Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price

Written by Tim on . Posted in Reviews

Costco Photo Center is fast, affordable and convenient

The print quality is excellent, too. Read on to find out why Costco is great for photo enlargements (that are of great quality) and why you should use them.

Oh, and I’m not the only one who thinks the same; After searching Google to find great places to print photos, my findings – ranging from blog posts to user reviews on forums – revealed that others say Costco provides good prints at great prices.

Where Do You Print Your Photos?

I would love to know where, and how, you guys get your photos printed; just add a comment below. The reason I’m asking for feed back is because other than using my personal all-in-one HP printer and the Costco Photo Center, I never had photos printed elsewhere.

Table of Contents:


Prepping The Photos For Print

Before I went to the Costco’s Photo Center website, I had to make sure my photos were ready to be printed. Basically, all it involves is a little bit of sharpening and making sure the canvas and document size are the correct dimension for Costco.

I used Photoshop CS5 as my photo editor.  All the screenshots you see here are taken from within Photoshop CS5.

Setup The Document Dimension

I’ll be printing a wide angle landscape photo that’s been cropped to a 1.98:1 aspect ratio , and I wanted a 30 inch wide print. So to do that, I have to make sure my document was set-up to those dimensions before I print it at Costco.

  1. Go to Image>Image Size
  2. In the dialog box, make sure “Resample Image” is un-checked
  3. Make sure the Width/Height/Resolution is “linked”
  4. Enter the intended Width, in inches, of your final image. In my example, I simply set it to a width of 30 inches wide. You should not need to enter the Height as it will be automatically calculated based on the existing aspect ratio.
  5. Click OK

Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price

Setup Canvas To Match Costco Print Paper Dimension

Now that my image is set to the correct dimensions, I need to place it on a canvas that matches the paper size Costco offers. Costco doesn’t offer custom print sizes, but has a few pre-defined ones instead. I had to chose one big enough to contain my image. For my 15×30 image, I went with the 20×30. Next, I had to make the canvas of my 15×30 image match the 20×30 print size.

Costco’s current prices and sizes are as follows (updated April 2011):

•    4×6 – $0.13ea

•    5×7 – $0.39ea

•    8×8 – $1.49ea

•    8×10 – $1.49ea

•    8×12 – $1.49ea

•    12×12 – $2.99ea

•    11×14 – $2.99ea

•    12×18 – $2.99ea

•    16×20 – $5.99ea

•    20×30 – $8.99ea

  1. On the top menu bar, I went to Image>Canvas Size
  2. I also made sure the check box “Relative” is un-checked
  3. Then I set the measurement unit to “inches” and entered the width and height of the Costco paper (20×30 inches)
  4. I could also choose the color of the canvas that will be added. I usually use White, Black or a Gray. Changing the color doesn’t affect the color balance on the rest of the print. In this case I used White
  5. Click “OK”

Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price

Sharpen The Photo

I always sharpen my photos, as a last step, before I save them. Since I have no experience printing photos, I just sharpened them like I always do:

  1. I went to Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen
  2. I always make sure that “More Accurate” is checked
  3. Under the “Remove” drop-down, I selected “Lens Blur”
  4. I tend to use (depending on the photo) a “Radius” of around 0.1px to 0.3px and an “Amount” between 50% to 150%
  5. Click “OK”

Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price

Saving as a JPEG

When I was done sizing the canvas and sharpening my photo, I saved the image as a JPEG. Other than shooting in RAW, I use JPEG for everything else. Costco accepts JPEG, TIFF and BMP files.

  1. In Photoshop’s top menu bar, I went to File>Save As
  2. Then I selected the jpeg option, and clicked “Save”
  3. In the option menu, I selected the highest quality, which is (12), Baseline “Standard”
  4. I usually add the canvas size of the photo to the name as I save it; example, I used: “MyPhotoName 20×30.jpg”

The Costco Photo Center Process

First off, you need a Costco membership and your membership number available to order the prints. The Costco membership runs around $50 a year. Not bad considering the great everyday deals they have. Mine was expired, so I renewed it.

