This weekend I decided to mail some photos to my grandmothers. The photos were digital so normally I might have printed them myself. Sadly, my HP printer has decided that it doesn't like my color ink cartridge anymore. I couldn't say if this is a ploy to sell more ink, but I have my suspicions.
I figured that there were probably lots of stores that could print my photos, but I didn't really want to futz around with a digital photo kiosk. I definitely didn't feel like spending an hour of my weekend waiting for the prints to be finished. I suppose I could have had prints mailed to me, but then I wouldn't get them for several days.
I looked for a solution on flickr, where I store all my digital photos. Turns out they have a photo printing feature that meets my needs perfectly. You can order prints by mail if you like. You can also print to your nearest Target store for more immediate gratification. In a world where ink cartridges cost nearly as much as a new printer, outsourcing print services down the street makes sense to me.
How it Works
First, you'll probably want to make sure that you've uploaded your photos at a reasonably high resolution. I have a flickr pro account so I always upload everything at the full resolution of my camera. As a general rule of thumb, you probably want your photo to appear on your screen at least twice as large as you intend to print it. Any less will probably look terrible, but different equipment will give different results. If you're unsure, a little searching on google can probably tell you the minimum acceptable resolution for a given print size.
Next, you need to find the images that you want to print in flickr. A little "order prints" icon should appear above each photo. When you click it, a menu drops down. This allows you to select the size and quantity of prints for that image. You can just continue adding photos to your shopping cart until you snag all the photos you wish to print.
When you check out, you can select Target as your delivery method. There is a link which lets you search for and select the most convenient Target location. When you're ready, you confirm your order. You're told the total cost of the order, but flickr doesn't charge anything online. Instead, you pay at Target when you get the photos.
Your prints magically show up one hour later in the Target photo lab. Just say your name to the clerk and you'll get your photos. At my Target, the images were labeled as coming from Yahoo, not flickr. This might confuse you, but it makes sense. Yahoo owns flickr, for better or worse.
The photos were printed on the same giant Fujifilm machine that normal photos are processed on. With the photos I had, the images looked almost identical to how they appeared on my monitor. The finished product looked nearly indistinguishable from a normal film photograph.
My two photos cost a grand total of $0.22, but I think this was a half-off promotional price. At my Target, you pay at the photo lab. This means you don't even have to wait in the normal line. The whole process took about two minutes once I found a parking spot. Not a bad setup considering how often I need to print out photos.