Photo printing kiosks: Got what you paid for?

Don't assume paying more for digital prints will get you better prints.

Skip the queues
Kiosks aren't kiosks
The results
Worth the full thousand words?
Proof in the pictures

Don't assume paying more for digital prints will get you better prints. David Braue finds some surprising results after road-testing seven Australian digital photo kiosks.

Thinking of printing your latest round of digital photos at home? If you add up the cost of your ink and special photographic paper, commonsense economics will probably convince you to head to your local photo store instead.

Now common in photographic, electronic and department stores everywhere, photo-printing kiosks combine do-it-yourself convenience with the lower per-print cost and high-quality printing process of a conventional photo lab. They take a little getting used to, and you need to be able to get pictures from your computer onto a CD-R or memory card - but after a little bit of practice, it's possible to quickly get excellent results.

Not all printing services are equal, however, and some are downright horrible. Most places offer prints at around AU$0.50 each, but heavy discounting and loss leading by some of the bigger electronics stores have brought sale prices down to around AU$0.15.

Customers flock to such offers, but Harvey Norman recently learned the hard way that this kind of discounting has its downsides: stores were suffering from queues of up to 20m long, four-day turnaround and computers that simply crashed because they couldn't keep up with the load.

At such low prices, logic would argue, surely something is lost? Do you really get what you pay for when it comes to printing at a photo kiosk? We hit the streets to find out.

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