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Printing cost

Discussion in 'Printing' started by jjbigfly, Apr 1, 2014.

  1. jjbigfly

    jjbigfly Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 6, 2013
    I have been looking but have not found the answer......
    Is the cost of printing at home more than using a service? I have been using an inexpensive Epson printer that really does some nice prints, but I have wondered about the cost of inks compared to having them printed at a print service.
    Any help here?
  2. RzzB

    RzzB Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 14, 2013
    I don't have an answer for you but I actually view it slightly differently.

    I print my own because I want to be in control of the process.

    I put a lot of effort into the printing side of things - bespoke paper/printer/ink profiles, calibrated monitors etc. Not for everyone of course, but for me it's just part of the fun process of getting from the photo taken in the field, to seeing it printed mounted framed and hanging on the wall under good lighting. (I also cut my own mounts and make my own frames - control freak:) 

    There is some information here about ink costs - but it's for a an Epson 3880 which is not a consumer grade printer.


  3. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    When I did the analysis years back, it was better for me to send out and have the prints done.

    Not only are you needing to look at the cost of ink and paper, but also of maintenance and time needed for calibration of computer and printer profiles as well.
    I've got a business, so I do get better prices than most, but even so...convenience wise, for me sending items out for printing just made more sense for me.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  4. jziegler

    jziegler Mu-43 Veteran

    Red River also has the cost of several other printers available:


    Their costs are only for ink, not paper. Even adding in paper, I can do better on some sizes than sending out, but 4x6 is still cheaper at Costco. I print at home for the control, and sometimes to get it done right away.

    Now, these costs are not necessarily all inclusive either. There have been many times that I make a print and it looks horrilbe because some obcsure color management setting 4 dialog boxes deep in the printer settings is wrong. So double (or even triple) the cost of that print. The better services will reprint at no cost for a problem like that.
  5. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Based on personal experience.

    For 99% of the people intending to produce prints.. YES.

    For the 1% of photographers/printers that insist on 100% control over the process.. NO. These types will have a significant investment in their print workflow. From high end printers, high end calibrated monitors, and print calibration. Cost wise still no advantage BUT that is the least of their concerns.

    I used to produce lots of prints out of a Epson 2200 from files that originated from MF film scanned Epson v700 and digital camera. I still do occasionally but I have switched over to mostly ordering prints as a much better use of time and money. Produce a great sample full of range and color with accuracy (calibrated monitor). Take that sample and order a few samples from various services. See which one you like. The old cliche, "you get what you pay for", rings true for print services as well.
  6. RzzB

    RzzB Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 14, 2013
    Yes, yes - absolutely agree. I have a friend who is a professional landscape photographer. There is no way he would spend the silly amount of time I spend on getting things working - just not a viable business process!

    There are many hidden costs...

    I'm lucky - I'm retired and just do it for a hobby - I don't have to make a profit! Anything I sell just lessens the loss.

    I actually pretend it's a profit and use it to convince the "Financial Controller" that I really do need that new lens :) 

    • Like Like x 1
  7. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    +1 to all the comments above. I would add that there is also a real convenience factor to outsourcing your printing; it really does take a lot of time. And many times I'm printing to mail the print to my non-technical mother, who failed iPad 101. So I can click a few buttons and get her a stack of 4x6s (or whatever) shipped directly from the printer. This then also saves me the time to find an envelop, package the prints safely, drive to the post office, etc.

    That being said, I'm having fun (for the moment) with my new Canon PRO-100.
  8. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Depends...I want my stuff mounted to matte boards with a UV coating, and generally use a pearl/metallic finish. I use photo ledges in my house with with no picture frames. Hard to do this in house. Otherwise I have a Large format printer at work that I use with adhesive backed photo paper that I mount to foam core.

    I normally use MPIX...really nice quality and they're relatively fast. I have found that if you keep a couple items in your cart, they will send you a 15% off reminder after 3 days, which basically gives you free shipping.
  9. RzzB

    RzzB Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 14, 2013
    Likewise - I'm having great fun with my Epson 3880

    Not for everyone, but I don't think a photo is finished until you have a large, thick paper, print in your hand that you are pleased with.

    For me the icing on the cake is mounting, framing, and hanging on the wall.

