Digital Photography and the Printed World


 Digital Photography and the Printed World

Since its introduction, digital photography has had an enormous impact on the creative world. From its benefits to the negatives, here's everything you need to know about this fascinating new medium.

An Introduction to Digital Photography and the Printed World

Digital photography has been a mover and shaker in the creative world for decades now. It was introduced back in 1975 with Kodak's release of the least expensive camera for casual use at $160. The birth of digital photography is mostly attributed to Japan's Nikon corporation because it released their first D-SLR camera (digital single lens reflex) in 1999--completely changing how we captured images and how they looked as well as how we processed images before printing them.

It has been an interesting evolution, and one that continues to this day. Many people have switched from conventional cameras to digital because of the low cost of digital photos, the ease with which they can be shared and because many don't like the bulkiness and lack of storage options available on most conventional cameras. There is also no need for anyone who wanted to get into digital photography to have an understanding of film development. Most photographers relied heavily on their own skills as well as the lab techs at their local photo shop when developing film--something no longer needed with digital photography.

The Digital World

Fast-forward to today. We have computers, tablets, smartphones and a host of other devices that have made it easy for us to capture photos with digital cameras. And now that digital cameras come in a plethora of sizes and shapes, we have the option of taking as many shots as we want without having to carry around an additional bag. As a result, we are taking way more photos in a year than ever before (approximately 33 per month). However, we still need prints if we want to replace our "casts" (the originals--usually faded or damaged--that people keep for insurance purposes or just nostalgia) or because they are sentimental items.

Today in many cases, we can have prints made at home. Or we can go to our local photo shop where it is expected that you will come in and sit there for a few hours while they make your prints. However, both of these options are far more expensive than using an online company such as Shutterfly or the like. The problem is that each print is made individually and requires the person being printed to wait several hours (or sometimes days) for their print to come out. Additionally, if you are printing multiple images at once, the cost will generally increase significantly because most companies do not charge based on how many shots or prints are printed.

Online Photography Services

The online photography service companies have developed in order to facilitate this loss of control. These companies work on an hourly fee basis, charge a small set-up fee (usually usually $20 and sometimes less) and then use digital printing technology such as Epson's dye-transfer process (the same process used by Kodak and other photography labs when printing film or going directly to paper) that produces great quality photos in a fraction of the time it takes for a traditional lab to do the same thing. Since you can get up to 32 digital photos printed at the same time, it is possible to get more prints in a small amount of time for less than what you would pay for one traditional print. Since you are receiving your prints in a variety of sizes, you can choose the one that fits your needs and take them back out.

Easier to Manage

The digital photography service companies also make it easier to manage many photos at one time. When moving from film to digital, many photographers had their negatives scanned. However, this was time-consuming and often difficult because of all the different scanning options currently available. Many photographers were happy with this process because they didn't want to have to deal with multiple scanned files or having a perfect photo printed that was less than perfect on the original negative or print. They also didn't have the option to "crop" the photo until it was time to print. However, they were much happier when these options became available when going digital.

While printing everything from photos to pages in books and calendars, plus photos for business cards and T-shirts has something of a special place in my heart (I'm an author), I realized that many photographers, including professionals, were using these services as well. Since I could get prints at my home or at my local store and they would usually be ready the next day, I decided to try them out for myself as well. Let's take a look at some of the companies that are available.

Online Photography Companies to Consider

Shutterfly: The company started out in the year 2000 as a family business and quickly became a giant because of its low prices, ease of use, large array of products and fast service. The company offers traditional prints, calendars, photo books and postage stamps as well as products such as personalized stationary for companies and invitations. It has also branched out into managing digital photo collections on the web as well. I have used Shutterfly many times--as I mentioned I also write for them on an almost-daily basis--and have found it very easy to use. However, it is not the only one available.

Snapfish: Another digital photography service that many people are familiar with, Snapfish was never a "pure play" digital photography site. The company actually started out as an online CD and DVD store starting in 1998. It morphed into a photo service in 2003 and quickly rose to the forefront of the company's offerings and now forms the majority of its business. The company offers a variety of services, including printing photos as well as viewing photos on all sorts of media platforms including television sets and mobile phones (a Snapfish mobile phone application was recently introduced). Snapfish also has some premium services for photographers who need more than just the basic stuff.

Burbn: A company that started out as a "Groupon for photographers" offering deals and discounts, Burbn has been widely viewed as one of the more innovative companies in this space. While it is true that Burbn was the first company to offer deals and discounts to its customers, it started offering premium photo services under the brand "Burbn Digital Photography" later in 2010. In addition to some of the common features such as printing, the company also offers products such as photo books and calendars that you can add your own images to or products with photos pre-loaded onto them (such as 24x36 prints). However, the company isn't only focused on photo services. It is also going after business professionals and business-savvy photographers by offering products such as brochures, business cards or even online websites for them.

Other Companies: Other companies that I have used and trust include 4inkjets (4inkjets reviews) and Printroom. Both of these companies offer similar services to Shutterfly but they do things a little bit differently. First of all, the fees are a little lower but you can also do some things such as purchase reconditioned film cameras from Printroom or get real photo prints from your digital camera with 4inkjets (more on this below).


Anyone who has an interest in photography should consider using one of these companies. In many ways, it is similar to the new digital photo printing services for traditional photographers. It can also be a lot cheaper if you have a big enough order and are willing to wait. However, it also can be a lot more expensive than what you pay elsewhere as well. There are many things that you should consider besides price when deciding on where to get your photos from; however, price is always an important consideration and while a little higher than some of the other companies, Snapfish lives up to its reputation by offering some of the best quality and service available in this category.

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