In this post I am sharing my comparison of the various options for where to print digital photos in Switzerland. I regularly need to print photos as proofs to show my clients during the ordering session. Touching and holding printed photos helps them decide on their favourite images and imagine how the final prints will look on their walls.
Since I only restarted my business here in Summer 2019, I’ve spent the past year looking for a reliable Swiss vendor to print my proofs. I haven’t found any that I was 100% satisfied with: either the printer was too slow, too expensive or the colours had shifted too far from what I wanted. What I needed was a proper test of a whole bunch of printers of digital photos!
An unofficial study of Swiss photo printing services
Ideally this article should have preceded a previous blog post of mine entitled ‘Ultimate Guide to Photo Books in Switzerland’, but since several people asked me about photo books back in March, I researched those first. Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown I have a little more time on my hands and decided to do an unofficial comparison of where to print digital photos. I choose 11 well-known photo printers in Switzerland and it’s been very interesting to see how varied all the different digital photo suppliers operate – not to mention the results! More importantly I now have 2-3 photo companies that I’ll be using on a regular basis to print my proofs.
A quick note about the rest of my process – the part after clients order their prints. I order these at professional print labs that use museum-grade papers, specialist inks and customisable printing processes. The prints are guaranteed not to fade and to be a faithful representation of the original image. For enlargements I actually go to a lab in Geneva so that I can check the accuracy of colour and tone as soon as it’s printed, and if it’s not satisfactory the printer reprints it for me.
So on to my study…I hope you find it useful!
Although most of the suppliers that print digital photos in Switzerland are online I also wanted to find some options for in-store ‘instant’ printing. Sometimes I’m so pressed for time that I need instant printing so I also planned to test the following local printers:
- Manor at Centre Manor Chavannes
- Migros PrintShop at La Combe, Nyon
- FNAC at Centre Littoral, Allaman/Centre Balexert, Geneva/FNAC Lausanne
- Aldi Suisse
- Saal Digital
The Test Images
I picked 3 photos to send to all the vendors and compared the results. Here are the test files – very different images chosen in order to test different characteristics.
This one (a self-portrait of my husband and me on our 20th anniversary) was chosen because it is a very subdued, desaturated image with soft shadows. The filter I put on it has a fairly strong cyan and yellowy tone, making it look almost brown. I wanted to see if the printers would add contrast to make the shadows darker, or try to ‘fix’ the muted colours and desaturated skin tones. Also because I wanted to have multiple copies to send to family members 🙂
The 2nd test image (from a recent Mother-Daughter shoot) was included to test normal skin tones, as well as the red-coloured clothing and the dark shadows. When you print digital photos there can be some highly variable results in skin tones. Bright colours can shift in the printing process. Also, some printers think (or their software is programmed to perceive) that an image shouldn’t have dark shadows, so they may try to lighten those areas. I deliberately created this image to have the black skirts and hair just visible against the dark background – let’s see what the printers think!
I chose the last image of a coastal landscape because I wanted to test how the greens and blues would print. Changes in bright colours are often the first thing you notice when you receive your prints, and if they’re not what you were expecting it is very disappointing. The last thing you want in your beautiful scenery photos is sky and water that isn’t the right blue or trees and fields that are the wrong green. This is a shot of the Cinqueterre area in Italy last year – I can thoroughly recommend a visit there!
What else was I testing for?
Colours, shadows and highlights are the most important elements to me when I print my proofs. However I also wanted to compare the following features for when I print my digital photos in Switzerland:
- What’s the price of a 13x18cm print? I always print my proofs to this size so I only tested this size – also sometimes called 13 format or 13 cm.
- Is there an option to order matt prints? I prefer to order matt prints because I think it’s harder to see the photograph if the surface is reflective. Glossy photos also tend to show fingerprints more easily than matt photos do.
- What is the cost for delivery?
- How fast is delivery (I’m sometimes up against a deadline so this is important to me!)
- Payment options – can I pay online when ordering or will I be sent an invoice? What about paying by TWINT?
- What language is the website in? I can manage French but for German and Italian I need to use Google Translate.
- Can I order direct from an app on my phone?
I was surprised at how varied the results were (rather like having polar opposite kids from the same parents!) Admittedly this is only one test; to be really sure I should do 2 or 3 more rounds of tests with different photos. Here I’ll summarise the features of the vendors and after that I’ll discuss printing results from each one individually. For viewing this table, the bigger your screen the better, or turn your phone sideways. Scroll to the bottom for my final ranking and opinion!
