The Best Photography Print Labs in 2023
April 21, 2023
One of the most frequently asked set of questions I receive from other photographers is: What print lab do you use? Which online photo printing service is the best quality? Who prints the best quality photos? If you're new to printing your digital photos or film scans, and you're looking for more than just decent prints, the task of selecting a photography print lab can be daunting indeed. I've tested quite a few over the years, but I've always found myself wondering if I've found the best photo printing services. In order to find answers to these questions and to see if I could confirm that I was in good hands with my current lab, I decided to contact thirteen photography print labs across the country to see if they wanted to participate in the ultimate showdown to compete for the title of the best photography print lab of 2023. This review also has a thorough YouTube video that accompanies it where I go into much more detail for each lab and product, and throughout this article I'll be embedding relevant sections of that video.
Who Should Use an Online Print Service?
Professional photographers often require or desire that their photos be printed for exhibitions, a gallery, or to sell to their clients. We demand quality photo prints and need reliable and dependable online photo labs that offer the highest print quality. Even if you're not a full-time professional photographer, surely you have a desire for the best quality prints from reputable labs that also offer a wide variety of photo print options. Perhaps you just sold your first print through your website, and you're scrambling to figure out where to your photos printed. Maybe you're a photographer that as started participating in art fairs, and you want to find the best value to maximize profit. Or maybe you're an established nature and landscape photographer who has been operating a gallery, and you're looking to ensure you are using the best products to showcase your pictures in your gallery - it would be ideal to know about the best printing service. Whatever your reason is for wanting to find an online print service, the task of finding the right lab for you can be overwhelming. This comprehensive review of photography print labs will hopefully answer some of your questions and provide you with options to turn your photos into fine art prints.
Why You Should Trust Me
I have been a professional nature and landscape photographer for several years and have tested a wide variety of online photo printing services throughout my career. I host a weekly photography podcast where I interview the best and brightest photographers on the planet, who have also shared their secrets with me. I make the majority of my photography income by selling prints through my online galleries and my work has been displayed in galleries and art exhibitions, and I've become rather obsessed with image quality. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way and through these mistakes I've been able to better identify the best photo printing options that exist in the marketplace, and I am sure I still have a lot more to learn! Most other reviews on photo printing services are written by big technology websites without direct experience with selling prints or actually using these services. As an actual working photographer selling my work to clients all over the United States, I have a real need to make sure that I use the best photo printing service available while maximizing my profits.
How I Picked Photo Print Labs to Evaluate
A search online for the best online photography print lab reveals that most reviews focus on several large turnkey operations that don't necessarily specialize as a fine art photography print lab. If you're a photographer looking for the highest quality photography prints that showcase your unique vision and talents in printed format, you need to find the best photo service that does more than print on generic paper. There are essentially four mediums that have become the most popular for photographers making large format fine art prints that are hung in luxury homes, offices, hospitals, medical offices, galleries, and art exhibitions:
- Loose fine art paper prints of high quality such as Canson Platine Fibre Rag or Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta;
- Canvas Prints that are ready-to-hang;
- Metal prints that are ready-to-hang (specifically - white matte); and
- Acrylic prints that are ready-to-hang.
While I love evaluating fine art papers, there's simply too many photo paper types to choose from, and it isn't the scope of this particular review; however, I recommend checking out the excellent videos from Les Walkling. As such, I decided to locate as many online photo printing services that offer canvas prints, metal prints, and acrylic prints to find out who makes the highest quality prints.
Which Online Photo Printing Services Did I Review?
For this competition and review, I first did a comprehensive search of online labs that offered these types of fine art prints while leaning on my professional expertise to identify high quality printing services. In the end, I reached out to 13 photo printing services: Mpix, Bay Photo, Nations Photo Lab, Bumblejax, New Mexico Fine Art (NMFA), Nevada Art Printers, DuraPlaq, Artisan HD, Unique Imaging Concepts, Pure Art Printer, Metal Mouth Prints, Whitewall, Northwest Fine Art Printing, and Blazing Editions. While other photo printing services exist, I believe these to be the best of the best. In the end, the first eight of the listed labs participated in the competition, with Blazing Editions, Metal Mouth Prints, Northwest Fine Art Printing, and Pure Art Printer not responding to my emails, Whitewall refusing to participate, and Unique Imaging Concepts dropping out and/or not responding. Some photo services only sent me one or two of the three print mediums, while others went all out in sending more than I asked for. Each print lab received identical communication from me regarding the request and review, and each lab was contacted at the same time and date. In order to evaluate fidelity across mediums, only one of my images was used for the review, one of my favorites and a bestseller. I chose to have each print done at 20"x30" which provided me with ample opportunity to evaluate sharpness, color fidelity, and overall quality. Each of the online printing services were sent the same 16-bit TIFF file in the Adobe RGB color space. Lastly, each lab that decided to participate sent me the prints for this review at no cost to me.
Criteria Used to Evaluate Each Photography Print Lab
I evaluated each lab based on the following eleven criteria on a scale from one to five (using a camera emoji), and pictures for each product I received have been provided in this review:
Packaging / Shipping
For each photo lab that sent me prints for this review, I did a thorough analysis of the packaging that was used to send me the photographs. Excellent photo printing services utilize the highest quality packaging because they know that it is the very first impression your customer will have of your artwork. Additionally, since I drop-ship most of my artwork to clients, ensuring that they reach my customer safely is a high priority.
Production time is a measurement that matters to most photographers because if an online photo lab takes too long it means you will have an upset customer. Since I started communication with each lab at the same time, evaluating production time was not difficult.
You probably recognize that your customers appreciate when you communicate with them in a timely fashion with the information they need. The quality and quantity of communication between you, the photographer, and online print services is no different. For this review, I evaluated each photo lab based on how well and how often they communicated with me throughout this project as I think it is a good measurement of what you can come to expect if you work with them to fulfill your print orders.
Ease of Ordering
As a busy professional photographer, I need the photo print lab that I use to make it easy to order and for their website to be easy to use. For this review, I took a look at the ordering process for each of the labs we reviewed, so you don't have to.
Quality of Materials
Amazing photos require high quality materials to look their best. Therefore, the quality of the materials that a photo print lab uses to make your fine art prints is of critical importance. It is one of the most important variables you and your clients should use to evaluate print quality.
Each print that was sent to me by the various photo labs was evaluated based on color fidelity. Color fidelity is a crucial component for high-end fine art prints that a lot of labs don't pay nearly enough attention to and often photo print labs rely on you, their customer, to ensure that the file you send in meets their printing hardware's specifications. For many turnkey labs, this means that colors are often completely off. For this review, I captured photos of every print while holding a label to designate which lab it was from and what medium it was. All photos of the prints were captured in RAW, and they were all edited using the same white balance settings for fair comparison.
When my customers receive their printed artwork from me, I want to know that they will be able to easily hang the image on their own without any special tools or procedures; therefore, each print from every photo lab was evaluated based on the quality and ease of use of their chosen hanging hardware.