After I created a Costco Photo Center account online at, I uploaded my photos to a new album via their online upload tool.

  1. I selected the photos I wanted to upload
  2. A very critical thing to remember is to select the “Full Resolution” option when uploading your photos; you’ll see that option in the window you use when you’re selecting which photos to upload.
  3. Click “upload.” When the upload was complete, Costco gave me some options on the right-hand side of the screen under “edit and enhance” to delete, move, rename, edit and enhance or add borders to the selected photos. I skipped right over that and instead clicked on the “order prints” button on the right. My photos didn’t need the extra “fluff” Costco offered.

Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price

4. After clicking “order prints” I was brought to a screen where I then selected what photos to print and clicked “add to cart”

Print Options And Final Steps

I was presented with a few options in the “Print options” page:

Photo Finish: Lustre vs Glossy. I’m personally not a big fan of super shiny glossy photographs, so I naturally chose lustre over glossy. That’s not to say that glossy is bad, because there are many times I’m sure glossy would fit the photo, and also, it’s really a matter of personal preferences and taste.

Quantity: By default, Costco adds ,without me choosing, one 4×6 for each photo. Tricky tricky. Not sure if I like that move there, Costco. I had to be careful and set the correct paper dimensions based on my file setup. So, in my example, I’ll set the quantity of 20×30 to 1, and remove the 4×6.

• Once the order looks good, click “Continue”

Pickup option: In store or by mail. I have a Costco near me so I chose the in-store pickup option. I don’t know how the mail option is, but perhaps you guys could enlighten me on how well their service is in that area.

Do not Auto correct option: This is one of the most important options I was looking for, and I couldn’t find it! I was convinced it existed so I called the lab technician and asked them not AutoCorrect my photos, and to ask where it was. Well, it’s on the step 3 page “review & place order.” So, I went back, clicked “edit options” and lo-and-behold, there it was, in the option popup. So, a note to you guys, make sure you select the “Do not AutoCorrect my prints.” option. AutoCorrection is an automatic process applied to the image to “make it look better”. I’ll assume that you’re a photographer, and the image you’re printing is already the way you want it. If so, I would advise against AutoCorrection since it significantly affects the final output of your photo.

Costco Photo Center Review: Awesome Prints at a Great Price


Clicking  “edit options” on the “place order” page  allows you to turn “AutoCorrect” off, which I highly recommend

After looking through everything once more, I chose my pickup time and placed the order. Costco gave me an estimated time and date, which varies for the type and size of photo you’re printing, and were right on the money when I went to pick up my print.  My wait time was only 2 hours for 9 photos.


Quality And Verdict – 2 Hours Later

So, was the 20×30 print worth the $8.99 I spent? Heck yeah it was. The colors were spot-on and vibrant, and the amount of detail was more than sufficient for only $8.99.

There are a few problems, though. The first problem is that Costco isn’t available for people to use everywhere, and that they require a membership. If you live near a Costco, however, I highly suggest you look into getting a membership. It’s a great value, both for printing photos and also for the thousands of other great products they have.

The second is the little trick of automatically adding one 4×6 photo to my whole order. Granted, it’s no big deal to change the “1” to a “0” but it just seemed sneaky.  Overall, the Costco’s Photo Center website could be a little easier to navigate all together.

The third thing, which was most likely my fault, is that the 20×30 came out a little more grainy than I had hoped. I think I may have over-sharpened it. However, it was nothing that took away from the otherwise great quality.

And the final issue is with the smaller photos I printed. I printed some 12×18’s ($2.99ea) also, and while they were nice, they didn’t have the same “pop” as the 20×30’s. They seemed rather flat in a side-by-side comparison and didn’t have the exact colors I intended for them to have. But hey, they were still a great deal at only $2.99 a print.

I should note, however, that the Costco by me uses different printers for their two largest size prints than they do their smaller prints. For the 16×20 and the 20×30 sizes, Costco uses an Epson 7880 printer, according to the local lab technician, which is a very good printer I must say after seeing my photos printed on them. The other size prints, which range from 12×18 and down use a different printer, which I do not yet know the model of.

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