Printing at Costco

And now, back to photography... I just discovered printing at medium-large prints at Costco and this might change my thoughts on printing drafts of photos.  As you know, I'm all about the print and images look different on paper than they do on screen. You usually have to go through a few revisions on paper before an image is really "right" and the turnaround time on prints really slows the process down if you don't have a photo-quality printer at home.

I've always known Costco had a photo department but I never really noticed their "poster" sized printing before.  It turns out that for $6 you can get a 16x20" print, and for $9 you can get a 20x30" print.  These prices are less than half of what charges, and there's no shipping, and they print them while you wait.  The prints are from an Epson 7890 with a 20" roll of Fujifilm Photo Paper Satin 270 - an entry level paper.

You can choose to have your order processed without color correction and they only have one printer, so the consistency from job to job should be pretty good.  Prints smaller than 16x20 are printed on a different printer so the color won't be exactly consistent, but you can gang up four 8x10's to forma single 16x20 and it will be printed on the big printer.

This is a fabulous deal for draft printing and is pretty close to the cost of materials for this sort of print.  These costs are so low that it could really change the way I think about print proofing.  This means 8x10 test prints are $1.50 each with about a 30 minute turnaround time.  (60 minutes including driving and parking)

The Epson 7890 will take rolls up to 24" wide and the photo guy mentioned that they might start stocking 24" paper which would let them offer 24x36 prints as well.  I would guess they would charge around $15 or so, which is a really amazing deal.

I envision the final versions of most of my work printed larger than 20x30" and usually mounted too, so having a place like The Picture Element is still important for final versions, but using Costco for printing proofs might become a regular part of my workflow.

Thinking of buying a photo printer

I'm finally thinking of getting around to buying a photo printer.  I do most of my printing at but I'm getting frustrated with the slow cycle time of the print - ship - see results - adjust colors - reprint cycle.  I think it's time to bite the bullet and bring printing of small images (probably only as large as 8x10) in-house.  I look forward to tweaking colors and printing endless 4x6's until it looks right and then taking the resulting file over to Picture Element and saying "make me a big one like this". I've heard such great things about Epsons and such horrible things about Canons that I think I'm going to go with an Epson.  After shooting a Canon SLR for a couple years I can only imagine the anti-photographer workflow their printers must have, and the original experience of Michael Reichman over at The Luminous Landscape seems to bear this out.  (Note:  He did have a much better experience with the newer iPF6100, but still...)

So the next questions are:

1) How big?  8x10?  11x17?  16x20?

2) What quality?  Each brand seems to have at least two choices in each size.

3) Is Epson going to announce anything for PMA next month?

I'm currently thinking of an R1900, a 2800, or maybe something as extravagant as a 3800.  I'm doing all sorts of spreadsheet calculations to figure out what the break-even point on each of these printers is (based on usage) and trying to do as much research as I can.

One nice little nugget of web info is Eric Chan's excellent Epson 3800 FAQ.