"Once I've captured that great photograph with my new digital camera, how can I turn that into a real print? " I hear all holiday recipients of digital cameras ask, faintly. Viewing online isn't the...

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“Once I’ve captured that great photograph with my new digital camera, how can I turn that into a real print?” I hear all holiday recipients of digital cameras ask, faintly. Viewing online isn’t the same as holding it in your hand, and it’s hard to fit a desktop computer in your purse or backpack.

Several methods let you try to approximate transforming what you saw into a photo print. All of them average from 25 to 40 cents for a 4-by-6-inch print. The trade-offs are one-time costs, convenience and time.


Inkjet printers:

You might think that owning your own means of photo production is the best way to go. You control the paper and ink, and the Mac has a number of programs that help manage, modify and print photographs one at a time or in sheets, from iPhoto (part of the iLife ’04 suite shipped with every new Mac or separately $49) to my favorite, iView Media Pro (www.iviewmultimedia.com, standard version $49, pro version $199).

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But inkjet printers have a variety of related complexities that include getting the right paper, configuring the page setup and print dialogs, to dealing with ink cartridges as they empty.

My wife, Lynn, and I have a Canon i950 that we’re very happy with in general. But it recently took me 90 minutes to print 30 photographs of my son for Lynn’s mother, and I wasted at least 20 sheets of expensive photo paper because of program errors and ink running out.

The advantage of inkjet printers usually lies in larger formats. Amazon.com’s top-selling inkjet, the Canon i9900, costs $376 and can print up to a 13-by-19-inch photograph with no border in what Canon says is three minutes. This model and many others also can print directly from a digital camera or a storage card with no computer involved.

PC World magazine found this printer used about 10 cents of ink per photo print and special glossy borderless paper costs nearly 20 cents a sheet. You can add in wear and tear on the printer, which is a penny or two a print, too. So figure a range of 25 to 35 cents a print, not factoring in the cost of errors, such as missing inks or misprints.


Online photo services:

The two giant services, Shutterfly (www.shutterfly.com) and Ofoto (www.ofoto.com) let you upload or send them photos on film or disc. You order online, previewing your photos and even modifying them — cropping, removing red eye, or adding frames.

Both stores charge 29 cents for 4-by-6-inch prints. Shutterfly offers a prepaid-print plan that discounts 4-by-6 pictures to 24 cents for 100 down to 20 cents for 500.

Beware of shipping costs, however: one to 10 prints up to 8 by 10 in size cost $1.79 to send via Shutterfly — 18 cents each when you order 10 prints!

Ofoto, which this week said it is changing its name to Kodak EasyShare Gallery in the spring, has slightly cheaper shipping for smaller orders, but ratchets up to Shutterfly’s level.

The online services let you share your photos with others who can then order prints that they like, which is great for family gatherings, weddings and other events in which you can let people choose the images to remember the occasion by.


In-store printing:

Two kinds of in-person pickup make it faster and eliminate shipping costs. Prices per print are roughly the same as for online services, with a variety of specials and club-member deals.

Kit’s Camera among others lets you upload photos via its Web site and you pick them up later — as fast as one business hour later — at a store you specify. The prices are comparable to Shutterfly and Ofoto.

Bartell Drugs offers an upload service, but its in-store kiosk has no waiting involved (unless there’s a line to use it). Bring your camera’s digital-storage card — usually a Compact Flash card that can be removed from an internal slot — and plug it in to the kiosk. You decide on prints and other options and get your prints on the spot. Other stores also offer these kiosks.


Hot dog to bun:

Digital cameras have the hot dog-to-bun ratio problem for all three kinds of printing services: digital photos are in a 3:4 ratio, like 1200 by 1600 pixels. But 4-by-6 prints are in a 4:6 ratio.

The math doesn’t work: You get images that cover 4-by-5.3 inches. Be sure to find out how any software program or photo service you use crops or lets you crop your images. Otherwise, you’ll lose the tops of everyone’s head or have white stripes on one or both sides of each print.

Glenn Fleishman writes the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to gfleishman@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists