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Shutterfly Review | PCMag

The familiar Shutterfly photo-printing service offers probably the most extensive range of products you can grace with your photography, but its photo image quality for standard prints falls short of the competition’s. The company is now owned by the same also-well-known Snapfish, but it remains a distinct service so far. Shutterfly is not the least expensive of the services, but for your money you do get better packaging than most lower-cost printing services provide.

How Much Do Shutterfly Prints Cost?

4-by-6-inch prints cost 18 cents each at Shutterfly, which puts the service at the middle of the pack for this size. Note that as with most similar services, Shutterfly often offers lower promotional prices, especially during shopping holidays. Snapfish, Walmart, and York Photo Labs charge just 9 cents for the same size, while Nations Photo Lab charges 32 cents. Walgreens Photo and CVS Photo charge 33 cents for 4-by-6s, though in those cases you’re paying for the extra convenience of same-day local pickup.

Shutterfly home page

Shutterfly prices are average to high for larger Print sizes. For a Shutterfly 5-by-7, you pay 99 cents, and an 8-by-10 costs $3.95. RitzPix charges the same 99 cents for a 5-by-7 and $3.99 for an 8-by-10 enlargement. Mpix prices 5-by-7s at $1.29 and 8-by-10s at $2.79. Amazon Prints charges only $1.79 for an 8-by-10.

Gifts and Cards

Shutterfly lets you print your photos on a multitude of surfaces: cards, stationery, calendars, personalized gifts, home décor, and more. Beyond the expected mugs, magnets, and posters, you can choose flowerpots, blankets, cellphone cases, pillows, shower curtains, and even pet food bowls.

You can get Holiday photo cards and cards for many other occasions—graduation, wedding, birthday, and more—from Shutterfly, starting at a mere $2.89 for a 25-pack of flat cards, and $2.99 for folded cards. The per-card price drops as your order size increases, as you’d expect. Shutterfly offers among the most options for greeting cards of any service we’ve reviewed, including foil printing and decorative shapes. You can even have your recipients’ addresses printed on the included envelopes.

One thing I did not see among Shutterfly’s offerings was a necktie, which York Photo Labs offers. But other than that, if you need an unusual object to print your pictures on, Shutterfly should be the first place you look.

Books in particular are a strength. The professional custom-designed Make My Book option starts at $29.99, but for just $15.99 you can get a 7-by-9 in softcover. Snapfish’s starting price of $19.99 gets you an 8-by-8-inch softcover book. Snapfish doesn’t offer a design service, but, really, I expect most people who get to the point of uploading their photos will want to choose the pictures themselves for their photo book. The service offers two routes for this: the Custom Path and the Simple Path. The former gives you complete control over layout, and the latter simply pours your chosen photos into a template. You need to submit at least 60 photos to use Shutterfly’s Make My Book service.

Shutterfly books

Uploading and Organizing Images

Shutterfly has improved its uploading and ordering interface since PCMag’s last review. You can upload photos directly from your PC or import them from Facebook, Google Photos, or Instagram for printing. The initial upload tool now supports dragging and dropping photo files onto its window, and it no longer requires the Adobe Flash plugin. Once you’re in one of your galleries, you can click Get More Photos. Only JPG files are allowed; Nations lets you use the more pro-level TIFF format, as well.

Uploading to Shutterfly

After uploading photos to your online gallery, you discover that Shutterfly’s editing options are more limited than those you find in sister site Snapfish. With Shutterfly you can only crop and rotate. You don’t get any lighting adjustments like you do with Printique and Mpix. Shutterfly makes adding and changing print sizes easy, showing all photos and size choices on a single page. You can even select multiple sizes for all the photos in your order in one place at the top.

Ordering with Shutterfly

One nice touch: you can enter text to print on the back of your photo—very handy for remembering distant relatives or travel locations. I didn’t see this option in most other services, though it is an option in Printique. Shutterfly also offers some interesting photo size choices, including 5-by-15, 8-by-24, and 12-by-36 for panoramic shots. Nations also offers those sizes, though Walgreens Photo does not.

