Comparison of Snapfish and Shutterfly Photo Printing

The envelopes for Snapfish and Shutterfly are colorful and have bubbles in their logos.
The envelopes for Snapfish and Shutterfly are colorful and have bubbles in their logos. | Source

Both Snapfish and Shutterfly are photo printing services. They print photographs on photo paper and offer a variety of other items. They both start with an S and have bubbles in their logo. Are there any differences in their services?

I recently had photos printed from both services. I had come back from a visit with overseas relatives and had taken photos of their family photos. I wanted prints to share with my brothers who had not made the trip, and to ask for help in identifying all of the people in the photos. I first found an offer for 25 free prints from Shutterfly, and chose some photos for it. Then I found an offer for penny prints for up to 300 photographs from Snapfish. I printed almost all of my photos with it, including the 25 prints that I had printed through Shutterfly.

This gave me a great basis of comparison since the same photographs were printed by two different companies in a relatively short time span.

Shutterfly, Inc.

Shutterfly, Inc. (SFY) is a corporation based in Redwood City, California. It was incorporated in Delaware in 1999. In their SEC filing, this is how they describe their business: "We are an Internet-based social expression and personal publishing service that enables consumers to share, print and preserve their memories by leveraging our technology, manufacturing, web-design and merchandising capabilities. Our vision is to make the world a better place by helping people share life's joy."

Snapfish

Snapfish is a web based photo printing service based in San Francisco, California. It opened in 2000, and was bought out by Hewlett Packard in 2005. The photos are printed and mailed by the company to the customer's home. Besides prints, they offer a number of other photo printing services. The printing order can also be sent to a local DuaneReade, Meijer, Walgreens, or Walmart.

Opening An Account

Both sites require you to open an account with them. This is where you will store your photos. The process of opening an account was quick and easy for both of them. You need to enter your name and your e-mail address, and create a password for the site. I recommend you check yes for the option to get on the mailing list, so you can find out about their specials.

I took photographs of photographs that were in magnetic photo albums and ordered prints from Snapfish and Shutterfly.
I took photographs of photographs that were in magnetic photo albums and ordered prints from Snapfish and Shutterfly. | Source

Uploading Photos

Snapfish also allows the option to get the photos from Flickr or Facebook, but since I didn't want to put my relatives' photos there, I uploaded my photos directly to the online photo developing sites. The time to upload will depend on their server but also on your internet connection, and other things that are going on in the background on your computer. While I did not time them, both of them did take a while to load the photos. You can choose to upload them at a smaller resolution which is helpful when you are only getting small prints.

I wanted to load them at the current resolution so that I could also request other projects such as books and calendars so it did take longer.

The process for both the services was quick and easy. Simply choose the photos you want to print and upload them by following the easy steps on the site.

In order to save time in the uploading and choosing photos to print, I recommend that you place all the photos you want to print in one folder, and move them as a group. Otherwise you will waste time uploading photos you don't want to print, and have to spend extra time to choose which ones you print.

Ordering Prints

Ordering prints from both sites is also quick and easy. Just check which photos you want printed, and submit your order. The icons for the photos are fairly small, so I recommend knowing ahead of time which photos you want to print, especially if they are similar to each other.

A Note About Aspect Ratio

Are you wondering why the photos from a digital camera need to be cropped? The standard rectangular photo print sizes (3 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10) are based on traditional 35mm cameras which used a 3:2 aspect ratio. That's the relation between the height and width of the photo. Today's digital cameras, however, since they were originally developed for use on computer screens. use a 4:3 ratio, which is closer to a square than the standard ratio. Since we are used to the older standards, and our photo albums and frames continue to use the old sizes, the digital photos need to be cropped or padded to fit those measurements.

Since my digital camera does not take photos that fit easily into a standard photo size, both services automatically cropped off slivers of the photos to make them fit, and allowed me the option to adjust the crop. For most of my photos, this was not an issue, since this area wound up being a background anyway, but it was frustrating when the photos were close-ups. Also since these are older photos, sometimes something that is in the missing sliver might hold a clue to more accurately dating or identifying the details of the photo.

On Snapfish, you can choose from matte or glossy. You can print the photos as they are, or choose from white torn, white thin or black thin borders. It automatically crops each photo to fit the size. The preview option lets you edit the crop. You can choose from 4 x 6, 5 x 7, and 8 x 10 as sizes for each of the prints. Once I had placed my order, Snapfish gave me a choice to print a slightly smaller size of my photos which would allow me to show the entire photo without any cropping. It would have kept the crops for the photos that I had manually adjusted during the order phase. I wish they had offered this option earlier, before I made all the manual adjustments on many of my 300 photographs.

Shutterfly also automatically cropped each photo to fit the size. It offered a choice of using the entire photo with padding around it. It offered wallet size prints in addition to the 4" x 6", 5" x 7", and 8" x 10" sizes. There were no border options, but you could choose from glossy or matte. When you preview the photo, and click on adjust cropping, it tells you how large you can print the photo.

Shutterfly Shipping Prices

Cost of shipping prints from Shutterfly. (These are probably outdated since they no longer provide this list.)
Cost of shipping prints from Shutterfly. (These are probably outdated since they no longer provide this list.) | Source

Snapfish Shipping Fees

Shipping fees for prints charged by Snapfish are a little confusing to calculate. Basically, it is 99 cents for the first five photos, and each set of 10 prints thereafter is the price listed on the chart.
Shipping fees for prints charged by Snapfish are a little confusing to calculate. Basically, it is 99 cents for the first five photos, and each set of 10 prints thereafter is the price listed on the chart. | Source

Ship to Store

Both of these companies offer an option to ship your order to a local drug or department store. You may think that this would be less expensive. After all, they wouldn't have to pay for shipping, since the photos could be printed at the store. Not so. I have found that it is more expensive to send the order to a store than for it to be shipped directly to you. If you need the prints right away, go directly to the store instead of through Snapfish or Shutterfly.

Prices and Shipping

The regular price of the 4 x 6 prints for Shutterfly is 12 cents each, and Snapfish is 9 cents each. I find the regular prices for both of these services quite expensive, especially since you also have to pay for shipping. However, you don't ever have to pay the regular price if you don't want to, since both of the companies routinely offer sales of their printing services. It is not uncommon to receive offers for prints that are only one cent each, or even free.

Please note that "free" doesn't really mean free in this case, since you will still have to pay for shipping and handling for every order regardless of the price of the prints. You have to look for the fine print. In fact, the first time I received such an offer, it did not have any fine print about shipping and handling, even though I fully expected it to be there. When I created my order, I could see in the shopping cart that I was expected to pay it. I sent an email to the company to complain about the false advertising, but only received a form letter telling me to look at the fine print.

In this case, it is best to expect to pay the shipping and handling and be surprised if you don't have to. I prefer to know the prices ahead of time so I can compare them before taking the time to download the photos. The shipping fees are for both Snapfish are listed in one of the tiny links at the bottom of the website, so you do have to look for them. Shutterfly no longer provides a list of shipping costs.

Snapfish offers 20 free prints for first time customers, and you can prepay for your prints for 8 cents each. Regular price is 9 cents for each 4 x 6 print. When purchasing items from Snapfish, be sure to look at their special offers at are available on the home page.

Shutterfly offers 50 free prints for new members, and you can prepay for your prints for 9 cents each. Their regular price is 15 cents for each 4 x 6 print.

The shipping fees are tiered based on the number of prints ordered for both companies. The regular shipping fees are shown on the images above. Both companies also offer expedited shipping services. Don't forget that sales tax will also be added to the order.

Photo Developing Prices*

(click column header to sort results)
Number of Prints  
Shutterfly Cost at 12 cents per print  
Shutterfly Postage  
Shutterfly Total cost  
Snapfish Cost at 9 Cents Per Print  
Snapfish Postage  
Snapfish Total Cost  
5
.60
1.99
2.59
.45
.99
1.44
25
3.00
2.49
5.49
2.25
1.97
4.22
35
4.20
2.99
7.19
3.15
2.46
5.61
65
7.80
3.99
11.79
5.85
3.93
9.78
145
17.40
7.49
24.89
13.05
7.85
24.85
A comparison of prices some random numbers of prints are shown on the table. *All prices were accurate at the time of this writing and are subject to change

Other Services

During the ordering process, Snapfish offered me a collage print. Once I received my order, both of the companies sent me offers to have the photos printed on other items. Snapfish sent me an email letting me know that they had put my photos in book form. When I clicked on the link, I could see that my photos were being added to a book, which I could then edit and print. Shutterfly sent me an email that incorporated one of my photos in a number of items, such as T-shirts and mugs.