|Company Name||Language||Cost 13x18cm (CHF)||Shipping (CHF)||Delivery time||Matt Prints?||Payment option||Phone App?|
|Aldi Suisse||F, D, I||0.40||4.25||5 days||Yes||CC, Invoice, PP||No|
|CEWE||F, D, I||0.55||4.90||4 days||No||CC, Invoice, PP, Sonfort||Yes: CEWE Photoworld|
|Fuji||F, D||0.49||5.90||5 days||Yes||Invoice||Yes: Fuji.ch|
|FNAC||F, F, I, E||0.50|
|–||Instant||No||Pay at machine||N/A|
|iFolor||F, D, I, E||0.49||4.90||2 days||No||CC, PP, PostFinance, Invoice||Yes: iFolor Photo Service|
|Manor||F, D, I||1.0||–||Instant||No||Pay at counter||N/A|
|Migros – PrintShop||Not||tested||–||see||results||from||Manor|
|Pixum||F, D, I||0.70||4.95||4 days||No||CC, Invoice, PP||Yes|
|Saal Digital||D||0.35 (glossy=0.47)||5.95||4 days||Yes||Yes: Saal Design App|
|Smartphoto||F, D||0.54||4.95||3 days||Yes||TWINT, CC, PP, PostFinance, invoice||Yes|
|Whitewall||D||8.95||6.95||N/A||Yes||–||WhiteWall – not well-rated|
How did the final printed digital photos actually look?
Website: Aldi Suisse
I was very hopeful to receive good results from Aldi because I’d never used them before and they are quite cheap (CHF0.40). However, the photos took ages to arrive – it was over the Pentecost long weekend so 5 working days + 3 weekend days = over a week. Felt like forever and I’d actually started taking the photos for this post without having the Aldi pictures.
The results were very disappointing: the skin tones were far too red and the shadows were lightened significantly. However, they weren’t as ‘off’ as other suppliers…read on!
Score: 2 out of 5
Cewe is a big pan-European company that offers many different photo products. They also partner with several Swiss brick-and-mortar retailers (see below) to provide photo printing services through their outlets.
When you go online to order at CEWE.ch, you have the option to select one of their partners and pick up the products in-store (free of delivery charges). You can also use your store rewards card to collect rewards points for that store. For the purposes of this test I chose to order from CEWE directly and have the photos delivered to my home.
The results were reasonable: the colours were a bit yellow on the skin tones but still looked fairly natural. What I didn’t like was how much CEWE had lightened the shadows – see the picture below of the black skirts against the dark background.
My score reflects my opinion that for almost the most pricey service (CHF0.55) there should be an option to get matt prints and the results should have been more accurate. Delivery was also relatively slow (4 days).
Score: 3.5 out of 5
I went to the FNAC store in the Centre Littoral Allaman but there was no photo booth there. The staff told me that only the Lausanne and Geneva stores have instant-print facilities. I phoned the Balexert store: they advised that they don’t have a printer but the store on Rue de Rive does. I happened to be in Lausanne last weekend so I printed my test prints at the FNAC there. By the way, a booth is called ‘une borne’ in French.
The service is clearly convenient: in 3 minutes you have your prints. The machine accepts all the common types of memory card, USB, phone etc. and you pay the machine with cash or credit card. However there was only 1 option of size (10x15cm) and no possibility of matt prints.
The results were very disappointing: extremely saturated with significantly lightened shadows. The skin tones looked sunburnt and the blue sea had lost its darks and lights. Check out the 2 instant-print options above. If you need your prints prints right away, I recommend that you avoid FNAC if you can find a Manor or Mprintshop nearby!
Score: 0.5 out of 5
I came across this site recently one of the forums while researching for this post – I didn’t even know that Fuji offered a photo printing service. Of course they would though: they manufacture most of the photo paper that all the other suppliers use!
The results: out of all the results I was most satisfied with the colours and tones from Fuji. The colours were accurate, especially the skin tones. The desaturated photo of my husband and me was maintained, and the reds, blues and greens in the other photos were faithful to the originals. Full marks – here’s a closer comparison with the next competitor.
I was also very happy that I could order matt prints and the price was reasonable (CHF0.49). However, I would have liked delivery to have been faster (it took 5 days) and to have had more payment options – it’s by invoice only. For these reasons Fuji didn’t get full marks.
Score: 4.5 out of 5
iFolor is an old Swiss company that has grown across Europe. Its website is the only one in this comparison that is in 4 languages including English. I hadn’t ordered any digital photo prints from them before but I know it’s a popular company so I was expecting great results. iFolor has an app that you can use to order from your phone: ‘iFolor Photo Service’ is rated 4.7* by almost 47,000 people!
When ordering your digital photos iFolor gives you the option to upload your photos from Facebook or OneDrive photos. There are lots of ways to pay, including by invoice payable at 30 days – the longest out of all the printers.
The results were good: saturation had been increased a little and there was too much yellow in the skin tones but not enough to be offensive. Not as accurate as Fuji and Smartphoto but overall not too far off the original images.
Considering the reasonable price (CHF0.49, although apparently the ‘normal’ price is CHF0.65) and 2 day delivery I was pretty impressed. iFolor was a very close to earning a 4.5 but the reason I gave it a 4.0 was because I couldn’t order matt prints. If that’s not important to you, I think you can feel confident in getting great results when you print digital photos with iFolor.