Print vs. Screen Representation of the Photos
A common complaint from most photographers using labs to print their work is that the final product does not reasonably match the image on their monitor. While there are several variables we need to pay attention to as photographers when we edit our photos for print, it is also important that the lab we choose to partner with helps ensure that the prints will match the image as best as reasonably possible. Ideally, this may mean some back-and-forth communication between the lab and the photographer to ensure it meets their high standards. Additionally, it's also important that each print medium utilized by the lab be able to more or less match these standards across the board consistently.
Quality Assurance is simply a measurement for how well each photo lab did in examining the print before it leaves their facility. In a perfect world, print labs should inspect every single print for damage and consistency before it is shipped.
Cost / Value
While cost is quite objective to evaluate, value is much more subjective. In this review, I have done my best to evaluate the overall value of prints from each photo lab. In the simplest terms, this can be thought of as a graph on two axes, with one representing cost and the other representing quality.
While I personally don't usually require labs to do a ton of customization for my prints, it is certainly nice to have options available to us to meet the demands of our customers who may want different paper, different hanging hardware, or a unique print medium. Each photo print lab was evaluated based on how much customization is available when ordering.
Photo Lab Reviews
Print labs were reviewed in the order that prints were received by me. It should also be noted that Artisan HD and Bay Photo each took longer not due to production time but because they needed time to consider participation.
Mpix was quick to jump on board for this review. They are owned and operated by Miller's Photo Lab and if you own a Zenfolio website (which I wouldn't recommend), all of your fulfillment is likely done by Mpix prints. I would describe Mpix as a large turnkey operation that prides itself on offering a wide variety of print options while keeping their prices, production time, and shipping costs low. I was excited when Mpix committed to providing all three print mediums for this review and their prints were the first to arrive.
Mpix Canvas Print Review
Mpix sent over a canvas print that was wrapped around a 1.5" wood stretcher frame and a wire hanger (saw tooth is an option upon ordering) and offers their canvas prints up to 40x60. This 20x30 canvas print from Mpix is priced at $135. As far as wrapped canvas prints go, this product is exactly what you would expect to receive from a large lab, with solid color fidelity, a slight loss of detail due to canvas being printed at 200 DPI, and average materials. The print was shipped in a cardboard box that could be prone to damage during shipping; however, shipping is completely free for orders over $35. Mpix prints and ships their canvas prints very quickly, with production taking 2-3 business days. Overall, I was impressed with the Mpix canvas print I received, and I suspect you'd be relatively happy using them for your canvas print fulfillment and I would say canvas printing is a service they can do well.
Mpix Metal Print Review
Mpix offers metal prints up to 40 x 60 in either a glossy or matte finish. I personally prefer matte for metal these days because they have significantly less glare than glossy metal and are more suitable for most installations. For this review, Mpix sent over a pretty standard metal print that didn't suffer from any noticeable defects other than a couple of tiny ding marks on one of the edges. Even though the review and my order was for a matte metal print, the metal print I received was a lot more glossy than I would have expected, and I'm actually not even sure that I received a matte metal print. The color fidelity of the Mpix metal print was quite good and matched the canvas print very well. The hanging hardware of their metal prints is made from a thin sheet of metal adhered to foam and leaves something to be desired - it was the 2nd worst out of all the metal prints I reviewed, although most customers would probably be fine with it. A 20x30 metal print from Mpix will cost you $185, shipping is free, and fulfillment takes 2-3 business days.
Mpix Acrylic Print Review
Mpix offers acrylic prints up to 40x60, and they come with standard 1/4" thick acrylic as the only option. If you are looking to install these acrylics in a space with a lot of natural light, I would look elsewhere that offers OP3 acrylic or TruLife acrylic. The fact that they come as the thicker 1/4" acrylic was somewhat appealing to me though, and I think that's a nice perk that Mpix offers as the more traditional thickness is 1/8". The color fidelity of the acrylic I received from Mpix was lacking, with some yellow hues shifted to orange, and Mpix does not indicate what type of paper is used for their acrylics, which may be something you'd care about. I also noticed that with directional lighting on the print itself, you could see through it and the backer was visible. On the bright side, I found their hanging hardware the most unique and utilitarian of any other acrylic I received due to the inclusion of a built-in level on the French cleat - a most welcome addition! Overall, I couldn't recommend this acrylic product to a photographer looking to resell their work. This 20x30 acrylic print from Mpix will run you $275, which is about the middle point in our price comparison. Keep in mind that shipping is free and fulfillment is fast at 2-3 business days.
Below you can find a graphic showcasing how well Mpix did across my eleven rating categories. Overall, Mpix was the fastest to fulfill my order and their ordering process as well as the options they have available for customization are areas they excel in. Color fidelity from Mpix was a mixed bag with their canvas and metal looking great and their acrylic missing the mark. Their packaging was pretty lack-luster, but their turn-around time is very fast and shipping is free. I would say if you are in a time crunch, and you're looking at getting some metal or canvas prints done, then Mpix may be a perfectly acceptable option for you.
New Mexico Fine Art (NMFA) Review
NMFA is a small lab that employs just a few staff in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which happens to be the largest major city to where I live. I was turned on to NMFA by my friend and fellow nature photographer, Wayne Suggs, who has been using NMFA for print fulfillment of his images for a long time. NMFA was quite eager to participate in this review and my communication with one of their owners, Lyric Moya, has been nothing but exemplary. NMFA's biggest strength is also their biggest weakness - they specialize in just a few high-end print options and don't dabble in offering a lot of customization (yet). This keeps their overhead low while maximizing their fulfillment time and quality assurance. It's a good strategy - pick a few things and do them exceptionally well. How did NMFA fare in our comprehensive review? Let's dive in.
NMFA Canvas Print Review
First and foremost, it is important for me to point out that out of all the labs that participated in this review, NMFA's packaging across all three prints was superb. Not only are the crates they send the prints in bomb-proof, there's just a high level of care and consistency in the packaging. The taping work they do on the packaging, while seemingly unimportant, was highly appreciated by me as they did it in such a way to make it much easier to unpack or re-package the prints. As far as the 20x30 canvas print they sent over, I would rate it in the top three that I received. Color fidelity was spot on, the materials were very high quality, and the hanging hardware was top-notch. Most importantly, the print itself didn't seem like it was canvas from a sharpness and viewing perspective. It just felt better to me. The only knock on NMFA is that on their website there's not a ton of customization options for how the wrapped canvas is printed for the wrap - the default is a mirror. They do offer a "special instructions" field which I'm sure is where you could request a solid color or a bleed effect for the wrapped sides. A 20x30 canvas print from NMFA using their pro pricing will run you $124, which was the lowest quoted price from any lab, and shipping is $20. Their shipping amounts are a flat rate based on the size of the print, making pricing of your prints on your website a breeze. NMFA can go up to 40x60 on their canvas prints and fulfillment of a canvas takes 5-10 business days.
NMFA Metal Print Review
Out of all of the metal prints I received for this review, I would rate NMFA's at the top overall, taking into account the packaging, cost, and quality. The white matte metal is an incredible application for most installations and their attention to quality, sharpness, and color fidelity is quite apparent. I think their use of wood for the backer is a nice touch and the included Wall Buddy hanging hardware makes it quite easy for your customer to hang the print pretty much anywhere without serious issues with leveling. This 20x30 metal print from NMFA will cost you $156 using their pro pricing and again, shipping is a flat rate depending on the size ($20 in this case). NMFA can go up to 40x60 on their metal prints and fulfillment takes 5-10 business days.
NMFA Acrylic Print Review
In terms of acrylic prints, NMFA is also amongst the best for this review, with only Nevada Art Printers beating them. As a small lab, their attention to detail and quality assurance puts my mind at ease because I know that my customer is going to receive something I'm proud of and can stand behind. I think their choice to go with OP3 acrylic is a smart one because it is much less expensive while retaining most of the good qualities that TruLife offers; however, they can also do acrylics using TruLife upon request. I don't think you'll notice a difference. In fact, OP3 and TruLife were both used on each of the two acrylics that NMFA sent me and I honestly didn't even realize it. I would highly recommend NMFA's acrylic prints as a budget-conscious high quality option that will impress your customers. A 20x30 acrylic from NMFA will cost you $255 using their pro pricing and again, shipping is $20, based on the size of the print. NMFA can go all the way up to the 60x120 print size on their acrylics, which is much larger than what most labs will offer. Fulfillment of an acrylic print from NMFA takes 5-15 business days.
You can probably tell by now that I'm very impressed with NMFA as a fine art print fulfillment service. Since they are a small team, they can pay close attention to detail that larger labs simply don't have the capability to do. If they notice something not quite right about your order, they will reach out and tell you and ask you how you would like to proceed. We all make mistakes and I'm no exception. Just recently I ordered a print that was the wrong aspect ratio, and they caught it right away. It is also important to point out that NMFA crates ALL of their ready-to-hang prints that are over 20x28 in size at no additional cost to you, which is basically unheard of in this industry. Overall, I'm impressed with NMFA across the board. My images from NMFA look fantastic, their customer service is outstanding, and they're super friendly. I also really like their Shopify integration on their website as it sends me automated emails with tracking numbers and when my prints have been delivered. In the past with some labs I've had to track this manually through their website or send emails asking for updates. Lastly, NMFA has worked with me to add all kinds of strange custom sizes to their ordering site when I log in with pricing on those custom sizes, making it easy for me to know how to price my work. You can see my ratings of NMFA below, but I'd rate them as one of the best photo labs online in 2023.
Bumblejax is a Seattle, Washington based print lab offering a wide variety of services and products with a high standard of quality and heaps of positive customer reviews. Before this review, I had no prior history of working with Bumblejax, but I had heard good things about them from other photographers. Bumblejax was quite eager to join this review, and I'm glad they did as it gave me a great opportunity to see what they are capable of producing. Like NMFA, they offer a discounted pricing structure for professionals, which they call resellers. This affords you a 15% discount (and your first order is 35% off, which is a nice perk), and for those reaching a higher volume of sales, you get a permanent 20% discount as well. My communication with Bumblejax was quite pleasant, and I found them to be incredibly friendly! How did their photos fare in our review? Let's take a closer look.
Bumblejax Canvas Print Review
First and foremost, I think it's important to note that the packaging that Bumblejax used, while not bomb-proof, was very sturdy, perhaps above average. On the inside of the box, each print was wrapped in copious amounts of bubble wrap and each corner was doubly-secured by more bubble wrap, which was a most-welcome sight. As far as the canvas print itself, I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the print itself was of very high quality and the color fidelity was spot-on, and it looked great. On the other hand, the backing of the canvas seemed a bit cheap, and they only used a single small sawtooth for hanging, which I don't think would work in a ton of applications. The inclusion of a sticker warning people not to hang the canvas above their bed was a nice addition considering just how unsecure such hardware would be. Also, the canvas comes as a mirrored edge for the wrap, which isn't my personal favorite for all photos, and when ordering through their website, there are no options for further customization regarding hanging hardware nor the wrap. Bumblejax can go up to 60" on the long edge on their canvas prints. A 20x30 canvas print from Bumblejax retails at $178, which drops to $151 using their reseller discount. Shipping is quoted at 10% of the price of the print for all orders, which I found to be an interesting shipping pricing structure. Production time for Bumblejax for all orders is between 5-10 business days and rush orders are available upon request and are an additional charge.
Bumblejax Metal Print Review
Bumblejax offers metal prints up to 40x60 in size and right now they only offer a white glossy finish. They do a 1/8" rounded corner as the standard on their metal prints, and metal backing hardware is also standard, which is appreciated. In terms of how their metal prints compare to the competition I would say they are above average in terms of quality, color fidelity, packaging, and presentation. The hanging hardware is something I'm very accustomed to for metal prints and I think it is more or less industry-standard although not the most luxurious either. Similar to their canvas prints, Bumblejax includes a warning not to hang the print above the bed, which I think for a French cleat installation is unneeded and might create friction between you and your client if they were to receive the print with the intent of hanging it in the bedroom, which is a common location for a print. It would be nice to have these added as an option and not by default. If you are a fan of a more glossy look for your metal prints then I think you can't really go wrong with printing your photos through Bumblejax, although adding a white matte finish would be a most welcome addition as I think images look better that way. A 20x30 metal print from Bumblejax will cost you $205 and with their reseller discount that comes down to $174. Production time for Bumblejax for all orders is between 5-10 business days and rush orders are available upon request and are an additional charge.
Bumblejax Acrylic Print Review
Bumblejax offers acrylic prints up to 48x96 in size, which is fairly large although not quite as large as many other labs can go. Bumblejax sent me a 20x30 acrylic printed on a glossy metallic paper which was adhered to another sheet of acrylic and face-mounted with a sheet of 1/8" standard acrylic, the edges of which were polished - a nice feature! The backer they sent was an dibond one, identical to their metal print, although it should be noted that a wood backer with a wire frame is their standard offering, and acrylic backers are also available. I'd suggest getting the acrylic backer with the French cleat as it is a much better way to hang a heavy acrylic print. Bumblejax offers acrylic prints using standard acrylic, non-glare acrylic, and TruLife acrylic, as well as a 1/4" and 1/2" option as well. The acrylic print I received from Bumblejax scores high marks for color fidelity, quality, and presentation, although they opted to include the bedroom warning sticker on the acrylic as well. I think that would certainly make sense if you opted for the wood frame and wire hanger, but again, with a French cleat, properly installed, customers should have no problems placing this above a bed. My image looked great as a Bumblejax acrylic print and the photo quality was fantastic. I would not hesitate to recommend Bumblejax to other photographers based on my experience and I rated their acrylic in the top four out of the eight I received. A 20x30 acrylic from Bumblejax will cost you $325 and with their reseller discount that comes down to $276. Production time for Bumblejax for all orders is between 5-10 business days and rush orders are available upon request and are an additional charge.
As a well-established player in the online photo lab marketplace, I was not surprised by the high level of quality, communication, and attention to detail that I experienced during this review of their offerings. I really appreciate their very thorough FAQ on their website which answers almost any question you might have regarding the ordering process and what to expect from Bumblejax. I also liked using their print pricing calculation tool on their website as it was quite handy and saves you time going back and forth with the lab. I think one area that might cause you some hesitation for using Bumblejax for your print fulfillment process is that larger prints requiring crating require a quote, and so you never quite know what the cost will be for your order, making it a challenge to set your pricing up on your website. Implementing a flat rate charge would be a nice change to see from Bumblejax. I think what sets Bumblejax apart is their competitive reseller pricing and high volume discounts that are available. This might be an attractive option for people who sell a lot of metal prints at art fairs, especially since Bumblejax offers rush orders which might be needed while you're on the road! You can see my ratings of Bumblejax below, but I'd rate them in the top five overall for this comprehensive lab review.
Nations Photo Lab Review
Nations Photo Lab is based out of Hunt Valley, Maryland and have been a major player in the online print fulfillment service since 2005. When I reached out for this project, they were quite eager to participate and made the process for getting my prints as seamless as possible. It is clear to me that they place a high value on customer service and satisfaction. Nations Photo Lab is very similar to Mpix or Bay Photo in that they are large, deal in high volume, and offer a wide variety of print options and products, including photo books, cards, ornaments, and other photo gifts. I would probably not identify them as a fine art photography lab, per se, although they do offer some higher end products worth taking a look at, and offer a wide variety of products that you might fall in love with. How did Nations Photo Lab compare for our comprehensive review? Let's dive in.
Nations Photo Lab Canvas Print Review
Nations Photo Lab provided me with a 20x30 canvas wrap with a 0.75" wrap and a wire hanging system. This is their "premium" canvas print, which is hand-wrapped around a solid wood frame. The print I received had my image wrapped around the edge as opposed to using a mirror or bleed wrap, which is much more preferable since customers ordering from me likely expect to see the full image on the face of the print and not on the border. The good news is that you can customize these options when you order from Nations Photo Lab, so that works great. Images are printed on museum grade cotton canvas, and are laminated by a protective gloss for added longevity. My canvas print came without any defects and was quite similar to other canvas prints I received for this review. It matched my expectations for color fidelity, quality, and hanging hardware, but nothing about the canvas print from Nations was particularly special. It should also be noted that they only print canvas up to 30x40 in size, which is a limiting factor. A 20x30 premium canvas print from Nations Photo Lab will cost you $176 and shipping varies greatly from free to pricey depending on how much of a rush you are in. It's also worth noting that for a 1.5" wrapped canvas, which is the size all the other labs used for this review, the price jumps to $188.
Nations Photo Lab Metal Print Review
Nations Photo Lab provided me with a 20x30 glossy metal print for this review as that is the only finish they have available for purchase. My immediate impressions of their metal print was a very mixed bag. On one hand, the colors, finish, and quality of the print itself were fantastic. On the other hand it was a very flimsy print with no mounting hardware to help with rigidity. Nations uses two sheets of metal adhered to foam for the hanging hardware and overall I just couldn't recommend this as a fine art print offering. Nations only offers metal prints up to 24x36 in size, which is also going to limit who will want to use them for this type of online fulfillment service. A 20x30 metal print from Nations Photo Lab will cost you $199 and again shipping ranges from free to pricey based on how fast you want it delivered, which I think is a nice perk.
Nations Photo Lab Acrylic Print Review
For this review, Nations Photo Lab sent over a 20x30 acrylic printed on a lustre paper (there's no description for what paper they use on the website) using a 1/4" non-glare, hand-polished acrylic face, which is their standard offering. I think that this standard is a good option for general acrylic print orders in the sizes they offer. In fact, when I looked to order an acrylic through Nations, I found there were not any ways to do any sort of customization for the acrylic print and so what they sent me is exactly what you will get. It comes standard with a plastic composite French cleat hanging system, which I would rate as average. Use of a lustre paper for an acrylic print was a bit of a surprise to me, as I think one of the ways acrylic prints stand out is by using a glossier material that can react to overhead light, enhanced by the acrylic face. Also, Nations Photo Lab acrylic prints are mounted to what I believe is styrene, which may not hold up to rigorous humid conditions. I personally prefer acrylic as the mounting backer for all of my acrylic prints. Lastly, the use of the 1/4" acrylic has one disadvantage for those using overhead lighting - it can create a shadow on the print itself due to the protruding size of the acrylic. All-in-all though, I think Nations creates a decent acrylic print that you will likely be pretty happy with. This 20x30 acrylic print from Nations Photo Lab will cost you $272 and shipping ranges from free to expensive based on how fast you want it delivered.
Nations Photo Lab Ratings
Overall, the prints I received from Nations Photo Lab were of average quality. Packaging from Nations Photo Lab was a bit of a mixed bag, with the acrylic arriving in a very sturdy container and the metal and canvas prints arriving in a thinner cardboard box that would be prone to damage. I also thought that the materials used in their packaging were not very great, and they would be quite difficult to re-package to ship again, which is a common issue with many of the labs we reviewed. One thing that makes Nations Photo Lab stand out is that on their website when you are placing the order it will give you the date in which you should expect to receive your print, which I think is a nice addition. They also offer multiple shipping options in case you are in a rush, which I think is also a nice feature. One of the main limiting factors you will encounter in using Nations Photo Lab for your print fulfillment service is that they have much smaller limits on print size, with metal and acrylic only going up to 24x36 and canvas going up to 30x40. I often have requests from clients to print at 40x60 and beyond and so using a lab that is capable of those sizes is something I personally need in my workflow. If you find yourself only needing to print up to 24x36, then Nations Photo Lab might be perfectly acceptable for you, especially for their canvas prints, and they offer a wide variety of print products that you may find yourself wanting to experiment with. Unfortunately, I would not recommend Nations Photo Lab for someone looking for a partner to print their images as high-end fine art prints. You can see my ratings of Nations Photo Lab below.
Nevada Art Printers Review
Nevada Art Printers has widely been known as one of the best labs for large format reproduction services and have made quite a name for themselves by marketing their proprietary "Lumachrome" acrylic prints to photographers who own galleries or sell high-end large format images. They have certainly gained a large following as I'm constantly seeing fellow photographers posting on social media about their new Lumachrome prints they have sold to their luxury clients abroad. At one point at the end of 2018, I had wanted to order a large panoramic Lumachrome of my own, but they stopped responding to my emails and I gave up and searched elsewhere for my printing needs. Fast-forward to this review - when I reached out they responded immediately and were excited to work with me on this project and answered all of my questions quickly.
For this review, I think it's worth discussing the fact that out of all the labs that I contacted, they were the only lab to ask me if they could modify the file I sent in order to print it to their standards. This was of course a surprise and I debated as whether I should allow them to do this; however, I felt in the end that if this is their process then I should allow it, as it differentiates them from every other lab. Apparently this service is an-add on when you order and costs $50. According to Robert Park, the owner of Nevada Art Printers, they "did our standard 'Fine Art Enhancements' that you would get if you clicked that box on our online order form which includes
Nevada Art Printers agreed to send me a canvas print as well as a Lumachrome Acrylic print. Let's dive in to see how they did.
Nevada Art Printers Canvas Print Review
First off let's talk about Nevada Art Printers' packaging. They shipped everything to me in a well-constructed crate which had stickers all over it that made everyone know that it was fragile and that the person receiving it should inspect it for damage before accepting it. I think if you are selling expensive prints, especially acrylics, this is the standard you should want from a lab. In fact, per Nevada Art Printers, they crate ALL ready-to-hang prints, no matter the size, and the pricing of this appears to be included in the shipping costs (which vary). Upon inspection, Nevada Art Printers sent me a very high quality canvas print - it is a 1.5" wrapped canvas with a cloth-like backer and a wire hanging system. The improvements made through their file edit and custom tone curve printing procedures made the print shine and I would rate it as one of the best from this review, if not the best. Lastly, as a surprise, Nevada Art Printers also sent me a second canvas print which was mounted to Dibond. This was of course for demonstration purposes, but it also looked great! For these applications, they use Innova (IFA-36) FibaPrint Ultra gloss canvas 380GSM, and I can see this as a nice alternative to a loose fine art paper print for framing purposes. A 20x30 wrapped canvas print from Nevada Art Printers will cost you $145 and shipping varies. They say they can print these as large as 74x200! Nevada Art Printers states that their canvas prints take 1-5 business days to fulfill, which is also quite fast.
Nevada Art Printers Acrylic Print Review
Much to my surprise, Nevada Art Printers not only included a 20x30 TruLife Lumachrome 1/8" Acrylic print, but they also included a Lumachrome on standard acrylic, so we can see the differences between them, especially in my video. I really appreciated this because often it is hard to show customers the differences between normal acrylic and TruLife. TruLife doesn't necessarily have a ton of qualities that make it better than OP3 acrylic, but it is light-years better than normal acrylic or non-glare acrylic. TruLife a multicoated acrylic that shares the same nano coating technology as camera optics, and on a very dense image it makes a very significant image quality boost. Similar to the canvas print that Nevada Art Printers sent me, the modifications to my file were quite noticeable on the Acrylic print. Rocks appeared sharper, trees brighter, and they even added a subtle vignette to the image that works quite nicely with the acrylic presentation.
When ordering an acrylic from Nevada Art Printers, you have several options for customization. You can either print on the Lumachrome paper or on "Ultra Vibrant HD" paper, which is their alternative to a metallic paper. Ultra Vibrant HD is a lower cost acrylic print that uses 7 color inks vs the 12 for Lumachrome and is printed directly on the acrylic. It is not metallic like Lumachrome but is still very sharp and has a wide gamut. It only has 1 gray ink, so it is not as good as Lumachrome for B&W, and the neutrals are not as pure under varying light quality, but it is significantly less expensive. For further customization, you can choose mounting, backing, hanging, and acrylic formats when you order. The customization options for acrylic prints offered by Nevada Art Printers is unsurpassed by any other printing service I reviewed.
All-in-all, I could not be happier with the acrylic I received from Nevada Art Printers, and it was the highest quality acrylic that I reviewed for this project. Nevada Art Printers can also print all the way up to 60x120, which was only rivaled by NMFA. A 20x30 TruLife Lumachrome Acrylic such as this from Nevada Art Printers will cost you $404 and shipping varies. Lastly, it's worth noting that a non-TruLife acrylic from Nevada Art Printers is much less expensive at $269.
Nevada Art Printers Ratings
One of the most impressive aspects of the prints I received from Nevada Art Printers was how closely each print matched in terms of color fidelity and what is on my website. I would say out of any lab they paid the most attention to color fidelity, and it was not unnoticed by me. The prints they sent were of the highest quality - they were packaged professionally, shipped quickly, and I'm quite sure that any customer receiving one of these prints would be very impressed and quite happy.
It is important to note that one of the drawbacks for using Nevada Art Printers is that shipping costs fluctuate based on the size of the print and where you ship it. Of course, this makes perfect sense; however, it does make it more challenging for determining your own pricing structure on your website. Like many photographers, I just build my shipping costs into the overall cost of the print and don't charge for shipping to simplify the process of ordering, but this also makes my pricing methodology a bit of a challenge if I were to use Nevada Art Printers as shipping might cut significantly into my profits.
Next, I feel I need to address their ordering system, which I did not find to be particularly intuitive. There are two separate ordering platforms depending on whether you are ordering canvas prints and loose prints vs. acrylics. The acrylic ordering system is robust with heaps of options for customization and was among one of the best out of any lab; however, the canvas ordering process is a form you fill out and submit. The form requires you to enter the dimensions of your print as opposed to selecting a size from a drop-down menu, but does provide you with tons of options for customization. This process feels outdated and doesn't match the high quality that you will get from their prints. Seeing them standardize their ordering system to the same ROES system their acrylic products utilizes would be a welcome shift.
For the full-time professional photographer looking for the highest quality prints where cost is not a concern, I would say Nevada Art Printers would be your top choice. They offer several large print size options and their white-glove editing service is a posh option for those looking to maximize the look and feel of their photograph. With that being said, I'm not sure the value proposition makes sense for some photographers unless you are selling your acrylic prints for multiple thousands of dollars because so many other high quality options exist from NMFA, DuraPlaq, and Bumblejax at lower price points. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if the math pencils out! Below you can see my ratings for Nevada Art Printers.
DuraPlaq is an online photo printing service based out of Longmont, Colorado with an additional production facility in Cleveland, Tennessee. They were recommended to me years ago from my friend Erik Stensland who owns a fantastic gallery of his own in Estes Park, Colorado. I tried using DuraPlaq for the first time in 2016 when a customer of mine ordered one of my favorite panoramic photographs as a 128" presentation that was split into three metal panels. Chromaluxe metal prints sometimes have defects in the metal which appears almost like a divit or dent in the print. Most labs will simply discard those and run another print; however, in 2016 DuraPlaq refused to replace one of the three panels of my 128" tryptic which had one such dent, and almost all of my profits were absorbed by me having to re-order it. Suffice to say, I wrote DuraPlaq off as a lab I could not trust. Since this happened, they have turned over their entire customer service team and have employed a new management team, and by all accounts their quality assurance and customer service has gotten much better. As such, I was eager to give DuraPlaq another try, as I have heard great things from all of my friends about their products. When I reached out to DuraPlaq, they were quite happy to participate in this review and my communication with them has been nothing but excellent. For our review, DuraPlaq sent over a full complement of 20x30 prints across all three requested mediums. Let's see how their prints compare to the competition.
DuraPlaq Canvas Print Review
First let's talk about DuraPlaq's packaging. All three prints arrived in a very sturdy cardboard box made from a thicker and stronger material and all the prints were very well packaged inside. I would rate DuraPlaq's packaging as third best from all the labs that I reviewed. DuraPlaq sent me a 1.5" wrapped 20x30 canvas print with a beautiful frame. They call this product their "Direct Print Canvas DuraWrap." I immediately noticed that this canvas was mounted to a rigid board, adding durability and eliminating the possibility for the canvas to sag or becoming loose. DuraPlaq uses UV direct printing for their Canvas DuraWrap prints, which has a very high durability and UV rating. I also appreciated that they had this print framed in a floater frame to add to the overall finished look. According to DuraPlaq, most of our their frames are sourced from Larson Juhl and brought in from Italy.