Shutterfly offers the following items

  • Photo Books
  • Cards & Stationery
  • Prints & Posters
  • Calendars
  • Photo Gifts including mugs, water bottles, iphone cases, ornaments, canvas prints, photo cubes, fleece blankets, woven blankets, mouse pads, magnets, desktop plaques, acrylic photo blocks, puzzles, playing cards, coasters, reusable shopping bags, stickers, desk organizers, cups, plates, keepsake boxes, bracelet, necklace, key ring, address labels, notebooks, notepads, home décor, wall art , decals, personalized growth charts, books, tote bags, aprons, t-shirts, luggage tags, photo show DVD, and videogram.
  • Free Photo Sharing

Millionaire Tip

If you want to save money, be sure to consider the shipping prices when deciding how many photos to order. Even though my offer for Snapfish was up to 300 prints at a penny each, I opted to order 299 prints, to avoid going into a different bracket for the shipping cost.

Snapfish offers the following items:

  • Prints & Enlargements from online photos
  • Snapfish Photo CD
  • Photo Gifts
  • Photo Jewelry & Accessories
  • Stationery Gifts, such as key rings, mugs, ornaments,
  • Photo Books
  • Calendars
  • Poster Prints
  • Stationery Photo Cards
  • Photo Cards
  • Photo Greeting Cards
  • Photo Stamps

Delivery

Both of the services sent me emails to update me on the progress. I received an email message to let me know that the order had been received and a message to let me know when the order had been printed and shipped. I received the prints within a week of my order.

Quality of Prints

As you may recall, the majority of my print order consisted of photographs of photographs. I have to admit that the photographs I took were not clear shots to begin with. I was in a hurry to capture a large volume of photographs taken during the short visit, and the lighting was not ideal. I was also trying to hear and remember the stories that were being told around the photographs. In addition, many of the original photos were compromised in some way. Most had been kept in magnetic photo albums and had discolored. I took the photos as they were in their albums, through the magnetic film. Some of the originals were also blurry and even when they weren't, sometimes my excitement of this goldmine of photos made them blurry.

I also did not edit many of the photos before printing them. I thought about taking off the yellowing, maybe adjusting a tilt or cropping the photos, but for this batch I wanted the photos to be as close to their current condition as possible. Because of all of this, I was not expecting high quality prints as I do for photographs I take normally. I did expect them to accurately reflect the condition of the photos as I saw them on the screen.

I found that the quality of both the Snapfish and the Shutterfly prints are comparable. I did not find any significant differences in the quality of the prints.

Comparison of Snapfish and Shutterfly

 
Snapfish
Shutterfly
opening account
easy
easy
uploading photos
easy
easy
border options
white torn, white thin and black thin options
none
aspect ratio
offers photos that fit the digital size
offers padding to photos to fit the digital size
price
usually cheaper
usually more expensive, but look for sales
new customers
20 free prints
50 new prints
shipping fees
more difficult to understand and calculate
easy table lookup
speed of order
fast
fast
quality of prints
good
good

Snapfish and Shutterfly

Overall, I was very happy with my order from both Snapfish and Shutterfly. Both were easy to use, and both shipped their prints to me right away. I gave my 25 Shutterfly photos to my brother, and put the 299 Snapfish photos in an album that provides space for identifying them. Snapfish is a little bit cheaper, but not dramatically so. From now on, since my photographs are already on the sites, I can also order additional prints, enlargements, or other gifts from these companies.

I do think we should take the time to print some of our photographs so we can share them and enjoy them. Companies like these have made the process easy and affordable.

© 2012 Shasta Matova

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Comments: "Comparison of Snapfish and Shutterfly Photo Printing" 18 comments

Rose 4 months ago

Thank you for the info. It's too bad the sites aren't really forthcoming. I called a shutterfly rep a few days ago, and he told me there wasn't shipping info until I placed items in my cart. After I convinced him I saw it before, he found the link and emailed it to me, so in case anyone needs, here it is (scroll way down for prints): https://www.shutterfly.com/help/pricing.jsp?esch=1

I did live chat w/Snapfish about an hour ago, and the rep also told me that I'd have to place my prints in the cart to see shipping because there's no other way, so I explained I didn't want to add/delete to figure out where the cutoff was. This is basic info they should both know! And I googled and came upon your page which explained their difficult calculations (I actually tested it and was exactly as you said).

