Maybe you received a digital camera for Christmas, or you've taken a million holiday pictures, and now you're wondering what is the best, fastest and cheapest way to print digital photos.
"Good Morning America" consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy teamed up with Good Housekeeping magazine to test three photo printing methods: home printers, photo Web sites and drugstore kiosks. They found the best way to print digital photos depends on you.
If you're a die-hard scrapbooker, you want versatility and control, so a home printer could be the answer. Good Housekeeping tested a Hewlett-Packard, an Epson and a Canon, and it's clear from all three that home printers have come a long way.
You have to invest in the printer itself and pay for paper and ink. Even so, home printers are the cheapest option for printing 5 x 7 photos and larger -- something a true photo album fanatic will want to do.
You care most about quality. Good Housekeeping had a professional photographer study a home printer, Web site and kiosk prints, and they all looked good. The Fuji film digital drop box pictures were ranked the highest of all for visual appeal.
Good Housekeeping also tested durability -- technicians did a fingerprint test and a water drop test. They found just one issue: the HP 82-50 printer produced some of the most beautiful photos, but they were fragile. After a water drop sat on the picture for one full minute, the ink smeared.
Hewlett-Packard later told us it makes specialty photo papers for different purposes, and we should have used its water-resistant paper instead of its fade-resistant one.
The Couch Potato
Maybe this is more you: the couch potato, looking for something easy. If so, there is one clear choice: photo sites where you upload your photos to the Web and order from the comfort of your home. Good Housekeeping found Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak Gallery the fastest way to order -- but also the slowest way to actually get your pictures. In our test, the Web sites took five to six days.
Snapfish was the cheapest of the Web sites in the Good Housekeeping tests. But if you've got a big order, shop around because photo Web sites are in constant competition and you can also save money by pre-ordering or buying in bulk.
If you've waited and waited and now you need your pictures in a hurry, there's a solution for you, too. Kodak kiosks print pictures while you wait -- we got ours in 14 minutes flat!
All you need is your digital camera and memory chip. If you're so much of a procrastinator that you haven't gotten around to buying a computer or printer, that's one more reason to head to a kiosk.
Bottom Line on Price
Fuji film kiosks offered the cheapest 4 x 6 prints at 15 cents each.
Home printers were the most affordable way to print larger photos.
Good Housekeeping considered Snapfish the best "overall" value because it had good prices on 4 x 6s and 5 x 7s.