BACK TALK

Money’s Worth

Getting the picture Is online photo finishing a snap?

MICHAEL SNIDER November 29 2004
BACK TALK

Money’s Worth

Getting the picture Is online photo finishing a snap?

MICHAEL SNIDER November 29 2004

Money’s Worth

Getting the picture Is online photo finishing a snap?

When it comes to taking holiday pictures, more and more Canadians are going digital. It’s a format that’s easy to use—and it provides instant gratification. But when it comes to actually making prints of digital images, many of us are at a loss. You could buy a photo printer and print your own, but the paper and ink are pricey. Or you could transfer your images onto a CD or a memory card, but then you’d have to drop it off for developing just like regular film. To avoid the legwork, try using an online photo developing service. Photo specialists like Black’s-as well as large retail chains including Wal-Mart-have all jumped into the fray. Each site offers a different range of products and editing features. We ordered prints and a photo calendar from three online developers and compared the results.

MICHAEL SNIDER

contend with the odd technical glitch-which can be about as frustrating as organizing the family for a group shot. But when these services work the way they’re supposed to, they’re simple and convenient.

a flash. Good selection, prompt delivery ^nd a nice final product. Plus they offered the best overall price.

What’s in Store The new digital imaging software bundle from Adobe-which pairs Photoshop Elements 3.0 with Premiere Elements-makes editing digital pictures and home movies straightforward and fun. (Suggested retail price: $179.99)

PHOTOLAB AT LOBLAWS

FUTURE SHOP

WAL-MART

PRICE (For a dozen 4x6 prints and one wall calendar)

$39.07 (shipping and taxes included)

$31.76 (shipping and taxes included)

$32.17 (taxes included, shipping not available)

PROCESS

Home page is colourful and straightforward, with a wide selection of print sizes and custom gifts. You can upload prints one at a time, or if you’re using Windows XP, you can install Photolab’s “Online Ordering Wizard,” which allows you to upload multiple prints simultaneously. On the downside: each item you order is processed separately, which means paying shipping charges for each one.

RESULTS

Uploading images for prints was a breeze. But my calendar order wouldn’t process. When I emailed for help, I was told the site was having trouble, and to check back next week. Prints arrived five days later and were of good quality. Calendar, when it finally arrived, was simple with an attractive font.

Prospective users must first create an account and provide Future Shop with personal information. Uploading is fast and reliable, and the site’s editing features-which include cropping and rotating-are easy to learn. Loads of options for creating a calendar. For example, you can add colourful borders and witty picture captions like “Look, ma, no hands,” or “I’m with stupid.”

Pleasantly surprised. Six days after I placed the order, a cardboard box arrived containing a dozen good-quality prints and an attractive photo calendar. Calendar images were crisp and sharp and paper quality was excellent.

Site offers a huge selection of photo giftsincluding aprons, bookmarks, hockey pucks and golf towels. Prints are well priced, but editing features are available only if you register and store your photos on the site. Was shocked to learn that Wal-Mart Canada does not deliver. Had to wait for its call and pick up order myself. Some time saver.

More trouble ordering a calendar. (Turns out Wal-Mart and Photolab share the same developing company.) Received a call within 24 hours that prints were ready for pickup. Went to pick them up and clerk couldn’t find them. They turned up later that day. When calendar finally arrived, it looked basic and flimsy compared to the others.

TIP: If you plan to order prints 8x10 or larger, make sure your digital files have a pixel count of at least 1016x 1270.

For past Money’s Worth product test drives, go to www.macleans.ca/consumer