Doesn't seem like a transparent way to do business.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 13 months ago from USA Author

Sorry you had that problem, Sam. You definitely have to compare the cost of shipping as well as the cost of the product when deciding which one to use. So many times I have found that when I am offered something for free, they make up the cost in the shipping.


Sam 13 months ago

Shutterfly has obnoxiously high shipping cost. I ordered some photobooks and it was $53 to ship them (4 books that were 11"x14"). Snapfish has never charged nearly that much for anything I've purchased.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 22 months ago from USA Author

Thanks amazmerizing. I was hoping I would be able to say that one was horrible and one was the best, but since I found out that they were both good, I have found that having options is a good thing. I have since continued to use both sites, one for printing individual photographs, and the other for printing another photo book.


amazmerizing profile image

amazmerizing 23 months ago from PACIFIC NORTHWEST, USA

Yes both sites are good... depends really on which one you have a deal for i guess... Wonderful comparison! ;)


MomsTreasureChest profile image

MomsTreasureChest 23 months ago

Great tips, thanks for sharing! I have a lot of pictures I have to get out of my camera and printed. Your charts are very helpful, I especially appreciate the tip about shiping costs. Thanks again.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thank you twoseven. I just put in another order with Snapfish and the photos are in the mail. I wait until they are on sale - usually a penny a print, (or sometimes even free prints) and then most of the cost is the shipping.


twoseven profile image

twoseven 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

I love this in-depth comparison! I really appreciate your clear and concise explanation of aspect ratio as well - I always wondered exactly what that meant! I am happy to hear that they are pretty comparable. This way I will know I can take advantage of the best deal at the time and have good quality prints either way.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks for your additional tips followthestray. The drug stores are much faster, since you can get them back the same day, and sometimes if you find a coupon, you can get photos for reasonable prices. But the online services can be cheaper, and you can get your copies of your photos from the convenience of your home.


followthestray profile image

followthestray 3 years ago from New York

I've only had experience with Shutterfly, since they put out so many promotions and coupons for their products I can usually get them for a lot cheaper than I would full price. This was very useful and interesting though, thank you! I may give Snapfish a try in the future.

I have also printed pictures from the photo kiosks at Walgreens and CVS and have had a good experience with that. In the long run, they are more expensive than the sites--but typically you can get them either right at the kiosk or come back in an hour to pick them up--so that's an option for when you want prints right away.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Sasha. I hope it helps you decide which one to use.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 3 years ago

Thank you for comparing the two! I haven't ordered prints from either but now I'm armed with more info. Thanks ^_^ voting up!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks RT. I love it when the comments help add to the information on the hub. I've enjoyed the photos I have printed and am thinking of more ways to use them.

Thanks Aurelio - there are subtle differences between the two but price is the biggest distinguishing factor in my mind.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 3 years ago from Orange County, CA

So it looks like either one is acceptable, so I think I'll go with Snapfish, since its lower price seems to be the only distinguishing factor. Voting this Up and Useful.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

Thanks for this look at using Snapfish and Shutterfly! I've been thinking through some projects using photos and this is helpful, including the comments--a sign of a good hub!


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA Author

Thanks Melissa, I agree - having an account at both sites lets you take advantage of the specials and the different benefits of both. I found that it was more expensive to have the order printed at a store, but your experience may vary.

Thanks Rose - these are just two of many different photo printing services from which to choose. I print the smaller orders on my own computer, but once in a while it is good to get a larger number of photos printed for sharing and safekeeping.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 3 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Thanks for this comprehensive order! I primarily use Shutterfly, and it's good to know that it is a comparable option to Snapfish. I agree that I wish there were cheaper options for non-professional photographers. Shutterfly does offer package options for ordering large quantities of 4x6 prints that I may look into at some point.


mpropp profile image

mpropp 3 years ago from Minnesota

Nice job comparing the two sites. I think it is best to have accounts at both, since each of them offers a lot of "specials", so there is really no reason to pay full price with either one. I also really like the fact that I can pick up my snapfish at Walmart and Walgreens (both located very close to my home). That way, you don't have to pay those shipping fees! That is the only edge I would give to Snapfish.

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