Another thing that surprised me about this canvas print from DuraPlaq was that they printed it much lighter than I would have expected, taking liberties to lighten the file a bit to accommodate some of the common challenges that can present themselves when printing on canvas. Canvas prints tend to go too dark, and I think this lighter print job, while not totally accurate to what you would see on my screen, was a welcome change, especially with the included dark frame. I would also rate the hanging hardware provided by DuraPlaq to be the very best of the canvas prints I received for this review. All-in-all, I would rate this as the best canvas print that I received. Nicely done, DuraPlaq!
Canvas prints from DuraPlaq are available up to 40x60 in size. A 20x30 framed canvas wrap from DuraPlaq will cost you $178, which is on the higher end for a canvas print compared with the rest of the labs in this review, although it was the only one that also included a frame, so the value to cost ratio is higher. Shipping from DuraPlaq varies a little but is generally around $50 for a print of this size, placing it on the high end for shipping costs.
DuraPlaq Metal Print Review
For this review, DuraPlaq sent over a 20x30 matte metal print which was finished with a dibond aluminum backer and an aluminum float hanger with cleat, which they call their "AlumaPress" product. DuraPlaq can add a wire hanger to these if you would ever need them, although I think a French cleat is the way to go. DuraPlaq, like Bumblejax, uses all aluminum on the back of the dye sublimation metal because it holds up better in all climates - you could even hang these outdoors with no issues. This metal print from DuraPlaq was one of my favorites I reviewed due to the color fidelity, matte finish, and high quality materials that were used. DuraPlaq makes these metal prints all the way up to 48x96 and heaps of customization options are available upon request, with a 7-10 business day turnaround time. I would highly recommend using DuraPlaq for your metal print needs. A metal print like this from DuraPlaq will cost you $201 with shipping costing about $50.
DuraPlaq Acrylic Print Review
For this review, DuraPlaq sent me over a very fine 20x30 specimen. This acrylic print is quite unique, which they call their "PlexiPlaq." I was immediately impressed by the beveled acrylic edges on the acrylic face, which is a unique presentation I've not seen before. This beveling adds a 3-Dimensional feel to the print and almost creates a frame for the print. I think it looks classy. As the same with the "AlumaPress", the back is finished with a dibond aluminum backer and a metal float hanger. The paper DuraPlaq uses to print their acrylics has been developed as giclée version of the Fuji Flex. They don’t use chemical printing processes due to the Canon Luci inks having a longer archival rating. They even sent over a permanence rating sheet for the ink set and paper that they use from the Wilhelm Institute. The ultra-clear acrylic they use for this product is special made for them, and has a diamond scratch resistant coating with high UV protection. DuraPlaq is able to make these all the way up to 48x96, which is about what I'd expect from a professional lab. A 20x30 PlexiPlaq from DuraPlaq will run you $343, which is on the higher end, and their production time is 7-10 business days. I do think that their beveled edges and the overall quality of these acrylic prints gives them an above average rating for value. As with Nevada Art Printers, your shipping costs will fluctuate some, although for this size print you're looking at about $50. In the end, I would highly recommend DuraPlaq's acrylic print offerings.
I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality and attention to detail that DuraPlaq put into the prints they sent me. It is clear to me that they have really righted the ship and that they are a top-notch photography lab. They get high marks from me for packaging, material quality, communication, customization, and value. Where DuraPlaq could use improvement is in their ordering process - it is all done via e-mail. I think a full e-commerce shopping cart process is desirable for most photographers; however, you may not mind this approach or even prefer it.
One thing worth mentioning is that while I was very happy with all three prints I received from DuraPlaq and their individual color properties, I might be concerned as a photographer regarding the cross-medium color fidelity. The metal and acrylic varied slightly and of course the canvas was quite light. You might want to inquire with DuraPlaq if they normally print their canvas prints in this fashion or if it is something you have some control over as the artist. Additionally, I've heard from several other photographers that their production times are much slower than what they list on their website, so you'll want to watch out for that.
In summary, I would not hesitate to recommend DuraPlaq to photographers looking for a long-term relationship with a lab that produces high quality work. I think their print services are of a high caliber, and I'm confident you'd be happy with your experience using them to fulfill your prints. Below you can see my full ratings for DuraPlaq. Happy ordering!
Artisan HD Review
Artisan HD, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the photography print lab arm of Artisan Colour, a much larger organization offering all kinds of commercial printing solutions. I have several friends that use Artisan HD for their printing needs, and they have been on my radar for quite a long time. When my preferred print lab closed shop at the end of 2022, I scrambled to find a new lab and Artisan HD was one of the few I reached out to. My experience working with their Senior Account Executive, Kristiane Trejo, has been excellent. She's a great communicator and spends the time to answer all of my annoying questions. As such, when I came up with my idea for this lab evaluation project, I was quite excited to see if Artisan HD would participate. It took a couple of weeks to get them on board, but they were eventually eager to send me a new acrylic product offering they are quite proud of that they tout as being more environmentally sustainable, as explained on their website. As far as I know, Artisan HD is the only print lab focused on sustainability, which I find to be quite admirable. While Artisan HD only sent over one acrylic for this review, I was very elated to receive it and put it through the paces. Let's dive in.
Artisan HD Acrylic Print Review
For this review, Artisan HD sent me over a 20x30 of their new, more sustainable dry lab Acrylic prints using 1/8" TruLife Acrylic with an aluminum backer and French cleat. It was well-packaged with cardboard and lots of bubble wrap, but certainly not in a way that will prevent all damage in shipment. They do offer crating at an additional cost if that is a concern (note that both NMFA and Nevada Art Printers include crating, standard, at no additional cost). My immediate reaction was that it was too lightweight to be an acrylic print, which isn't a bad thing! I was impressed with the color fidelity, sharpness, quality, and most importantly the level of quality assurance that went into the print. This is clearly something Artisan HD prides themselves on.
Let's talk about how Artisan HD is differentiating themselves in this marketplace. Artisan HD uses the best-in-class photographic printers to create stunning fine art images with vivid color and detail. Like most labs, Artisan HD has historically relied heavily on a LightJet printing process for their acrylic prints. Unfortunately, the chemicals used in the wet lab LightJet process produce toxic chemical waste. While this process has certainly produced beautiful prints, wet lab processes have become outdated due to their environmental impact and constant supply chain shortages. As such, Artisan HD has pivoted by replacing their LightJet printers with the latest in dry photo lab print technology - the Canon iPF PRO 6100 printer.
A single 20x30 TruLife Acrylic print from Artisan HD will cost you $393, which puts them at the very top of our price comparison; however, they operate on a bulk ordering discount system, so if you buy more, you save money per print. Shipping for this size print will run you $25, which is about average. Below we'll talk more about Artisan HD's pricing and who it might make sense for. Overall, I think Artisan HD is producing some of the best Acrylic prints on the market and certainly their goal to be more environmentally sustainable is going to be a huge plus for some nature photographers.
