with their in house processing, very
    dull, didn't try Adobe RGB as the color space gave them sRGB photos. I
    have liked the 4x6 Kodak Kiosk prints I have gotten, using Adobe RGB.
    They are bright, colorful, sharp, they are also dyesub prints with a
    plastic laminate over them, so they are durable, but have slightly less
    life than a photochemical print.
    The trick to a good print is having a good file, kinda like having a
    good negative with film. For 4x6 prints you need a file that is
    4x300pixels x 6x300pixels and that is easy from most digital cameras,
    since it is essentially a 2mp image. But for an 8x10 you need
    8x300pixels x 10x300pixels which is a much larger file, fine for any
    camera of 5mp (my 3mp Nikon 995 does alright my old 1.3mp Fuji couldn't
    do it) but much too large for an emailed photo. Also the more you
    enlarge the more your defects show, so something a little blurry on a
    4x6 is very blurry on an 8x10.

    tomm42, Oct 13, 2006
  6. deetee wrote:
    The important thing is not the number of bytes in the stored image, it
    is the number of pixels. I think you are confusing MB and MP. How
    many MP have you set the camera for. Set it to max resolution, keep
    the pictures at that pixel size.
    Don Stauffer in Minnesota, Oct 13, 2006
  7. deetee

    Marvin Guest

    I will add to that the suggestion that you sharpen the
    image after your have cropped it and made other adjustments.
    Sharpening doesn't improve resolution, but it enhances
    edges, which gives a less soft appearance.

    If that doesn't work, find another place to have prints made.
    Marvin, Oct 13, 2006
  8. deetee

    sally Guest

    I've been pretty disappointed by drug store minilab photo prints.
    The colors usually look washed out and low contrast. I can get much
    better results on my (low end) home printer or at on-line photo processors
    like shutterfly.com
    sally, Oct 13, 2006
  9. deetee

    Dave Cohen Guest

    I use YorkPhoto, good price and quality. I prefer Winkflash since they
    print the filename on back of print, but I have been plagued with upload
    problems using their site.
    For just a few prints, the Kodak Kiosk at CVS that just does 4x6 is
    fine, particularly when loaded with genuine Kodak paper, but of course
    you have no control over that.
    Dave Cohen
    Dave Cohen, Oct 14, 2006
  10. deetee

    Andy Guest

    I have been getting 12x18 prints from my Pentax DS made at my local
    Costco. I've been very pleased with the quality and the service. I
    can email the files in the morning and pickup my prints late afternoon.
    Be sure to turn off "auto correction" if you want to preserve your
    post processing.

    Andy, Oct 14, 2006
  11. deetee

    Andy Guest

    I should have said upload not email of course.
    Andy, Oct 14, 2006
  12. deetee

    deetee Guest

    Thanks, everyone, for your commentary/suggestions. I think I will first
    try Eckerd Drugstore (I've been pleased with their 35mm processing) or
    Motophoto. Both are them are a bit of a schlepp from home, but I hope
    the quality of printing makes it worth the drive. If the images still
    don't turn out well, then I may take up that kind post-er who offered
    to look at a sample photograph or two...there's a possibility that,
    because my monitor colors haven't been calibrated, that maybe the
    problem is my monitor. I've been told that I need to adjust colors
    using CMYK standards rather than RGB; unfortunately, my Canon software
    only offers RGB adjustments. That said, I didn't tinker with most of
    the photos at all, so I suspect that the problem does not arise from a
    CMYK vs. RGB discrepancy. I'm hoping the problem is the crappy Kodak
    machine at CVS!

    (And my apologies for seeming clueless...I do understand the
    difference between MP and MB; the only reason I used MB as my gauge of
    the density of the image was that I assumed that a denser image--more
    pixels--would result in a bigger file, MB-wise.)

    deetee, Oct 17, 2006
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