Does Costco, Walmart, etc. reduce image resolution when printing?

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. Sent some pics in to Costco over the internet. Very convenient.
    Ordered some 8x10's and 5x7's with images taken from a 10
    megapixel camera. The images were sent to them unedited and in
    full resolution - 3648 x 2736 in original JPG with all the EXIF
    in tact.

    Got the prints back. The 5x7's look very sharp, very clear -
    outstanding in all respects.

    But the 8x10's look to be somewhat "softer" and it appears to
    have less detail and certainly is not as crisp as it should be,

    I'm wondering if places like Costco, Walmart, Fred Meyer, etc.
    reduce the size of image files sent to them so that they do not
    take up more than a specified amount of disk space on their

    Anybody know if anything like that is happening at these places?
    Do they reduce the image quality to save space? Or is there
    perhaps some other reason why this may be happening?

    I'd appreciate any helpful responses.

    Thank you.
    Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007
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  2. Paul D. Sullivan

    Mark² Guest

    It's more likely that your image wasn't particularly sharp, but that it was
    "forgiven" due to the smaller 5x7 print size.

    But who knows? I've heard of dumber things at quickie photo-labs...
    Mark², Feb 10, 2007
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  3. Paul D. Sullivan

    Cgiorgio Guest

    The output unit of minilabs usually has a fixed pixels per inch requirement,
    most of them 300 ppi. If they do not state the required resolution in their
    web page, it is best to ask because most minilabs use 300 ppi, but not all.
    Your image has to be converted to that resolution before it can be output,
    and their machine might just use the algorithm which fits most pictures but
    not necessarily optimized for yours. Most image editors allow you to choose
    from several methods and you can try out which one best preserves your
    picture . As it is also a good idea to crop your own pictures instead of
    letting an automatic program do it, it is a good idea to resize them and
    crop them to the output format before you send the files off. Some minilabs
    are also set for automatic color correction, something you do not want if
    you have a calibrated monitor and corrected colors yourself. Some online
    developers (in Europe at least) allow you to choose on their order page,
    others don't. Use the lowest jpeg compression settings for the files you
    send them, and save them to another directory to preserve your original
    Cgiorgio, Feb 10, 2007
  4. So you are saying that an image that is crisp and sharp on screen
    and crisp and sharp on 5x7" prints would somehow show up as fuzzy
    and washed out on an 8x10" because the image is not really crisp
    and sharp at all?
    Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007
  5. Thanks for the post.

    In thinking it through, the 10mp image at 3648 x 2736 would have
    enough resolveable data (rounding down) for 364 dpi in the 10"
    direction and 342 dpi in the 8" direction. For 7 x 5 it would
    have 521 x 547.

    That's plenty of data to work with. If it down-samples
    everything to 300 dpi, would that effect the 10x8 more than the
    Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007
  6. Paul D. Sullivan

    Mark² Guest

    You only said "somewhat softer."
    You didn't say one was great, and one was terrible.

    So...if you're seeing this "somewhat softer" difference...that would not be
    unusual at all. You can fit more than two 5x7s into the area of an it is significant.

    I'm simply mentioning the very basic reality that the more you enlareg a
    photo, the more any imperfections will become apparent. This is especially
    true of sharpness and detail. Even poorly focused images can look decent at
    4x6, but those same photos break down quickly as you go larger.
    Mark², Feb 10, 2007
  7. Paul D. Sullivan

    Mark² Guest

    You didn't mention anything about the quality or look of the photograph upon
    close inspection before sending... What do they show, enlarged on-screen?
    Mark², Feb 10, 2007
  8. Thanks for the well presented response. I sincerely appreciate
    it. :)
    Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007
  9. [A complimentary Cc of this posting was sent to
    Paul D. Sullivan

    Google for the thread on uploading 25000000 pixel file. (Raw result:
    Costco's POSTER-SERVICE-via-email downscales to 100ppi.) But keep in
    mind that POSTER SERVICE uses different subcontractors than the normal

    Hope this helps,
    Ilya Zakharevich, Feb 10, 2007
  10. Paul D. Sullivan

    J. Clarke Guest

    Yep. An 8x10 has higher resolution that any monitor. What looks good
    on the monitor won't necessarily look good on close examination on a
    J. Clarke, Feb 10, 2007
  11. Paul D. Sullivan