Artisan HD Ratings
Overall, I think Artisan HD produces an excellent product. They use high quality materials, pay close attention to detail, and have built-in processes to maximize their quality assurance. The color fidelity of the print I received was very high. Communication with them has always been above average. In this market, I see them as a boutique option that is focused on quality and customer service.
Artisan HD's focus on environmental sustainability also leads the pack and quite frankly, they were the only lab to express a desire to be known for this approach, which I think is something worth considering.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. Artisan HD has very high prices when compared with other labs offering similar products. While ordering one 20x30 acrylic print from Artisan HD will run you $393, higher than every other lab except one. Artisan HD might be a solid choice if you had a very large project requiring a bulk order, at which point you may begin to reap the benefits of their bulk pricing structure. Artisan HD also offers a loyalty program where you earn 5% for every dollar you spend, which accrues over time and can be used on future orders. Lastly, I found the ordering process on their website a bit confusing and I couldn't easily find information about print sizes, pricing, or production time, although they do have a cool feature no other lab has called "recipes" to help guide you in customizing your print based on what kind of photographer you are.
While Artisan HD produces a very high quality product and offers amazing customer service, you'll have to decide whether that is worth the extra cost. Either way, I think you'd be happy using Artisan HD as your online printing photo lab, especially if you order in bulk. Below you can find my overall ratings for Artisan HD.
Lastly, Artisan HD has established a discount code - MPLP15 - that can be used on any art purchase through Artisan HD and will discount any product, site-wide, by 15%. The code will be active through June 30, 2023.
Bay Photo Review
Bay Photo is a very popular and large print lab based out of Scotts Valley, California in the Bay Area. If you have a website from SmugMug, which does not allow for self-fulfillment of print orders, most of your prints are fulfilled by Bay Photo. I've personally used Bay Photo for lots of photo projects in the past to varying degrees of success. In 2019, I did a large gallery exhibition using nothing but Bay Photo metal prints, which worked out. Bay Photo specializes in offering a wide variety of high quality print mediums at relatively affordable prices, and they have frequent discounts that you can get on board with to help as well. Bay Photo's main weakness, in my opinion, is in their quality control. I have heard so many stories of prints from Bay Photo being completely wrong, printed far too dark, or being damaged on arrival. The good news is that Bay Photo has always made things right with me, so when things do go wrong, they will fix it. For this review, Bay Photo had me order all of my own prints using their ROES software, which I was familiar with. I will say that this software is nice because it shows you a lot of what you will be getting as you walk through the process, although due to how many options Bay Photo has available, it can be a bit overwhelming if you don't know what you're looking for. In the end, Bay Photo sent over three prints, all 20x30, and they competed in all three print medium categories. Let's see how they did.
Bay Photo Canvas Print Review
First, let's talk about the packaging that Bay Photo used for these prints. All three prints came in similar cardboard boxes with fairly minimalistic packaging on the inside. This approach, while economical, has and will result in you or your customer receiving damaged prints. It is only a matter of time. This packaging also cannot easily be re-used if you need to re-ship your prints at all, so all-in-all I would rate their packaging on the low end of the spectrum.
The canvas print that I received from Bay Photo was a 1.5" wrapped canvas with a wire hanging system. I chose to have a black wrap printed for this as it is my preference for canvas prints and I also was able to choose the wire hanging hardware. When you order through their software or website, you can choose between several different types of wraps and hanging systems. Honestly, this is probably one way that Bay Photo excels, by offering heaps of options for customization for each order. As expected and as I have experienced previously with Bay Photo, my canvas print was darker than I'd prefer, with the darks going a bit too dark. While I normally do edit my files for printing to ensure this does not happen, Bay Photo still managed to produce a canvas print with darker shadows than any other lab's canvas print.
Despite this, Bay Photo does produce a high quality canvas print which would be right in the middle of the pack for this review, overall. A 20x30 canvas print from Bay Photo will cost you $141, which is the second least expensive option we reviewed. Shipping from Bay Photo for this size print is $18, also on the low end (although not free like Mpix, who produced a better product using similarly cheap packaging).
Bay Photo Metal Print Review
For this review, Bay Photo had me order a 20x30 white matte metal print on an aluminum backer with a French cleat hanging system with 1/8" rounded corners, which is what I prefer for my metal prints. Upon quick inspection, I noticed a few things right off the bat with this print. First, the shadows printed too dark for my liking, quite a bit darker than NMFA or DuraPlaq. I suppose I was a bit surprised since I asked for color correction on the image. There was also some marring and metal shavings on the edge of the metal print which I have seen from Bay Photo before. Honestly, before using another lab I thought this was a standard problem with all metal prints, but many other high-end labs polish these metal edges now to ensure these defects are removed. Bay Photo includes care and handling instructions with their metal prints which I think is a nice touch. Similarly to the canvas print I received from Bay Photo, I think they did a "good" job with this print and if you are going to use Bay Photo for metal or canvas you will want to make sure you boost your blacks a bit to accommodate their processes. On the positive side, Bay Photo can print metals all the way up to 48x96, which is industry leading, and they offer multiple ways to customize the final print. A 20x30 metal print from Bay Photo with all the options shown in this version will cost you $200, which is right on par with most labs, although certainly not the most nor least expensive. Shipping for this size print will cost you $18, keeping in mind that their packaging is cheap and prone to damage; however, production time is fast at 3-4 business days.
Bay Photo Acrylic Print Review
For this review, I ordered a 20x30 acrylic print on Fuji Flex Crystal Archive, which is a very glossy substrate, and I had them face-mount it with what they call their "non-glare" acrylic. Similar to the metal and canvas prints, the packaging was not great. Color fidelity on this acrylic was really strong. This acrylic surprised me due to the optical qualities of the non-glare acrylic that was used. This basically turned this beautiful Fuji Flex gloss into a matte print and the acrylic gained almost none of the normal benefits that you would expect on a glossy acrylic print by using overhead light. The good news about this is that I think this sort of application might be a nice option for installations in spaces without any good directional light with strong non-directional natural light such as a large living room with lots of windows. I do think though, that you could achieve the same properties by going with a much less expensive white matte metal print, so your mileage may vary. A welcome addition for Bay Photo would be to allow ordering of OP3 or TruLife acrylic as I'm not sure this non-glare acrylic is great for most applications. Bay Photo can print these acrylics up to 43x96, which isn't the best but certainly not the worst. Production time is quoted at 8 business days. This sort of 20x30 acrylic from Bay Photo will cost you $346, which is right in the middle of the pack.
Bay Photo Ratings
For this review, Bay Photo performed fairly average as compared with some of their competitors. Where Bay Photo shines is in their fast production time, no-hassle replacement policies, and the myriad of customization that is available for ordering. I also think they have a best-in-class ordering process and my experiences with their customer service have always been positive. Where Bay Photo could use improvement is in their packaging and quality control. Feedback to the end-user in terms of providing comments on prints that may come out too dark would be nice. I'm not sure that it's too much to ask for someone on the floor to cross-compare the print with what's on someone's website and to provide some feedback that their printing methods will crush blacks on the print, which has been a consistent experience I've had using their services. This is especially true given their pricing isn't lower than other competitors who do pay closer attention to quality control. Crating is provided for larger prints, but it incurs an additional cost.