You can pay for you photos with MasterPass, PayPal, or Visa Checkout, which is more flexible than Nations’ credit-card only method. Shipping is reasonable. For my order of 22 prints, shipping started at $3.68 for Economy 7-to-12-day delivery. For $6.88 Standard shipping, I could have pared that time down to a max of 10 days. Expedited delivery would have cost $14.51 for the order, and Rush, which would only have reduced the shipment to a guaranteed 7 days, would have been $22.93. By comparison, Snapfish offers four-day delivery for just $7.99. After completing my order, the Shutterfly displayed the expected shipping-date window for my order, as Snapfish did. Shutterfly lets you pick up your photos at Walgreens Photo, Target, or CVS, but I chose to have my order printed at the company’s labs and mailed. The local pickup options would test a store’s printers, rather than Shutterfly’s. Still, it’s a handy option, especially when time is tight.

Shutterfly also offers a decent mobile app, which lets you upload photos from your device for printing. The app lets you see any photos you’ve uploaded from a computer, too. From the app, you can not only order prints, but also mugs, iPhone cases, canvas prints, cushions, and other items. The updated mobile app now lets you share online galleries, as Snapfish does, but there’s still no in-app photo correction tools. 

Shutterfly packaging

How Good Are Shutterfly’s Prints?

My photos arrived in the best packaging among the budget services I tested. The 4-by-6s, 5-by-7s, and 8-by-10 each came in their own separate sleeve, with an overnight-style outer envelope protecting everything. This is definitely better than York Photo Labs’ and Amazon Prints’ thin paper envelope and an improvement on Snapfish’s and Walmart Photo‘s loose 8-by-10 in a cardboard overnight envelope.

Like several of the services I tested, Shutterfly uses Fuji Crystal Archive paper, which is of good quality, though on the thin side. It yields a sharp image, with colors that tend to be oversaturated. Printique, Mpix, and Nations Photo Lab use the more-professional Kodak Endura paper. One thing I like about Shutterfly’s photos is that the filenames are printed on the back, even though I didn’t specify a title to print there. I also appreciate the contact sheet that came with each size-group of prints.

Frankly, the images on my Shutterfly test prints are not up to snuff. Color and lighting are fine, but the photos lack the sharpness of Snapfish’s and other competitors’ prints. In fact, one coworker mentioned that the only real difference he’d noticed among all the photo prints scattered around my work area was the inferior print image on the Shutterfly pictures. Look in particular at the sunlit beige mountains in the distance in the shot below to see the difference in sharpness among the services.

Shutterfly print quality

In the red hat portrait below, Shutterfly’s colors, brightness, and contrast are also just fine, but on closer examination the sharpness pales in comparison with the better competitors.

Portrait Shutterfly comparison

Shutterfly also offers online sharing of photos and galleries you’ve uploaded to the service. You get your own Share site to which you can post events, such as birthday parties, and sports events. You can specify that viewing your gallery requires a sign-in, or you can make it publicly visible. Shutterfly gives you a variety of site designs, including seasonal options, and the resulting site can play full-window slideshows of your images. Of course, people viewing your site can order photo prints from Shutterfly.

Snap the Shutter!

Shutterfly’s print image quality is below average, its pricing is average to high, and its website experience is only average. The site has some good points, too, including excellent packaging, shareable online galleries, and the filename or photo title printed on the backs of the photos. Furthermore, if you’re looking to print your pictures on the widest possible variety of media, Shutterfly is tops. For the best image quality, however, look to our Editors’ Choice photo printing services, Printique and Mpix at the premium level; and for value photo printing, check out Snapfish and Walmart Photo.

Pros

  • Good delivery packaging

  • Intuitive web interface with online gallery sharing

  • Vast selection of photo-printed gift options

  • Prints text of your choice on back of photos

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Cons

  • Slightly blurry test photos

  • Expensive for larger print sizes

  • Weak online photo editing

  • High shipping prices

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The Bottom Line

Shutterfly offers a huge selection of media on which you can print your photos, but its image quality is mediocre and its prices are high for larger prints.

Shutterfly Specs

Lowest Price for 4-by-6 Print 15 cents
Largest Print 20 by 30
Metal Prints Yes
Canvas Prints Yes
Photo Editing No
TIFF Support No
Online Slideshows Yes
Mobile Apps Yes
Same-Day Pickup Yes

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