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I've been looking at the pricing structure of an online printing service, and have noticed that there are are significant savings to be had by sending them one file consisting of multiple images to be printed, and cutting them myself, rather than getting the images printed and cut into discrete photographs.

For example if I get 100 6x4" photos printed and cut by them, they will cost £102 (Edit: I realise this is expensive - the site is primarily focussed on larger sized prints but the pricing structure for smaller ones illustrates my point better here) . But if I get them printed in one 600x4" panoramic image (this is possible), and cut them myself, they will cost me £36.00. This immediately justifies the cost of buying a fairly decent paper cutter.

My question is: are they likely to be annoyed by this approach? I don't believe this changes the way they will print the photos, as I think they print them on a roll, and perhaps there is a cutter built into the printer. All I am doing is not paying them quite a large sum to cut the photos.

Has anyone tried this, or at least something similar but perhaps less extreme?

NB: It looks like a fairly large-scale operation.

  • My local camera shop in New Zealand actually promote that approach as a service; they call it a "digital dump". You give them a single image file laid out whatever way you like, they throw it at their printer and give it back to you with no proofing. They trust you know what you're doing, and it's priced suitably inexpensively as a result. – Conor Boyd Aug 16 '15 at 21:31
  • That sounds good. Unfortunately I don't think you can even opt out of proofing with this one. I asked for their colour profiles but they said something along the lines of "we sort all that out ourselves, don't worry" – Mark Fisher Aug 17 '15 at 7:52
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They're not to know what you plan to use the print for and probably wouldn't care. They're a supplier and if they offer it as a service they're not going to care what you do with the prints they send you.

I'd go elsewhere at those prices unless there's a killer feature that your chosen provider offers that you've not mentioned?

By way of comparison: PhotoBox (a large UK printing company which I use regularly) current 6x4 price is £0.12 each incl. VAT for up to 200 prints (plus carriage), offer price breaks on larger orders and regularly do offers on top of that. They also offer a 'premium' option with a higher grade of paper and some other features for around 50% extra. Even the premium option with express shipping would be cheaper than the £36.00 figure you're looking at.

(Prices correct as of August 2015, No affiliation - just a happy customer)

I wouldn't even call them the cheapest.

On top of this you may encounter some technical issues - the JPEG standards (which is all many photo printing companies accept) have a limitation of 65535px height/width and some editors/software may fail with images above 32767px. A 600x4" print will have an absolute maximum of 109dpi - you could do a 6x400" print at 163.8dpi to fit the same number in or some other size.

The sizing limitation could be avoided using a wider print but then you're sending your output to a large format printer which has a lower output quality (DPI) than a 'standard' printer because it's output is intended to be viewed from a further distance.

You'd be better off letting them do their thing with bigger prints and finding alternate vendors for smaller sizes.

  • The prices you quoted are comparable to the ultra cheap Costco Photo in the U.S. but much less then the professional labs I use. But I do agree that the printer the OP mentioned is very expensive by my standards too! – dpollitt Aug 16 '15 at 16:06
  • They're not quite Costco as they do seem to pay more attention to their process than that! But they're hardly boutique, hand-processed prints either. – James Snell Aug 16 '15 at 16:14
  • I believe the larger sizes are more reasonable (£21.55 for a 30x45 inch print, for example, though the benefit of concatenation reduces considerably with size so I used the 6x4 inch example to illustrate the point). All are printed on 260gsm gloss paper, I don't know how that compares... perhaps, though, I should only use them for the larger sizes that aren't offered elsewhere (it's supersizeprint.co.uk if anyone was interested) – Mark Fisher Aug 16 '15 at 17:02
  • Thanks for the info. My experience is that larger format printers tend to use lower quality processes (lower dpi etc) as images have a vastly greater viewing distance than standard 6x4 prints. – James Snell Aug 16 '15 at 18:55
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I used to run a print shop.

The reason a large print is cheaper per square inch is not just a retail thing, its a real cost to the retailer. (depending on the system used of course)

Personally I wouldnt care, as one big print as a LOT less work for the printer.

The only time I started to charge extra was when people wanted astrophotography prints, which are around 99% coverage.

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Right, just shop for a different printer. Your 600 inch panoramic will have to be 150,000 pixels to print 250 dpi. And even if it is, their process may print large prints at less then 250 dpi. And even if they did, it will be an ink jet print instead of the regular color photo paper. Plus both your preparation and final cutting would be a ton of work. Look for better 4x6 prices.

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    They'd be able to print that length using most standard minilabs/commercial printers but this raises a good additional point - JPEG/JFIF is hard-limited to 65535px depth/width. – James Snell Aug 16 '15 at 16:15

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