On the positive side, Bay Photo showed solid consistency across all three print mediums, especially between the canvas and metal prints in terms of color, sharpness, shadow detail, etc. The unfortunate news is that both the canvas and metal print both printed too dark.
I do think you will generally be pleased with the prints coming out of Bay Photo, but you will want to do some testing of your file edits using smaller print sizes to ensure you can trust them for drop-shipping fulfillment. You can find our full ratings for Bay Photo below.
Photo Lab Pricing Comparison Chart
Below you can find a chart comparing each online photo lab on price and shipping, just keep in mind this was for a 20x30 and print and shipping costs can fluctuate based on the size of the print and whether you ask for or get crating. It's also important to note that both NMFA and Nevada Art Printers include crating costs into their shipping cost structure.
Conclusion: The Best Photo Printing Services Online
After evaluating photo prints from each online photo service, I have come to some conclusions to help you determine the best photo lab for your images.
Which Photo Lab has the Best Canvas Prints?
After receiving canvas prints from seven of the eight labs we reviewed, I'm happy to recommend three labs for canvas prints based on their quality, materials, color fidelity, and value.
Which Photo Lab has the Best Metal Prints?
Metal prints were perhaps the hardest to judge since not every lab was able to send me a white matte metal print; however, after receiving these I am confident in recommending the following labs, in this order:
Which Photo Lab has the best Acrylic Prints?
The acrylic prints I received were all of very high quality and so it was quite enjoyable comparing and contrasting between each option that was sent over. As such, I would recommend acrylics in the following order, with an emphasis on quality and value:
Which Photography Print Lab has the Best Packaging?
While only two of the labs crated their prints for this review, I was able to get a glimpse into the consistency and durability of the packaging that was used by each lab, and my emphasis is on the packaging's ability to protect the prints, the ease of unpacking, and the ability to re-use it for shipment or storage.
Which Photo Printing Service is the Fastest?
It makes sense that larger labs with more economies of scale would win this category. As such, the winners are:
Which Online Printing Service has the Best Communication?
While my experience working with every lab that participated in this review were positive, a few stood out to me.
Which Photo Lab is the Easiest to Order from?
It was actually quite fascinating to see how vastly different each lab's processes were for ordering. My favorites were:
Which Photo Printing Service Has the Best Quality?
While five labs really stood out to me in terms of quality, including NMFA, Nevada Art Printers, Bumblejax, Artisan HD, and DuraPlaq, there were three clear winners that stood above the rest:
Which Photography Print Lab Offers the Best Color Fidelity?
Color fidelity is difficult to measure; however, I do think some clear winners emerged here, especially as I was able to cross-compare the same photo across multiple mediums and labs. The winners are:
Which Photo Printing Service Has the Best Hanging Hardware?
Most of the labs offered very similar hanging hardware, but a couple of them went above and beyond to offer a product that will be most appreciated by the end user of the print:
Which Photo Lab's Prints Best Represent What You See on Your Screen?
Clearly, this one is very difficult to measure; however, there was one clear winner with four other labs doing exceptionally well.
Which Photography Lab Offers the Best Quality Assurance?
Several labs clearly place an emphasis on quality assurance while others seem to just be winging it. My choices are:
Which Photo Print Lab has the Most Options for Customization?
Customization is an important consideration if you have particular needs for your prints. The labs offering the most customization are:
What Photography Print Lab Has the Best Value?
In order to qualitatively determine this, I created a scatter plot with cost on one axes and quality on the other. I converted the prices for each acrylic print (which was the only product all eight labs sent me) into a number from 0 to 10, and I converted my quality ratings to a number from 0 to 10. Below you can see a plot of these figures. In my opinion, the sweet spot of this graph are labs that are as far as right as possible while being lower on the graph. As such, the labs performing the best in value are:
Which Fine Art Photo Print Lab is the Best for the Environment?
With Artisan HD's shift to a dry lab process, they are the clear choice for those looking to partner with a lab that offers more environmentally sustainable options.
1. Artisan HD
My Recommendations for the Best Photography Print Labs
If you are a photographer like me who fulfills many print orders for high-end large format fine art images, then these recommendations are what you should follow. Obviously, you may have other opinions on what you personally value in how you determine the best match for your printing needs; however, for what I am looking for, here is who I would recommend as the best photography print labs in 2023:
1. Nevada Art Printers - Setting the bar high for quality and value, with a process that maximizes the look of your final print, Nevada Art Printers is a clear winner. My only three concerns with using Nevada Art Printers would be cost, a clunky ordering process, and mixed communication / customer service. If price is no concern, then I would not hesitate to go with Nevada Art Printers for your fine art photography printing needs.
2. NMFA - In my opinion, NMFA hits the sweet spot for cost vs. quality by offering the best prices in the marketplace while retaining a high level of quality. Their communication is top-notch, they are super friendly, and they know their stuff. Since they are a small lab that only offers a small number of high-end products, you may need to look elsewhere for further customization; however, they offer very large format prints at an affordable price with consistent and relatively fast production times. I would highly recommend NMFA for your fine art printing needs!
3. DuraPlaq - I was very impressed with the quality and uniqueness of the print offerings from DuraPlaq. They had excellent color fidelity and offer some very interesting products that differentiate them from the pack. The only downside of DuraPlaq is their ordering process, which, like Nevada Art Printers, could use some major updating. Otherwise, I would not hesitate to use DuraPlaq for my fine art printing needs and I see them as a leader in the online photo lab service space.
4. Bumblejax - I believe that Bumblejax offers a lot of great products at affordable pricing and their prints were highly consistent. While their acrylic and metal prints were outstanding, the hanging hardware on their canvas prints was pretty lacking and I would not personally trust it. I don't think it would be too hard for them to upgrade that hardware to be in line with NMFA and after that they would be one of my number one choices as a lab partner. They are friendly and offer some great products, so I can safely recommend them to you as an online photo lab.
5. Artisan HD - While Artisan HD only provided one print for this review, it was a very high quality product with lots of attention to detail and quality assurance. The colors matched perfectly on my acrylic print from Artisan HD, and they should be commended for leading the pack by offering more environmentally sustainable products. The only concern you should have with Artisan HD is their pricing structure, which could use an overhaul if they wish to remain competitive in this marketplace.
I want to thank all the labs for their participation in this project and review. It was a true honor working with each and every one of you, and you all offer something unique as a photo lab. We are so lucky to have so many excellent options to choose from in this space and hopefully this review will provide you with some insight as to how you might improve or tweak your offerings to better tailor your services to this niche market. I hope you enjoyed this review. I'd appreciate you subscribing to my YouTube channel or my podcast. We release weekly episodes that are inspirational conversations with other photographers from across the world, and you'll be sure to learn something new every single week. Until then, bon voyage!