Ofoto vs. Shutterfly vs. SnapFish vs. Mpix

Last Updated Feb 28, 2011

Six years ago I wrote a subjective opinion of the three most popular on-line printing services: Mpix, Shutterlfy, Snapfish and Ofoto. I never could have believed how popular this little page would have become.

I've removed the page because all of the information has become out-of-date. For example, I haven't used either Shutterfly, Snapfish nor Ofoto since 2005. And Mpix has made huge improvements to their on-line ordering system since I wrote the original information six years ago (I still use Mpix for my black-and-white printing... just make sure you indicate that you want your work printed on the special B/W paper).

Thanks for visting, and thanks for all your feedback. I really appreciate it.

-Andy Frazer

  w Color non-corrected images cannot be combined with color corrected images. You also need to separate the images into two orders, and pay two shipping & handling charges.
   because the cropping tool can only be moved within *both* borders of each image. For example, to print a really wide panoramic shot, you would have to edit the original image to fill the top and bottom with empty space before uploading the image.
  w Of the four, Mpix is the only service with an unacceptably slow ordering website. On June 6, I spent over two hours selecting, cropping and ordering prints. Typical response time was 1-2 *MINUTES* per mouse click.
  w Worst-designed ordering webpage. Visually, it's more professional-looking than Ofoto, Snapfish and Shutterfly. But it can be mind-numbingly difficult to navigate through if you're doing anything outside the basic upload-order flow. For example, try to put one of every print in your shopping cart, then go back and change the quantity to two prints on selected photos.

Overall Conclusion
To make a useful comparison of these four services, I've found that I need to differentiate my people-photographs from my non-people-photographs from my black-and-white photographs.

For people-photographs printed in color, SnapFish and Mpix are, by far, the best. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that SnapFish and Mpix were the only ones of the big four (O,S,S,M) that delivered even acceptable skin tones photographed under anything other than optimal lighting conditions*. 

For non-people photographs printed in color (i.e., landscapes, flowers, and everything else), all four (O,S.S,M) seem to give acceptable results, although Ofoto seems to over-expose the highlights more often then either Mpix, SnapFish or Shutterfly.

For ease-of-use (uploading and ordering), Shutterfly and Ofoto are better than SnapFish, because of their drag-and-drop web tool, and better than Mpix for speed of their webserver. However, only Shutterfly and Mpix displays the file names (all three display thumbnails) when you're ordering size and quantity of each print. This is absolutely critical when you're ordering from a large prepared list of images. They also print the name of the image file on the rear of each print. This is absolutely critical when you pick a print and decided you want to order more reprints. Mpix's website looks good, but can be near-impossible to navigate through if you want to go back and change something in your order. Also, Mpix's cropping tool forces you to keep the crop region within all four sides of the image. Worst of all, Mpix's website can be so slow that it becomes almost unusable. For these reasons (and their outstanding telephone customer service), Shutterfly is my preferred service for non-people images printed in color, although Mpix's color quality is just as good.

For black-and-white proofs, Mpix is the clear winner. Although their custom black-and-white paper is a matte finish, it doesn't have any of the color cast and

Remember, these are only my opinions.  I have over two years' experience using Ofoto and Shutterfly, and less than one year's experience with SnapFish and Mpix. We shoot with a Canon A80 point-and-shoot, and a Canon EOS D60 DSLR. Half of my shots are adjusted in PhotoShop, the other half are printed without any adjustments. I've reviewed my color adjustments on three different monitors (made by three different manufacturers) before uploading them. For these reasons, I don't believe that the variations between S/O/S are due a calibration problem in my monitor.

* I should clarify that the vast majority of my people-photographs were taken with Caucasian, Asian and Hispanic subjects. The few color examples that I have of people with Afro-American heritage looked good with both Ofoto and Shutterfly. This is to be expected, because (correct me if I'm wrong) Caucasian skin tones are supposed to be the most difficult to accurately capture in color photographs. I don't know why this is, but this is what I learned in a color printing class twenty-five years ago.

Comments? Email me.

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