The Reason Why I Use a High End Photo Printing Service

March 27, 2014 Travis Dewitz

Walmart vs Bayphoto vs Walgreens Print Lab Photo Comparison

I have always been a firm believer that a professional photo lab is always the best route to go for the best prints. I decided to actually prove that a pro photo lab really is the best choice to get your photographs printed from. I use multiple pro labs for my printing services, but Bayphoto is the main lab I personally use. I use Bayphoto most of the time because I know I will get excellent service, but more importantly I know that computer monitor’s color profile and calibration matches their print service. What this means is that what I see is exactly what I get which is the most important feature. I chose to go with 4X6 matte finished prints. Why use a matte finish? I actually went with a 4×5.3 True Digital print size which Walmart and Walgreens both offer and I trimmed the Bayphoto 4×6′s to size. The large single image is the exact digital file I used. All I did was re-size and added the copyright. The comparison photos were exposed as close to correct as possible and are shown below straight out of camera besides resizing. All camera and flash setting remained the same for all comparison images. I used Walmart and Walgreens since they are two popular photo printers located in my area. My local Walmart only offers a matte finish when using their 1-hour service. My local Walgreens only offers gloss finish with their 1-hour service, so I had the matte finished prints mailed to me. The Bayphoto prints are a matte finish with an optionally added matte finish protective coat. Because of this coating, this isn’t a 100% comparison of the finish and feel. The coating can also affect the photos contrast very slightly. Also to note, only Bayphoto had a no color correction option which means what you see is what you get. I am sure that both Walmart’s and Walgreens’ photo machines tried to tweek the images to how they saw fit. If that is true, they both failed at their jobs. Low end photo lab machines are like weathermen, rarely right on the money.

notes. Walmart’s has excessive contrast making the blacks way to black and blowing out the whites. So detail lost at both ends of the spectrum. Bayphoto printed very close to original image. The matte finish photographed in the photo below making the blacks look lighter than they really are. Walgreens blacks are slightly darker, but there is also a yellow cast.

The three photos below were photographed at a slight angle to give a clearer look at the blacks in the images as the matte finish was affecting the blacks slightly in the images above.


notes. Walmart image has too much contrast added. Bayphoto printed near perfect. Walgreens photo printed close besides yellow tint.


notes. Walmart photo printed with too much contrast and excessive saturation. Bayphoto photo printed very close with a slight loss of color saturation. Walgreens photo again had a yellow tint which may be why the image looks slightly over saturated.

The three images below better show the matte texture or lack of.


notes. Walmart print has excessive contrast and black point again. Bayphoto image printed very close. Walgreens photo printed too dark compared to original image.

Pros and Cons

The Walmart prints are terrible if you care about quality at all. When I receive photo invitations in the mail for weddings and graduations that are way too dark; I know where they came from… but you can’t beat the price, right? The prints did not have a true matte finish as they were still smooth like a glossy print and the feel is very dry and squeaky. They are like nails on a chalkboard to my finger tips. The photo paper Fujifilm, must not be the good stuff as it only says Fujifilm. The good Fuji paper is thicker and they include the name of it on back. The one great thing that Walmart did was ask for and required a print release when they suspected that these may have been professionally taken photos.

Walmart Pros

  • 1-Hour Matte Photos
  • Cheaper Than Dirt

Walmart Cons

  • Horrible Feel
  • Horribly Dark

The Bayphoto prints were near perfect and it’s hard to beat near perfect. Price difference means nothing for quality like this in my book. Bayphoto uses a thicker high quality Kodak Professional Endura photo paper. Best of the bunch. These prints also have a wonderful feel to them, very smooth and silky. These prints were ordered with a protective matte coating which I believe causes the silky feel compared to previous prints I have ordered in the past without the coating.

Bayphoto Pros

  • Almost Free Shipping
  • Fast Shipping
  • Near Perfect Print Rendition
  • Great Feel

Bayphoto Cons

  • Price is Higher
  • Not Same Day

The Walgreens photos weren’t too bad but I have had some issues with 1-hour glossy photos printed in store. They are darker than they should be but nothing like the Walmart ones. The photo paper is thin and is only marked as Kodak Paper on back. Most likely the cheap line like Walmart’s Fuji paper. The matte finish is also rougher and more noticeably compared the Kodak Professional Endura paper.

Walgreens Pros

  • Good Price
  • Ok Print Rendition

Walgreens Cons

  • Not Same Day
  • Print Quality


Links to my Best Work – Instagram / Commercial Photography / Photojournalism

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Travis Dewitz

My name is Travis Dewitz and I am from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My specialty is commercial photography with a love for expressive portraits. My work is Conceptual, Emotive, Editorial, Surreal and Eclectic. I am passionate about fashioning new worlds through photographs as I extend my visions beyond the realm of the camera. I have incredible vision, which you can see in all of my photos.

Comments (3)

  1. Kimberly Buss via Facebook

    This is so true, I haven’t tried Bay Photo yet, I’ve heard they are great! I started using Meridian Professional Imaging and have been very pleased with the quality of their prints, There is a big difference and well worth the extra money!

  2. Barry Bretz

    Great Job, Travis! And your pictures are great also. You covered exactly what I needed to know, except your file size. After photoshopping for red-eye, saturation and exposure, etc., my files are 23Mbytes. I can reduce them to 10Mbytes per file size, but I’m afraid I’d lose something on my 8×10, 8×12 picture formats. Any suggestions for Walmart, Walgreens?

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