10 things to watch out for
Speed, cost and other variables will all affect which printing option is the best for your needs
1 Instant hit
With delivery times from labs taking anything from a day to a week or more, inkjet printing at home gives more immediate results and is useful if you regularly need prints at short notice.
2 High speed
The type of ink also affects how fast prints are produced. Dye-based inkjet printers are usually about twice as fast as their pigment-based cousins, as demonstrated by the Canon and Epson models on test.
3 Consumable costs
While it’s hard to calculate exactly, photo prints created on a home inkjet printer tend to average about £1.50 ($2) for A4 and £5 ($7) for A3+. That includes the ink and paper, but not the price of the printer itself.
4 Lab costs
12x8-inch (roughly A4) lab prints from the companies included here range from £2.30 to £8.95 ($2.50 to $3.80 in the US), while 18x12-inch (roughly A3) prints cost from £5.18 to £9.95 ($5.58 to $6.30, US), not including postage.
5 Streaky prints
Photo prints from inkjet printers can be ruined if there are blocked nozzles in the print head, so it’s worth running a nozzle check before creating large-format prints – it’ll save you wasting expensive ink and paper.
6 Repair and renew
When using a lab for your photo prints, you don’t need to worry about the cost of repairing or replacing a home printer if it becomes faulty.
7 Taxing business
Some pro labs quote prices that don’t include VAT in their price lists, so this isn’t added until the final bill.
8 Photo finish
Photo labs often give you the choice of ordering prints on different makes and finishes of paper. At home you’d have to buy specialist paper by the pack, even if you only wanted to use a couple of sheets for special prints.
9 Pro quality
As well as conventional silver halide, most labs also offer giclée (pro-quality inkjet) prints on a wide range of media.
10 Specialist media
When using upmarket labs, yet more printing possibilities include transferring your images to more specialist media like acrylic and aluminium.