Score: 4.0 out of 5
The well-known department store outsources its printing. I didn’t realise this until I got to the printing booth and saw ‘CEWE’ written all over it. Then I visited the CEWE website and saw that it partners with Manor. This is the CEWE booth in the Manor Chavannes – it’s right at the back of the store next to Customer Service.
Frankly, the only reason you’d come here to print your digital photos is if you’re desperately short of time and don’t need accurate photos. If you want 13x18cm prints there is no choice but to have them printed with a white border. There is no matt option.
You can print directly from your phone, USB and all the usual memory cards. You pay at the customer service counter after your photos have printed.
Considering this was a CEWE printer, I was surprised at how different the results were from the prints I had ordered from CEWE online. The reds were extremely saturated, the blue sea looked too yellow and the skin looked off-colour too. The shadows were fairly accurate though – they hadn’t been lightened as much as the CEWE online photos had been. Look at the 2 CEWE versions below: online on the left and instant on the right.
My overall rating reflects the convenience of this service and the colours being marginally better than FNAC. However, at CHF1 a photo and over-saturated results I do not recommend using a CEWE printing booth unless you are really short of time.
Score: 1.5 out of 5
Since Migros’ Mprintshop uses a CEWE printing booth in their store the results would be exactly the same as those from the Manor test. See above for results and comments.
Score: 1.5 out of 5
Another Europe-wide company, very well rated by its customers and offering a large range of products. You have the option to order via the app ‘Pixum’ which is rated 4.7 by its users.
In terms of results, the colours were a little yellow and the shadows had been lightened too much. Compare the Pixum photo below, shown next to SmartPhoto which I considered to be extremely accurate:
When I looked closer, the Pixum prints were actually so close to CEWE I wondered if both companies use the same processing facilities. I turned the Pixum prints over to see what paper they were printed on, and guess what? They were printed on CEWE photographic paper! Like CEWE my order took working 4 days to arrive and I couldn’t order matt prints. However Pixum is a lot more expensive than CEWE (CHF0.70 vs. CHF0.55) so I gave it a lower score.
Score: 3 out of 5
I had been satisfied with prints from Saal Digital before so I was expecting good results again. However, I was so surprised when the package arrived: everyone in the photos literally looked sunburnt! The reds were heavily dominant (I’ve always wanted auburn hair) and the shadows were far too light. Here’s a comparison against 2 other results, of which Smartphoto was the most accurate.
When ordering online you can upload your images from Dropbox or Google Drive which is handy. The prints were the cheapest in the comparison group (CHF0.35; CHF0.47 for glossy prints) and there is a matt option – both great. However the website is only in German so that’s not the easiest for me, and delivery took 4 days. My score reflects these points as well as the terrible colour from this test. I should probably do another test because there may have been a mistake in the processing; it was so different from my prior experience. If the results are better 2nd time around I’ll update the score.
Score: 2.5 out of 5
Smartphoto is another large European company that manufactures a wide range of photo products.
I had never ordered from Smartphoto but was very impressed with both the ordering experience and the results. There is the option to pay by TWINT, credit card, Paypal, Postfinance and invoice – I chose the the first option. You can upload your photos from Facebook, Instagram, Google Photos, Flickr as well as your own computer. There is not only a matt option but also the option to add a white border, convert the photos to black-and-white or to sepia.
The printing results were great: accurate colours and shadows, so a good reflection of what I’d sent in. I had a hard time deciding which result I preferred out of Smartphoto and Fuji as both were very accurate – what do you think? The cost was in the mid-range and delivery took 3 working days: the second quickest behind iFolor.
To be 100% confident in these results I would like to do another test but overall Smartphoto was the company I was most satisfied with.
Score: 5 out of 5
This company offers great products but at CHF8.95 for a 13x18cm print I would never use them for printing my proofs. I usually need to order 30-40 prints so that wouldn’t be viable for me. I therefore didn’t include WhiteWall in this study.
The Final Ranking
So where to print digital photos in Switzerland? After a lot of side-by-side comparison and deliberation, here are the final positions:
- Smartphoto and Fuji were almost equal in terms of print results but Smartphoto out-performed Fuji on speed, payment options and upload sources.
- iFolor delivered a great result in record time – just 2 working days. Glossy prints only though.
- Pixum and CEWE’s prints were identical but CEWE ranked higher because it was cheaper.
- Saal was cheap but produced terrible colours, worse than Aldi in this respect but better because it delivered quicker and had more upload options.
- Migros Mprintshop and Manor are to be avoided unless you absolutely need your prints right away.
- FNAC I wouldn’t even bother with!
I will be using the Top 3 competitors – Smartphoto, Fuji and iFolor – to do further tests. In fact I have 2 more rounds of proofs to print so I’ll be doing that this week. If any of the results deviate from the above I will update my opinions and the finals ratings. Here’s a closer comparison of the Top 3:
I hope this has been as useful for you as it has for me. If you have any input it would be most gratefully received – just comment below or send me an email.
That’s all for now…until the next time!