Overpriced Printing

I recently started active promotions of Ink Saver on the site and in the Digital Lifestyle newsletter after having several different conversations with people close to the photo printing industry. It’s estimated that the cost per page for printing a 4×6 photo in full color is about $0.70 cents, including paper. Regular 8×11 sheets of paper printed in color are significantly cheaper, running about $0.15 per page, but still not cheap. In most instances, sending your print job elsewhere would save you money over the factory default settings. If you are using an inkjet printer, you are paying too much per page.

It is possible to save yourself some money, if you look at alternative solutions. For instance, Windows XP and Mac OS X offer direct links to online services. Choosing the most expensive option from the services linked via Windows XP My Pictures, the cost per photo is $0.49. With a shipping cost of $1.95, you start saving money with ever picture ordered over 11. I added a quantity of 500 photos to the Fujifilm option and shipping was still only $2.00, which means shipping becomes a non-factor the more photos you order at once.

I tried taking my photos to one of the Kodak kiosks in a local grocery store once. The price was $0.33 per photo because they were running a special at the time. I’ll never do it again. It took about 10 minutes per photo for printing and I had to have an attendant enter a code each time I was ready to print a photo. There was no queuing to run a batch all at once, which meant if the attendant was busy helping another customer I was waiting almost 20 minutes per photo. My time is worth more to me.

If you only need to print a few photos, it’s still cheaper to do it at home because shipping eats into the savings you might get from ordering online. This is where Ink Saver comes in. By overriding the default controls of your printer, Ink Saver optimizes ink usage, reducing the amount of ink used in a photo to an amount that produces a great looking print without waste. With some tweaking, you can cut the cost per 4×6 from $0.70 down to about $0.35 (with some well timed paper shopping) and never lose any quality in the final result.

Depending on your printer, ink currently costs $25-35 per cartridge. Using default settings, you generally get 25-30 4×6 prints before it’s time to buy more ink. Ink Saver easily doubles that number to 50-60 prints, with careful calibration of your settings. The software costs $35, which means it pays for itself with the first batch of ink, because you are doubling the time before you need to buy more.

I personally prefer the lazy route of sending my pictures to a service and waiting for them to come back via mail. I’ve never enjoyed the process of printing photos and there are too many factors that can go wrong, like not getting the paper completely squared in the printer. On the other hand, I appreciate the immediacy of printing at home, knowing that I can take pictures, print them off, and give them to relatives before they go home for the evening. What I don’t like is the cost associated with printing at home, which is why I am actively suggesting everyone with a photo printer should give Ink Saver a try.

Update: Ann writes: I totally agree with you on the cost of printing at home. However, my local Wal-Mart uses a Fuji photo maker that only costs $.21 per print, and it is ready in an hour. I insert the media card from my camera into the Fuji machine. It reads the card and I can choose and edit any image. The edit features include cropping, color adjustment, etc. Just like editing software installed on my computer. When I am finished editing, choosing photos and sizes, the machine prints out a receipt which I hand to a photo employee. I can have my prints in and hour, sometimes less and a 4″ x 6″ print is only $.21 per print plus tax. They also have a Kodak picture maker which is more expensive. I never use it so I don’t know the actual cost per print. The Fuji photo maker also allows you to order calendars, greeting cards, etc.