All of my prints from Costco are a little soft compared to when I view the files on my phone or computer. It's especially noticeable around eyes and glasses in portraits. Does anyone have ideas for preventing them from downsampling the images?

Here's an example:

Earlier this week, I uploaded full res 16 MP TIFF files to the website for 4x6 prints (enhance off). The total file size was around 500 MB. But after picking up the prints (Costco #1061 in Hayward), the receipt says the files they received were only 28 MB:

Costco Photo Center receipt with 11 images, 11 prints, 28 MB

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    Use a different printing service? – Michael C Aug 20 '17 at 6:49
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    Why not ask Costco what's going on ? – StephenG Aug 20 '17 at 8:37
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    Costco typically uses Fuji Frontier printers which have specific dimensions for best output. Google is leaving me dry so I'll have to look up the specifics later. – Mark Ransom Sep 19 '17 at 22:04

You don't understand basics yet. There was no problem at Costco. Printer machines can only print maybe 250 to 300 dpi resolution (pixels per inch). Designed that way because the eye cannot benefit from more. Your 16 megapixels for 3:2 printing must have been around 4898x3266 pixels (16 mp).

But printing 6x4 expects only at most about
(6 inches x 300 dpi) x (4 inches x 300 dpi) = 1800 x 1200 pixels. About 2 mp.

So Costco had no choice, your input was entirely inappropriate size for 4x6. Your 4898x3266 images would be proper to print about 20x12 inches (at 250 pixels per inch). But for 4x6, they were about 800+ dpi, which is entirely not feasible. No printer can reproduce pixels at 800 dpi. Greatly excessive for the real world.

Your 1920x1080 pixel HD video monitor can only show 1920x1080. So in exactly the same way, showing a huge image is simply resampled smaller (to fit on a 1920x1080 pixel screen), and so you see about the same thing there.

Costco surely expects users will upload huge camera-size images like this, and they simply resample them to be able to print them, doing the work you should have done first.

You should prepare your images aiming to print at 250 to 300 dpi. 300 dpi is a fine goal, but most printers can only do about 250 dpi. Here are some basics:

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    The d in dpi does not mean pixels. – Gerhardh Aug 20 '17 at 14:41
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    It certainly does to me, and it does in the JPEG, TIFF, and EXIF specifications. dpi is of course the most common usage (there are no ink drops in image files). :) – WayneF Aug 20 '17 at 15:26
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    That is ppi. Printers can well produce more than 300 dpi but barely more than 300 ppi. In my EXIF data it isn't called dpi. Dpi ist a term of printer technology. – Gerhardh Aug 20 '17 at 16:26
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    I understand your argument, but sorry, that's merely your opinion, maybe how you'd like it to be, but not how the real world did it. Check the JPEG, TIFF, and EXIF specifications, search them for the term dpi, and you'll see there are other, older, better specifications.Who are you to call them wrong? Also see scanner specifications. There are no ink drops in image files or scanners. dpi is pixels per inch in those applications. – WayneF Aug 20 '17 at 17:02
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    @WayneF The way dpi is used in the EXIF standard is synonymous to the way ppi is used in the nomenclature of printers. "Dpi" when talking about EXIF info does not mean the same thing that "dpi" means when talking about printers. In terms of digital image files and the EXIF standard, "Dots" and "Pixels" are interchangeable. In terms of printers they are not. – Michael C Aug 20 '17 at 21:42

Costco typically uses Fuji Frontier printers which have specific dimensions for best output. If you don't use these exact pixel dimensions, the picture may be resized which will result in a slight softening. You can get better results by resizing, cropping, and sharpening with your own software.

The sizes are nominally 300 DPI with a little bit of overscan. From Dry Creek Photo:

Paper (in)  Paper (mm)  Canvas (px)
     4          102        1228
     5          127        1524
     6          152        1818
     7          178        2138
     8          203        2434
    10          254        3036
    12          305        3638
    15          381        4536
    18          457        5440

For example, to make an 8x10 print you want to resize your image to 2434x3036 pixels.

Also be sure to specify that you want image enhancement turned OFF so that the contrast and colors turn out the way you intended. Make sure the image is saved in sRGB.

One last thing, load the files directly at the printer location, don't do it over the web. The web software may attempt to shrink the file before downloading in order to improve the load times; that will definitely have a negative impact on your files.

And to preclude the nitpicking, these printers are based on a photographic process, so DPI = PPI.

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