When my daughter returned from 2.5 weeks in France with 388 photos, she wanted some printed to show off to friends. I decided to try some of the 1-hour printing places in town, to check out the service. (I didn't want to print and trim the 44 photos myself.)
I tried London Drugs and Wal-Mart.
Being a bit clueless, I drove over to London Drugs with the memory card and its 44 JPG files. I could have uploaded the files to their Web site, and the same thing happens in the store: the memory card is plugged into a computer, and its screen shows me thumbnails. I pick the quantity and quality and size, and the JPG files are uploaded to somewhere in the London Drugs empire.
On my way home, I got a cell phone call from my wife: for some reason, not all file were transferred. So, another trip back to redo the upload. By now I was thinking, I gotta use the Web next time.
An hour later, the photos were ready, and the quality was excellent. London Drugs is more expensive, however, even with their newly-reduced prices...
... which is why, when my daughter wanted additional copies for her friends, I tried out Wal-Mart online. The first problem was finding the Web site, which has a non-obvious name, and the Canadian walmart.ca site lacks the link. My daughter growing impatient and Google being unhelpful, I finally went to the American walmart.com and got the link to the photo site.
You don't just upload photos; that would be far too simple. Instead, I had to first create an account with my home address, email, etc. The fact that I entered a Canadian address did not twig with the Web site.
Next, I found the Web site was first and foremost for showing off photos; printing is secondary. I had to create an albumn, and then fill it with uploaded photos. Uploading is a bit on the slow side, but then I was dealing with megabytes of data. (I was urged to consider purchasing disk space in increments of 10MB. There was no indication of how much disk space is free, and I grew nervous because the total upload size was 11MB.) In the meantime, my duaghter had gone off to watch tv.
Finally, I got to chose the pictures to print (all of 'em, 'natch), the number, the quality, etc. And then to chose the store location at which to pick up the prints.
Canadian stores were not listed. Back to searching Google. I finally found the link to the Canadian site after finding a press release from the company that provides the online photo service for Wal-mart. I had to start from scratch:re-register, re-upload, re-specify, re-and then select the store. (You pay when you pick up the prints at the store.)
The order completed, we figured it would be ready in one hour. We drove down to Wal-mart, and the pictures were ready. Quality was as good as London Drugs, but 43% cheaper.
Here is the wierd part. Some days later, I received an email from Wal-mart telling me my prints were ready for pick-up. An hour later, another email, this one telling me that the order had been accepted. And moments later, a third email welcoming me to Wal-mart's online photo service. Today, another email of welcome. Not too swift.
We know that digital cameras were designed by computer people, because the aspect ratio matches computer screens, not photo paper. One of the options at both photo places is: cropping. To make 4:3 digital photos fit the 3:2 paper, the iamges need to be cropped -- not not. (My other daughter has a Casio digital camera with an option to take 3:2 photos.)
London Drugs has a take-it-or-leave-it cropping option:
- No cropping: the entire image is printed, but there are two ugly white bars on either side of the picture. This option would be better if the white bar were just on one side. It could be cut off more easily, or used for captions.
- Cropping: the image fills the 4x6" paper, but a slice at the top and bottom is removed.
Wal-Mart has a more flexible option: in addition to cropping, its online software allows me to position the crop. Often, the top or the bottom is of greater interest.