  10. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    I just bought an Epson and started printing myself a few months ago. From what I was able to research, small prints are cheaper at a good lab, but you can actually save money printing larger prints at home.

    Regardless, I am having a lot of fun with printing at home. :2thumbs:
  11. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2013
    Personally, I leave it to the pro's. IF you did a significant amount of prints, it might be worth it or if you are meticulous about printing. I only order large prints during the peak sales.
  12. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    I print at home. It's not cheaperer but it is funnerer.

    Also there's the 'instant gratification' factor - once I have a file that's where I want it I can churn out another print for friends or family in a matter of minutes.

    Also my "lightroom" is in the basement and gives me both a place and reason to hide.

    Also I'm not an inclement weather shooter so post processing and printing gives me things to do in the "off season".

    However I would be hard pressed to make a case that it's more cost efficient; the last time I checked local 'box stores' could print out 4x6 and 8x10 prints cheaper than I could using my home 'print lab', even factoring in the time and fuel needed to go to the store.

    I'm not all that meticulous about my prints - so it's not necessarily a question of quality control. I just enjoy the process and seeing the end result of the 'developing' process, sort of like have a B&W darkroom in the old days but without the odor :2thumbs:.


  13. cmpatti

    cmpatti Mu-43 Veteran

    May 8, 2011
    Berkeley, CA
    As others have suggested, unless your print volume is quite high (like "making a living from selling prints" high), or very low (like "one or two prints a year" low), cost should probably be far down on the list of considerations when deciding whether you want to print in-house or through a service. I really enjoy the process and have more pride in the final product when it has been produced entirely under my own artistic control. Others may find printing an annoying time-suck. If you enjoy printing with your Epson 2200, keep doing it. You probably won't save enough (if anything) from outsourcing to make it worth giving up that enjoyment. If not, try sending some prints out and see how you feel about it.
  14. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    Comparing the cost of printing at home or via a service is only applicable if both are using the same inks and papers...otherwise they are not producing the same product. I have yet to find a print service that will let me select any paper from Moab, Red River, Ilford...etc.

    If you just want cheap, high volume, prints of snapshots...use a service or go to Costco or Sams. If you low volumes of art photos, print in your own studio or find a local print studio that is used to printing for artists. Work with them on the choice or printer (and therefore ink) and paper. If they don't have a desired paper in stock, they are likely to be willing to order it for use with your prints.
  15. RachelleK

    RachelleK Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2014
    Cost is a big consideration for me but I guess I do print a lot. I'm much more likely to make an 17x22 inch print when the paper costs $1.00 per sheet and I'm using third-party inks rather than $5.00 per sheet and using OEM ink. If I used a service, I couldn't get near the quality unless I paid considerably more. I print usually just for myself and like the total control you have over the final product.
  16. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
    The problem I have with the question is that I will likely not have have the same printer, ink, and paper in both. So you do not end up with exactly the same products from which to co a clear cost comparison. At home you can select any paper you want to purchase that will fit your printer. At a print service the paper selection is likely limited, and perhaps the paper and image sizes.

    At home you have initial capital cost for the printer, ink, and paper. After that you have recurring costs for ink and paper. To minimize those costs I got our Canon Pixma Pro-1 on ebay. It was new in the box for half price. The same goes for genuine Canon inks. Paper I usually order from B&H or Adorama.

    So printing at home will likely cost more per print than at a print service for the same product. But at home you have the freedom to select your paper and print whenever you want to do so.
  17. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 1, 2013
    Costco is cheaper and better than marginal printers. Real prints are also more durable.
  18. peterpix

    peterpix Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 8, 2010
    So. Maine
    Peter Randal
    One way to save money is to use Red River paper; top quality and great prices.
  19. RachelleK

    RachelleK Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2014
    Could you further explain what you mean by "real prints"?
  20. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    A 'real print' is a photographic (light-exposed) print on real photo paper.
    If printed on good quality paper, it should last for many decades without much fading.

    An inkjet printer uses inks or dyes on a piece of plain paper (regardless of what it's called).

    EDIT: Dye-based Inks tend to fade; pigments are better but are even more expensive.

    My local Costco prints on 'Fuji archive' paper up to at least 12x18 (~$3), possibly larger.

    They print even larger on canvas, which is a different process; I don't know how long those are supposed to last.

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