    J. Clarke Guest

    There is always a quality cost for lossy compression. Not for
    J. Clarke, Feb 10, 2007
  12. So if we walk 'em in on CD, will they leave it at the proper
    Paul D. Sullivan, Feb 10, 2007
  13. Paul D. Sullivan

    Mardon Guest

    For Internet uploads to (via, Costco's service
    provider), the maximum accepted resolution per image is 7500 X 5000. The
    maximum accepted file size per image is 8mb. It states this right on their
    website. I know from personal experience that the in-store processing
    limtis are slightly different. To the best of my recolection, the maximum
    image dimenion is limited to 5000 pixels (it may be 6,000) but the maximum
    file size for a single image is way larger than allowed over the Internet.
    I think it's 60 MB (it may be 70 MB). I always turn off "AutoCorrect" when
    submitting photos to them via the Internet and ask for "no Adjustments"
    when taking them to the store. I then know what I'll be getting back,
    since I have a colour-managed work flow. All that said, I have never had
    any problem getting sharp enlargements from Costco. I would be extremely
    surprised if they reduce the size of the submitted image before it goes to
    the printer.
    Mardon, Feb 10, 2007
  14. Paul D. Sullivan

    Dave Cohen Guest

    Mardon, of all the responses (most of them spurious) to a question that
    I don't take very seriously in the first place, your's is the only one
    making much sense. I was going to respond that if there were a
    limitation, it's in the size of the file being uploaded, I've seen such
    limits stated (which as I recall were less then 8mb). Same is true for
    auto enhancement, which I don't recall being offered on the site I use
    (York Photo).
    Dave Cohen
    Dave Cohen, Feb 10, 2007
  15. Paul D. Sullivan

    Paul Allen Guest

    He said he sent jpegs. If the softness was not apparent on-screen,
    why should the prints be soft?
    Of course they had to crop. That doesn't have to change image quality.
    Saying they "reduced the ppi figure" suggests that you think images
    have a meaningful ppi attribute before they are rendered on a medium
    that can be measures in inches. It would be better to say they had to
    resample to fit the print size at the output device's resolution of 300
    pixels per inch. Why would this resampling be more destructive to the
    8x10 print than to the 5x7? And why would it be especially destructive
    to a jpeg?
    Urm... He didn't say anything about ppi. He gave the resolution of his
    images in pixels.
    Doing the cropping and resizing yourself is a good idea. Why is it
    better to mail a CD than to send the file via the 'Net? (I mean, other
    than the fact that the bandwidth of a truck hurtling down the Interstate
    vastly exceeds many home network connections.)

    Paul Allen
    Paul Allen, Feb 10, 2007

  16. For most Costcos, you can find profiles and complete instructions at Even to the ppi settings for the specific printer
    model. I use the profiles and then instruct Costco to make NO
    corrections, adjustments or do any resizing. I always increase the
    Photosopped size to a 2:3 picture by using a a Canvas Size of the
    correct dimensions. E.g., 8x10 photo --> 8x12 canvas, 11x14 phot -->
    12x18 canvas. I also makes a OK border for dry mounting.
    Oliver Costich, Feb 10, 2007
  17. Or you can simply take them in on a flash card or CD and wait an hour.
    Who got out of Costco is under an hour anyway? You can also go over
    the complete instructions to them about color correction, etc.
    Oliver Costich, Feb 10, 2007

  18. I give Costco my files in tif format (8-bit), the output from the Dry
    Creek profile converter. They whine because the files are larger, but
    they do it. I also always increase the canvas size to one of theri
    canvas sizes which tends to keep them from cropping.
    Oliver Costich, Feb 10, 2007
  19. Only if you get the smart operator, who isn't always there. At the
    risk of being repetitive, I always crop or change canvas size to one
    of their standard sizes.
    Oliver Costich, Feb 10, 2007
  20. Not so at Costco if you properly manage the process. If you leave it
    up to their employees you take the risk of bad results.
    Oliver Costich, Feb 10, 2007
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